Christopher Csikszentmihályi is an information activist and artist who has served as a professor and led research teams at MIT for a decade. He founded and directed the Computing Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab, which created influential political technologies like Open Government Information Awareness, txtMob, and Freedom Flies. Next, he co-founded and directed the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, which develops network-enabled systems for community empowerment, including Sourcemap.org, grassrootsmapping.org, and Cronicasdeheroes.mx, Hundreds of thousands of people have used these systems, and they have been widely discussed in the media. Csikszentmihályi has served as a consultant for UNICEF, UN Global Pulse, the US State Department, the National Academies, and has been quoted on technology and politics by the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian UK, Indonesian Times, Washington Post, CNN, and many other news sources.
The ethical dimension of technology education is often dissimulated, lost in the focus on instrumental and commercial interests. As a result, an individual student’s ethical sensibility is formed as tacit knowledge, in a rich stew of social, cultural, and individual experiences and influences. Peer- and field- based aesthetic sensibilities -- which contribute to what constitutes interesting or reasonable problems -- have at least as much influence as formal programs or curricula in defining the range of possible innovations a student might aspire to develop. Drawing from 12 years of participatory research in engineering institutions, the author will contrast programmatic and aesthetic aspects of technologists’ identity formation, and then further compare these with the recent socio-technical movements of DIY, design for development, and social entrepreneurship. If, as the author argues, aesthetic formation can influence our design of technology, one role of activist technologists is to mindfully produce technological aesthetic movements as companions to social movements.