Critical Making on Display at Made in Toronto



A new exhibition has opened at University of Toronto, focusing on locally made objects and the Critical Making lab is heavily featured. Come down to Made in Toronto at Victoria College, 73 Queens Park Crescent, to check it out!

iSchool Lecture: Morality in Video Games

Games increasingly promote morality systems. Mia Consalvo, CRC in Game Studies and Design, Concordia University, will discuss players’ understandings of moral dilemmas in video games in a talk titled ‘Playing (as) a better me: Choice, moral affordances and video games’ on January 21 in Bissell 728, 140 St. George St., Toronto, Ontario. More information here.

Congratulations to ginger coons, PhD

November 21, 2015Rowena McGowanevents0
ginger coons PhD

ginger coons, with supervisor Matt Ratto (left) and Patrick Keilty (right).

The Critical Making lab is pleased to announce that ginger coons has successfully defended her dissertation, “Something for everyone: Using digital methods to make physical goods” and is now a fully fledged doctor! Her committee consisted of Professors Matt Ratto (supervisor), Patrick Keilty, Brett Caraway, Daniel Bender, Anna Croon Fors (external examiner) and John Portelli (exam chair). The lab wishes Dr. coons equal luck and success in her post-doctorate work.

The Promise of Library Maker Culture

May 25, 2015Gabby Reschevents1

PhD students Dan Southwick and Gabby Resch will be giving a keynote presentation titled “What’s in the Box? The Promise of Library Maker Culture” at the Mississauga Library System’s annual staff conference on May 27, 2015. Slides from their presentation will be available here after the presentation.

Fall 2014 Critical Making Workshop Series

We are hosting a workshop series at the University of Toronto this fall!

The first event in the Critical Making Lab Workshop Series uses desktop fabrication tools to make custom prostheses. “Scanning, modelling & printing—An experimental toolchain for prosthetics,” the first workshop in the Critical Making Lab Workshop Series, will take place Thursday, the 18th of September. Open to students and the public, this workshop will explore a prosthesis-production toolchain developed by researchers in Semaphore’s Critical Making Lab. Using affordable 3D scanning and 3D printing tools, as well as free 3D modelling tools, this workshop offers participants the opportunity to try out a process which will soon undergo a pilot study in a Ugandan hospital.

The workshop will take place from 1PM to 3PM, Thursday, the 18th of September in the Semaphore Demo room (rm. 1150, on the ground floor of Robarts Library).
Registration is full.

This workshop will ask participants to explore 3D design with the aid of a library of building blocks. This workshop is ideal for anyone interested in design, 3D printing, or building blocks. No training or special tools are necessary, though experienced designers are welcome. We will be providing iPads preloaded with the design software. Participants will be able to take any completed prints home with them.
DATE & TIME:Tuesday October 14th, 1:30pm-4:30pm
LOCATON: Semaphore Research Cluster Demo Room (room 1150), Main Floor, Robarts Library, 130 St. George Street
Click here to register.

Extending the “Doomsday Clock” that has been representationally deployed by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947 to warn the world of the possible imminence of nuclear catastrophe, participants will develop tools to alert the public about the growth or decline of a variety of threats to global civilization, such as ecological crisis (i.e. desertification or ocean acidification); political or sociological catastrophes (i.e. potential genocides or infrastructure collapses); and public health issues (i.e. influenza pandemics).
This workshop is ideal for data scientists seeking to make their data more meaningful through the use of eye-catching visualization; sociologists, political scientists, and environmental scientists who would like collaborate with technologists to build educational tools; historians and futurists alike; public health and disaster researchers; designers and artists.
DATE & TIME: Tuesday November 18th, 1:30-4:30
LOCATION: Semaphore Research Cluster, Demo Room (room 1150), Main Floor, Robarts Library, 130 St. George Street
Click here to register.


Article About Quantified Toilets on iSchool Website

There’s an article on the iSchool website discussing the Quantified Toilets project that came out of our CHI hackathon. It can be found here.

DIY Water Sensing Workshop at Subtle Technologies (May 30th and 31st)

This event is co-organized by Nina Czegledy, Adriana Ieraci, Antonio Gamba-Bari, Michelle Gay

Guest Speakers : David Lawrie, Ramón Guardans

May 30, 2014 6:00-9:00 pm AND May 31, 2014 10:00 am-5:00 pm

Place: Semaphore Demo Lab, Main floor Robarts Library
130 St. George Street, on the University of Toronto campus

Registration includes materials for the kit (estimated at $50). Bring the kit home with you.


