Abstracting Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand

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The love of making things need not be confined to the physical world - electronic form giving can also be a rewarding hands-on experience. In this investigation of the possibility of craft in the digital realm, Malcolm McCullough observes that the emergence of computation as a medium, rather than just as a set of tools, suggests a growing correspondence between digital work and traditional craft. With examples and illustrations drawn from a variety of disciplines, "Abstracting Craft" shows that anyone who gives form with software, whether in architecture, painting, animating, modelling, simulating or manufacturing, is practising personal knowledge and producing visual artifacts that, although not material, are nevertheless products of the hands, eyes and mind. Chapter by chapter, McCullough builds a case for upholding humane traits and values during the formative stages of new practices in digital media. He covers the nature of hand-eye co-ordination; the working context of the image culture; aspects of tool usage and medium appreciation; uses and limitations of symbolic methods, issues in human-computer interaction; geometric constructions and abstract methods in design; the necessity of improvization; and the personal worth of work. For those new to computing, McCullough offers an inside view of what the technology is like, what the important technical issues are, and how creative computing fits within a larger intellectual history. Specialists in human-computer interactions should find an interesting case study of the anthropological and psychological issues that matter to designers. Artificial intelligence researchers should be reminded that much activity fails to fit articulable formalisms. Aesthetic theorists should find a curiously developed case of neostructuralism, and cultural critics should be asked to imagine a praxis in which technology no longer represents an authoritarian opposition. Finally, the unheralded legions of digital craftspersons should find an acknowledgement of their artistry and humanity.

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