Dec 082014

My project is a gamer shirt purchased in the boy’s section of a clothing store (since there were none in the girl’s section) in which I was to place an LED matrix that would display feminine images and print the word girl. That was the plan, at least. Then reality hit.I went through a process of researching, purchasing, assembling, and coding several LED matrixes, all with unsatisfactory results.  Finally, I switched to an LED cord on the outside of the shirt, rather than the inside, and I have had to use a 12-volt plug-in to make it work.

In her work, “Fashion and Sexual Identity”, Samantha Brennan states, “heterosexuality is a position that is so unremarkable among heterosexuals that it becomes invisible as a structure”. The same holds true in gamer fashion. Masculinity is the norm and femininity is the other, rendering the feminine invisible. Thus, bright flashing LED seems like a good way to become visible.

The amount of knowledge I have gained from the process is incredible. I began this semester with no experience in sewing, coding, or soldering. Now I feel like I have a beginner’s level skill in all three. I honestly enjoy making and maker culture. There is such a wide variety of ideas out there and so many things that can be done and created. I’m sure that I will continue to develop the skills that I have learned in this class and apply them to future endeavors.  It was the experience of making that taught me the most about maker culture and how to develop wearable technology. I was able to watch videos on soldering and apply those skills quickly. Ultimately, for my actual finished project, the sewing skills proved to be the most valuable, as hand stitching the LED wire into the shirt was required.

2014-12-08 17.26.48 2014-12-08 17.27.24

Dec 082014
Final hoodie image

Final hoodie image

By Amanda Swan

The Game Over Hoodie is based on the idea that people who play video often waste time playing when they could be doing other things. I’m personally guilty of this, and I know many of my friends who play games also fall prey to the distractions a good game presents, so I decided to make something that would us keep track of time easier than the disruptive use of checking the time on a cell phone or something similar. Games are, after all, usually meant to be immersive. Finding a way to communicate information without distracting
from gameplay was paramount, so I decided to use Adafruit’s Neopixel 12 LED ring and model it after a health bar. Usually, a health bar is an actual bar, like
Bioshock 2’s health bar, but they have also been round, like in Kingdom Hearts. Using a ring instead of a bar would make it easier to adjust the sleeves
to the length the wearer wants; it would be difficult to push up the sleeves away from your hands if there was a big bar in the way.

Health bar images

Kingdom Hearts health bar (top) and Bioshock 2 health bar.

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Dec 082014

IMG_0406My project in essence was to make a wearable fashion technology that addressed the issue of gender identity by attempting to break gender roles. I believe the project was successful in doing this and raised a number of issues

Barnard says that fashion is not fashion until it can be placed within the context of a social structure [Barnard 19]. Ultimately, this allows people to attach value to what becomes fashion.

Barnard says that fashion is a means for a cultural group to shape its identity. Furthermore, fashion can function at the level of the individual or the level of society [Barnard 21]. Throughout some of the readings there arises the white male identity. There comes the question of if I am one of these that suffer from the tunnel vision associated with white male privilege. The most important issue this raises is that fashion results in assumptions or generalizations that are attributed to people.

Russell describes a social needIMG_0411 to conform to a group mentality where society is broken down based on social status. It goes on to describe fashion as a means of fulfilling this need. It follows then that fashion must be understood as cultural artifacts [Russell 38]. I think it would not be possible to approach the topic of gender isolated from other issues such as social status. However, the idea of a group mentality or collective is interesting to my wearable. I think it is important to think of ourselves in terms of group psychology. My project addresses this issue as well as the idea of being othered, the antithesis of conforming to a prescribed gender role. Carrying on with this idea, I think it also has the effect of thinking about rejecting gender binarism. It questions the standard of being heterosexual and masculine.

Barnard describes a social need present in people to individualize themselves and set themselves apart from society. Thus, fashion is dependent on the conditions set by society [Barnard 12]. I think that there is no singular logic then that defines cultures and therefore this wearable project could be repeated in the context of a different culture.

