Truth and Science Fiction

For our Visual Culture and Design class, the assignment is to create some sort of design fiction project based on the science we have described in our research on nanotechnology.  We were given the opportunity to work either separately or in groups.  I chose to work with Lauren Langley and Don Fernandez.  Our first meeting on October 24 took place at the Barnes and Noble in Buckhead, and we discussed the possibility of creating a fashion magazine featuring products that were made with nanotechnology.  Lauren stayed on after the meeting and found a great book on futuristic fashion.   We used the cover of this book in our presentation to the class on November 3. 

Don was able to arrange for us to meet with Clint Zeagler, a fashion designer working in the College of Architecture on wearable computing, on October 27.    He described the work of Hussein Chalayan, who has designed clothing with led displays and lasers in it, and furniture that turns into clothing.  He gave us several references of web sites to view.  He also described the work of Maggie Orth, Ph.D., who has used conductive thread and thermochromatic ink to make ambient color change in fabrics.  A third application he showed us was using nanotube ink to make batteries out of paper.  This might unlock the potential for fabric and clothing to house computing applications.    Mr. Zeagler also explained the three-year process of trending in fashion design, and suggested that the idea of sustainable clothing made of natural fibers such as cotton would be important in the future since petroleum will likely become less available for making synthetic fibers.  We also had the opportunity to meet with Scott Gilliland, who is working on a project to create wearable computing by using cotton thread coated with conductive paint and embroidering patterns onto fabric.  He showed us how the embroidered patterns can be used as interfaces for a computer.  The fabric was “plugged in” to the computer with a special circuit board, and touching various parts of the embroidered pattern brought up images on the computer screen.

On October 28, we met with students from Prof. Yaszek’s science fiction class to discuss our project.

On October 29, we met again as a group and produced a draft of  a PowerPoint presentation for the following week.   Lauren refined our draft over the weekend to improve the appearance and make our slides more visually appealing.

The research we presented included several web sites describing various advances in nanotechnology.  There have already been fabrics made and used in general consumer products that use nanotechnology.   One example is a stain-resistant pair of jeans sold by the Gap.    The Cornell University web site showed some clothing that was designed in a project called “Glitterati” that used nanoparticles to make a dress with antibacterial properties and a denim jacket with anti-smog properties.  A site called Nanotec– described paint that had nanoparticles that self-assemble to make a surface textured like shark skin.  This type of pattern of self-assembly could potentially be used to make more streamlined swimsuits. 

Our goal in this project is to create a synthesis of what would appear to be scientifically realistic and what would also seem to be good fashion design, to create a visual and verbal representation of future lifestyles informed by nanotechnology.  Because we do not know what the future holds, it is necessarily a work of fiction.  But there is enough science and enough of an understanding of how fashion designers think today that it is possible to extrapolate in such a way that what we ultimately present will have a measure of truth about it.

We presented our PowerPoint to the class on November 3.  Here is the link to our presentation:

We met again on November 5, to decide the format of our magazine presentation and to decide on the topics of 10 spreads to include in it.  We also discussed the need for a title.  On November 6, I proposed a title for our magazine to the group.