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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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14 E-Textiles and the Body: Feminist Technologies and Design Research



In this chapter, I take the perspective that accessible e-textile construction kits not only have significant potential for stimulating creativity and innovation among everyday hobbyists, but they also help interaction design researchers and practitioners think more deeply, and more critically, about interaction and the body. Leveraging a range of theoretical traditions, including feminism, body theory, and design theory, I describe a case study in which a team of design researchers came to understand the felt experience of homemakers in an Indian city, through an artifact developed with the e-textile construction kit as the centerpiece of a mixed method research through design initiative. This particular study site and marginal population (i.e., Indian homemakers) were chosen because they met the intellectual goals of our research—to design for a female population with comparatively little technology experience in a non-Western city—and because the research team had practical access to and a working understanding of this population (3 out of the 4 researchers are from India).

The design in our case is an interactive sari, called Sparsh. A sari is the long scarf-like garment worn by Indian women for centuries. The design was both motivated and shaped by feminist and body theories, so before describing the research in detail, it is worth summarizing that theoretical backdrop. ← 183 | 184 →

Feminism and technology, once rigidly separated by the very organization of academic and R&D institutions, have been on a converging course for years. In HCI, what began...

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