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Transformative textiles: integrating material and information in the design of sonified textiles
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Digital technologies are now deeply embedded in our everyday lives, becoming seamlessly integrated with objects and materials that we engage with routinely. Digital information is no longer confined to screens as “painted bits”, but is spilling into our environments creating a seamless extension of the physical affordances of objects into the digital domain. This seamless integration is enabling information to be explored through new modes of interaction, utilizing interactive materials that can be manipulated, accessed, and programmed. The progressive, ubiquitous nature of computing is creating a need to re-evaluate the ways in which new technological emergences affect how we relate to and understand the world around us. A key area of material technologies development contributing to this seamlessness is “interactive textiles”, also known as smart textiles or “e-textiles”. These materials are the amalgamation of digital technologies and textiles, allowing materials the ability to sense, react, and display. This utilization of digital media within our materiality is producing textiles that are no longer mute, but are responsive, amplified through a number of outputs, including light and sound. This transformation of materials from passive to responsive is being driven by the informational capacity of embedded technologies. Küchler (2008) describes e-textiles as existing not simply as material but also informational. This material-informational duality highlights a need to understand the way in which we relate to material in our changing technological world, and a closer consideration of our “dual citizenships” between our physical (material) and digital (informational) spaces. Through a practice-led investigation, utilizing the processes of the creation, prototyping and performance of sonified textiles, this paper presents current research into the relationship between textile as material and information and the way in which these dimensions may be aligned successfully through design. It also draws on key theoretical texts and the work of other designers. Considering closely this transformation of textiles, this investigation intends to understand the evolving relationship between material and information; the physical and the digital.