Wednesday, December 4, 2002

The softer side of computing

Wired reports that wearable computers haven't succeeded in the marketplace because "their design was too freakish, often taking the form of awkward, bulky helmets that only Dr. Frankenstein could love."

At the Intimate Technologies Summit, there was some discussion about the current "unwearability" of wearable computers and I was most impressed by what women brought to the table. Smart fabrics were positioned as truly wearable, if for no other reason than we have always worn textiles. This, of course, raised questions of gender and technology - why are men building "hard" wearables and women building "soft" wearables?

I don't think it's so simple, but I was captivated by the questions that revolved around these different applications. For example, traditional wearables - of the Borg variety - raised questions of surveillance, whereas interactive textiles raised questions concerning the body, tactility, and practices of weaving. I do think issues of privacy are important but I find most discussions on surveillance have become very tired, and I was most grateful for the opportunity to discuss technology in terms of its fabrication. And I mean that in its broadest sense: these technologies inevitably conjure notions of weaving, or fabrication, and refocus our attention on all the material and social aspects we weave together in new technologies. I like that.

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