[-empyre-] Wearable Technologies: Cross-disciplinary Ventures

May 2011 on –empyre soft-skinned space: Wearable Technologies: Cross-disciplinary Ventures with Janis Jefferies (UK), Valérie Lamontagne (CA), Ashley Ferro-Murray (US), Sabine Seymour (US), Susan Elizabeth Ryan (US), Danielle Wilde (AU/FR), Sarah Kettley (UK), Lucy Dunne (US) :: Moderated by Renate Ferro (US) and Tim Murray (US).

During the month of May 2011, -empyre soft-skinned space will be featuring a discussion of wearable technologies, means through which technology augments or enables the body in interacting with the surrounding environment. The integration of wearables that augment the body with technological capabilities permeate our diverse worlds from entertainment to the military. During a recent episode of American Idol, singer Katy Perry wore a white body suit that flickered with pink LED lights to the beat of a song with Kanye West. Just a few days ago, during a US military secret mission to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, elite Navy Blue Seals wore special goggles that allowed them to see in low light conditions and helmets installed with video cams that beamed the capture and killing of Bin Laden in real time for the President of the United States and other onlookers in the White House Situation Room.

In the realms of art and technology, wearable technologies have proliferated while linking the areas of art, design, science and engineering. In the art and technology DIY world, the arduino and lilypad platforms and open source software have made these technologies more accessible. Embedded accelerometers within ubiquitous communication and computer hardware such as the i-phone, i-pod touch, and the i-pad among others have simplified the relationship between code and interactivity.

Some of the questions to be considered over the course of the next four weeks will include: How do wearable technologies enhance the body’s capabilities to interface with the environment as transmitters, receivers, enablers of data-in-the-world. How do the technologies of material protect the body upon harmful impact (fire, heat, microbes) or enhance more pleasurable sensation? What is the role of risk in relation to the failure of design or delivery? What are the relationships between the practical aspects of use and the aesthetic concerns of design? How do we understand wearable technology in relation to the excesses of commodified culture?

While some of our guests will discuss interface design and practice we will also encourage others to theorize about interventions between technology, the body, and architecture.

Valérie Lamontagne wrote:

Dear Empyre List –

It’s my great pleasure to contribute to this discussion platform on Wearable-Technologies: Cross-disciplianry Ventures. As my CV has already been distributed — I’d like to skip straight to some of the issues and questions which I have concerning the field of wearables. As a full disclosure — I’m also hoping to use this conversation to delineate (in regards to my PhD in progress) some praxis axes, and take a pulse on a nebulous field which is evolving as we write!

My present PhD looks at three key areas which I hope will be discussed in relationship to wearables in the coming month: 1) materiality (what materiality defines a wearable? what are wearables made of? what are the delineating characteristics which “define” wearables?) which leads to the second area 2) laboratory culture in the practice of hands-on wearables making (the epistemic culture of where things are produced = what you produce) and lastly, and my entry point into the field of wearables as I can to it from performance and costume is an ongoing interest in 3) performance and performativity (how do we wear, use, network, interact, perform in/with, co-structured wearable technologies?).

Perhaps we could address the most contested field, and one which seems to get re-worked in every new context specifically because of its inherent “cross-disciplinary” and materially hybrid nature: what materially makes a wearable? What are the limits of what we are to call the field of wearables? As Sabine Seymour’s new book “Functional Aesthetics” might suggest upon investigation of the featured examples, we are increasingly moving away from a strict “Steve Mann” concept of “wearing a computed” to a more computationally driven notion of fashion and garments. But where do we set the limits when the production of textiles, clothing manufacturing and other level of garment/fashion/clothing production are increasingly technologized? Is a wearable a garment something with electricity? Signal input? Sensors? Or is a wearable also something which on a design, conceptual (i.e. data visualization) or practical (3D-printing) makes use of technological apparatuses. In short – where do we situate the technology in wearable technology?

Janis Jefferies wrote:

That is a very interesting set of provocations and I am delighted to engage this week. Good to connect once again to those I have not touched base with for a while.

