Dec 072014
 

20141201_190658

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.

Continue reading »

Sep 232014
 

By Kristen Taylor

Photo courtesy of UrbanArmor.org

Photo courtesy of UrbanArmor.org

Photo courtesy of UrbanArmor.org

Photo courtesy of UrbanArmor.org

Last week, an acquaintance of mine posted a status on Facebook that said the following: “Yep, you pretty much give up any personal boundaries when riding the tram– some awkward ear caressing and arm caressing happened today.” Several things struck me about her post: it’s extremely matter-of-fact; no one who witnessed this event attempted to stop it; and the post received likes, rather than outraged comments. No one actually seemed terribly surprised that she faced unwanted and “awkward ear caressing” and “hand grabbing” from a stranger. It seems like for many people (especially those who identify as women), physical harassment is just one of those things that you are expected to put up with to exist in public spaces or utilize services.

Enter the the Personal Space Dress. Designed by artist Kathleen McDermott, the dress utilizes wearable technology to expand when someone gets too close to you, therefore preserving your personal space.

While this technology could be utilized in a variety of other situations when one may want to preserve personal space (like for those on the Autism spectrum who dislike some physical contact) it’s clear from Ms. McDermott’s video of the dress that her vision was for use in crowded places like public transit, where proximity can create opportunity for unwanted sexual contact.

Urban Armor# 2: The Personal Space Dress from Kathleen McDermott on Vimeo.

The dress works by using ultrasonic sensors to detect when someone (or something) is too close, which send an impulse that causes continuous motors to expand the dress outwards, like a hoop skirt. It shrinks back to its original size when the area is clear of the perceived threat.

Ms. McDermott notes on her website that this dress is not a product, but rather, an artwork meant to spark discussion. In a country where 65 percent of women are expected to experience public sexual harassment (via Stop Street Harassment), that’s always an admirable goal.

However, the design of this dress limits the conversation in several important ways. It’s pink. It’s frilly. It has more than a passing resemblance to a cupcake. None of these characteristics are inherently bad, but they do reinforce the narrative of feminine, cisgendered, heterosexual women as the only victims of sexual harassment. According to a report published by the organization Stop Street Harassment this year, 25 percent of men surveyed had experienced street harassment, and people of color, lower-income people, and people who identify as LGBT are all disproportionately affected. All people need to be safe in public spaces—not just those who embody traditional femininity and the discourse should reflect that.

The Personal Space Dress does unfortunately also remove the topic of consent from the discourse. Because it relies on “dumb” technology and cannot discern the difference between wanted and unwanted contact, the wearer is effectively cut off from any touch, even those enthusiastically consented to. It also puts the burden of responsibility on the wearer to protect themselves, rather than promoting a shift in culture that would render it useless. Once again, victims are expected to arm themselves against threats—hardly a revolutionary concept—and it’s easy to picture a society that blames all victims who don’t wear the Personal Space Dress for being harassed.

Related projects include a Tumblr blog called “Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train (a lighthearted project that shows the ways in which men’s needs in public space are prioritized over women) and Stop Telling Women to Smile, an art series that addresses the impact of gender-based street harassment on its victims. Other projects in Ms. McDermott’s Urban Armor series include a veil that protects your identity from CCTV cameras and a robotic scarf that protects the wearer from pollution. While all three projects concentrate on ways that technology can protect the wearer, the Personal Space Dress is the only one that not only avoids unwanted situations, but addresses them head-on.

Further Reading:

View the instructions at Urban Armor

Dec 192013
 

jacketThroughout my first semester as an EMAC major, the topic of “value judgments” has somehow managed to come up in discussion at least once (often multiple times) within every course that I’ve enrolled in. A value judgment, in the context that I am referring, can be defined as “an estimate, usually subjective, of the worth, quality, goodness, evil, etc., of something or someone..” In other words, it is placing judgment upon something (or someone) that you really don’t know anything about, without regard for the point of view of others. This topic is one that I’ve always felt strongly about, and I’ve learned through multiple discussions at UTD that many other students feel the same way. But somehow, regardless of the fact that no one seems to agree with placing value judgments upon one another, people continue to do it anyway.  It is almost as if it is an instinctual reaction.

So I decided to make a wearable media project that could somehow demonstrate how wrong these value judgments can be. The topic that I chose for these value judgments is music. Music is something that almost everyone can relate to on some level. Age, race, gender, culture, or geographic location does not affect whether or not someone listens to music or not. I personally have never met anyone in my lifetime that did not enjoy some form of music. My 82 year old Czechoslovakian grandmother sure does love her polka albums! But she also won’t hesitate to tell me that the music I listen to is just worthless noise. Value judgment alert!