In this one and half day experimental workshop we will explore basic water characteristics, mythologies, practical facts, socio-technical issues, cultural and art projects about H2O. Participants will be invited to bring their own fresh water samples – from their homes, from run-offs in their neighbourhood, or from nearby water sources. We will build a simple electronic DIY testing kit, based on the Arduino, and develop a test methodology to sense the water properties. No previous technical knowledge is necessary. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO

Critical Making Lab and Children’s Own Media Museum at Harbourfront

Lab members Antonio Gamba Bari and Gabby Resch, in conjunction with the Children’s Own Media Museum, took a handful of arduinos and one of the lab makerbots down to Toronto’s Harbourfont Victoria Day festival in order to provide the opportunity for kids (and their parents) to explore, create, and build a range of unique artifacts. It was an interesting opportunity for us to explore the interactive possibilities afforded in a busy, chaotic atmosphere, as well as a chance to see how a long-running group such as the COMM anticipates and prepares for an event that caters to hundreds of both excited and distracted kids (and their parents) as they experience technologies like 3D printing and electronic circuits for the first time.

Critical Making Lab Members at Ladies Learning Code 3D Printing Workshop

Critical Making Lab members Dan Southwick and Gabby Resch recently mentored a 3D printing workshop for Toronto non-profit Ladies Learning Code. LLC is an organization that runs workshops for women (and men) who want to learn beginner-friendly computer programming and other technical skills in a social and collaborative way. Over the past few years, they’ve established a number of chapters across Canada, a thriving girls’ program called Girls Learning Code, and a permanent workshop space in Toronto. Gabby has previously instructed one of their 3D printing events, so it was a real eye-opener to see how far they’ve come over the past year in developing the infrastructure and mentoring support to expose the broader public to this technology.

Gabby with one of the lab makerbots at the Ladies Learning Code 3D printing workshop.

Gabby with one of the lab makerbots at the Ladies Learning Code 3D printing workshop.

DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media

July 16, 2010matt.rattoevents2

We are holding a small conference at U of Toronto in Nov. More details here:

We’re finalizing the program now, but if anyone is interested in participating in the ‘maker space’ that will be ongoing during the event, please contact me directly.


Behind the Headlines interview

February 4, 2010matt.rattoevents0

I did an interesting interview with Jennifer Hsu from University of Toronto’s Office of Research:

I think it comes off as a little over-critical of Apple, but I do worry about the consumerist model that seems embedded in the itunes system. Perhaps Jobs will surprise us with free access to public domain texts. Actually, come to think of it, I’ll be interested to see whether ebook software currently running on the iPhone will be customized for the iPad…

First DDiMIT Workshop – Twittering Infrastructure for Making Basic Internet of Things (TIMBITs)

November 23, 2009matt.rattoevents, IOT0

The first workshop in a new digital media consortium was held on Friday, Nov. 20. The Faculty of Information/KMDI-led group, which includes members from four local universities, eight digital media content companies, and the Ontario trade organization Interactive Ontario has been organized to address the movement from screen-based digital media to more environmental and embodied forms of digital interactions. Relying on a ‘hands-on’ approach, members of the Designing Digital Media for the Internet of Things (DDiMIT) consortium met Friday to explore the notion of digitally-enabled ‘things’. Together, they constructed simple sensors that used Twitter to send and receive information as to their current status. The workshop highlighted new open source hardware and software tools that encourage experimentation by people from a range of different technical backgrounds. Despite a lack of familiarity with physical computing by most workshop participants, all groups successfully assembled a ‘tweeting’ digital device.

Hard at work on the Internet of Things

Hard at work on the Internet of Things

The circuit diagrams used in the workshop included simple led and sensor circuits. We also used the tutorials created by Limor Fried and those made by Tod E. Kurt.

Intro to MI at Faculty of Information

November 16, 2009matt.rattoevents0

Below is a short introduction about the faculty to a group of CCIT students at UT Mississauga:

Coach House Salon talk on Authenticity

November 13, 2009matt.rattoevents0

Last night I participated in a ‘salon’ style event at the new Coach House institute. This is located in the coach house building that was Marshall Mcluhan’s office during the 1970’s.

The conversation last night was ‘catalyzed’ by short talks given by myself, and my colleagues in the Faculty of Information, Heather McNeil and Matt Brower, as well as Ian Lancashire from the Department of English.

