Week 1 Reading Response – Kate

This reading was very helpful for me, in at least setting the stage for where electronic wearables was at a few years ago. Many of the products the author speculated about have definitely become more ubiquitous in American life (fitbit, apple watch, etc).

The most stimulating part of the reading was the mini-manifesto conclusion, where Berzowska writes, “As designers of wearable technologies, we need to step back and ask why we want our fabrics to be electronic” (Berzowska, 16). I guess because I’m coming at it from the discipline of architecture, this question drew an immediate relationship to a similar contemporary conundrum in the building sciences: why do we desire our buildings to be wired/wireless, networked, reactive or robotic? Nature already does this much better than current electric/mechanic technologies.

For example, say I want some clever robotic levers that open and close at different times of day depending on the heat or coolness of a building. You could do this by building a robotic infrastructure, or you could transplant a grove of very large trees to surround the exposed sides of the building–in the summer (building need shade!) trees have leaves; in the winter (low angle of sunlight, building need light!) trees are bare.

In many ways, it seems that we can already access all the automation/robotecture we desire, and it costs us nothing in electricity or materials/pollutants. This is a simple example, and only touches on heating/cooling, and doesn’t go into other performative requirements of buildings (aesthetics, structure, safety, etc).

For architecture the smart building is so often seen as the answer to questions of sustainability. Not so with wearables–rather, it seems that health and security dominate the funding and therefore the discussion. So, circuitously, back to the question of why we might want to electrify fabric. Why, when the “technology” of clothing is already incredibly sophisticated (Berzowska, 16)?

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