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Wear Your Tech on Your Sleeve


In “The Future of Making” on Nov. 12, students were led by Educational Technologist Kyle Burnham ’15 and electronic artist Kathleen McDermott in discussing different ways in which humans can interact with their body, technology and environment. The event featured a student panel focused on the importance of “making and doing,” as well as a wearable technology workshop where participants could sew working technology into their clothing.

Burnham began by talking about the importance of how humans should interact with their environment and use the resources around them to create and produce better ways of living.

“A posthumanism way of thinking says that humans and nature aren’t separate,” said Burnham as he emphasized how humans can affect and manipulate their environment through behavior such as constructing buildings or telling narratives that change the atmosphere on an emotional level. “If posthumanity has this ecological connection, this realization that there are other things in the environment -- and humans are just one of them ­-- shows how these components make up a community and are not simply separate.”

Luke Gernert ’17, Mackenzie Bettman-Adcock ’18, Daniel Horgan ’18 and Sean Schneckloth ’20 also spoke on the importance of humans interacting with their environment by creating a community where students are welcome to use the different resources on Hamilton’s campus. Acting as representatives from the Theatre Workshops, Wellin Museum, Oral Communications Center, Levitt Center and Letterpress Studio, the panelists spoke on how resourceful Hamilton is in encouraging creative freedom and production.

This relationship between humans and the technology found in the space around them was also emphasized by McDermott, who is currently a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an electronic artist. Most of her pieces focus on how an individual’s body can interact with their technology sewn to clothing. These include a “Personal Space Dress” that uses motion sensors to expand when people are too close; an “Auto Filter” scarf that uses pollution sensors to cover the wearer’s mouth when surrounded by high levels of smoke or alcohol; and a “Social Escape” dress that uses galvanic skin response sensors to release fog when the wearer emits high levels of stress.

McDermott’s work is based off of the understanding that “human reality is malleable” and in response to individuals wanting to change parts of their everyday lives, “dress is one of the ways we can work with [that human reality].”

Students had the opportunity to work with McDermott on designing, sewing and constructing their own electronic wearables. Using circuits, lights, batteries and conductive threads, the goal was to have students consider the relationship between their body and technology, and how their body movements could cause connected lights to turn on in response.

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