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Textile Messages

Dispatches From the World of E-Textiles and Education

Series:

Leah Buechley, Kylie Peppler, Michael Eisenberg and Yasmin Kafai

Textile Messages focuses on the emerging field of electronic textiles, or e-textiles – computers that can be soft, colorful, approachable, and beautiful. E-textiles are articles of clothing, home furnishings, or architectures that include embedded computational and electronic elements. This book introduces a collection of tools that enable novices – including educators, hobbyists, and youth designers – to create and learn with e-textiles. It then examines how these tools are reshaping technology education – and DIY practices – across the K-16 spectrum, presenting examples of the ways educators, researchers, designers, and young people are employing them to build new technology, new curricula, and new creative communities.

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Introduction: Leah Buechley, Kylie Peppler, Mike Eisenberg, and Yasmin Kafai

Extract

Computers are central to the infrastructure that underlies almost every aspect of mod- ern life from transportation to medicine, entertainment to economics, and of course, communication. Yet there are curious gaps in the use of computers. Why don’t we find them in our walls, clothing, and furniture, despite repeated predictions that such a re- ality is just around the corner? Why don’t more people learn how to build and program computers? Why are computing-related professions among the least diverse in society? Young people today use computers in many facets of their lives, but few of them actually know how to control or create them. We believe that cultural factors, more than a lack of intrinsic aptitude or interest, make computing seem inaccessible and unappealing to many people. This volume reports on a new set of tools and materials that we believe have the potential to transform the landscape of technology educa- tion by making computing accessible, relevant, and compelling to new audiences. We focus on the emerging field of electronic textiles, or e-textiles—computers that can be soft, colorful, approachable, and beautiful. E-textiles are articles of cloth- ing, home furnishings, or architecture that include embedded computational and electronic elements (Berzowska 2005). The vignettes throughout the book provide illustrative examples of what this means in practice: handbags that store and play back knitting patterns, traditional embroideries that glow and sing, and dresses that register and respond to our movements like wearable companions. E-textiles aren’t all whimsical however; they are also found...

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