What is a wearable? A query
Designers go through much trial and error and troubleshooting with stubborn materials and conceptual structures just to get to a working prototype. Eventually, these efforts converge around uncovering successful use-cases and positive narratives aimed at rousing investment and culminate in the creation of an ecosystem supporting other complimentary devices. From the micro-shaping efforts of the R&D lab, to the macro-shaping forces of technology summits, expos, and conferences where these narratives are fashioned, user-and-device are caught in between and co-configured. Over time, designs and documentation are continually adjusted with varying user needs and requirements, exerting upward pressure on design efforts, fueling the insight that no clear distinction between using and designing a technology can be made. A recent technology has the potential to make this reciprocal relation more unambiguous than ever before. Wearable technologies are devices that use sensors to measure and record different kinds of user actions – and how people are using (and not using) the device is crucial for its ongoing development and the next iteration. With a combination of ethnography, (post)phenomenology, SCOT and ANT, this dissertation explores three moments shaping what wearables are/are for: a problem-solving episode in the development of a wearable device, the building of wearable constituencies, and the work of distilling both those efforts into a stable, communicable and marketable message. In doing so, I aim to bring renewed attention to what has been called “the double movement of ontological design” – the idea that we design our world and the world designs us back. I introduce what I call the duality of design to reflect these ever-present co-constitutive forces. The term also calls for reflexive attention to the role of the observer-participant in this relation, and along the way, I uncover a pattern common to all the constitutive activities being described, what I term quiring. Adding reflexive and ethnomethodological components to analyzing the building of sociotechnical frames offers important opportunities for reconceptualizing our relationship with the technologies we use, design and study.