"Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess." – Donna Haraway

Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

Lingerie that Monitors “Emotional Overeating” Reveals More than Skin

tweet alerting me to the Microsoft bra, with an image from the article

Tweet about the Microsoft Bra

Earlier this week, Twitter user @s_hardey tweeted at me that Microsoft is working on a high-tech bra. The tweet came on a Tuesday, which is my busiest teaching day. Before I got a chance to check it out, it got buried in my mentions.

But today…today is an unexpected work-at-home day thanks to winter storm Cleon. So when I saw this PolicyMic article in my Tweet stream, it reminded me that I had never followed up on Sarah’s tweet and gave me the chance to check it out.

Microsoft Has Invented a Bra That Discourages Women From “Emotional Eating” – PolicyMic.

Nina Ippolito is responding to a research team’s project that used a phone app to track the relationship between women’s emotions and eating habits and then tried to use the app to intervene before emotional eating could occur. The intervention came in the form of a message that suggested deep breathing exercises. The third stage of the project developed a prototype bra that tracked the emotional state of the wearer based on vital signs. The data gathered by the bra did not result in an intervention. Instead, the purpose was to see how well the vital signs aligned with emotional state. The paper does not seem to indicate how the bra might eventually be connected to a strategy of intervention. Would it buzz? Shock? Connect to the wearer’s phone and the app? It’s unclear.

Ippolito’s critique of the Emotional Eating bra raises many interesting questions. Like Ippolito, I find myself hesitant about the researchers’ choice of which women’s health problem to solve. I suspect that emotional overeating is a problem for which the researchers felt that their wearable device presents a plausible solution. However, the device has problematic potential for policing women’s emotions and bodies in a culture that is already quite adept at doing so.


The World’s First Tablet for Women? Oh, honestly!

ePad Femme

ePad Apps as shown in multiple recent news stories about the tablet. It is worth noting that this is not the home screen shown in the EuroStar Group’s brochure.

The name “ePad Femme” is evocative of all sorts of imagery. Just last week, during Creative Lab time, the Fashioning Circuits students and I were imagining a menstrual pad that would alert you when it needed to be changed. However, “ePad Femme”  refers to a tablet device from The EuroStar Group that is being marketed as “the world’s first tablet aimed exclusively at women,” I have to insert an exasperated sigh here. I could point you to other posts where I’ve addressed similar issues: “Whose Idea of Bliss?” that addresses the HTC Bliss phone that was designed for women, or “Droid’s Hypermasculine advertising” in which I analyze the Droid commercial that pits femininity and technological prowess against one another. But let’s dig a little deeper. (more…)

Congratulations to Limor Fried!


Congratulations to Limor Fried of @adafruit for being named Entrepreneur of 2012 by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Be sure to watch the video interview.  My favorite moment is when she says, “The more we help people by teaching them and showing them how to be creative on their own, the more they’ve rewarded us by being great customers and also being part of our fun community.”

Sony’s 4-breasted PSVita Ad.

It sounds like some kind of weird gamer rating system, doesn’t it? Which would also be…problematic. But in this case, Sony has released a print ad in France that compares the latest model of the PS Vita to a women with four breasts, the extra pair appearing on her back. Behold:

Double-sided playthings

C|Net’s Michelle Starr gets right to the heart of the issue with this Sony PSVita ad. She writes, “Please, stop using us as bait to dangle in front of your heterosexual male demographic in order to sell toys.”

Sony reps in various markets have responded with the defense that the ad is not running in [insert market name], which raises the issue of cultural context.

I’m not sure how well that defense works. First of all, are we certain that women in France would not also find the ad offensive? I am not suggesting that the cultural context is not different. But I think anyone would be hard-pressed to argue that this is a celebration of the female body and sexuality. The extremity of the depiction makes the woman into a headless (i.e. brainless, speechless, expressionless) plaything.

Second, it seems like a company with a global customer base should be interested in courting that customer base, no matter where they are. As we see over and over again, companies can no longer control the context in which their messages are received. There may no longer be any such thing as running an ad only in France.

