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.

 

References:

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
 

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.

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Dec 192013
 

If you are in class, teaching a class, or in a business meeting, everyone has had the awkward experience off their phone going off at the wrong times.  My project doesn’t make people think about what’s changing or trending.  It adds the affordance of having another option to receiving a text or phone call other than ring tone, vibrate, or silent.  A simple pattern would light up if are getting a phone call and flashing light if have received a text.  You could also remove the board and light and place into a different sleeve allowing a person to choose what design they want to wear on any given day.

My project idea was very simple.  I wanted to make a wrist cuff that would light up a certain way based on if you received a text or getting a call.  However, getting this simple idea to work was not easy at all.  My first problem began with an incompatible board.  I did not realize it incompatible until after I spent several hours, with the help of Harrison, soldering the pins to the Bluetooth module thinking that was the problem.  Once I got that out of the way I was given a loner board and battery source.  Because of the new components, my idea of it being switchable sleeves was gone.  The new component made the wrist cuff bulky.  After finally being able to connect to the Bluetooth, I ran into the problem of not finding any program that would allow the arduino and android talk to each other.  I went through dozen of programs.  Some had the features I needed to get the task done but it didn’t have the option to talk over Bluetooth.  Other were only able to connect to the Bluetooth and that was about it.  I even tried to go a roundabout way by having one program perform the task I needed to get done.  Then try writing a code that would turn on the lights when the Bluetooth was on.  Which didn’t work because either I didn’t write the correct code(which is possible) or pins for the Bluetooth don’t work like the switch or button.  I was given the option to try to write a program for the android but there was no way to learn to write the code in a short amount of time (having four other finals to complete took priority).

After giving up knowing  I would not be able to make the arduino and android talk to each other I moved on to just sewing the parts together.  Because this wrist cuff was bigger I didn’t have to cut certain size pieces of cloth.  I decided to use the folds that were already there so all I do was measure how much cloth I needed and cut off the rest.  Then I sewed the lights and board into the interfacing, which I then stuck into the sleeve.  Because of the different power source, I had to sew that to the outside of the wrist cuff.  But because the positive and negative were to far spaced out from the board and power source i was unable sew the conducive thread corrected.  Instead i just used the clips to provide power.  Since the wrist cuff formed to my wrist the components with the interfacing did not slide around.

I did not want leave the wrist cuff unsatisfactory so I decided to upload a simple code so the lights turn on.  So what I thought was a good idea fell short leaving me with the same thing we did in the first project.  What I’ve learned from this is that what might seem like simple idea in your head could be a strenuous feat to try to actually accomplish with technology.

Sep 242013
 

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.

MIT named Anirudh Sharma as Indian Innovator of the Year under age 35 for his "Le Chal" project.

MIT named Anirudh Sharma as Indian Innovator of the Year under age 35 for his “Le Chal” project.

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.

Further Readings:

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

Jul 022013
 

In a few weeks, the Fashioning Circuits crew is going to lead a workshop on Open Source Fashion at the Girl Scouts College Journey — Teaming for Tomorrow summer camp at UT Dallas. In addition to introducing students to open source and the Lilypad arduino, we will be leading 25 high school students in a take-home project. Each student will get to make and take home a twinkling wrist cuff with four colored LEDs, made from the LilyTwinkle and Lilypad LEDs. Kim Knight just finished making the prototype and will be training the trainers soon. We only have four hours total for the workshop so we’ll cut out all of the fabric and sew the first few seams in advance, but the tutorial below covers the entire process from start to finish.

Caption: video of twinkling wrist cuff

Here’s the tutorial: Twinkling Wrist Cuff Tutorial

 

 

Mar 182013
 

Recently, one of the former contributors, Amy Pickup, for Fashioning Circuits was in a local publication called Art+Seek about her work with the LilyPad Arduino. The article entitled “SXSW Where High-Tech Meets High-Fashion” interviewed Pickup about her work with teaching a summer camp that encouraged young girls to get involved in the STEM fields through incorporating technology and fashion.

Pickup was not the only one that was interviewed by Lauren Silverman from Art+Seek, Silverman also spoke with Jennifer Darmour who is part of the Artefact group doing User Experience Design. Darmour is also the creator and designer behind a new innovation in the assimilation between clothing and technology. One of the designs by Darmour is a charcoal jacket that uses its zipper to control the volume of your music.

The idea is that when you’re unzipping your jacket, you are coming closer to somebody and so that you can have a more intimate conversation the volume goes down.

The company behind the newest prototype is, Electricfoxy which mission statement is, “Clothing is a core part of our expression and offers ways for us to communicate who we are and the context in which we live. Technology enables a richer connection with people and our environment and offers a new platform for communication and expression.” Darmour has created a prototype garment that literally weaves technology into a stylish piece of clothing is called, Ping.

Ping actually uses the same microcontroler that we use in Fashioning Circuits, LilyPad Arduino. However, what makes Ping so interesting is the way that it bridges human interaction with your online self and identity. Ping is a garment that allows you to send messages to your friends on Facebook with different gestures. With a development like this in the technology industry it could make smart phones obsolete for the use of social media and communication. Ping uses a sensor and the LilyPad to communicate wirelessly through gestures like lifting up your hood on your jacket to send an update to Facebook about how you are leaving the house. This new technology allows you to be hands free and almost unconsciously communicate with your social network without being directly connected to the Internet through conventional means.

Since Darmour used the LilyPad Arduino the garment allows you to create your own language. Specifically the garment was built with the Lilypad Xbee and the Facebook application allows you to use two way communication. The application assigns different tapping rythms to different groups of people so you can begin to create your own personalized feedback language that lets you know who is communicating to you and who is trying to connect. The garment is able to communicate to you through the microcontroler located on the shoulder of the garment that provides a subtle “tapping” feeling when a friend messages or sends a comment to you.

What will come next if this is just the first step in the direction that technology is leading us in the fashion industry? We are no longer just using technology for sporting good apparel but we are incorporating two way communication that bridges our physical self and our online self. As a last note it is interesting to ponder a quote from Electricfoxy.

As an outcome, rather than simply attaching technology to clothing, electricfoxy investigates garments that have electronics built directly into them resulting in a new aesthetic of form and behavior that become a core part of our expression, our identity, and our individuality.