My 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 need 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)
This project aims to recreate a simplistic version of a fitness tracker. Instead of being made for humans, however, this device is designed to be worn by a dog. The garment is a collar made from fabric and garment interfacing. The collar is constructed in such a way that two the two pieces of fabric are sewn along one of the long edges and can open like a book. The LilyPad and accelerometer are sewn to the inside of the “book” and are connected via conductive thread. When worn, the top flap is folded over the electronics, and snaps to the other piece of fabric to provide protection. In order to record the data collected from the accelerometer, a Sparkfun OpenLog with a micro SD card attach to the FTDI connector. Data is stored on the SD card as a text file. At least this is how the hardware setup is supposed to work. There were some problems recording data to the OpenLog. Sparkfun customer support was not able to help me resolve the issue. Sparkfun was kind enough to test another OpenLog and sent it to me. However, I was unable to record data with this hardware as well. As such, the LilyPad was connected to a computer via the USB cable. Data in the serial monitor was copied to a text file.
The 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.
The Metamorphosis line from Younghui Kim is a clothing line that detects alcohol levels in its wearers. A female dress responds to the wearer’s level of alcohol consumption through the use of colorful lights and expanding sleeves, while a male’s blazer responds by an expanding collar that slides out to cover the wearer’s face.
The project is meant to express the impact alcohol has on a person’s self-esteem, and was specifically focused on the role of drinking in Korean society. The interesting point of the project is the grounds for its creation. When first exposed to an article on Bustle, the title “A Dress that Detects when You’re Drunk? Younghuo Kim’s Wearable Tech will Draw Attention to the Fact that you’re Sloshed” I was left with the initial impression that the project was intended to act as a deterrent to over indulgence. After further reading, I have come to the realization that it is not technology meant to support sobriety, but rather as commentary on the way in which drinkers interact, and are perceived in social situations.
Apparently, social drinking in Korea is viewed as an outlet for honesty, and Kim’s website absurdee.com notes that “with formality deeply set in society, people are often shy to express what they really think soberly” (Kim, 2014). I find this interesting because it raises the question as to how a person should interpret the opinion of another. It almost seems that Kim is suggesting that the views of a person who has been drinking should carry more weight than those of someone who has not. While it is often said in vino veritas, people in western society are often heard explaining their actions by blaming alcohol. I have heard “I had been drinking” when responding to questions about a late-night conversation from the night before. It is not to say that there is not truth in wine, but it is interesting to note the social differences surrounding the conversation of honesty and alcohol. Would a project such as Kim’s have any impact on the perception of a person’s words, or even more importantly, should it?
It seems that in fashion, it is not uncommon to see someone wearing a particular item because of the statement it is making. One could wonder what the statement an item from the Metamorphosis project is making. In western culture, would it be viewed as an excuse? In Korea, would it be seen as a reason to pay extra attention to the wearer’s words and actions, because they are in fact being honest? It is also interesting to note that the female’s version of this project draws attention to the wearer, but the male’s blazer is designed to hide the wearer’s face. It is almost as if Kim is saying that when drinking a female is empowered, yet when a man drinks the best course of action is to keep his mouth shut and hide from the public. While this may not be the actual intent of the project, it is reminiscent of the points made by Joanne Entwistle in “Fashion and Gender.” Entwistle notes that in fashion “clothing does more than simply draw attention to the body and emphasize bodily signs of difference. It works to imbue the body with significance, adding layers of cultural meanings” (Entwistle, 2000). In the case of the Metamorphosis project, this seems to be taken to an entirely new level. It is not just the appearance of the articles of clothing, but it is the way in which these articles interact with the wearer. Would a woman who identifies as male require the same response from the item, or would she be exempted from “hiding” because she is a woman? Would a man who identifies as female be empowered by the influence of alcohol on his self-esteem?
One cannot argue that the project is interesting, but does seem to be ambiguous as to its intent. At first glance Kim seems to be making a statement in regards to the relationship between social interaction and alcohol consumption, but after a closer look there seems to be a not so subtle commentary on gender roles in social situations. The social implications of the project could be immense, but it also seems likely that the message from the item could easily be unclear. The technology seems far more likely to be relevant if gender is taken out of the equation, and the same response is generated no matter the sex of the wearer. Metamorphosis should simply provide the visual signal, and leave the interpretation of the situation up to the observer.
