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Hybrid Aesthetics: Bridging Material Practices and Digital Fabrication through Computational Crafting Proxies


Creative technologies like digital fabrication led to the rise of the Maker movement, engendering grassroots innovation in education, manufacturing, and healthcare. Today, these creative technologies stand at a crossroads – despite a significant rise in participation, a deeper engagement with design and material is absent from traditional computer-aided design workflows. In this thesis, I will motivate the need for creative technologies to support the morphogenetic model of making, a thinking and working style characteristic of how practitioners work with physical materials but difficult to access in digital design tools. To communicate my findings, I introduce the concept of a Crafting Proxy, an intermediary between a practitioner and a material that can be used to facilitate the interpretation, manipulation, and evaluation of a material as a part of a creative process. In these works, I employ a Research through Design (RtD) methodology to construct intermediate-level knowledge around the design, implementation, and evaluation of Crafting Proxies. I’ll demonstrate how Crafting Proxies can be enacted within physical materials, physical tools, and physical practices to support morphogenetic workflows in domains such as light and heater design, and metalworking. As a result, this work contributes a design method for creating crafting proxies and a set of design principles that inform how new materials and digital fabrication technologies can foreground the existing knowledge and practices of material practitioners and generate new forms and aesthetics that can alter the trajectory of the Maker movement towards a New Making Renaissance.

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