The domain of Human-Computer Interaction does not only concern the design of technology that is easy to use, useful, and fancy—it has to do with our role in shaping our environment, our ecological niche that today involves the whole earth. A key concept in the interaction between humans and computing resources is that of appropriation, originally proposed by Aleksei Nikolaevich Leontiev. In the present paper we will first review the concept of appropriation and will present bricolage as a key activity for fostering appropriation. Then we will present the Makers Movement as a socio-cultural movement relevant for the process of appropriation of digital technology. Finally, we will describe our approach and vision in the design of the UDOO, a single board computer, and of a specific developing environment, UAPPI, for enabling the appropriation through meaningful activities of digital technologies.
The domain of Human-Computer Interaction does not concern only the design of easy to use, useful and fancy technology. It also relates to being human and to our role in shaping our environment, our ecological niche, which today involves our whole planet. Our relationship with the environment over the last 60 years has been characterized by an unprecedented acceleration. During this period, we have altered the Earth more than any other living species, and more than we did in the previous 10,000 years, i.e., from the invention and spread of agriculture until the mid-twentieth century (MacCready, 1999). Everything from industry, to medicine, to how we work and play has been fundamentally reshaped by the technologies produced in the second half of the twentieth century.
Digital technologies are transforming, distorting, or even making possible nearly every human activity. Yet the power of any computer lies in the manner in which it processes information, a manner very different from the way in which we cope with information. It is the coupling of human and computational artifacts that allows our crucial leverage over our environment. But why are interactions between human and technology so effective in bringing about changes in ourselves and the world around us? Activity Theory, with its roots in the seminal work of Vygotsky, Leontiev, Rubinshtein, and Luria, was among the first to acknowledge the role of artifacts in human' s cultural evolution and in the development of peculiar psychological functions. The heuristic role of Activity Theory in explaining the design of new technologies is indeed evident in defining and exploring the ontological root of artifacts (Bannon and Bodker, 1991; Kuutti, 1991; Engestrom, 2000; Cole and Derry, 2005; Kaptelinin and Nardi, 2006; Stetsenko, 2008) more than in identifying methods and techniques for improving interactions with specific artifacts.
In the following, we will use some heuristic principles of Activity Theory (Kaptelinin and Nardi, 2012) to describe the origin and vision of a recent enabling technology for the Makers Movement, the UDOO boards. The rationale for addressing the Makers Community as a target for our design process and related products is due to a three-fold link between the Movement and Activity Theory: (i) both encourage everyone to see themselves as producers, not just consumers of artifacts (e.g., to go beyond end-user development toward the invention of new products); (ii) both foster collaborative problem-solving and the sharing of creative work openly with others; and (iii) both claim that making is crucial to expressing and building our personal identities. Moreover, the Makers Movement is a growing worldwide undertaking that promises to play a sound and important role in the innovation of technology (Bajarin, 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/all/2016/06/does-the-maker-movement-matter/486647/).
To the aim of presenting the vision and mission of our set of technologies, we will first review the concept of appropriation initially proposed by Aleksei Nikolaevich Leontiev. Then we will present the activities of the Makers Movement as relevant for the appropriation of digital technology. Finally, we will describe our approach in the design of the UDOO boards hardware and software as promising resources for the appropriation of digital technology.
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