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Textile Messages

Dispatches From the World of E-Textiles and Education


Edited By 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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Section 1: E-Textile Construction Kits


E-Textile Construction Kits E-textiles have historically been a highly specialized area of design, populated almost exclusively by professional engineers and designers. However, beginning around 2006 a series of occurrences combined to democratize the field: the first e-textile construc- tion kits were created (Buechley, Elumeze, and Eisenberg 2006; Reichel et al. 2006), a series of e-textile projects in fashion—most notably Hussein Chalayan’s spring 2007 collection of shape-changing gowns (Chalayan, 2011)—captured the public’s imagi- nation, and a collection of DIY books on e-textiles were published (Lewis and Lin 2008; Pakhchyan 2008; Eng 2009). This section focuses on one of these developments, the emergence of e-textile construction kits. We introduce four different types of e-textile kits and describe pilot studies in using the kits to teach electronics, computing, and design. Each of the kits we describe engages with the tensions we discussed in the introduction in a slightly different way, emphasizing different intellectual, cultural, and aesthetic affordances of e-textiles. Chapter 1, on the LilyPad Arduino, and Chapter 4, which describes a “kit of no parts,” introduce tools that emphasize craft and visible electrical connections while Chapter 2, which describes i*CATch, details a kit that deepens computational expe- riences by eliminating craft and electronic activities and concealing and abstracting electrical connections. Chapter 3 meanwhile highlights the physical/virtual tension by introducing a kit, Schemer, in which all creative activities—including program- ming—take place in the physical world, providing a provocative alternative to the section 1 14 screen-based programming environments used by...

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