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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Nov 172014

Post by: Nilufer Arsala

undercover colors

Photo credit:

“Undercover Colors” is a brand of nail polish that was developed by four North Carolina State University undergrads. According to the Washington Post  the brand’s premise is nail polish that changes color when it detects date rape drugs, mainly Rohypnol, Xanax and GHB. The product isn’t on the market yet and there doesn’t seem to be any word on a release date for sale to the public. The company’s website shows a logo and slogan along with links to Undercover Colors’ social media pages, email and research donation fund.  A quick look at Undercover Colors’ Facebook page reveals a bit more of the happenings behind the scenes, with reference to the product in the research and development phase.

“Thank you for your interest in our company! At this point, we are early in the development of our product and we do not have any photos of the nail polish. However, we were planning on doing a media push in the not-too-distant future, once we have a demonstrable prototype." - Undercover Colors Representative Mock up and quote from: SlashGear- 8/22/2014

“Thank you for your interest in our company! At this point, we are early in the development of our product and we do not have any photos of the nail polish. However, we were planning on doing a media push in the not-too-distant future, once we have a demonstrable prototype.” – Undercover Colors Representative
Mock up and quote from: SlashGear- 8/22/2014

Since the product is still in research and development, there’s little information at the time of this posting about some aspects of the polish. What colors the polish will come in and how much it will cost don’t seem to be addressed by the company, suggesting Undercover Colors hasn’t progressed that far. Some controversy also surrounds this product.

Undercover Colors’ slogan , located on the company’s website is “The First Fashion Company Empowering Women to Prevent Sexual Assault.” In a way, the company does that. By swirling a polished fingernail in her glass, a woman can tell if her drink contains drugs commonly used by perpetrators of date rape. It has been pointed out that this product actually adds to rape culture by placing responsibility back on the woman to keep herself safe, as opposed to teaching men not to rape.  Also, the polish only reacts when coming into contact with certain drugs. The limited number of drug reactions could give women a false sense of security when screening drinks.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

As a fashion accessory, this nail polish does what normal polish does. It adds to someone’s personal definition of “cool” as discussed in Luke Russell’s Effortless Cool. As a safety mechanism Undercover Colors seems to fall short. It is a daunting task to toe-the-line between perpetuating rape culture and trying to help women protect themselves from violence. The male college students that created this product could use a bit more education on the topic of date rape. Overall they seem to forget that date rape doesn’t just happen at bars or under the effects of drugs.


Oct 122013

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve just signed an advance contract for the book Fashioning Makers and Counterpublics: Critical Making and Public Humanities with University of Iowa Press for the Humanities and Public Life series. Below is the blurb I wrote about the book for my website:

In Spring 2011, the Dallas Museum of Art announced an upcoming exhibit on the clothing of Jean Paul Gaultier, which would open the following Fall. The exhibit had only one other U.S. location scheduled – San Francisco. Given the sparse touring schedule, this was a unique opportunity to involve students in the program in Emerging Media and Communication at UT Dallas with an event in the local arts community. The first node of connection originated in an image of a Gaultier dress that was designed for Kylie Minogue (below).

Kylie Minogue in an elaborate crocheted dress designed by Jean Paul GaultierThe crochet elements of the dress are reminiscent of the traces on a circuit board and prompted the basic idea for Fashioning Circuits. The project originally took the form of an independent study on fashion and media with topics of study such as embodiment, gender identity, and the historical relationship between fashion and media. The original group of participants, one professor and four graduate students, read and discussed theories of fashion, technology, identity, and globalization. They blogged annotated bibliography entries and critical analysis of wearable media. Perhaps most unusual for a Humanities context, they used sewing machines, soldering irons, and microcontrollers to create wearable media objects.

It quickly became evident that the most significant potential of Fashioning Circuits was not in the connection to the local arts community but in the way it challenged students to engage in sewing, electronics, and coding as new forms of scholarly production. Students with little to no experience in this area became empowered in new modes of expressing ideas. The project in its current iteration still contains all of those original elements (blogging, criticism and making) but now also includes multiple ways of operating beyond the bounds of the traditional classroom. These are workshops with community partners to introduce young women to coding and making in a Humanities context, Creative Labs that are open to the campus community, and the ongoing work on the blog. Through all of these activities, Fashioning Circuits attempts to empower students as makers, which in turn contributes to counterpublic formation.

The book Fashioning Makers and Counterpublics: Critical Making and Public Humanities will explore the theoretical foundations of the project and will share detailed information on its genesis and operations, including perspectives from project partners and the successes and challenges of this kind of scholarly activity. Chapters will include theoretical foundations (including the ways in which it contributes to counterpublic formation and its status as a humanist project interfacing with issues in STEM fields), a detailed project narrative, perspectives on university coursework, perspectives on community engagement, the project’s impact on educational technology (authored by Laura Pasquini), future directions and the wider context of the project. A companion website [hosted here] will include tutorials, teaching materials, a workshop planning toolkit, a bibliography, links to suppliers, and other resources.