This implies that fashion is therefore an inescapable part of any given culture. Fashion is therefore relativized by a given culture so that fashion cannot be understood without this social context [Russell 38]. This was the single most significant factor during the experience of my project. If we take the assumption that I am privileged in the sense of being a white male, this would help describe any anxiety that came about during the project. This is because I perceive that I am committing a taboo and there is a response.

Barnard describes how society seeks to de-individualize people and in response to this people promote the expression of the individual [Barnard 13]. I think that this somehow plays into the group mentality phenomenon that I have described. In this way the anxiety that I have described about the process can be borne out of a fear to individualize myself to an excessive degree.

Barnard would describe it as being tied to the inclusion of an individual into specific societal subgroups and at the same time being individualized [Barnard 12]. This might have something to do with the term ‘cool’ that is used by Russell that relates to a person being easy in both dimensions of people identifying with groups and the individual.

Barnard describes clothing and fashion as the means to which social relations between peoples occur [Barnard 9]. As a consequence of this I think that the social relations that might exist between different peoples or cultures can be applied here. The anxiety I felt towards the project could be borne out of a fear for consequences stemming from breaking gender roles. This reveals something about the social structure to which I am a part of. It begs the question of what the consequences are in the case of this wearable.

Another question that is raised by Barnard is why would there be reluctance by a male in Western societies to wear an item of clothing that is labeled feminine. Barnard adequately describes a fear of being branded as being effeminate or a homosexual [Barnard 25]. I think there is the idea of taboo that might be used to describe this phenomenon. This is of course the essential issue of my wearable project involving the idea of breaking gender roles.

When Entwistle describes the way in which people identify gender as being arbitrary this again goes back to the idea that fashion is a relative term and there is no objective standard on the term [Entwistle 141]. When an individual challenges these gender associations, they are then challenging the culture to which the gender associations are attributed to.

Entwistle describes how self-consciousness in appearance can be caused by not fitting in with prescribed cultural forms which are the cause for preconceptions and limitations in society [Entwistle 150]. A question arises of how my wearable relates to existing preconceptions and if it lies outside of these. I mentioned before the anxiety I felt which I attribute to fear of committing social taboo.

In my project, I seemed to have the self-consciousness about labels, and I think in the process was able to confront my privilege as a white male. I confronted the reality of the actual world and the preconceptions. Identity in the actual world is heavily scrutinized by society. This is to be expected and it can be related to the topic in class of online environments and the absence of these limitations that society has built for itself.

Entwistle says that androgyny in fashion is not to be confused with an absence of gender differentiation but merely tests the boundaries [Entwistle 171]. I would agree with the position that androgyny is in short supply, at least in the culture I live in. I suspect that in this culture there is a significant polarizing effect that in general seeks to clearly define gender. This can be a difficult endeavor as the relativistic nature of gender would imply.

One of my concerns in my project was that it would be considered androgynous. I think ultimately that there is a very fine line that encompasses androgyny. Merely labeling something as a women’s clothing has the potential to push it over that line.

Ultimately, I think fashion is dependent on existing social conditions and these existing conditions are necessary when considering gender in relation to fashion.



Barnard, Malcolm. “Etymologies and Definitions of Fashion and Clothing” in Fashion as Communication 8 – 26 (17 pps)

Entwistle, Joanne. “Fashion and Gender” in The Fashioned Body 140 – 180 (41 pps)

Russell, Luke. “Tryhards, Fashion Victims, and Effortless Cool” in Fashion: Philosophy for Everyone 37 – 50 (14 pps)



