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


In regard to your question: The Hug over a Distance came out of an
extensive user-centred design process research project. (See the paper
for details). 
It was never said it was expressive. The reason why the users did not
want to take the vest home for an in-situ experiment was the noise the
compressor in the vest created. We anticipated that the users could
abstract the concept from the (prototype) implementation, but we had to
learn that (our) users, although instructed that they are dealing with
prototypes, expected production-near functionality to be willing to take
the technology into their everyday life. This is what we did not
anticipated and we learned out of the project.

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of s g p
Sent: Saturday, 27 August 2005 5:26 AM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] clothing [and/as] technology

Hi all,
I'm a bit of a bystander on this topic, but have been tracking the topic
for a few years now. I want to jump in and challenge you all to move the
dialogue past a re-tread of the generic or well worn metaphors....For
example, could you talk some about the recent issue of ID magazine if
you've seen it? Sorry, seems the website isn't
up to date, but the current issue is devoted to students, esp those
involved with wearable tech. In short, I'm curious what are your
thoughts about the different strategies described from functionally
driven to more expressive pieces. What are the criteria, across this
spectrum, for evaluating a piece's success?

For example, Alison Lewis was a thesis student of mine and really
brought to my attention the redundancy of "discovery" in this field or
as Katherine pointed out that prevailing metaphors (skin, cyborg, etc)
might be preventing more depth of exploration. I'm very impressed by
Kaho Abe's work for example. Kaho's thesis basically brought up this
friction at Parsons between invention and application. Her seemingly
simple switches and controls were brilliant and in hindsight seemingly
obvious. The "problem" many stated while reviewing her work was, "how do
you plan to apply these", to which I think she struggled for salient
proposals. I say struggled, because her switches and controls can so
easily be seen as becoming ubiquitous that any attempt to pinpoint or
find fitness with particular applications as a way to defend the
invention seemed irrelevant. Throughout history there are examples where
the proposed application for a new technology was way off the mark and
we giggle at the idea that PC's would be used primarily to hold recipes.

I think many wearable projects suffer because too much is trying to be
solved to the point that we are being invited to strap on Rube
Goldberg-like attire. If not a scope challenge, there seems to be a lack
of audience definition or research. If not that, then maybe its a
problem of presentation. Because there seems to be a drive for polish,
many projects that are really just in research stages appear to be aimed
at retail buyers. Why have fashion shows become the prevailing mode of
presentation vs. demo days in the aisles of your nearest big box
retailer? I guess fashion shows are sexier, but they are also for an
elite audience. I imagine you've seen those tabloid photos of some
unfortunate non-celeb who dared to wear a Gaultier, Galliano, McQueen or
Kawakubo(her F/W 05 brides!!) piece. Anyway, I do enjoy fashion, but
wonder sometimes about how it fits or supports your efforts. You don't
see Steve Mann on the runway! ha ha. Lest I digress...

Katherine had asked Floyd I think to respond about his research
methods/findings. It seems to me his project, while potentially
rewarding, failed to meet its goals in large part because his intended
audience said they'd never use it! That shocked me. Aren't people using
the basic user-centered design process? It seems a too easy excuse to
say it's expressive therefore audience adoption isn't an issue. I've
seen so many projects taking on the expression over a distance problem
(maybe it's a rite of passage?) but few seem to demonstrate
user-centered research or ethnographic studies or anything that led me
to believe that they had defined an audience of potential users who
expressed such an absence over distance and concurred that a wearable
might be able to address their desires and needs.

Apologies if I've succumbed to my own concerns for redundancy and these
questions are stale. Which leads to my last question. Is there are an
organization or more centralized place one might go to in order to learn
what's already been asked and addressed? If not, why not? Is it because
this discipline is melding into others like game designers and theatre
are merging ( Or the opposite, it's splitting
into different camps...?

Thanks for your time.

On 8/25/05, Katherine Moriwaki <> wrote:
> Hello Felix, empyreans:
> At 06:23 21/08/2005, you wrote:
> >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 history.
> >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.
> Nice to touch upon this. Back in 2001 when I co-developed the course 
> material for the Fashionable Technology collaboration studio at 
> Parsons School of Design (with Sabine Seymour) these are issues I 
> touched upon in some of the beginning lectures we held for students.
> >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.
> I tend to not see that there is contradiction, but that clothing 
> operates as a juncture.
> >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
> >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'm familiar with Thorpe and Shannon's work. This is also material we 
> used to cover for our students in the Fashionable Technology course.
> >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.
> Skin is merely one metaphor people tend to use when working with 
> fashion and technology. It is a common one, but not the only one by 
> any means. If anything, this is an issue within fashion and technology

> - how to get around the more obvious and simplistic sets of relations 
> between our body, technology, and clothing. On the other hand, skin as

> a metaphor, and the concept of skin-extension continues to maintain 
> appeal for a reason. It is at least one way in which people can easily

> understand one of the many functions we have for our clothes.
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
empyre forum

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.