Fashioning Technology

Fashioning Technology is a new-to-me blog that combines two of my most sustaining interests (um, fashion…and. …technology). I’m adding it to my RSS reader so that I can keep up with projects like the solar fan (as in Lady Windemere’s), the light trail dress (pictured), or the not-so-wearable video vest (worth looking at because it is so ridiculous). Besides the intersection of two lifelong interests, this blog is interesting because of how it genders technology in ways I see as encouraging for those who want to close the perceived tech gender gap. For example, the now almost ten year old AAUW report, Tech Savvy, which centered on girls and their affinity/lack of affinity with all things tech, also searched for ways to create excitement about technology for girls. The report concentrated somewhat on play and engagement, noting that boys were interested in computers as mechanical constructs and enjoyed the tweaking aspects of technology while girls were more apt to be bored by the fiddling around with tech for tech’s sake and ask what I think is a very pertinent question, “what does it do for me?”. The DIY movement, which can be argued is gendered female for the most part, takes that practicality and does things, and in this iteration, does crafty things with tech.

I chose the photo of the light dress for its connection to the classic science fiction of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. In it, he had a scene where a woman was given a gift of a necklace and bracelet that looked like they were made of dully-polished stones. However when a button was pushed, the woman was clothed in an aurora borealis that concealed yet flattered her form. As a teenager reading those novels, I wanted that dress, and even though the light-trail dress is only photoshop magic, envisioning a concept can bring it closer to reality. Case in point: also featured in Fashioning Technology, Lin Yun Lien’s Aqua Light fabric does exist and makes that magic tangible. it has delicate threads that flutter and flow much like feathers, but are luminescent.

If fashion is seen as frivolous and peripheral, then all this means little. But for me, such arguments sound suspiciously like the ones that narrowly divide “the political” (the important stuff) from “the personal” (“women’s issues such as child care, pay equity, health care, or other quality of life issues). What we wear is a foundational part of self-identity. If women (and men) are playing with technology in fashion, that ultimately gendered space, then to me, that is the equivalent of the technology play that the AAUW sees as valuable for young boys that they also saw as not happening for young girls. I think it is happening now, only on their own terms. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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