impressonion


Star Lady – Guardians of the Galaxy Jacket

— Originally posted at Fashioning Circuits

Guardians of the Galaxy: A thrilling tale of adventure, thievery, danger, romance, and incredible heroism in the face of great evil. The original Marvel comic book characters—dating as far back as 1969—have been changed several times over the years. New stories and new timelines have followed the first tales. But one thing has remained the same—except in short-lived alternate timelines, the leader of the Guardians has always been a man.

In today’s most recent iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy—a fantastic film adaptation by Marvel Studios—Peter Quill of Earth, also known as Star Lord, steals a mysterious orb in the far reaches of outer space and thus becomes the main target of a manhunt led by the villain, Ronan the Accuser. To fight Ronan and his team and save the galaxy from his power, Quill bands together a team of misfit space anti-heroes who become known as the “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Guardians of the Galaxy on IMDB

[image via IMDB.com]

Peter Quill is attractive, witty, good-hearted, and capable. Played by actor Chris Pratt, the character emits all the charm and skill that fans could hope to expect of an easy going thief-turned-hero. And he has the perfect wardrobe to match—an insect-like mask with glowing red lenses, fitted leather pants, twin space pistols, combat boots, and a dashing red jacket. In the first scene, Quill wears a long red duster, but throughout the rest of the summer blockbuster, his jacket is a shorter, more practical version. That jacket is the subject of today’s blog post.

Star Lord via tumblr

[image via tumblr]

When I saw Guardians of the Galaxy in theaters, I did not find myself identifying with the main female role—a green-skinned alien assassin named Gamora, played by the lovely Zoe Saldana. While she was plenty fierce and stunningly attractive, she simply did not give me that connection to a character that allows me to step into that role as I enjoy the film. Instead, I found myself identifying more closely with Quill’s snarky attitude and half luck, half skill style of action.

The initial reasons I chose to create Quill’s jacket are based on this character identification and one other important detail: In my spare time (and many times during the night when I should be asleep), I am often up sewing or crafting. For by day I am a hard-working IT employee and grad student, but by night and sometimes on the weekends, I am one of the few, the nerdy, the cosplayers! That is to say, I spend inordinate amounts of time and hard work creating costumes to adorn myself with the roles of my favorite characters from comics, movies, books, and video games.

Many a cosplayer will at times adapt a character of one gender to match his or her own gender. This type of cosplay is referred to as gender bending. It is a technique I was particularly interested in for my appropriation of the character of Star Lord, but especially in relation to this particular storyline. How many times have girls and young women watched as one comic, action movie, or video game after another offers a strong male hero and a female sidekick? Or a female love interest? Instances of strong female heroines may be becoming more popular, but they are still the minority by far. For a film such as Guardians, which fits into several male hero-dominated genres—action, adventure, and science fiction—I felt it would be especially meaningful to adapt the male hero to a female version.

My Jacket Design

[image my own]


With that in mind, I modified my version of Star Lord’s iconic red jacket to better fit the female form. It has contoured seams, sleeker fabric, and a more feminine collar line. The jacket was also tailored to fit my female body shape, unlike the original bulky faux leather form. The shape of a garment is inherent to the style and effect it has on the audience. But it is especially important in conveying a specific gender type—or on the other hand, a gender-neutral look, if that is the intention.

This brings me to a subject at the heart of my project—the expectations guiding the design and style choices of women’s fashion (here I am mostly referring to the western hemisphere, but also in many other places around the world). There are certain assumptions made when designing for women, both of what a woman should look like and of what she should not look like.

A BuzzFeed article from October of this year covers “All The Items Of Clothing Women Have Been Told Not To Wear In 2014,” highlighting the backwards notions that women still have to deal with, even in these advanced modern times. The garments in this article range from everything including miniskirts to trousers, to underwear, to burqas. But the overall point is this: women should not be expected to change their style of dress—those who oppress them should be expected to change their attitudes.

