The popularity of computational notebooks heralds a return of software as computational media rather than turn-key applications. We believe this software model has potential beyond supporting just the computationally literate. We studied a biomolecular nano-design lab that works on a current frontier of science—RNA origami—whose researchers depend on computational tools to do their work, yet are not trained as programmers. Using a participatory design process, we developed a computational labbook to concretise what computational media could look like, using the principles of computability, malleability, shareability, and distributability suggested by previous work. We used this prototype to co-reflect with the nanoscientists about how it could transform their practice. We report on the computational culture specific to this research area; the scientists’ struggles managing their computational environments; and their subsequent disempowerment yet dependence. Lastly, we discuss the generative potential and limitations of the four design principles for the future of computational media.
Midas Nouwens, Marcel Borowski, Bjarke Fog, and Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose. 2020. Between Scripts and Applications: Computational Media for the Frontier of Nanoscience. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’20). DOI: 10.1145/3313831.3376287. PDF.