(Nod to my students in “Embodied Identity in Digital Society” for bringing the ad to my attention.)

Droid’s Hypermasculine Advertising: A Whole Lot of Violence in 31 Seconds

Sexism in Tech Ads | Feminist Law Professors.
Thanks to Feminist Law Professors for blogging about this and Jessie Daniels (@JessieNYC) for tweeting about it (and introducing me to a new blog too!). Be sure to check out the link on Feminist Law Professors to their list of other sexist tech ads.

What really strikes me in this particular ad is the tension between the construction of technological hypermasculinity and the disavowal of femininity. We’ve seen a similar masculine/technological vs. feminine/decorative binary played out in multiple arenas. One of my favorite examples is a parody done by a British sketch comedy show that features a computer for women that has a lipstick holder and tissue dispenser (I can’t find the link for the life of me. Please comment if you know the video to which I’m referring! Update: the skit was from the show Look Around You, Season 2, episode 5 and introduced the world to the “Petticoat 5,” the first computer for women).

The nature of this commercial, however, seems to be particularly violent. Here’s a short list of reactions to the imagery and tone. I apologize for the bullet format but my to-do list was overflowing even before I saw this video and felt compelled to comment upon it:


Not a joke: Tampon-shaped USB flash drives.

 FLASH.DRIVE – Meninos Store.

When the ad for this popped up on my Facebook news feed, I didn’t hesitate before clicking it. It may be the first ad I have ever followed from Facebook.  I can’t specifically remember ever doing that before. But this one caught my attention and I clicked without thinking, fully expecting it to be a joke. It seems like the kind of thing ThinkGeek would offer on April 1st. Turns out, it’s real. I seriously don’t know what to think about the Tampon-shaped USB drive (with different sizes coded according to heaviness of “flow”). I really need more time to ruminate on it but I felt it warranted immediate blogging to see what other people thought.

On one hand, based on cultural discomfort with anything related to menstruation, I’d guess that this is probably pretty secure when left unattended in one’s bag. Nobody’s going to steal what they think is a tampon. On the other hand…I’m having incoherent thoughts about cyborgs, hyper-personal data, the abject, negative associations with transvaginal ultrasounds…I’m distracted by the image of the “tampon” in the USB drive, suggesting a parallel between a USB port and a vagina…I’m imagining oppositional uses of it where its very existence causes discomfort in the people around me…I’m also wondering why an 8gb flash drive, which one can get for less than $20 at Fry’s, costs $55 when it is in encased in a “feminine hygiene product” shaped shell? Who will buy it? All of these jumbled thoughts are happening pretty much at once. If I ever get them sorted out, I’ll get back to you.

According to the product manufacturer, Meninos,

“Our design is aimed at people with modern and bold lifestyle, which enjoy innovation and cultivate the forever young spirit. Funny, geek, vintage, technological…”

So I guess this falls under the umbrella of “funny” and “technological”? I don’t know what the equivalent male product would be to turn into a flash drive, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be as “funny.”

Also, I wonder what about my Facebook profile suggested that I would be interested in this product? As I indicated above, I’m not sure I’ve ever followed an ad link from Facebook before this, which indicates they are usually pretty far from the mark.

While I don’t foresee myself buying the tampon usb drive any time soon, I have to admit that considering its existence is an interesting intellectual challenge. I don’t know whether to laugh or shake my head. Maybe both?

Whose Idea of Bliss?

If you haven’t heard the news, HTC has tapped deep into the female psyche to develop a phone geared toward women: the HTC Bliss, due in September 2011. The host of a CNETtv show casually describes the Bliss in their story lead-in as “the first phone for women” [1]. Silly me, I’ve had a mobile phone for years, never realizing that I was transgressing gender norms by doing so.

Upon hearing news of the Bliss a few months ago, I was immediately reminded of an experience I had while preparing to move into my first apartment. Recognizing that I would need some basic household tools, I added a tool kit to my shopping list. When out and about, I was dismayed to find special tool kits developed for, and directed at, women. The tools were smaller and more expensive than those included in your run-of-the-mill tool kit. And they were pink. (more…)

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