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Friday, June 9 • 11:15am - 11:35am
Bodies in Play: Work-in-Progress

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“Bodies in Play: Inclusive Co-Creation for Wearable Technology and Virtual Reality” is a multiyear research-creation partnership between Social Body Lab and game:play Lab at OCAD University and Dames Making Games (DMG) that brings together academic, cultural and community practitioners to co-create knowledge towards more inclusive, innovative design practices. It scaffolds meaningful equity in the creative technology space, through participatory, feminist research-creation in embodied interfaces. It is doing this through a series of game jams and a residency program, bridging creative, technical and conceptual work.

As feminist, black and queer discourses have repeatedly emphasized, bodies matter, but have frustratingly been deprioritized in technology development and discourse. Computational design has typically centered users and creators that are white, able-bodied and male. Whether this bias is explicit or implicit, it results in a range of known inequities, including the embedding of normative values (for example, the optimal and able body targeted in fitness wearables (Lupton 2016; Moore 2017)), or the binary gender encoding found in surveillance technologies (Costanza-Chock 2018; Gaboury 2018)), the encoding of racial bias into machines, sensors and algorithms (Benjamin 2019; Buolamwini and Gebru 2018; Noble 2018; Russell 2020), the naturalization of particular conceptual paradigms (for example, the encoding of non-Indigenous worldviews in AI development (Lewis et al. 2020)) and resultant challenges for recruitment and retention of marginalized groups into the technology industry (Buechley et al. 2010).

To address this, we need a more substantive focus on embodied experience, particularly within interaction design. How do approaches from wearable technology create novel contexts for embodied play? In what ways does virtual reality play require re-consideration of player bodies? How might equity-seeking use these technologies to envision alternative forms of playful interactions which better reflect their embodied experience?

As one corrective, groups invested in equity work within the technology sector (like DMG) have been working to build and sustain communities of practice (Wenger 1999) around typically marginalized makers, to broaden access to literacies, technologies, and platforms of engagement.

The research-creation generated through this partnership will build interfaces and experiences that explore the expressive capacity for a diverse range of bodies in the areas of wearable technology, virtual reality, and augmented reality. This partnership leverages the strengths, resources, and shared values of partners to intervene in existing technology practices, to model and better articulate embodied material practices, and sustain meaningful networks. This talk will introduce the Bodies in Play (BiP) project overall as well as activities completed to date, including a Launch Event and the Bodies in Wearables (BIW) Workshops and Jam.

The Launch Event was formatted as an online zine-making “playshop”. Participants were invited to imagine a new future for interfaces and experiences for connecting bodies and technologies via three playful design activities. With the support of illustrators, these future visions were rendered for a digital zine that could be shareable publicly (Aveiro-Ojeda et al. 2022). The launch event for the BIP partnership initiated community building and networking essential to upcoming game jams and activities.

“Bodies in Wearables” is a series of hands-on events dedicated to the exploration of how wearable electronics practices can be used to support embodied expression of identity, experience, and self. These events took place both online and in-person. Two initial workshops focused on the development of wearable electronics skills including circuit design and coding, with a particular focus on the expressive potential of LEDs and servo motors. The Bodies in Wearables Jam supported the development of interactive and/or dynamic wearable electronics projects and explorations. These activities are meant to co-imagine, co-fabulate, co-design, and co-create potential relationships between bodies, technologies, and means of expression. https://bip.dmg.to/

Aveiro-Ojeda, Santo, Izzie Colpitts-Campbell, Kate Hartman, Yizhen (Ellie) Huang, Cindy Poremba, Emma Westecott. 2022. “Bodies in Play Zine.” in DIY Methods, September 2022, pages 61-82. Peterborough, ON: Low-Carbon Research Methods Group, http://lowcarbonmethods.com/DIYMethods2022.html

Benjamin, Ruha. Race after Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code. Medford, MA: Polity, 2019.

Buechley, Leah, and Benjamin Mako Hill. “LilyPad in the Wild: How Hardware’s Long Tail Is Supporting New Engineering and Design Communities.” In Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, 199–207. DIS ’10. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, 2010.

Buolamwini, Joy, and Timnit Gebru. “Gender Shades: Intersectional Accuracy Disparities in Commercial Gender Classification,” n.d., 15.

Costanza-Chock, S. “Design Justice: Towards an Intersectional Feminist Framework for Design Theory and Practice.” Proceedings of the Design Research Society, 2018.

Gaboury, Jacob. “Critical Unmaking: Toward a Queer Computation.” In The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities, 2018. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0cq870wh.

Lewis, Jason Edward , Abdilla, Angie, Arista, Noelani, Baker, Kaipulaumakaniolono, Benesiinaabandan, Scott, Brown, Michelle, Cheung, Melanie, Coleman, Meredith, Cordes, Ashley, Davison, Joel, Duncan, Kūpono, Garzon, Sergio, Harrell, D. Fox, Jones, Peter-Lucas, Kealiikanakaoleohaililani, Kekuhi, Kelleher, Megan, Kite, Suzanne, Lagon, Olin, Leigh, Jason, Levesque, Maroussia, Mahelona, Keoni, Moses, Caleb, Nahuewai, Isaac ('Ika'aka), Noe, Kari, Olson, Danielle, Parker Jones, 'Ōiwi, Running Wolf, Caroline, Running Wolf, Michael, Silva, Marlee, Fragnito, Skawennati and Whaanga, Hēmi (2020) Indigenous Protocol and Artificial Intelligence Position Paper. Project Report. Indigenous Protocol and Artificial Intelligence Working Group and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Honolulu, HI.

Lupton, Deborah. The Quantified Self. 1st edition. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2016.

Moore, Phoebe V. The Quantified Self in Precarity: Work, Technology and What Counts. Routledge, 2017.

Noble, Safiya Umoja. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York: New York University Press, 2018.

Russell, Legacy. Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto. London, UK: Verso, 2020.

Wenger, Etienne. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. 1st edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

avatar for Kate Hartman

Kate Hartman

OCAD University
Kate Hartman is an Associate Professor at OCAD University, where she is the Graduate Program Director of Digital Futures (returning summer 2023) and the founding Director of Social Body Lab - a research and development team dedicated to exploring body-centric technologies in the social context. She is also an Adjunct Instructor and Director of ITP Camp at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. She is the author of the book Make: Wearable... Read More →

Cindy Poremba

OCAD University
avatar for Emma Westecott

Emma Westecott

Associate Professor, Game Design, OCAD University
Dr Emma Westecott is a feminist game studies scholar. Emma is Associate Professor in Game Design, and Co-Director of the game:play Lab (with Cindy Poremba). She has worked in the game industry for over 25 years - in development, research and the academy. She originally achieved international... Read More →

Friday June 9, 2023 11:15am - 11:35am EDT
PS 401 (Design Center)