Music stirs our emotions. That’s why we listen to it. But we’re all individuals who have led different lives and had different experiences. So it only makes sense that it will take different types of music to stir each unique individual’s emotions.  This sounds simple and logical enough when you read it, right? But I’d be willing to bet that it wouldn’t take you more than a few moments to recall a time when someone you know (or maybe even you) has placed judgment on the music that someone else listens to, because it just sounds like “noise”, and for whatever reason, some people automatically deem anything that they do not like as worthless, without regard for the fact that it could be worth so much more to someone else.

You can read more about music and emotion here: http://www.psychologyofmusic.co.uk/mechanisms.html

So I’ve designed a jacket that visually displays the emotional value of music that is played in its vicinity. Deciding exactly how to gauge this value was difficult. My lack of medical training prevents me from plugging anything into the wearer’s brain for a completely accurate reading. And my financial restrictions kept me from being able to implement something simpler, like a heart monitor, to read emotional response. So I was limited to only implementing a microphone to “hear” the music, and I depended on information gathered by others  about how the rhythm or beats of music affect the brain and how brain activity increases when musical stimuli becomes more intense (or loud). I then used symbolism to visually link these rhythmic brain responses to emotion with a sequence of electroluminescent wires that light up with the rhythm and intensity of music the microphone hears. This method worked well for me. I’m a writer, and somewhat of a literature buff, so I think the whole world revolves around symbolism anyway.

Inverter

EL Secquencer

The most difficult challenge for me during construction was the interference from the inverter to the microphone. Electroluminescent wire only responds to an alternating current. But the microcontroller, an EL Sequencer, runs on a direct current. This requires a DC to AC inverter to provide power to the EL wires. This type of inverter generates a high pitched squealing noise. It is barely audible to the ear, but the microphone seemed to always pick it up. I even tried moving the inverter as far away from the mic as possible, but the amount of interference didn’t seem to change at all. So I believe that the interference is actually coming through the wiring in the circuit. I tried using different types of wire, as well, but this also did not help.

My last resort was to set a threshold in my code that told the EL wire not to light up unless it picks up sounds louder than the interference. This led to another problem, because the level of interference is spikey and irregular, and seems to be slightly different each time the inverter is turned on. If I set the threshold too high, the microphone and EL wires aren’t responsive enough to music. But if I set it too low, they seem to randomly respond and flicker for no reason. So I have to find the “sweet spot” to set the threshold to. And that sweet spot is likely to change the next time I turn the inverter on. So I end up having to change up my code a little bit with each use. After days upon days of troubleshooting, I never could find a way around that. I did, however, find a helpful fix for the minor spiking during use. I coded a counter that gathers several microphone readings per second, and the EL wires respond to the average output of those readings. This is helpful for averaging out the random interference spikes. (Credit: Harrison is the best TA ever!)

RainbowAs for the overall design of the jacket, I made several choices based on symbolism and aesthetics. I chose a rainbow (ROYGBV) sequence for the EL wires. Rainbow is typically associated with happiness, and while not all music is happy, it does emotionally fulfill us in some way, and that makes us happy. I wrapped the wires around the chest because the heart is the part of the body that we generally link our emotions to. I decided having the wires on the outside of the jacket was too harsh on the eyes and not very visually appealing. So instead I decided to place them on the inside of the jacket, and chose white as the jacket’s color so that the light could shine through more easily. This also gives the appearance of a diffused internal glow, instead of a harsh outer one, which I thought to be more fitting for a symbolic representation of emotion.

In conclusion, my project was ultimately a success. I’d definitely be much happier with it if it didn’t need to be reconfigured before each use. But it works, and as someone who had literally zero coding OR sewing experience before Fashioning Circuits, that’s all I could possibly hope for.

dark

Mar 192013
 

With the evolution of 3-d printing, functional fashion is due a radical awakening.  I’m not talking about structural creations with which some of the well established fashion houses have begun to experiment.  Within the next decade we should see the capability to print human tissue using a patient’s own stem cells, and eventually biomedical engineers will be able to grow replacement organs and limbs.  For now, 3-d printing is finding a niche in artistic prosthetics.

 

When Bespoke Innovations started to gain momentum in 2010, industrial designer and co-founder Scott Summit drew on fashion trends, and design elements from luxury and sports cars, as well as motorcycles when assisting clients in designing their fairings for prosthetic limbs.  A fairing goes over or attaches to an existing prosthesis in order to help regain limb symmetry.  Once the desired dimensions are established using 3-d scanning and software, Bespoke Innovations uses 3-d printers to create each custom-made fairing.

bespoke_sarah_4108web

chad skateboard 2

Bespoke Chrome

 

 

 

While Bespoke Innovations can turn an existing prosthesis into a functional sculpture, veteran and architectural designer Collin MacDuff is just one of a number of people who were so dissatisfied with the lack of function in available prosthetics that he began tinkering on his own.  MacDuff drew on 15 years of fabrication and welding experience to create his Biomechanical Prosthetic Finger (BFP), which mimics the natural flexion of the finger so that the prosthesis moves exactly the same way an existing digit does.  One glance and industrial chic comes to mind, which is particularly fitting since MacDuff crafted the prototype from a bicycle handlebar.