Drawing on Marshall McLuhan’s observation 1964 that the garment is an interface to the exterior mediated through digital technology, Seymour 2008 writes that, “ the electric age ushers us into a world in which we live and breathe and listen through the entire epidermis”. She argues that technologies enrich the cognitive characteristics of our human epidermis and stimuli of our senses, whether they are based in biotechnology, digital technology, or nanotechnology or materials like conductive textiles coatings or electronics plastics on the surface of a garment. Fashionable technology become amplifiers of fantasy with technically enhanced functionalities. What do fashionable wearables communicate and what is the context of use? How do they amplify one’s fantasy? Do they reveal new forms of social interaction?

Incorporating RFID or other tracking technologies into clothing (or even implanting it in the body) could be a mixed blessing. On one hand, such technologies might enable different kinds of personal filtering (perhaps singles at a cocktail party might want to access profiles of other available potential partners while moving through a physical space, or bloggers might want to hear a chime as they approach another blogger to compare notes, all sorts of things are possible) but there is an Orwellian flipside to this transparency, as the power of depicting one’s identity to the outside world (one historical function of clothing generally) is increasingly given over to a pervasive network. There are several clear divisions in the world of wearable fashion. Fashion shows can suggest that technology is a fetish as much as it is an application. Much of the work shown seemed to be more about the idea of technology rather than about actually using it. Waifish models, in the spirit of androgyny, performed a kind of improvisation of a person who clearly did not fit into the typical gender roles ascribed in society. As androgens in velcro suits, sticking together and twitching around, the sensation of performing is reminiscent of the actress Elsa Lanchester, who played the part of the bride in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

The uses of technology in performative textiles or performance in general does not merely add a new tool to an old discipline but rather challenges some of our most basic assumptions about the disciplines themselves. In- deed, digital, networked, virtual and technological performance challenges the very distinction between “liveness” and media, sensation and cognition, interaction and intra action. These methodologies reactivate the relation- ship between performers and audiences to create new hybrid practices. We can now share the same physical space, a space of becoming, a space of interaction and integration with others. We will be able to take the electronic element in our garments for granted whether they generate electricity from our movements, provide gaming opportunities through our sleeves or mon- itor our health. However, we might just keep headphones out of our way as we dance on the street, communicating/collaborating with one another at the same time as calling up our ancestors in a flurry of memory triggered screens, memory ribbons and sampler sounds.

Sherry Turkle has been called the “Margaret Mead of digital culture” in her analysis of how young people navigate the emotional undercurrents in todays technological world [Turkle (2011)]. As an anthropologist, Mead had been trained to think in terms of the interconnection of all aspects of human life so that the production of food cannot be separated from ritual and belief, and politics cannot be separated from childrearing or art. This holistic understanding of human adaptation allowed Mead to speak out on a very wide range of issues, and in particular the relationship between generations [Mead (1978)]. While she wrote of a global culture made possible by mass media, her words actually foresaw fundamental changes made by computer communication networks that were just beginning. Mead believed that in the past culture was transmitted from an older to a younger generation through social rituals and an exploration of what might be shared experience in the process of full attention face to face. Turkle argues that new technologies – including e-mail messages, Facebook postings, Skype exchanges, role-playing games, Internet bulletin boards and robots – have broken this tie. The more networked and wired the more seduced and addicted to an ‘autistic’ world where we expect more from technology and less from each other. Turkle isn’t just concerned with the problem of on- line identity, she is disquieted by the banalities of electronic interaction, as a younger generation of Americans’ range of expression is constrained by gadgets and platforms, a networked life of loneliness and failed solitude.

