RE: [-empyre-] clothing [and/as] technology

Hi Felix,

Thanks for your post.

I just noticed in your links a reference to Steve Mann's
site. I just posted a question to empyre asking if people are familiar
with his work....

Your comments on clothing as the border between the body and the animal
world are very interesting.   As I am not really familiar with
discussions about wearable technologies, it is good to get different
perspectives on this topic.


-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Felix
Sent: Sunday, August 21, 2005 8:24 PM
To: empyre
Subject: [-empyre-] clothing [and/as] technology

hi Heidi, Katherine Moriwaki, Floyd & empyreans,

just a few quick and maybe too loosely connected thoughts on wearables, 
clothing and technology.

at the same time as the whole debate about the fusion of clothing with 
technology (>high fashion colliding with high technology<, etc...) is 
fascinating, it unfortunately is likely to cover its own cultural 
in the past, clothing had not been enhanced by [digital] technology but 
itself had been rather synonymous with technology. together with the 
development of language the use of materials to cover the human body 
(i.e. the naked animal life) had been the primary cultural operation by 
which man (indeed physically) established a border between himself and 
the animal world, hence becoming human at all.
interestingly enough, the german word for this "border" between the 
naked body and the environment "grenzflaeche" (grenze=border, 
flaeche=surface) translates as "interface" in english, which makes the 
quality of clothing-as-technology quite apparent.

from this point of view, it becomes obvious that clothing/wearables 
fulfill several cultural tasks at the same time which even seemingly 
contradict each other.
their function as a cover/shield/border for/of the human body 
"seamlessly" interacts with the one as a means of 
communicating/exposing the body to the outside world. fashion has 
largely understood this ambivalence (being the original concept of an 
interface) for a long time and basically works on this principle.

the idea that wearable technology is something that is rather hidden 
while at the same time used to communicate with the outside world is 
therefore found at the beginning of the development of wearable 
claude shannon and ed thorpe developed the first wearable computer in 
1961-66 in order to "predict" roulette wheels, i.e. cheat casinos in 
las vegas. the computer (that was later famously labelled the 
"eudaemonic shoe computer" after the group of  MIT-students called the 
"eudaemonics") was a small device hidden in the sole of a shoe. it was 
controlled by the movement of the toes and its feedback consisted of 
acoustic information via an almost invisible headphone connection.
anyway, before going too much into technical detail (i'm always trying 
to avoid that, but you can check out the links below for more info) i'd 
rather stop here.

i guess when we are dealing with wearable computer technology and 
especially with those that is able to establish [physical] connections  
between users we should be aware that clothing is way more than just a 
second skin (in fact it is (culturally) entirely different from skin 
and never a mere skin-extension). performing/transmitting 
data/language/touch/etc... through clothing as an interface therefore 
should imply a sense for the cultural function clothing inherits from 
the past.



links to the history of wearable computing/MIT-shoe comp:


Felix Sattler

Research Project: *Mapping the Casino - A Curatorial Adventure Into The 
Postindustrial Paradigmatic*

Faculty of Media
Bauhaus University Weimar

Ernst-Kohl-Str. 2
D-99423 Weimar

phone:  +49-3643-815968
mobile: +49-160-4155881

empyre forum

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