Matt Ratto is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto and directs the Semaphore Research cluster on Inclusive Design, Mobile and Pervasive Computing and, as part of Semaphore, the Critical Making lab. His work explores the intersections between digital technologies and the human life world, with a particular focus on new developments that trouble the divide between online and offline modes of production. Ratto is an avowed expert on 3D printing and digital fabrication, having carried out research on this topic since 2009. His research also addresses pervasive and ubiquitous technologies including wearable computing and the Internet of Things. Ratto created and ran the ThingTank from 2009-2011, a collaborative project between private, non-profit, and academic partners working collectively on new IoT products and services.
His work crosses both the boundaries between the digital and physical world and the divide between humanities and engineering disciplines. He coined the term ‘critical making” in 2007 to describe work that combines humanities insights and engineering practices, and has published extensively on this concept. A current project involves the development of a cost-effective software and hardware toolchain for the scanning, design, and 3D printing of lower-limb prostheses for use in the developing world. This work is being carried out in partnership with non-profit CBM Canada, CoRSU hospital in Uganda, Autodesk inc., and Toronto prosthetics and orthodics experts.
Matt Ratto received his PhD from the University of California, San Diego in 2003, writing his dissertation on the social organization of the Linux development community. Following this, he completed a 2 year post-doc at the Netherlands Institute for Scientific Information (NIWI) and in 2005 helped create the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences in Amsterdam (VKS-KNAW). In 2005, he was awarded a Netherlands Science Foundation (NWO) grant to study the use of computer simulation and modeling technologies and in 2007 was given a research fellowship in the HUMlab, an innovative digital humanities laboratory located at the University of Umea, Sweden. He moved to the University of Toronto in 2008. His current research is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, The Ontario Ministry for Innovation, and the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Recent publications include DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media, MIT Press, 2014 (co-editor with Megan Boler), “Design-to-Fabricate: Maker Hardware Requires Maker Software.” IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, Nov., 2013 (with Ryan Schmidt), and “Critical Making and Institutional Learning: Making as a Bridge between Art, Science, Engineering, and Social Intervention,” forthcoming Leonardo Electronic Almanac (with Garnet Hertz.)