This implies an even greater separation between generations and cultures than ever before.Indeed culture clashes are alive and living well in the hands of Embroi- derers guilds and YouTube. What we need to think through are the ideas proposed by Lucy Suchman 2007 in which situated interaction is characterized as “lively, moment-by-moment assessment of the significance of particular circumstances” (op. cit., p176) through the electronics of our clothing and in the sensation of our performative gestures. In her terms, interaction is a name for ongoing, contingent co production of the socio material world, an engaged participation that cannot be stipulated in advance. For feminist scholar Karen Barad’s quantum physics-inspired posthumanism re- deems the concept of performativity from a techno-scientific standpoint to argue that science “performs” – in experiments, in laboratories, with specialised instruments, with human agents etc. Science, as a knowledge-based endeavour, is inherently “performative” for Barad [2003]. She notes that “the move towards performative alternatives to representationalism shifts the focus from questions of correspondence between descriptions and the move towards performative alternatives to representationalism shifts the focus from questions of correspondence between descriptions and reality (e.g., do they mirror nature or culture?) to matters of practices/doings/actions” (op. cit., p802-803).

Fashion and wearable technology have as their departure point the ability to act as second skins interfaces to a world in which we live and breathe and listen through the entire epidermis as Sabine Seymour describes at the the beginning of this text.

Wearables, as a technology, co-habitate with the body and “perform” stories of amplification. These are stories of science fiction and fantasy and are beginning to be played out in new and unexpected ways. The “Look at me, I’m electric!” appeal of wearable technology has entered celebrity status with Lady Gaga performing in a living, kinetic dress with moving parts. She is almost transformed into the ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ herself.

Here’s my references

Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28, 3, pp. 801–831.

Haraway, D. (1991). A cyborg manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist- feminism in the late twentieth century, in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (Routledge), pp. 149–181.

Harris, S. (2008). Catwalk goes techno, Engineering and Technology Magazine,

Jameson, F. (1991). Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Verso Press).

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (McGraw- Hill, New York).

Mead, M. (1978). Culture and Commitment: The New Relationships Between the Generations in the 1970s (Anchor Books/Doubleday).

Seymour, S. (2008). Fashioning Technology (Springer).

Suchman, L. (2007). Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions (Cambridge University Press).

Turkle, S. (2011). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (Basic Books).


Johannes Birringer wrote:

dear all

quite fascinating posts to start off…… and I was not aware (in performance contexts) that there was such a heavy contest going on about “what materially makes a wearable”? what new contexts are you referring to where wearables are an issue? (in terms of how you might like to define it?) – would you agree that in a performance context (whether stage or everyday life although I tend to think the latter is different from the former) the wearables are what you wear for a particular purpose? Are the wearables here meant to be associated with technologies (have function other than being worn?) or purposes, and if they are second skins, then we don’t have to worry, yes?

Then they are us.

Can I ask Janis, whether you were referring to a particular fashion show?

<< Much of the work shown seemed to be more about the idea of technology rather than about actually using it. Waifish models, in the spirit of androgyny, performed a kind of improvisation of a person who clearly did not fit into the typical gender roles ascribed in society >>

hmm. they were wearing unused wearables?

as to the question of the skins, I think one example that came to attention (in the bio-art / new media art scene) was Symbiotica (with Oron Catts) trying to “grow” a wearable except that it probably was’nt going to be large enough for Lady Gaga, and perhaps was not intended as a costume or second skin anyway. As you know, The Tissue Culture Project has created some fascinating installations exploring the potential – as well as the problems – involved in tissue engineering.

Perhaps this is what Valerie is hinting at, that growing / or medically inserting your third and fourth ears on your arms or legs (with network capabilities and memory) may indeed alter operational possibilities or anatomical architectures, and further complex enhancements may limit what you can do on the stage or the team…

Now, Symbiotica’s “Victimless Leather” (2004), was a miniature leather jacket that lives inside a bioreactor. The work, I was told, was a reaction to using animal skins to make clothing/wearables. Tissue engineering may offer an alternative indeed, yet the artists grafted cells from a living animal – a mouse – onto a polymers structure of in the shape of a jacket. The idea was that the cells will stay alive, multiply in a protected environment. I take it the work is ironic, as the “semi-living” being thus created could not really be worn, but it raises issues as a fetish object anyway. And about protective environments. And what did the project perform?

