Scholars' Lab Blog //Podcast: Kari Kraus on Humanistic Design
Blog //Podcast: Kari Kraus on Humanistic Design

Finding Faultlines: An Approach to Humanistic Design

Historically we know that many new technologies have inherited parts from prior technologies. The skateboard remediated the surfboard; the camera pilfered from the gun; the telephone harvested batteries and wires from the telegraph; and early models of the phonograph borrowed the treadle mechanism of the sewing machine. In each of these instances, the logic of part-whole relationships governs the design. “Many of a technology’s parts are shared by other technologies,” notes Brian Arthur in The Nature of Technology, “so a great deal of development happens automatically as components improve in other uses ‘outside’ the host technology.” 1

Drawing inspiration from this assemblage model of design, I’ll report on research I recently conducted at the University of Maryland investigating how individuals locate the fault lines in objects and analyze them into their component parts. I’ll discuss several potential application domains, including the design of fragmented or non-finito products: intentionally unfinished things 2, such as a sketch, the torso of a statue, or (in the case of my own work) an alternate reality game that incorporates mobile and web apps.

Kari Kraus is an associate professor in the College of Information Studies and the Department of English at the University of Maryland. Her research and teaching interests focus on new media and the digital humanities, digital preservation, game studies and transmedia storytelling, and speculative design. She is writing a book about how artists, designers, and humanities researchers think about, model, and design possible futures.  In addition, she is collaborating on DUST, a multiplayer collaborative online adventure for students in middle and high school, created through a partnership between Brigham Young University, University of Maryland, College Park, and NASA, with funding from the National Science Foundation.

This talk was recorded in Alderman Library, Rm 421 on October 20, 2014.  If you encounter problems with the audio, please email

  1. Qtd. in Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants (New York: Viking, 2010) 45. 

  2. Jin-min Seok, et al., “Non-Finito Products: A New Design Space of User Creativity for Personal User Experience,” CHI 2014, Toronto Canada. 

Cite this post: Laura Miller. “Podcast: Kari Kraus on Humanistic Design”. Published November 14, 2014. Accessed on .