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 Gaultier

Figure 1. Kylie Minogue in an elaborate crocheted dress designed by Jean Paul Gaultier

The 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.

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