I’ve come across many way in which the end results of Making is referenced. Different fields have their own terms, for example, educators make reference to learning outcomes, designers use the term portfolios, artists create physical objects, STEM complete projects and in some cases produce products, and so forth the terminology proceeds. Is there a way we can reference the results of Making that embody all these notions of what happens at the end while embracing the process of learning that happen during Making?
In recent conversations with the Principal Investigator, Shawn, on this SSRCH project (which is embedded in the context of education), we had such conversations. During some initial discussion, I used the word “product” to describe the outcomes of Making; this caused a strong reaction in Shawn for which I was grateful as it fueled a rich dialogue. In discussing this further, we surmised that “product” as a term to describe the result of Making takes away from the very ethos of the Maker Movement. This description is deficit in the processes that exemplify Making such as sharing, giving, learning about something, variability of perspectives, tinkering, and supporting a community – essentially — everything the Maker mindset encompasses.
As the conversation proceeded, we turned to the term “artifact” to describe the resulting creations of Making. Does this term work? I looked at the etymology of the word “artifact” and found some historical themes derived from computing, archaeology, and biology that align well with the Maker Movement. Underpinning the term artifact (as spelled in the Oxford English Dictionary) are subtexts of [reference]:
- Objects that are shaped through human touch
- Creation for specific interests groups through community endeavours
- Results of human collective conception and supported by capacity to make free and independent choices
- Products and outcomes of processes (e.g. experiment or digital processing) that are shaped by actions (not necessarily human) and may not be innate to the object
Now I move to test the term “artifact” in education. The artifact symbolizes the (collaborative) learning process including the design, creation, tinkering and hacking [Bullock, 2014] innate in Making for a specific community, which may also extend to the teaching of that process to others in the affinity group. The tacit knowledge and conceptions that result from Making is then sharable with and future artifacts (even learning artifacts) may look very distinct as they are shaped by collective processes of the community of practice.
How does the term “artifact” to describe the results of Making in education sit with you?