Dec 072014


It is acknowledgeable that throughout human history, people have always recognized and maintained a sense of privacy. Nestled betwixt a plethora of issues facing this realization is the idea that there does not exist a single and precise definition of what exactly privacy constitutes. Dated research (circa 1881) presented an oversimplified yet often quoted idea that privacy was the “right to be let alone” (Craven Jr, 1979). It wasn’t until a few years later that the idea that privacy deserved legal protection began to circulate, spawning mass intellectual debates on the issue. Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis produced a highly influential essay in Harvard Law Review in 1890 that introduced the fundamental principle that “the individual shall have full protection in person and in property… it is our purpose to consider whether the existing law affords a principle which can properly be invoked to protect the privacy of the individual; and, if it does, what the nature and extent of such protection is” (p. 37). In American society, as well as other western cultures, one of the most clear cut and expected notions of privacy involves the ability to control exposure of one’s body (Konvitz, 1966). The author discusses how culturally we are made to believe that being naked is something to be seen as shameful (as passages from the bible give way to this), and we have a right to not be exposed without or consent. While this project doesn’t focus on the distribution of anything pertaining to a violation of someone’s right to maintain privacy of their naked body, it does touch on having a right to not be publicly displayed to others, whether it be in concern to their body, clothing, etc., within certain public or private spheres without their consent. In discussing video voyeurism, Lance Rothenberg said, “The failure of criminal law to recognize a legitimate expectation of privacy in the public space tacitly grants the video voyeur a license to act with impunity, and leaves victims with little or no recourse” (2011, p. 1146). Voyeurism in this case is the action of spying on persons engaged in intimate behavior, such as undressing or other sexual activity considered to be private nature.

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Dec 072014

musichoodie_completeThe original idea behind the Theme Music Hoodie was to be able to have a quick way to a.) share your favorite music with others and b.) carry your own soundtrack with you wherever you go. The hoodie has an LilyPad MP3 and two speakers sewn into a piece on lining on the inside of the front pocket. Five buttons are located on the left side of the pockets, and each button triggers a different piece of music loaded from a micro SD card.

Music is closely tied with one’s identity, emotions, and culture. It can play a significant role in not only shaping who we are, but also how (we want) others to see us. Many romantic couples have a song they call their own, and most people have a favorite artist or band, even if it changes frequently. People wait in long lines for the doors to happen before a concert. People scream and cry during performances. Religious music has long been a mainstay, with many of the West’s greatest composers wrote songs of worship. Break-up songs and movie soundtracks have a unique ability to draw out the emotions of an audience.

What you wear signifies something to those around you. While Elizabeth Wilson was expressly writing about dreadlocks in “Oppositional Dress”, the sentiment remains the same for any style – it “is an open and deliberate sign of affiliation and both friends and foes recognize it as such” (Wilson, 255). One’s style categorizes him into a specific cultural group of like-minded individuals (Barnard, 20). In this way, fashion goes hand-in-hand with music. Many people connected to a particular music scene already “wear” their music on their sleeves in the form of band/music shirts and clothing, pins, buttons, accessories, and patches. The Theme Music Hoodie follows this kind of DIY aesthetic, complete with a few patches ripped from old t-shirts and some pins I had lying around and the added bonus of pushing the music/fashion idea a little further.

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Nov 172014

The Sync shirt is designed to amplify the VJ’s presence on stage as he/she performs for the crowd. The shirt rhythmically pluses with the beat of the songs, drawing attention to the VJ. Sync enables the performer a greater range of self-expression through the display on the entertainer’s clothing, thereby bringing more of the artist’s persona out in the piece. As Bradley Quinn states, “cyberspace, as a realm of intersecting practices, presents designers with a forum where fashion can be represented digitally or shown on an interactive platform”.  The Sync bridges the gap between performance, fashion, and interactivity.

Sync-Crated-Botfactory-1By making the Sync a piece of clothing, the creator uses the world of fashion to make a statement about music. Music is in a state of constant flux and, as each piece of music is played, so is the Sync. As the shirt flashes rhythmically with the music, the performer becomes a musical means by which to analyze fashion. Simultaneously, the Sync acts as an instrument in the analysis of music by displaying the rhythmic characteristics on the front of the shirt.

Aspects of interactivity with the shirt allow the VJ to fold the Sync into the performance, by choosing various beats to affect the image on the shirt. The performer’s interactivity with the audience is assisted by the Sync and the rhythmic flashing that draws attention to the VJ. The aspects of creativity and interaction bring this shirt into the realm of digital art as the mixture of many art forms to express the self in a unique way.