BuzzFeed - My Body My Rules

[image – AFP / Getty Images AFP – via BuzzFeed]


Such an important and controversial topic cannot be covered enough, and I felt that it was a highly appropriate source of inspiration for the project at hand—a heroic man’s jacket converted to a feminine style, to showcase a woman as a heroine and star of her favorite genres, action and sci-fi.

Another subject that I felt really brought this project home for me was the idea of Critical Making, as explained by Matt Ratto in “Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life.” Although it would have been even more relevant had this project been an interactive, in-class assignment, I still felt the basic concepts connected to this task. (And not for nothing, as we did intend to have several in-class workshops, but luck was not with us this semester…) The act of physically crafting something with your hands really gives another dimension to the task of learning and reflecting as you work. I definitely felt a growing emotional investment in my project as I spent more time, tears, and sweat building my jacket and working out the connections between components.

The final, and perhaps most complex, aspect of such a jacket was the need for it to contain wearable technology. Several ideas lent themselves to the why and the what that this jacket’s technology should include. First, the Guardians of the Galaxy story is a very sci-fi, space opera type of tale. It requires advanced technology to exist and to allow the characters to play their roles.

Second, a key feature of the recent film was Star Lord’s iconic cassette tape player, a relic of the time when he was taken from the earth as a child, carrying with him the tunes of the 80s gathered in a mixed tape created by his mother. The cassette player itself was an important item to Star Lord, as one of the few things he still had to remind him of Earth and the family he lost. The music it contained comprised the majority of the soundtrack for the film. It set the tone and created the overall playful, yet epic, atmosphere of the whole film and the themes contained within. And one song in particular played a key role in the final dramatic conclusion of the struggle between Star Lord and the other Guardians of the Galaxy and their opponent—Ronan the Accuser. Had it not been for his mixed tape and his quirky antics, Star Lord and his friends might not have been able to save the day.

Finally, Star Lord’s space ship added a layer of inspiration to the design of the electronics in the jacket. Its sleek design and panels of LED switches and translucent screens suggested the visual form for my design. I ultimately decided to combine rows of LEDs with an audio sensor to allow the lights to react to music played from the movie soundtrack. For components I chose Adafruit’s Flora Neopixels, combined with the Adafruit Flora main board and an Electret Microphone Amplifier.

In order to put together a working system with as little frustration as possible, I searched for a tutorial. My search led to the Adafruit LED Ampli-Tie Tutorial by Becky Stern. I had to adapt some of the components and layout to fit inside my jacket, but the end structure of the components was much the same. The main adjustments had to do with the placement of the main board and battery pack on the back of the jacket, and the microphone and LEDs on the front. I also opted to stick to conductive thread only—bypassing the suggestions to use ribbon cabling and soldering.

johngineer Adafruit

[image – johngineer – via Adafruit]


Some of the issues I encountered included crossing conductive threads and trouble updating the Arduino IDE for Adafruit. Due to the layout of my components, crossing conductive threads was next to impossible to avoid. To solve the issue, I used multiple layers of fabric to insulate sections where threads would have overlapped. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the Arduino IDE to update properly on my laptop, and I was forced to turn to an alternate computer, one which I had much less time to access for such a project (*coughworkcomputercough*). Nevertheless, the obstacles were overcome and my hack job wiring was a success!

Star Lord Jacket - LEDs in progress

[image my own]

As it came down to the wire, I encountered a few more issues—more to do with sewing and ambient sound sensitivity than wiring or software this time. I discovered that I did not have enough room to properly finish the collar as intended. I also chose not to include other pieces of fabric that were used in the original design of Star Lord’s jacket, in order to avoid complications with overlapping seams and electronic stitching. And it turned out that the microphone component was either too sensitive or not sensitive enough. At times it seemed to always be reacting, and other times perhaps it was not reacting at all. Still, the LEDs do light up and they do fluctuate based on some changes in the levels of sound.

I also had originally intended to create two lines of LEDs, one on each side of the zipper. However the extreme level of wiring and layering made it difficult to finish one row of LEDs, not to even consider two. Thus I opted to leave the second row of LEDs out for this iteration of the jacket.

