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Towards a Postphenomenological Approach to Wearable Technology through Design Journeys

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conference contribution
posted on 13.09.2019 by Pauline van Dongen, Ron Wakkary, Oscar Tomico, Stephen Wensveen
The field of wearable technology has extensively described the opportunities, challenges as well as the concerns around integrating digital technologies into fashion. However, it has so far not provided a sufficiently clear and embodied understanding of technology. Technology therefore is often still limited to something that adds functionality to textiles or clothing. Additionally, technology is seen as a way to enhance the visual expression and thereby the representational character of clothing. Both approaches seem to hinder the intersection of digital technologies and textiles on a material and embodied level. While the role of wearable technologies in the everyday could benefit from it. In this paper, we therefore argue for reframing the understanding of technology to better facilitate the integration of digital technologies (i.e. electronics and software) into everyday fashion. A reflective analysis of the process of designing wearable technologies, based on the design practice of the first author, reveals that technology is considered a material and that its material qualities are not thought of as either functional or aesthetic. These insights, arising from practice, have led us to turn to postphenomenology (a strand of philosophy of technology) to come to further conceptualization. Postphenomenology looks at the ways in which technologies mediate or “coshape” the relationship between human beings and the world. By seeing technologies as the media that connect humans to the world, they acquire a material and contextual dimension. The idea that artifacts mediate materially thus offers a very useful starting point for understanding and designing wearable technologies. The contribution of this article is twofold, namely, first, to provide a material understanding of the technology on the basis of design practice. And secondly, to bridge design practice with theory by suggesting to bring postphenomenology into fashion to better facilitate the design of wearable technologies for the everyday.

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