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Saturday, June 10 • 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Critical Kinetic Wearables: A Workshop in/on Play

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Workshop Overview

What we wear often acts as a means of expression. Clothing and accessories can be used to share and/or connect with different aspects of our identities. But what if we could amplify or extend this practice with new materials and tools? How do we co-imagine, co-fabulate, co-design, and co-create ways potential relationships between bodies, technologies, and means of expression?

“Critical Kinetic Wearables” is a mini-workshop that invites participants to explore how wearable electronics practices can be used to support embodied expressions of identity, experience, and self, specifically through unique, creative wearable devices that feature materials that move. It is also a meta-workshop, imagining new ways to come together to explore community and technology.

The workshop will take a hands-on approach. A brief overview of kinetic wearable projects from the field will also be shared. Participants will be introduced to the basics of electronics and programming through the use of the Circuit Playground Express (microcontroller board) and MakeCode (graphic programming software). Following that, details of how to create motion through the use of servo motors and how to attach motors to the body via specialized 3D printed motor mounts will be introduced. Once comfortable with the technical aspects, participants will be invited to design and prototype their own kinetic wearable devices that can express an aspect of themselves of their choosing. All will have the opportunity to share work-in-progress with the group and to capture video documentation if desired. Finally, participants will be asked to reflect on the design of the workshop itself, as a method for critical, ethical, and playful engagement with wearables.

This workshop is designed to support all experience levels. No previous experience is required and collaboration is encouraged. Materials will be supplied but must be returned at the end of the workshop. A parts list with vendor recommendations will be supplied for those who wish to do further explorations. Participants should bring a laptop with an up-to-date install of a MakeCode supported browser: https://makecode.microbit.org/browsers


The approaches utilized in this workshop are based on activities developed as part of the “Bodies in Play” project. “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 in wearable technology and virtual reality (VR).

New critical attention to the relationship between gaming bodies and interfaces (Keogh 2018), queer game interfaces (Marcotte 2018; Sicart 2017), and the work of wearable game controller artists like Kaho Abe (Ibister and Abe 2015) and Margarete Jahrmann (Jahrmann 2011), have highlighted the limitations of existing physical interface paradigms. Academic work to date has further explored the potential of wearable game controllers from the perspectives of HCI (Tanenbaum and Tanenbaum 2015; Tanenbaum et al. 2013) and education (Kafai 2009) often in a workshop or informal learning environment. This has proven to be generative as a space to enhance both embodied interface design practices and to informal learning contexts. Yet there remains a gap in the link between development of and support to equity-seeking game communities to partner around exploring the significance of DIY making for diversifying interfaces for actual and situated bodies, that we aim to address through this partnership.

The overlapping fields of electronic textiles and wearable technology have a history of supporting knowledge-making in underrepresented communities and providing new opportunities for embodiment and expression through the act of making. The reframing of electronics prototyping processes through e-textile tools, methods, and support networks have shifted the gender balance in this area (Buechley et al. 2008; Buechley and Hill 2010; Knight 2018). Wilkins argues that this work within e-textiles should not be positioned simply as “craft” but rather acknowledged as innovation (Wilkins 2020). E-textile sensing methods which approach interface design specifically from a material perspective support individuals in tailoring bespoke computational systems (Perner-Wilson and Buechley 2013). Included in but also moving beyond the realm of e-textiles, wearable electronics offers extensive opportunities and possibilities for expression for a variety of bodies and identities through the act of “critical dress” (Ryan 2014) and the use of color-changing materials (Pailes-Friedman 2016), kinetic augmentations (Kao et al. 2017; Hartman et al. 2020), and wireless communication (Pailes-Friedman 2016). These expressive possibilities are particularly activated in the arena of “social wearables” (Dagan et al. 2019) , which includes explorations of wearables as applied in gameplay (Márquez Segura et al. 2018).

In line with our critical and transformative agenda, we will also engage with the who, why and how we are making, with the aim of generating new and better methods for inclusive co-creation workshops.


Buechley, Leah, Mike Eisenberg, Jaime Catchen, and Ali Crockett. “The LilyPad Arduino: Using Computational Textiles to Investigate Engagement, Aesthetics, and Diversity in Computer Science Education.” In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 423–432. CHI ’08. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, 2008.

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.

Dagan, Ella, Elena Márquez Segura, Ferran Altarriba Bertran, Miguel Flores, Robb Mitchell, and Katherine Isbister. “Design Framework for Social Wearables.” In Proceedings of the 2019 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference, 1001–1015. DIS ’19. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, 2019.

Hartman, Kate, Boris Kourtoukov, Izzie Colpitts-Campbell, and Erin Lewis. “Monarch V2: An Iterative Design Approach to Prototyping a Wearable Electronics Project.” In Proceedings of the 2020 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference, 2215–2227. DIS ’20. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, 2020.

Isbister, Katherine, and Kaho Abe. “Costumes as Game Controllers: An Exploration of Wearables to Suit Social Play.” In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, 691–696. TEI ’15. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, 2015.

Jahrmann, Margarete. “Ludics for a Ludic Society. The Art and Politics of Play,” 2011. https://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/handle/10026.1/453.

Kafai, Yasmin B, William Q Burke, and Deborah A Fields. “What Videogame Making Can Teach Us About Access and Ethics in Participatory Culture.” In DiGRA ཅ - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory. Brunel University, 2009. http://www.digra.org/w

avatar for Patricia Mwenda

Patricia Mwenda

Research Assistant, OCAD U
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 →

Ellie Huang

Graduate Student, OCAD University

Saturday June 10, 2023 3:30pm - 5:00pm EDT
PS 308 (Design Center)