Entwistle, J. (2000). Fashion and Gender. In The fashioned body: Fashion, dress, and modern social theory. Cambridge: Polity Press.
By Kristen Taylor
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.
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.
My project concept was to create a device that would allow people suffering an anxiety attack to alert people around them of their impending attack. The device checks a wearer’s pulse and alerts those around the person when the pulse increases. I know this sounds oddly familiar. If you’ve ever been on a treadmill you know that there are heart rate monitors that will do this for people working out. My device isn’t much different than a heart rate device. The difference is the intent of the device. My device is meant to address issues in the mental health arena. I’ve lived with people who had anxiety attacks and there is no way to know the person is suffering unless they tell you. The idea behind my device is to give the person wearing it and the people around them to understand what is happening.
When I started this project I had anxiety. I am not adept at sewing or coding. The first thing I had to decide was what I was going to create the device on. I decided a cuff or bracelet would work, but I decided to use a sleeve. You can buy sleeves at REI. I owned workout sleeves. They are exactly as they sound they are sleeves without shirts. They fit by using elastic on the openings to grip the skin of the wearer. The sleeves cost roughly $25.
Once I got the sleeves it was time for me to layout how I wanted the LilyPad and LED lights would be set. I bought the Sparkfun stickers. I laid them on my sleeve to configure everything.
I originally bought gum drop looking LED lights, but they didn’t work for what I was doing. I did want the person wearing the device to alert those around them that they were having a panic attack, but I didn’t want the sleeve to alert everyone in the room. The gum drop LED lights were to obvious for my project. I chose to use the LED lights that came with the Protosnap and the one extra LED light that comes with the LilyPad.
Once I configured my components I was ready to paste my parts down on the sleeve. I used fabric glue to paste the LilyPad and lights down. I left them on their for a day before I started working again. I am not a good or confident seamstress. I realized I needed to sew a ton of components and was looking to create a project that would have very little sewing. So I hopped in my trusty car and drove to my local Radio Shack. The very nice man showed me two different Electrically Conductive Paint pens. I chose the Bare Paint pen http://www.bareconductive.com/
Electric Paint Pen with Conductive Ink is a pen applicator full of conductive paint.You can paint on all different surfaces to create a circuit, although you shouldn’t try it on your skin. The pen ink will conduct electricity. I also bought because once I painted my original circuit I could paint over the original paint to blend into surfaces or add other elements to the circuit. This pen saved me so much sewing time, although I am grateful for it I don’t think it was the right thing for me. At the time of this writing I haven’t hooked up my pulse sensor. Prior to hooking up the sensor I had to pain my circuit. The first time I did it I made the lines too thin and they broke off immediately. The second time I used the pen I put my hand in the sleeve and the lines broke again. I tried to keep the sleeve on my arm and draw the lines, but once again the lines broke. Finally, I decided that since my sleeve is a prototype I wasn’t going to put my hand in it and I laid down thick lines between the LilyPad and the LED lights.
In class today my paint snapped so I have to start over. Also, I figured out that my pulse sensor is made as a plug and play for the Arduino UNO – yikes! Needless to say today was a setback. I removed all the paint from the sleeve and my instructor, Kim Knight, gave me wire glue to use. I think it functions the same as the paint, but it may be more durable on bendable fabrics. I plan to connect my Red, Purple and Black wire tonight and let them dry overnight.
I let the paint dry overnight and I couldn’t get any of my LEDs to light so I set everything together with Alligator clips. Now, the LEDs work, the pulse sensor lights up now I just need to get the code right and I will be on my way. This thing will not be beautiful, but I hope it works.
I finally got the code to work… and guess what? It worked! AHHHHHHHHH! There goes my anxiety, but now if I ever need to check it, I have a my own homemade device 🙂
The show Law and Order aired an episode this month called Comic Perversion. Summed up the episode is about a comic known for his satirical rapist jokes and is then accused of rape. The victim turns out to be a poor witness and a concerned female citizen attempts to trap the comic by posing as a woman who wants to sleep with him.
