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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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8 E-Textiles and the New Fundamentals of Fine Arts



Undergraduate Fine Arts student Jillian created an interactive art piece that involved two sock monkey dolls embellished with male and female costumes, a LilyPad Arduino, and various metal snaps. When the monkeys “hug,” they connect via the snaps to create two very different reactions (Figure 53): when the male monkey connects to the top two snaps on the female monkey’s dress, he’s rewarded with an illuminated LED heart; when the male monkey oversteps and affixes his paws to the snaps on the female’s derriere, the female doll emits a blaring siren in rebuke. Despite its deceptive simplicity, Jillian’s piece is a technically adept exploration of the possibilities of running a circuit through two separate objects. Additionally, her pairing of newfangled technology with the traditional hand-sewn sock monkey dolls—themselves icons of older working-class inventiveness—into her first extended project with e-textiles creates a poignant juxtaposition of nostalgia and looking ahead, of the chasteness of childhood dolls and the nascent relationships of young adults. The symbolism of sock monkeys—the basis of a beginning sewing project for women of an earlier generation, when someone was just beginning to learn the basics of the craft—is an additionally piquant choice for incorporation into her first e-textiles project.

The advent of new digital or media arts programs in Fine Arts departments across the globe reflects a growing recognition of digital media as a medium for expression. Leading theorists, artists, and practitioners describe this burgeoning field of media arts as...

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