For now the BPF is manually assembled but it represents a shift in self-agency when it comes thinking about prosthetics.  Amputees need not rely on others when it comes to their own body aesthetic.  All they need is access to 3-d scanning and modeling software, and a 3-d printer.  Want to wear a brushed silver calve to your aunt’s Titanic themed wedding?  No problem.  How about a lighted pedicure to help you find your way to the front door without sloshing your new strappy sandals through any puddles?  A little more tricky, but entirely manageable for about $50 with micro LEDs and an Arduino LilyPad from SparkFun.

In addition to pioneering biomechanics and fashion, the two aforementioned designers have also tapped into the empowering aspects of amputee subculture.  Amputations are the result of frostbite from enduring the elements, competition in extreme sports, valorous combat far from loved ones, and long battles with significant illness.  Even if an amputation is planned and brings some element of relief, it still requires the individual to graduate physical therapy and adjust to a new absence of the symmetry they’ve relied on their entire lives.  Now, finally, we’re beginning to see individuality and innovation combined with form and function that opens an entirely new world—not just for amputees—but for everyone else who’ll soon have a window allowing us to visually connect prosthetics with the active and artistic trends of their users.

model

 

Apr 102012
 

Hussein Chalayan's Laser Dress, 2008The word “cyborg” likely conjures all sorts of dystopian imagery to mind. I know when I hear it I think of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a high tech costume with guns blazing, relentlessly blasting away at Sarah Conner. That’s probably the image that most folks think of actually. However is that what a real cyborg actually looks like in real life? Yes, I did write “real cyborg” and “real life.” Most people don’t realize this but there are real live cyborgs walking around every day right here in the year 2012. What’s more, they’ve been here, on this planet I mean, for as long as everyone else has and you probably even know quite a few of them. In fact, I am a cyborg myself. Continue reading »

Mar 252012
 
1980s Jem

Original Jem (image courtesy of Fanpop.com)

(Via io9Hipster He-Man and Other High-Fashion Cartoon Heroes.)

I don’t know that I would change a thing about Jem’s (of Jem and the Holograms) 1980’s glam pop fashion sense, but otherwise these are kind of fun.

Ciraolo's Jem

Ciraolo's Jem (CC BY-NC-ND image courtesy of fabianciraolo.blogspot.com)

 

 

 

 

I like the artist’s aesthetic. I like his use of collage techniques and find myself fascinated by the repeated starfield background.

However, looking at the io9 blog post, I was immediately struck by the sort of predictable fan-art tendency to depict female characters with heightened degrees of sexuality (i.e. hipster-clad Rainbow Brite and Lala Orange depicted as though interrupted in a moment of charged intimacy). This seems like a classic representation of “girl on girl action” for hetero male pleasure that reinforces mainstream representations of women as sex objects to be gazed upon. Sure, there are all sorts of alternative uses to which these fantasies and depictions might be put. But as I said above, it just seems a bit predictable. Admittedly, once the images are situated on Fabian Ciraolo’s blog they stand out less and seem part of an overall running theme of pop culture iconoclasm. Which reduces the predicability factor.

So my suggestion would be to view the images on Ciraolo’s blog, appreciating the cartoon fashion makeovers as they are interspersed between the artist’s other work.

Mar 122012
 

M Saraswathy’s brief BusinessWorld article (Tech Couture: Fashion keeps a date with augmented reality) outlines some recent uses of AR in advertising, including uses at Lakme Fashion Week. The article ends with a tempered approach suggesting that so far, advertisers have not been able to tell if AR translates into more sales.

Even so, the possibilites for augmented reality with fashion advertising seem endless. Because clothing is a visual communicator, AR offers many interesting possibilities for layering visuals over bodies, environments, etc. The “Fashionista” tool below allows shoppers to try on clothing wherever they may be, using augmented reality.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnBcqV9POkY[/youtube]

But AR offers other tantalizing prospects for causing disjunction in the public spaces in which clothing is sold and worn.

