The Materiality of Wearable Computers - Craft & Authentic User Experience

Kettley, S., Smyth, M. (2004). The Materiality of Wearable Computers - Craft & Authentic User Experience. In: (Ed.) Pixelraiders2, , () ( ed.). (pp. ). . .



This paper will present two projects undertaken as part of the author’s ongoing doctoral research into Wearable Computers, and the processes for designing personal digital artefacts that exhibit materiality. Materiality is discussed in its associations with the applied arts, and as a means by which tools may cease disappearing in the obsessively rational quest for what Heidegger called readiness-to-hand, and instead become more meaningful for users as objects in interaction. The overall aims of the research are to investigate evidence for the growing desire for authentic experience in everyday life, and to evaluate craft practice for its possible contribution to new design and build processes that can deliver this authenticity.

The bulk of the paper is concerned with the comfortBlanket project. Through the design of a ‘smart’ sensing cot blanket, bumper and monitor using the traditional domestic craft technique of patchworking, this project seeks to support the larger aims of the research by providing a context within which to test and reflect upon user evaluation methods. It seeks specifically to show that materiality, important in the finished product, also plays a crucial role in the user centred design process. Thus the evaluation sessions of the comfortBlanket concept designs seek to evaluate the design itself for its success as a familiar product as a result of its craft attributes, as well as the concept representations (2D presentation boards, physical prototypes etc) for the kinds of understanding of the product the participant gains through each. The lessons learned from both of these aspects can then be applied to the design of the next stage of the research, the Expressions of Smart Materials project, and this is introduced in a short section at the end of the paper.

This work addresses the role of crafts in the development of personal technological products with the aim of creating interesting and viable sustainable design processes, by engineering a closer relationship between user and product. It does not cover the experiences of the maker, but rather concentrates on the experience of the user as a result of the making process.
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Michael Smyth
Associate Professor
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Software Systems
The institute's expertise in software engineering encompasses the entire development lifecycle, and we focus on developing the approaches and tools to improve the engineering process of both emerging and widely used software systems.

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