Janis argues (or uses Barad) that “science performs” or that ” science, as a knowledge-based endeavour, is inherently “performative” … hmmm, what is it that is performed? The term performativity tends to be used these days quite a lot and I often wonder how it is used, for what end and in regard to what situation. Would you really use such a grammar if you referred to a dancer (the dance dances) or an acrobat performing a particular action for a particular end, in a theatre or a circus, and would it be at all meaningful to say that wearables perform or are performative?

In the Cirque de Soleil, the wearables don’t perform. (and at London’s Sadlers’ Wells recently, Bartabas and Ko Murobushi performed with horses, or the other way round, the horses wore out the dancers).

I’d ask more specifically what it is that is performed, what is augmented and what is (as you imply in your reference to social autism, Janis) reduced and shrunk.

with regards
Johannes Birringer

Simon Biggs wrote:

I take the performative to mean an enactment intended to change the environment in which it happens. That is the classic Austin definition but extended beyond the linguistic to allow for other forms of action and sources of agency. My understanding of Janis’s comments are thus in line with Austin’s thinking but informed by Latour’s work on science as praxis.


Janis Jefferies wrote:

Thanks for this post. You are following my line of thinking.

I wanted to add a comment to Johannes’ series of questions from earlier this morning. he wanted clarification as to whether or not I was citing a particular fashion show. Indeed I was and apologies of not being accurate. It was in Thallin as part of ISEA 2004.

In addition, some further comments on skin which might lead further to a discussion around touch. The German sociologist Georg Simmel once called touch ‘the confirmatory sense’ that collects information and confirms data received by the other senses and therefore would be our actual sense of reality”.

‘Re-thinking Touch’ at ‘Sk-interfaces’ edited by Jens Hauser. (2008) connected to  ‘Sk-interfaces’ at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool in 2008. ‘Sk-interfaces’ is edited by Jens Hauser, graphic designer: Alan Ward. Publisher: Liverpool University Press and FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool, 2008.


Danielle Wilde wrote:

I would not describe SymbioticA’s Victimless Leather (2004) as a wearable. It is a conceptual (albeit practically realised and demonstrated) meditation and provocation on the role of animals in clothing. It is not and never was made to be worn. Fibre Reactive, the fungal dress created by Donna Franklin, in collaboration with Gary Cass, during her residency at SymbioticA (also in 2004) comes closer to my notion of a bio-art wearable as the dress is full-sized and clearly resembles what it represents, though I’m not certain if it was safe to wear. Donna and Gary’s follow-up project Micro’be (which is independent of SymbioticA) focuses on developing clothing using microbes and wine. The results are clearly wearable but aesthetically far less considered.

if we want to discuss bio-art wearables, it seems more pertinent to reference Suzanne Lee’s biocouture project which specifically aims to grow garments that can be worn: she was wearing one of them when she gave her TED Fellows talk earlier this year; or Emily Crane’s work on Micro-nutrient and cultivated couture; or the work of any of the other designers highlighted at V2’s upcoming Clothing Without Cloth symposium  as a point of departure (which perhaps brings us back to you, Valérie, though your focus is not in this area, nor is mine).

in my own work I have moved away from the use of the term wearables as I feel it has so many connotations that it’s difficult to pin down exactly to what it refers, it is therefore very difficult to know if or how frameworks align. For that reason it might be helpful if we contextualise what we are speaking to where there is the potential for ambiguity to disrupt or confuse.


Ashley Ferro-Murray wrote:

Thanks to Valerie and Janice for kicking things off with such exciting questions. I will start with a brief statement about my experimental choreography and will keep things fairly brief in hopes of encouraging the large –empyre- readership to chime in and participate in discussion.