Here’s a link to the Prezi presentation I used to structure my thoughts:

Within the presentation, clicking on the arrows at the bottom of the screen will take you forward and back through the images and quotes.

My thanks to Jennifer Esmail (Rutgers & UofT), Steve Hockema (UofT), Jun Luo (UofT), Stuart Murray (Ryerson), Dominique Scheffel-Dunand (York), and Brian Cantwell Smith (UofT) for organizing this event.

Torch Partnership Wicked Lunch

November 11, 2009Jamonevents0

On August 7, 2009, I spoke at and facilitated a critical making exercise as part of Torch Partnership’s “wicked lunch” series. Torch Partnership consists of Michael Dila and Robin Uchida (and friends) and is an innovative “design thinking” and strategy company located in downtown Toronto.

Here’s a blurb from Torch Partnership:

This month we will welcome University of Toronto professor, Matt Ratto. Matt is an information studies guy who also runs the newly formed Critical Making Lab at U of T and teaches at the iSchool. His work looks at the way in which using technological and material prototyping can be used as part of a program of embodied and situated critical thinking.

Matt will share ideas and experience from his practice. I hope he might also be drawn into talking about the possibility of creating an open and accessible space for practicing critical making in Toronto. If we are lucky, he’ll bring some toys and help us play.

Here are some photos from the event:

Continue reading →

Coach House Salon

November 6, 2009matt.rattoevents0

I’m participating in an event at the Coach House on Nov. 12 – see below for more information.

Coach House Salon

November 12, Thursday, 6-9pm
The McLuhan Coach House
39A Queen’s Park Crescent East
(See detailed directions below)

Topic: Authenticity

Invited catalysts: Heather MacNeil (iSchool, UofT), Ian Lancashire (English, UofT), Matt Brower (iSchool, UofT) & Matt Ratto (iSchool, UofT)

Potluck supper starts at 6:00 and catalytic speeches start at 6:30.

Organized by the Salon team at the Coach House Institute: Jennifer Esmail (Rutgers & UofT), Steve Hockema (UofT), Jun Luo (UofT), Stuart Murray (Ryerson), Dominique Scheffel-Dunand (York), Brian Cantwell Smith (UofT)

The Coach House Salon:

The Coach House Salon is an informal monthly meeting that gathers together an interdisciplinary group of scholars in the Greater Toronto Area who are interested in the impact of digital technologies on culture, society and the world. Each salon focuses on a different topic and features informal short talks to generate discussion among attendees. The Coach House Salon aims at providing a forum where people feel safe to listen, inquire and wonder together.

Inspired by the Technoscience Salon (, the Coach House Salon coordinates schedule and topics with the Technoscience Salon while maintaining a focus on the transformation by digital technologies of the world and of our understanding of the world.

Format of the Salon:

Three to four catalytic speakers, for only ~10 minutes each, to address a topic T of relevance. Each speaker is suggested to address, with emphases of their own choice, four questions with respect to T:

(1) How do you understand T? What matters about it?
(2) How is T being transformed by the rise of digital technology & culture?
(3) What have you come to know or understand about T, that others here might be interested in?
(4) What do you not know or understand about T, which others here might know about or have insights into?

The floor is then open for general discussion, where every participant is reactant.

The Coach House Institute:

The Coach House Institute (CHI) is a new research centre at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. Built on the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology and revitalizing the historic Centre for Culture and Technology of Marshall McLuhan, the CHI functions as a laboratory for discursive engagements on ultimate questions in the information age and changes in the intellectual landscape. It aims to extract researchers from the maelstrom of daily life and usher them into an environment of communion and conversation that allows them to unfetter their imaginations and rethink the digitally mediated world.

Directions to the McLuhan Coach House:

The McLuhan Coach House (39A Queen’s Park Crescent East) is in the Southeast corner of the parking lot behind 39 Queen’s Park Crescent East, which is a UofT Faculty of Law building. Access to the McLuhan Coach House is available from Queen’s Park Crescent East by going around the 39 building towards the East and from St. Joseph Street by going around Muzzo Family Alumni Hall (121 St. Joseph Street) towards the South. The Museum station (on the University-Spadina subway line) and the Wellesley station (on the Yonge line) are within walking distance to the McLuhan Coach House.

