Over the past few years, there has been growing interest in materials, material practices, and new production processes spanning different design activities and domains. ‘Making’, a keyword for these interests, has been moving center stage in design debates. One telling indication of this trend are remarks in the concluding panel of the 2014 Design Research Society Conference in Umeå, Sweden that declared ‘making’ central to design inquiry. ‘Making’ in that conference was closely linked to the new possibilities of digital fabrication. This coupling is not uncommon. Most studies of ‘making’ and ‘makers’ currently revolve around digital fabrication – its pragmatics and techno-social implications. However, such close links between making and digital production technologies are limiting.
To expand the understanding of making beyond its current bounds, to explore broader potentials for computational theories and techniques in making activity, and to investigate relations between making activity and design activity, we (editors), together with MIT doctoral student Dina El-Zanfaly, recently launched a research initiative on a topic we called Computational Making. To engage a wider community of researchers and practitioners in delineating this new area of research, we convened a workshop on Computational Making in July 2014 at the Sixth International Conference on Design Computing and Cognition (DCC'14) at the University College London. An interdisciplinary group of participants from the arts, architecture, design, information science, mathematics, and philosophy presented short position papers on the workshop theme. This Special Issue of Design Studies includes seven papers that grew out of ones initially presented at the workshop. They illustrate a variety of perspectives on the theme of Computational Making and the scope of issues and challenges raised by the topic. These papers, and others presented at the workshop, were developed in response to our initial framing of Computational Making as an area of inquiry. Our framing was based on broadly defined conceptions of both ‘computation’ and ‘making’, from which we proposed questions about how making and computation might come together, and how they might relate to design. (click to continue)