This past October I premiered my latest work, “Noisense,” in collaboration with musicians and technologists David Coll and Rama Gottfried. I choreographed an ensemble cast of 8 undergraduate performers (actors, clowns, dancers, performance artists) to produce an emergent dance that engages technology. Working within a university setting and striving for pedagogical as well as aesthetic depth, I charged our students with the task of thinking “technology” in the broadest sense. Ultimately, our performance includes chalk, a 16mm projector, clothing, large panels of fabric, copper sheets connected to transducers, moving carts, digital projectors, digital video, industrial fans, contact microphones, and iPhones used as wearable accelerometers, among other things.

Choreographies that rely on digital media can grow out of technological experiments over a prolonged period; rehearsals are controlled, specific, and strategic studies of motion and digitality. Projects can include focus on interaction, presence, and performer participation with information systems.

The performances, however, are generally staged in a more traditional theatrical apparatus that situates the audience as static onlooker. Noisense was designed to exhibit a deeply interactive process. While performers physically interact with audience members, the wearable sensors themselves stay with the performers who have learned how to use them. The audience watches interactions between performer and technology to experience second hand the performer’s experience. Ultimately, the viewer does not participate.

Where we discussed materiality last week, I am curious how the materiality of sensors extends to environments beyond the devices themselves. In performance, this includes the audience. What performers gain from a rehearsal process is a more intimate relationship to the intricacies of wearables and how they can produce different movements in the dancing body. Where this is physically and experientially legible to the performer, it is often less clear to an onlooker. Of course I could ask an audience member to pick up a sensor and play. This would be an interesting performance of emergence and interaction. Here, we encounter two different instantiations of interactions with the same wearable.

Danielle Wilde wrote:

hi Ashley,

your project sounds like it had some rich outcomes.
three interrelated points arise for me as I read your comments.
I raise them here as open questions for anyone on the list.

You state that the performers physically interact with the audience (…) yet ultimately the viewer does not participate. I wonder if you could say a little more about how the technology was handled (ie kept apart from the audience) during these interactions.

You follow this by bringing up the question of audience/performer divide. and the traditional stance of audience as static onlooker. I am very interested in this divide and it’s relevance (or not) in different contexts. Have you undertaken any experiments in this area and can you say something more about it? did your younger performers, who include clowns and performance artists, as well as actors and dancers tend towards this traditional approach when working with technologies? is it a relationship paradigm that naturally emerged? or was it merely a convenient convention, that was tacitly accepted/left unquestioned? was the mix of performance foci (relevant to their backgrounds) something that allowed or gave permission for them to be more radical in their experiments, or do you feel they leaned to more tradition approaches to find common vocabularies while working through the materials.

you mention studies of motion and digitality and interaction, presence, and performer participation. how do notions of thinking through the body, and embodied engagement as a direct design material relate to your thinking around body-worn or body-centric technologies in a performance context?

and a broader question: do you feel that traditional performance paradigms are ultimately able to support a full exploration of the affordances of technologies as performance tools if they exclude the audience from participating in the experiential process?

many thanks

Susan Ryan wrote:

Hello again everyone. The discussion about performance practices, and the exploration of internal augmentation as a way to better understand the body, has been enlightening. I was especially interested in Michele’s comments about Antonio Damasio’s research, and how he considers not only the internal feedback mechanisms within the body, but also the new light this sheds on how organisms interact with their surroundings.

On that note I would like to reintroduce the subject of wearable technology and the social dimension. I suggest that this is actually something that, rather than being an obvious or simplistic question of spectacle, is actually an area that is not well enough understood or discussed.

We might not dismiss fashion so quickly either, as it accounts for a large portion of work in wearable technology. Fashion — or as practices of dress as I would rather think of it — is a pervasive and complex subject that cannot be spanned by concepts of design, trends, consumerism and fantasy. The world of fashion is a commercial one, or, rather, one in which commerce and aesthetics proceeds in strange but fascinating dialog (true also of art). Yet, this dialog is driven by the input of heterogeneous populations: ideas from streetwear and youth trends, for example. A range of political, economic, and social factors are also at work in dress behavior as Gilnles Lipovetsky has shown (The Empire of Fashion). Is it a realm of ideas in which many different people, at different levels of discourse, participate? I think so. Witness the recent DIY practices of making clothing out of commercial products like candy wrappers, and the duct-tape prom garments in the news of late. Simple and understandable conversations take place via dress as well as sophisticated and erudite ones. I like to think that the term “dress” creates a broader foundation that might include fashion (and anti-fashion and the deconstruction of the institution of fashion) as well as many other phenomena related to what we wear and how we use garments to navigate a public domain and communicate a lot more than just our personalities. Dress may be one of the few creative things we all do on a daily basis, although its level of creativity is sometimes overlooked. Moreover, the idea of expressing ourselves through dress has changed as a result of the impact of virtual self-constructions and the spectacles of social media.

