Abstract: Crowding, the deleterious influence of clutter on identification of a target, is typically studied in the visual periphery, where it is a fundamental limit to visual perception. Most experiments entail keen spatial focus on a flanked target, which must be categorized using forced-choice response methods. I present several recent studies that extend conventional practice. First, I describe an experiment that uses adaptive optics to decouple neural and optical contributions to crowded vision in the fovea, resolving a decades-long controversy. Second, I present a study exploring crowding when target locations are unknown, finding that the spatial extent of crowding is similar in a search-like paradigm involving diffuse spatial attention. Lastly, I introduce a method for probing the phenomenology of crowded peripheral percepts, where subjects construct rich appearance matches using a novel interface. With these approaches I aim to situate crowding in a broader context of visual processing.