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Open Access Solar fashion: An embodied approach to wearable technology

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Using Pauline van Dongen’s ‘Wearable Solar’ project as a case study, the authors argue that materiality and embodiment should be taken into account both in the design of and the theoretical reflection on wearable technology. Bringing together a fashion designer and scholars from cultural studies, this interdisciplinary research aims at advancing the design and academic study of wearable technology. The interdisciplinary framework involves a mixed-method approach: a combination of research through design; interviews with wearers during fittings; and theoretical reflection. A theoretical and methodological focus on materiality allows for a sustained analysis of embodiment and embodied experience, while it also enables attention to the materiality of the textile and the technology involved. This ‘embodied approach’ is situated in ‘new materialism’ and more specifically in a of reappraisal Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. Through the exploration of ‘embodied design’, the lived experience of the wearer is incorporated into design practice, research methods and theoretical analysis. The relevance of wearable technology for potential future users can only be advanced when new meanings and values are created through interaction with the design. Working through a phenomenologically driven research through design, solar technology is better integrated into fashion so as to make ‘solar fashion’ more wearable in the near future.

Keywords: embodied design; new materialism; phenomenology; solar energy; wearable solar; wearable technology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands 2: Technical University Eindhoven, the Netherlands

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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