Aberdeen Workshop

October 28, 2009matt.rattoevents1

On September 7, 2009 there was a three day workshop held at the University of Aberdeen entitled Design Anthropology: Understanding, Utility and Engagement. The workshop focused on anthropological methodology and how it can be of use to professionals in other fields of research. It emphasized collaboration in developing what design anthropology can offer to other disciplines as well as creating a new educational program at Aberdeen. I discussed critical making during Making Things 1 on the first day at 2:30 PM. Here are some photos from the workshop as well as the instructions and code from the Origami Tagger.

Here are the instructions for the origami tagger:


Here is the code for the Origami Tagger:

#include <Servo.h>
#include <IRremote.h> ////the library assigns pin 3 to the IR LED

Servo myservo;  // create servo object to control a servo
int pos = 1;    // variable to store the servo position
int IR_power = 12;    //set pin 12 to power IR receiver without breadboard
IRrecv irrecv(7);
IRsend irsend;
decode_results results;

void setup() {
myservo.attach(9);  // attaches the servo on pin 9 to the servo object
pinMode(IR_power, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(IR_power, HIGH);     //set this HIGH to power IR Receiver
irrecv.enableIRIn(); // Start the receiver
Serial.println(“Origami Tagger started!”);

void loop() {
//for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
irsend.sendSony(0xa90, 12); // Sony TV power code

if (irrecv.decode(&results)) {
/* Uncomment for more specific remote control
if (results.value>0) {
if (pos>180) {
} */
if (pos>180) {
irrecv.resume(); // Receive the next value

FI2241 – Critical Making course

August 17, 2009matt.rattoevents0

Here’s some more context:

Re: critical making. It’s a attempt to link up STS and design methods and skills. Our goal is not to make devices but to use ‘making’ to enhance our critical thinking about complex socio-technical issues. There are a number of ‘open’ technologies developed initially for artists and designers that make it now possible to get non-technical students productive quickly. These include an open hardware microcontroller and development environment called arduino (, and an open source software development  called Processing ( Both of these have rich communities of developers associated with them, lots of tutorials and code online. As the semester progresses, I give the students articles to read as well as assignments to build specific objects. The first 1 1/2 hours of the class we discuss the articles and relevant topics and in the second 1 1/2 hours we move to the lab and make stuff.

The current assignment is to build a ‘biased voting machine’ (define bias as well as voting.) In this assignment, we’re addressing issues of delegation and bias, as well as the infrastructural nature of technologies. Voting machines seem such a good case for thinking through these questions, since they represent a double-whammy of delegation-  both their purpose (electing representatives) and their function (delegating authority/accountability). Groups are posting – take a look and feel free to comment!

Critical Making && Inclusive Design Studio Open Show!

Critical Making && Inclusive Design Studio openshow

April 16, 2009: 2-5pm.

Rm. 728, Bissell Building, University of Toronto.

FI2241 and FI2196 invite you to join us in Bissell, rm. 728 on Thursday, April 16 from 2-5pm for an open show of their final projects.  Free wine and other refreshments will be served.

Critical Making – FI2241 – Using design-based research on physical  computing as an adjunct to information scholarship, the course has  explored critical issues of intellectual property, technological bias,  identity and public space. The projects to be shown include:

•    Social/Lites: An experiment in collaborative dinner theatre. (Bruno’s  BellyButton)
•    Roomalizer: Breathing New Life Into Public Spaces. (Under Construction)
•    Rage Against the Machine: Let us tell you how you feel. (Shake n’ Bake)
•    The Hipster: Flaneur 2.0 (NUTS)

Inclusive Design – FIS2187/FIS2196 – Students will be presenting  projects resulting from engagement with both theoretical and practical  issues in inclusive design, including designs or demos for:

•    An accessible web chat client in an online community
•    Implementing and testing Flexible User Interface (FLUID) components  designed for learning management systems such as Sakai and ATutor
•    An accessible mobile client for an indoor positioning system
•    Inclusive policies for online communities (involving children and  adults)
•    Formats for import and export of video description and captioning
•    Translating Cultural Artifacts across sensory modalities

Come join us, interact and explore creative solutions, new forms of ubiquitous computing, and engaging solutions to issues of inclusive design. Email if you need directions or more info!

Transmediale – Re-hacking your world

February 6, 2009matt.rattoevents0

I participated at a distance (with some technical difficulties on my side) in last week’s Transmediale session on ‘fair trade hardware’.

The video I sent provides some info about using open hardware for alternative purposes – namely to extend critical thinking through experimentation.

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