So far the most interesting uses of AR that I have seen have been for aesthetic or critical purposes. I can envision AR being used for purposes like overlaying images of the workers who produce clothing items or the workshops in which they are produced. Or statistics about ethically sourced material. Or overlaying images of real women over advertisements or mannequins. Or, or, or…

A few links to interesting AR projects:

Dec 152011
 

Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Show

The fashion industry has certainly built a fierce reputation. It can be unethical, judgmental, and profoundly inequitable. Yet, it still remains alluring, innovative and a space for creative collaboration. I think the latter attributes are in part a result of the exclusivity of the high end fashion world. Arguably, nothing is more elite, more select, than a runway show. These full on events, as they have evolved into, are not simple and random showings of a few items. These shows are full on productions and as they grow in popularity, more and more people want an opportunity to experience such an exaggerated performance.

For decades, attending these shows has been the privilege of the fashion world insiders: models, celebrities, and the wealthy. Over the past few years, designers have filmed their fashion shows for general release at later times, or allowed viewers to watch live streams over the internet. And while this has absolutely afforded new groups the luxury of moving into a once secret world, there still seems to be something missing. We laud our current technology as being so clear, so sharp, so high definition that it’s like the real thing. But is this really the case? Can a televised/streamed event be a substitute for the actual performance? Until about a month ago, I think my answer was yes. But after seeing the Gaultier Exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art, I think my previous answer was based on the fact that I had never seen such works up close. They were more than just clothes, they were works of art and I was able to get a new appreciation for the works without seeing them through a television or computer screen.

 

Gaultier at Dallas Museum of Art

The exhibit wasn’t inspiring because of a lack of technology but more so the removal of an intrusive screen between me and the fashion. I was able to experience the texture, color, and draping of the fabric as it was naturally. In an environment where we are mobile and increasingly creating, buying, and communicating solely in digital formats, being at the exhibit was a nice change of pace. It made the fashions and, thus the designer, tangible. They were not figments of a digital imagination, but pieces of art that someone laboriously took the time to make.

With that being said these works, by no means, were ordinary or every day. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I was able to have a personal experience but with very recognizable and over the top costumes. The exclusivity inherent in fashion shows was not lost, but merely transformed into something that multiple people could experience at once without feeling like they were being intruded upon or receiving a watered down version of the rule thing.

And perhaps my fascination with the exhibit is so prominent because I feel (and have been labeled) as an outsider because of my body shape. My presence at the Gaultier exhibit was of course fun, but it was also a little bit daring. To see my frame against the frame of a model (albeit an inanimate one) felt strange. At the real exhibit, would I see someone like me? Someone my size. Plus size.

I was able to be in the front row for a collection that I could never have anticipated doing in “real life” and that is why this exhibit was worth seeing for me. I am continuously fascinated by the questions surrounding someone’s access and opportunity to various experiences. In both the academic and fashion worlds we often take the experience of one person or one group and hold it as truth for all people. This is inaccurate and problematic. Now, of course, the exhibit is not without any barriers to access – you have to pay to get in, if you’re not asked to pay then you will need to be a part of an academic group, and if you have no connection to high fashion, then even with this exhibit seemingly at your fingertips, it can still remain as elusive as a haute couture show in Paris.

However, there is still something to be said for its existence and for Jean Paul Gaultier’s desire to share his art with a larger audience of people than would typically be allowed access to it.

 

 

Dec 072011
 

I have been super fascinated by 3D printers lately. 3D printers are an additive manufacturing process that, through the use of digital prototyping, print layers of material to create 3D objects using heat applied to a material such as metal or liquid polymer. While 3D printers are typically used in engineering and more technical industries, it is fascinating to see what fashion designers are thinking up using this new tool as a medium.

Iris van Herpen uses 3D printers to develop uniquely constructed dresses that were shown during Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week this year. She has an amazing collection of very diverse and interesting dresses – one designed specifically for Bjork. (There’s a very interesting video on Herpen’s site) The 3D structures she is able to create allows for a new kind of feeling from the polymer textile. A designer using 3D printers must make room for new considerations around things like flexibility and fit not seen with traditional fabric materials. Continue reading »

Dec 062011
 

With the debut of the new Burberry Bespoke site, it seems the international brand Burberry is taking a queue from fashion designer Pia Myrvold. One of our resources for the semester, Techno Fashion by Bradley Quinn, discusses the designer and the challenges she faces as the fashion Press finds difficulty accepting the admittedly original clothing. In an environment where magazines are losing sales, Myrvold’s collection, which can be interactively designed by the consumer online, is challenging traditional ideas around “art, architecture, philosophy and music.” (p. 78)

Myrvold, a multi-media artist, creates what she called “blank-page” dresses displayed in all white material that may be customized online by her clients, in full 3D view. Each dress is sectioned off in an artistic manner and a selection of prints remains on screen to be drag-and-dropped to each section. Orders are then sent to the crafters to piece the garments together for final delivery. Her motivation seems to be the conceptual shift that comes with the challenge of a DIY piece. Continue reading »