Star Lord Jacket - Sewing in progress

[image my own]

If I were to do this project again, there are a few things that I would probably change: First, I would try to finish the collar before putting in the electronics, in order to make sure there is enough space for everything to fit. Next, I would most likely use strips of LEDs and stick to wires and soldering to avoid issues with overlapping conductive threads. This would also make it easier to incorporate LEDs on both sides of the zipper. Finally I would have liked to have gotten a better microphone component in order to achieve the best reactions to sound reception.

Despite the numerous problems encountered, I still feel that this project was a smashing success! The jacket looks like a jacket—no small feat in my book. The LEDs turn on and fluctuate in response to some changes in sound levels—also a fantastic surprise! (I was unable to do much testing as I went, so the success of the circuits was a pleasant discovery.) And although some of the design did not turn out as intended, I still feel that the jacket resembles Star Lord’s in the film and includes a more feminine aesthetic. These were my goals and in the end, they were all achieved!

"Finished" Star Lord Jacket

[image my own]

Thanks go out to a few of my classmates for their help: Jodi (last name omitted) who completed a similar project the previous spring—though with a very different application—and deigned to answer a few questions of mine, and Amanda Sparling, for the use of her multimeter for current testing. Thank you both! Also thank you to Santosh Vijayakumar for spending so much time in the lab, even when no one was there to be helped. The couple of times that I did come by, I was grateful to have access to the room and someone of whom to ask questions! And a huge thank you to the writer of the tutorial, Becky Stern, without whom this project would have been severely more frustrating. I truly enjoyed this class and this project—so thank you Kim for teaching this course!

"Finished" Star Lady Jacket

[image my own]

Taking Charge of Your Own Healthcare – Wearable Technology & Health Apps of Today & Tomorrow

— Originally posted at Fashioning Circuits

The greatest improvements in medicine in the last few decades have been made possible by advances in technology. Today new personal and mobile technologies are just beginning to allow us to take charge of our own health and medicine. Smartphone apps compile data and provide solutions, and wearable technology such as fitness bands track movement, heart rate, and more. But this is just the start of a new wave of tech gadgets and apps that will revolutionize how we care for our bodies.

The sophistication and widespread availability of mobile technology for all aspects of healthcare are about to take off, and this advanced tech will help us to take responsibility for our own health. Mobile apps that help you count calories, lose weight, get fit, quit smoking, track your alcohol intake, or manage a specific health condition are already available and in use.

Babylon welcome screenshot

Babylon consult screenshot Images via Babylon on Google Play

Health apps of the very near future will include the likes of Babylon, an app that books virtual appointments, tracks symptoms, and receives your prescriptions with no wait time. Or you might use WellDoc, which could be prescribed by your doctor to support chronic disease management “by integrating clinical, behavioral, and motivational applications with everyday technologies, like the internet and cell phone, to engage patients and healthcare providers in ways that dramatically improve outcomes and significantly reduce healthcare costs.”

“During the next five years, health apps will empower consumers to make improved and informed lifestyle choices leading to better health and reducing the risk of chronic disease,” says Damon Lightley, managing director at Genetic Apps, an app developer for the health, sports, medical, and pharma markets. “They’ll also enable healthcare professionals to detect diseases earlier and reduce care costs.”

Current wearable technology for healthcare includes fitness bands that track steps like Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex, the Withings Pulse O2 which combines a pedometer with a heart rate and blood oxygen monitor, and Google Glass—which, among its myriad of uses, helps doctors to see more patient data in real time, hands free, and allows surgeons to better perform minimally invasive operations requiring reliance on imagery.

Some of the new and upcoming wearable technologies that are focused on improving health sound strange, but are currently under development: a shirt that detects irregular blood sugar levels, contact lenses that monitor changes in the retina, and intelligent fibers in clothing that keep track of your pulse, breathing, and heart rate. Other developments on the way include a smart sock that keeps track of people with Alzheimer’s disease, a skin patch that provides hypodermic injections throughout the day, and Digitsole—an insole that connects to a mobile device allowing you to adjust the temperature of your shoes, track activity, and also help adjust your posture.

