Critical Breaking

Utilizing critical and feminist science and technology studies methods, this thesis offers a new framework, called critical breaking, to allow for reflective and critical examination and analysis of instances of error, breakdown, and failure in digital systems. This framework has three key analytic goals: auditing systems, forging better relationships with systems, and discovering elements of the context in which these systems exist. This framework is further explored by the examination of three case studies of communities of breaking practice: video game speed-runners, software testers, and hacktivists. In each case, critical breaking is further developed in reflection of resonant and dissonant elements of each practice with critical breaking. In addition, artistic productions related to these case studies are also introduced as inflection points and potential alternative expressions of critical breaking analysis. The goal of this thesis is to provide a way to engage with breakdown and error and more than simply the negation of the good or as a sensationalist talking point, and instead use it as a fecund place for reflective, analytic growth.


About Chris Kerich

Chris Kerich is a programmer, artist, and human being. Chris has a bachelor's in Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University but likes to tell people that he very nearly minored in film. He also now has an M.S. in Comparative Media Studies from MIT. These days, he's working on his PhD at UCSC in their Film & Digital Media department. What values become embedded in software, especially in understudied, normalized infrastructural systems, is his primary research focus. This can take many different specific forms, in everything from video encoding to physics systems in video games. His master's thesis explores some of the beginnings of how to interrogate these systems, which he hopes to expand on during his PhD. Thesis: Critical Breaking


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