In order to trap the comedian she used glasses with a camera embedded inside the frame. Here’s the so what. We all have an expectation that the police will not come to our house without due cause. I have an expectation that the police or the government will not record me or my family in the privacy of my own home, but because of new media, including wearable media, I feel like I should not have expectation that I will be recorded my anyone and everyone. My friends can come into my house and record me, I can go to a local coffee shop and not be sure if someone sitting on a stool is recording me. I have no expectation that what happens in the privacy in my home may not belong to me because I have a nosy neighbor who may using a recording device trained at my door and windows.
I am an artist and take pictures and write stories everyday. What if I am out writing a new screenplay at the library and someone uses their recording device to look over my shoulder and steal my idea? What happens to my right to intellectual property?
I am no longer convinced I am safe, secure, protected, and supported by the law and that’s the so what.
We live in a world where our pocket-sized supercomputers tell us the best place to have dinner, how to get there, and what the traffic is like, while our cars have sensors that warn us not to back in to the fire hydrant at the end of the driveway on our way out. With all of the technology that surrounds us and directs us through our daily life, it is a shame to know that the visually impaired, the people who need direction the most, largely still depend on the use of canes and service animals to navigate.
Anirudh Sharma, a 24 year old researcher in Bangalore, India, made it his goal to change that. He has designed the first low-cost, unobtrusive, haptic shoe for the blind. The project has been eloquently named “Le Chal” which is a Hindi translation of “Take Me There”.
The shoe works in partnership with a smartphone application which can use Bluetooth to connect any GPS enabled smartphone to the shoe. The shoe itself contains small vibrational actuators on each side, as well as proximity sensors, and is powered by an Arduino Lilypad, all of which are located in the interior of a completely normal looking shoe.
The user speaks his desired destination into the voice activated smartphone app, which finds the best route via the phone’s GPS system, and gives the user vibrational cues on how to get there. Also, when the user comes within proximity of an object that could obstruct his path, the actuators on that side of the shoe begin to vibrate, getting stronger at closer range, alerting the user of the object’s location and the direction to navigate around it.
Possibly the best part of this system is how unobtrusive it is. The visually-impaired rely on their sense of hearing to understand what is going on around them, so a directional assistive device that used vocal or sound cues would impede upon that. The quiet vibrational cues free up the rest of the user’s senses.
This product is still in the testing phase and is projected to be released before the end of 2013. If testing goes well, this innovative product has the possibility to free the visually-impaired from their canes and service animals within certain environments, making them feel empowered and independent. However, some places (specifically many large US cities) are not built to be very pedestrian-friendly, and a service animal would likely remain the safest means of navigation. But, having the freedom to make that choice, and to travel safely and independently in pedestrian-friendly areas is a significant step in the right direction for the visually impaired.
Anirudh Sharma’s Portfolio – Le Chal
The Economist – Footwear for the Blind
CrunchWear – Bluetooth Shoes Offer Independence for the Visually Impaired
MIT Technology Review – Haptic Shoe for the Visually Impaired
Coming up with an idea for the final project was a difficult task because making something that is easily wearable that also has social meaning is harder then it sounds. I went back and forth around the idea of body image and how you could some how show that with led’s on a piece of clothing but decided that it wasn’t obvious enough. I came to realization sometime a few hours before we presented Kim with our concepts that I should focus on mastectomy patients and how they may feel being uneven after having a mastectomy.
My dear friend was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 2 years ago and has been through two battles fighting breast cancer. When they found the second cancerous tumor 6 months after her first battle was supposedly “over” they decided to do a mastectomy on her left breast. For a woman to go through losing a breast and a nipple is an extremely traumatic event for her self image. I decided to focus on making the light be a simple of what or how being uneven may feel like.
After deciding that I was going to do something revolving around this concept Kim and I had many discussions as to how to best convey this. We had some very fun concepts come out of our discussions but sadly time was an issue with getting the project completed. I would have loved to do both sides of the bra and make it very apparent that one side had a nipple and one did not. Kim also mentioned making one side blow up and one side not. I also thought about doing a light that was temperature sensitive since heat is a sign of cancer as well as part of radiation. These were all fantastic ideas but timing was an issue.