(more…)

Codecademy Javascript – My Undying Hatred

Posted in Media by impressonion on April 22, 2014
Tags: , ,

Remember what I said about how great Codecademy was when I first tried it back in February?

I TAKE IT ALL BACK.

Maybe it’s the website, or maybe it’s the coding language, or maybe it’s just me, but this was the worst, most unbelievably frustrating thing I have had to do for this class. And this class has not been a cake walk!

Some of the JavaScript lessons were fine. Some I figured out ok. But many others left me wanting to scream. Code was missing. Code wasn’t processing correctly. Code was being interfered with by my browser. Half the time, I had to find ways to cheat the code just to get through a lesson so I could finish the damn course! (And believe me, I did finish it. Even if somewhat incorrectly.)

All I know is, if I never have to touch JavaScript again it will be JUST FINE.

I’m sorry Codecademy, but I hate you. Take your stupid JavaScript lessons and jump off a cliff.

JavaScript Insanity Plea

JavaScript Insanity Plea

Google Glass – Case Study

Posted in Media by impressonion on April 15, 2014
Tags: , ,

Fighting the Wildfire that is the War on Internet Freedoms

This week’s reading and video assignments—the book “Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle For Internet Freedom” by Rebecca MacKinnon, and the video “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” directed by Alex Gibney—raise a lot of troublesome topics that have the potential to affect every single person on the planet. Though the issues are centered on the internet and mostly online worlds, the effects of decisions made therein have the power to reverberate across any digital divide and disturb every individual in every country. That is because we are not just talking about online freedoms—they may start online, but they have real-world implications that affect the physical freedoms of even those who are unable to access the internet. For these reasons, the issues discussed in the book and video are greater in magnitude than may first seem.

Rebecca MacKinnon

Rebecca MacKinnon

MacKinnon highlights numerous examples of companies who deal in digital realms that control major portions of the internet and major websites used by massive user groups for all manner of reasons—Google, Facebook, Twitter—whose influence includes real-world consequences. She also discusses situations in which governments around the world make decisions to alter their citizens’ online access, resulting in changes in the physical world. Because these organizations have such an enormous level of impact on people’s daily lives, they must be held to a higher standard than is currently in place. “The reality is that the corporations and governments that build, operate, and govern cyberspace are not being held sufficiently accountable for their exercise of power over the lives and identities of people who use digital networks. They are sovereigns operating without the consent of the networked.”

Protestors demonstrate against the dictatorship of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunis, January 14, 2011 (Photo: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

Protestors demonstrate against the dictatorship of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali,
Tunis, January 14, 2011 (Photo: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

I would say that MacKinnon’s claim should go one step further. She references “the networked” but even those who are not a part of the digital network are affected. When protests, revolutions, and civil wars are fought both online and offline, those who are not networked are still a part of the fight. When information is restricted on the internet, those who get their information secondhand, by word-of-mouth, get even less than before. So the “sovereigns” who govern cyberspace should not only consider how their actions affect the networked, they should also consider the greater worldwide effects that may reach everyone on earth.

Even though there are still wide gulfs where the digital divide shows proof of stark inequalities between the connected and the disconnected, the need for global “netizen” rights that MacKinnon calls for could effectively help those on both sides. “It is now up to the world’s netizens to figure out how to build a sustainable civilization within the new digital rain forest—in which we find sustenance and shelter amid the poisonous plants and deadly predators.” If these goals are achieved, they can provide a framework to extend out into the far reaches of the un-networked as well.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

I find myself sounding a little uncharacteristically optimistic. Let me be a little more real. MacKinnon’s goals are extremely lofty, just as were those of the fallen WikiLeaks god, Julian Assange. They will not come without the long and arduous toil of the “netizens,” an endless tug-of-war between concerned individuals and groups and the vested interests of the companies and governments who are far more interested in improving their bottom line. As MacKinnon says,

Solutions that adequately protect netizen rights will come about, however, only if netizens of the world participate actively in devising them. The more we actively use the Internet to exercise our rights as citizens and to improve our societies, the harder it will be for governments and corporations to chip away at our freedoms, arguing as they so often do that we do not deserve them, and treating us like reprobates.