Smart textiles and wearable technologies has always been driven, like all technologies, by applications and functionality. Even the recent interest in wearables and emotion are usually driven by the desire to effectively index or control some aspect of the human body (this may not be true in performative arts like dance, but on a larger scale of research, it is). Since technology enhances control, I am concerned about how such research positions itself as to who (or what) is in control, and who is under control.

Also I find fascinating that after several decades of wearable technology exploration (since the 1980s or so), so little of it has entered the general social field. Cute Circuit dresses Katie Perry in LEDs, and Lady Gaga revives Leigh Bowery via some technological ideas (although simple illumination, the most spectacular and banal, reigns — see Janis’s comments about the “look at me, I’m electric” level of discourse!). Chalayan has experimented with various technologies and dress for decades. Philips Technology has created dozens of prototypes for illuminated garments and clothes that sense their wearers. But despite the celebrities and huge market interest and strides that have been made in smart textiles, there is still little interest on the part of a significant public in exploring wearable technology in the way they actually dress. I wonder about this. Why is wearable technology such an exclusive field? Perhaps most people have chosen to simply carry a single node — their mobile phone/personality central. When we are using our phones, I wonder, do we think we are invisible?

But even in our culture of devices, Susan Kozel has noted that a lot of information can be understood by considering the mobile phone, even though it is not a true “wearable” in most cases (or is it?): “Do people hunch into it or speak loudly as an indication of social or financial status, hide it in layers of clothes or expose it, place it on their desks beside them or dig in the bottom of their bags for it? Is it set to ring loudly or softly . . . ?” (Closer: Performance Technologies and Phenomenology, 274.)

A number of artists are using wearables to address ideas about communication in a social media simulacrum. Examples include Ebru Kurbak and Ricardo Nascimento’s Taiknam Hat, which mimics animal behavior to visualize EMF waves; and Nascimeno and Tiago Martins’ Rambler athletic shoes that upload footsteps to Twitter ( A young designer, Tesia Kosmalski, has developed a coat with speaker/shoulder pads that amplifies and enhances the sound of the wearer’s footsteps, mixing them with the staccato sound of heels clicking on hard floor, gendered sound that amplifies the stature and movement of the wearer in a public place (the coat incorporates simple technologies like miniature speakers, amplifiers, and ipods;

But I often wonder why I don’t see more. Perhaps I am perceiving more promise in this field than it actually holds. I also wonder if the general lack of adventurousness in wearable technology means we are still just reticent to grant the status of complex discourse to dress.

Susan Ryan wrote:

Thanks Sarah!

When I wondered about wearable technology as either instrumentalist or elitist I was concerned about the existence of vibrant, evolving practices. In this sense, Sarah’s concerns about distribution are central because if we are talking about practices that affect or involve only individuals or occasional small groups of specialists, we are not talking about cultural phenomena.

I believe that any application involving the body must take into consideration human behavior in the networks within which we live. Dress (and again I prefer the term over fashion, in order to move beyond the simple disposition many of us have against the evils of commercialization) has always created networks and does so today. Dress ideas travel and branch out; they are rhizomatic. They form networks (open and closed) based on both feeling and display, combined. There are social constraints and commercial power-grabs (market forces), but power nodes are usually contested and in flux. This is a living, breathing part of how we exist as humans who must cover our bodies most of the time. Sarah’s friendship group demonstrated how good her wearers were at navigating the ideas of dress/identity/contact.