Originality of expression seems to be something that is becoming ever more elusive, so digital and wearable technologies have become the new way to express one’s self. Sync becomes a format for the expression of the self within the mediums of music, fashion, and digital technologies. It creates self-expression by making and placing the individual into the roles of performer, creator, and inventor. Therefore, Sync becomes a representation of the power of creation and performance.

The use of technology and fashion coordinated in the Sync allow the wearer to perform his or her art while being part of that art themselves. It not only allows the videos displayed to communicate a message, but the VJ, and more particularly the VJ’s clothing convey a message as well. The sensors within the shirt are programmed to flash with the music, thereby coalescing the display and the performer.


Quinn, Bradley. “Cybercouture” in Techno Fashion 77 – 96 (20 pps)

Nov 112014
Thunderball used the real life "Bell Rocket Belt," a hydrogen peroxide powered jetpack.

Thunderball used the real life “Bell Rocket Belt,” a hydrogen peroxide powered jetpack.

Jetpacks. Not only cool, but also an originally sci-fi concept that actually exists. The word normally invokes visions of adventurous self-propelled flyers, like in the 1965 James Bond feature film Thunderball. “What goes up must come down,” is an applicable cliché. Functional jetpacks average a flight time of about 20 seconds, but what if flight wasn’t the point? If the cliché read, “What goes forward must go forward faster,” how would that affect this wearable device concept?

Enter Jason Kerestes of Arizona State University (ASU) and his 4MM (4 Minute Mile) project. He developed a prototype jetpack that allows the wearer to run faster than normal, potentially covering a mile in four minutes or less.

Kerestes explains his motivation for the 4MM jetpack.

Kerestes explains his motivation for the 4MM jetpack.


 Watch the 4MM Jetpack video:


Kerestes is a graduate student working with ASU’s iProjects, a collaborative program between students and industry. The 4MM jetpack came about when the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) asked for a device to enhance a soldier’s battlefield performance. Battery operated thrusters attach to a military-rucksack frame and use air bursts to propel the runner forward. The prototype pack weighs 11.2 lbs, but allows the wearer to run faster while expending less energy despite the added weight.

4MM Jetpack prototype

4MM Jetpack prototype

The battlefield applications of physical augmentation are obvious. But would a standard infantry soldier use the 4MM jetpack? Probably not, it weighs too much. When wearing their combat gear (full battle rattle), 11.2 lbs is a lot to add on top of a load already averaging 70 lbs and up. In ASU’s video, Kerestes speaks in terms of Navy SEALS or Army soldiers (most likely Special Forces) who need to get in and out of target zones quickly.

A U.S. Army soldier wearing "full battle rattle."

A U.S. Army soldier wearing “full battle rattle.”


Of course, the 11.2 lbs applies to a prototype. A production model will undoubtedly weigh less.


Off the battlefield, what could be done with a 4MM jetpack? It would surely cause a controversy in the world of athletic competition.

In 2007, Oscar Pistorius was banned from competing against athletes without prosthetics. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) felt his limbs gave the “Blade Runner” an unfair advantage. Pistorius was eventually allowed to compete, but how would jetpacks be viewed? Most likely, the IAAF will exhibit less enthusiasm than the carbon-fiber “Flex-Foot Cheetah” legs Pistorius runs with.

Oscar Pistorius 2011

Oscar Pistorius 2011

On the other hand, devices like jetpacks could draw fans by making sports more “extreme” or allowing new games to evolve. How many Harry Potter fans would like to play “Quidditch” in the air?

4MM 200 meter time trial

4MM 200 meter time trial

Coming down another level, who wouldn’t enjoy feeling fleet of foot from jet propulsion? Commercially, companies could charge people for the experience of feeling like professional athlete.

Is the research investment worth it? Before DARPA asked for a device intended for combat, the 4MM researchers at ASU were working on prosthetics for amputees. Is it nobler to develop a potentially life saving device or a life changing device? DARPA could just as easily asked for better prosthetic limbs. That question may be argued at length and is a personal belief. The fact of the matter is: development will occur where the funding goes.