I get a kind of Smokey the Bear vibe from MacKinnon’s call to action. I can imagine some authoritative bear figure standing in front of a forest fire that represents the chaos of the internet freedom war. He points an accusatory furry finger at the viewer and proclaims, “Only YOU can prevent the loss of your own internet freedoms!” And if you don’t listen to that bear, you have only yourself to blame.

Smokey the Bear

Why McLuhan Matters: Intent and Significance of “The Medium is the Message”

Posted in Media by impressonion on March 25, 2014
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

As required for class, I have attached my take-home midterm exam to this blog post. Not that I expect anyone other than my professor to read it, but if you do, feel free to share your impressonions!

The essay is written on a topic that is essential to understanding the technological media of today. Earlier this semester, when I first started reading the sources cited within, I struggled to grasp the concepts. But once I understood them, I realized just how important they are to our technologically advanced world and the future.

Thanks for reading!

Brooks Take Home Midterm Exam – Why McLuhan Matters

Research Proposal: Evolution of Digital Books vs. Physical Books

Posted in Media by impressonion on March 18, 2014
Tags:

Below is my research proposal for my EMAC 6300 class. It is not the same as my original ideas, which I found to be a bit difficult to research. I have also attached my proposal in a pdf file here:

Research Paper Proposal

Evolution of Digital Books vs. Physical Books

The history of the printed word—and thus physical book publishing—is rich with intrigue and vital cultural relevance. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, society began to undergo a fundamental change in the way people communicated and even their very thought processes. According to McLuhan, we live under a “typographic spell,” instituted by the creation of the printing press and the subsequent inundation of modern society with physical books and the ability to read them. Today it would be hard to imagine a world without books and all the vast and entangled changes that they have brought to society—many of which we may not even recognize.

Now we face a new chapter in the history of books in which they are being transformed into various digital formats for consumption by both readers who are long familiar with physical books, and new generations who are much more comfortable with all things digital. The printed book industry is facing major upheavals as the media transitions to digital formats. These changes will likely affect society in a similar way to the original printed word.

I want to explore the new forms that books are taking, and discover how readers are reacting to these forms. I hope to find out which formats are being favored, or if readers still prefer physical books on the whole. To narrow the focus of this paper, I will research several websites and digital book subscription offerings to discover what options are available and how they compare to one another. I expect that my findings will help me select a single media object, or maybe two or three for comparison, on which I can focus more carefully. I will also briefly review the history of book publishing and the relevant effects it has caused, to emphasize the magnitude of these new changes and provide background for the current status of the industry.

 Potential questions:

  1. How do new digital formats for books compare to each other and to physical books?
  2. What trends are emerging for digital book use vs. physical book use?
  3. Do book readers want to engage with literature the way they engage with magazines?
  4. Can they afford to do so? Will people sign up for yet another monthly charge?
  5. Will digital book subscribers have the intellectual bandwidth to consume what they bought? Does that matter?
  6. Will they come to trust or despise the online studios pushing books onto their phones and iPads any more or less than current physical book publishers?

Potential sources from outside of class:

Tate, R. (2014). The Future of Books Looks a Lot Like Netflix. Wired.com. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/business/2014/03/books-become-magazines/

Peterson, P. (2014) Love libraries? Then you’re probably ahead of the technological curve. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/03/13/love-libraries-then-youre-probably-ahead-of-the-technological-curve/

Open Library. Retrieved from https://openlibrary.org/

Nawotka, E. Bexar County’s Library on a Cloud. Texas Monthly. Retrieved from http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/bexar-countys-library-cloud

Allen, D. (2014). How Complexity Theory Affects Social Media, Streaming and Musicians. LinkedIn.com. Retrieved from http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140122193329-269150-complexity-theory-and-its-effect-on-social-media-streaming-music-services-and-musicians?goback=.nmp_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1&trk=nus-cha-roll-art-title

Potential sources from class readings:

Drahos and Braithwaite, Information Feudalism: Who Owns the Knowledge Economy?

McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message”

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