[ISEA2008] Paper: Susan Elizabeth Ryan – Encompassing the Body: Wearable Technology vs. the Avatar


Getting dressed is the most creative activity many of us pursue throughout our lives. Learning to dress in infancy provides primary experiences of color, shape, and symbolism in relation to our own bodies. Dressing has always been a hybrid, multi-determined, and socially embedded practice, but it now takes place within ever more technologically mediated cultural fields. Few studies have been made concerning the phenomenology of dressing, but studies of technology and embodiment abound. I will draw upon the latter and touch upon two manifestations of dressing in our hightech times: wearable technology art (WTA) and virtual self phenomena — avatars.

Elsewhere I have discussed the aesthetic and conceptual dimensions of dressing and its potential to stage discourse in the social sphere. I offered a diagram that plots variations in dress’s expressive formations. It was inspired by Gilles Lipovetsky’s notion of “fashion” (I call dressing) as a manifestation of media and information, and an essential toolset for individuals in postmodern societies. The upper part of the diagram represents wearable interventionist practices I call Critical Garment Discourse and it is there that WTA can be located.

  • Susan Elizabeth Ryan, Associate Professor, Louisiana State University, USA

Full text (PDF) p.  393-395