The pieces themselves were deliberately ambiguous in terms of both their place in the women’s world, but my initial dichotomous questions of device or decoration? technology or craft? turned out to be very naïve, as the women themselves were very quickly able to negotiate sophisticated hybrids of these not only as static meanings, but as fluid configurations dependent on their activities and interactions.
Sarah’s necklaces, which I had the pleasure of showing in action in exhibition some years ago, provide a way to look at this kind networking in a specific way (see scroll to p. 4, see Eddie Shanken wearing on of Sarah’s necklaces — there were several other people forming a closed network in the space). Jewelry functions as a part of dress, and in this case rather differently than a hand-held device.

Against dress is the opposing reality of networks in which we select a symbolic appearance or dissimulate within a screen, avatar, text message, or (ugh!) commercially produced social media site which allows us to disappear” and reappear in some preferred, or less risky, version of ourselves. Thanks, Janis, for bringing up Sherry Turkle’s latest book (early on in this discussion) as I have been reading it since you did. How do we account for the amazing popularity of those systems? Have they changed our very way of seeing ourselves and each other in social relations? (Bernadette Wegenstein, Getting Under the Skin, 2006,161, says that the “subject centered body has been left behind insofar as the digital image has corporealized itself”–our body threatens to be media).

What is the accomplishment of wearable technology in a screen based age? Our dress is less often technologically enhanced (in meaningful ways), our wearable technology less vibrant as a general behavior, than I would like to see—than I think we might aspire to.

I also hope to find some of you at the (recently controversial!) ISEA Istanbul!

This months guests biographies are below:

Janis Jefferies (UK) is an artist, writer and curator, Professor of Visual Arts at the Department of Computing, Goldsmiths University of London, Academic director of the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles and Artistic Director of Centre for Creative and Social Technologies and Goldsmiths Digital Studios. Jefferies was trained as a painter and later pioneered the field of contemporary textiles within visual and material culture, internationally through exhibitions and texts. Since 2002 she has been working on technological based arts, including Woven Sound (with Dr. Tim Blackwell). She has been a principal investigator on projects involving new haptics technologies by bringing the sense of touch to the interface between people and machines (MIT) and generative software systems for creating and interpreting cultural artifacts, museums and the external environment. She is an associate researcher with Hexagram (Institute of Media, Arts and Technologies, subTELA Lab directed by Professor Barbara Layne, Montreal, Canada) on two projects, electronic textiles and new forms of media communication in cloth. Wearable Absence was launched in Montreal in June 2010 and shown as part of the Science Festival in Edinburgh, April 2011. She has had numerous publications but most recently: ‘Loving Attention: An outburst of craft in contemporary art’ in Extra/ordinary: Craft Culture and Contemporary Art, (2011) and ‘One and Another: a Handshake with the Ancestors’ in The Shape of Thing and ‘The Artist as Researcher in a Computer Mediated Culture’, in Art Practices in a Digital Culture.

Valérie Lamontagne (CA) is a digital media designer-artist, theorist and curator researching techno-artistic frameworks that combine human/nonhuman agencies. Looking at the rich practice of performance art, social intervention and interactive installations – she is invested in developing responsive objects (specifically wearables) and interactive media scenarios which interlope the public-at-large, the environment and matter as “performer”. She is the Founder and Director of 3lectromode, a design group invested in developing wearables that combine D-I-Y technology with current fashion research. Her work has been showcased in festivals, galleries and museums across Canada, the United States, Central and South America and Europe. She holds an B.F.A. and M.F.A. in visual arts and is presently a Ph.D. candidate at Concordia University investigating “Performativity, Materiality and Laboratory Practices in Artistic Wearables” where she teaches in the Department of Design & Computation Arts.