If the 4MM jetpack is successful, and if it finds life off the battlefield, what will the future of performance enhancing devices bring? With any luck, future wearable devices are even cooler than jetpacks.

Nov 042014
Palm trees against a partly cloudy sky

Los Angeles Palm Trees by Flickr User tiarescott

I’m getting very excited for my first trip to the American Studies Association this week! Mark Marino and I organized a panel called “Fabricating Tech: Pleasure and Pain of Design Communities.” Our presentation is Fri, November 7, 10:00 to 11:45am, at the Westin Bonaventure, Level 3, Santa Monica D (L3).

Mark and I will be presenting along with Lone K. Hansen. The panel will be moderated by Richard Lemarchand. I’m copying our panel description and paper abstracts below.

Follow #2014ASA for conference tweets.


Fabricating Tech: Pleasure and Pain of design communities

Panel description:

In this moment of Maker Fairs and Etsy, much has been made of communities trying their hands at fabrication, whether programming code or creating blouses, whether bending circuits or looping stitches. However, despite the overlap in the participants in these communities (the same people who are learning to stitch are also learning to program in python), radically different social spaces have emerged. This panel examines the pleasure and pain of entering into these spaces through socialization and the acquisition of new schools of practice, along with the differences in standards of acceptance, support, and mentoring that are fostered here.  We examine participation in these maker spaces as potentially transgressive and transformative environs that can become consumed by abusive normative discourse, epitomized, for example, by the acculturation of the new members.  We are interested in how this moment of making, particularly critical making, has been shaped by the online and in-person communities that have co-evolved with it.  We also investigate coding and fabricating practices as spaces suitable for hacking (i.e., for subversive counterpractices), while mindful of the limitations and frustrations that can be imposed by lived realities.   At the center of our investigation is the moment of making and the ways that this performance of technical knowledge can place the maker into a relationship with a social milieu with respect to individual agency and gender, racial, economic, and even sexual identity.  The media of making become the modes of discourse, whereby individuals perform their identity vis-a-vis their work’s relationship to traditional cultural practices.

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Oct 072014

By Amanda Swan

Musicians are often in the news for pushing the boundaries when it comes to making their music, like Beyoncé’s unadvertised surprise album last year or U2’s direct-to-iPhone release of their latest release. Music production has the potential to change dramatically in the near-ish future through the use of gesture sensing gloves.

Working closely with British musical artist Imogen Heap, Mi.Mu has been working on a data collecting, sound manipulating pair of gloves. Although their Kickstarter failed to meet its goal, the company is still working on newer, more streamlined gloves to potentially market to interested parties.

Gesture control glove

Gesture control glove, courtesy

The gloves themselves use sensors to read gestures made by the wearer, which are then translated into different kinds of manipulated sounds. Each movement corresponds to a different manipulation or sound; for example, a high-hat or a fader might be engaged with a flick of the wrist.

This technology opens up a new realm of music making. For those of us who are less musically inclined in the traditional sense, these gloves would be a good opportunity to dip our toes into the musical pool one more time. Someone who isn’t great at guitar could be phenomenal at creating music through these gloves. Someone who never got the hang of drumming might be great at playing piano. But with these gloves, that person might be able to revisit drumming by programming each finger to coordinate to a drum sound. They would be able to drum using their fingers, perhaps similar to the style of playing the piano.

As I was reading through the Mi.Mu Kickstarter page, I found a few comments about adapting this kind of glove (motion sensitivity) for other purposes. One user suggested this technology would be great for those who have to use sign language. If some software was developed to read motions and translate them into written language, it could open up great new possibilities in interpersonal communication and allow conversation with those that were previously unreachable.

Like the technology proposed in Lauren Silverman’s article SXSW: Where High-Tech Meets High-Fashion, the Mi.Mu musical gloves are far from commercial production. However, they both present so many opportunities for those who are unable to conform to traditional music or communication practices.