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Textile Messages

Dispatches From the World of E-Textiles and Education


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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3. E-Textile Cultures and Communities



The final section of this book presents major contributions and emerging communities of e-textiles production in both hobbyist and professional realms and addresses one of the key questions and opportunities of this technology—specifically, what do e-textiles represent for the current and future issue of gender in computing? Despite the calls in recent decades to address the shrinking pipeline of underrepresented groups in engineering and computing professions, these fields remain male dominated. E-textiles signify an entirely different approach to diversifying these fields and what people can produce in them. They may not represent the elusive key to the “clubhouse” of STEM careers, insomuch as they provide us with a glimpse of what a “new clubhouse” may look like (see Chapter 11)—one where decorative, feminine or otherwise “non-robotics” forms of engineering are not only encouraged but are poised to disrupt STEM cultures in the 21st century.

The issue of gender in e-textiles creation—a running thread through much of the volume—is brought to the fore in these explorations of how e-textiles are designed and shared outside of learning institutions. Leah Buechley, Jennifer Jacobs and Benjamin Mako Hill make this an explicit search in Chapter 11 as they mine sales data, publicly available project documentation, and surveys to examine women’s participation in the DIY Arduino community. What they discover is that the LilyPad Arduino seems to have lived up to its promise as a disrupter of the oblique gender representations in electronics, sparking perhaps the first...

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