Ashley Ferro-Murray (US) is a choreographer who uses process-based and improvisatory movement structures to interrogate emergent technology in performance and installation. Past works include wearable sensors, digital animation software, 16mm film technology, and various mechanical apparati. Without assuming the political potential of technology or the interactive capabilities of digital media in performance, Ferro-Murray takes both a historical and experimental approach to building choreographies that encourage active viewing environments in which media is installed to instigate subversive energy. Both her artistic and scholarly work revolves around the histories of and future possibilities for experimental dance, installation art, and tactical media. Ferro-Murray is a PHD candidate in the Graduate Program in Performance Studies with a designated emphasis in new media at the University of California, Berkeley.

Sabine Seymour focuses on fashionable technology and the intertwining of aesthetics and function in design and technology. She is described as being an innovator, visionary, and trend spotter in her work as researcher, conceptual designer, economist, professor, and entrepreneur. She is the Chief Creative Officer of her company Moondial, which develops fashionable wearables and consults on fashionable technology to companies worldwide. Moondial’s work is based on the convergence of fashion, design, science and wearable & wireless technologies.

Dr. Seymour is Assistant Professor of Fashionable Technology and the director of Fashionable Technology Lab at Parsons The New School for Design in New York and lectures worldwide at numerous institutions. Additionally Dr. Seymour serves as a jury member for many internationally renowned institutions and conferences. She recently was the design co-chair for the ISWC2009 and a jury-member for the Prix Ars Electronica 2009. She frequently presents and exhibits for instance at Ars Electronica Festival, Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, and Smart Textiles. She has received numerous grants and awards and was awarded the Michael Kalil Endowment for Smart Design Fellowship in 2010. Dr. Seymour is an editorial review board member for the International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction and is widely published. Her recent books ‘Fashionable Technology – The Intersection of Design, Fashion, Science, and Technology’ and ‘Functional Aesthetics – Visions in Fashionable Technology’ have received excellent reviews. She received a PhD and MSc in Social and Economic Sciences from the University of Economics in Vienna and Columbia University in New York and an MPS in Interactive Telecommunications from NYU’S Tisch School of the Arts in New York.

Susan Elizabeth Ryan, Ph.D., Professor of Art History at Louisiana State University and Fellow of the LSU Center for Computational Technology (CCT). She teaches contemporary and new media art history and has helped found an interdisciplinary Art/Engineering undergraduate minor at LSU entitled AVATAR. Currently she is researching artists’ wearable technology. With Patrick Lichty, she curated Social Fabrics, an exhibition sponsored by the Leonardo Educational Forum, for the College Art Association, Dallas 2008 ( She has lectured internationally on dress and creative technology, and contributed articles to Leonardo and the online journal Intelligent Agent.

Danielle Wilde (AU/FR) thinks, writes, moves and makes to understand how technology might be paired with the body to poeticise experience. Her research sits at the nexus of performance, fine art, costume design, critical (technology) and interaction design. She has a particular interest in the democratizing value of clumsiness. In 2010 she was visiting research scholar at Tokyo University’s Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory. In 2011 she will complete a PhD titled Swing That Thing: Moving to Move, on the poetics of embodied interaction. She is currently based in Melbourne, at Monash University (Fine Art) and CSIRO (Materials Sciences and Engineering).

Sarah Kettley (UK) is a Senior Lecturer in Product Design at Nottingham Trent University, and works with product designers and textile artists to investigate creative processes of engagement with smart materials. She is a contemporary jeweler with a PhD in Craft as a methodology for the development of Wearable technology and conducts research in craft and design theory, embodied interaction, physical computing, and the issues involved in supporting interdisciplinary creative practice.

Lucy Dunne (US) is an Assistant Professor in the department of Design, Housing and Apparel at the University of Minnesota. She holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from Cornell University in Apparel Design, and a PhD in Computer Science from University College Dublin. Her research focuses on wearable technology and smart clothing, and lies at the intersection of electronic technology and apparel design. Current areas of focus include navigating the comfort/accuracy tradeoff in garment-integrated body sensing, novel sensor- and actuator-based interfaces, new media in fashion design, and wardrobe management through ubiquitous computing.

May 6, 10:38
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