Public defence in Computer Science, MA Felix Epp

Public defence from the Aalto University School of Science, Department of Computer Science
From a bird's eye view, some colourful fabrics, electronic components, and smaller sewing materials are next to a carton board reading "Digi Merkki crafting kit."
The Digi Merkki crafting kit for students to design their own interactive cloth patch.

Title of the doctoral thesis: Augmenting Appearance with Wearable Technology: Open-ended, Practices-oriented Design for Adornment and Identity as Routes to Adoption

Doctoral student: Felix Epp
Opponent: Prof. Kristina Höök, KTH, Sweden
Custos: Prof. Marko Nieminen, Aalto University School of Science, Department of Computer Science

Thesis available for public display 10 days prior to the defence at:

Design Approaches for Crafting Tech-Infused Attire for Social Connection in the Real World

The doctoral research investigated how technology might alter our everyday attire and how this will change the way we interact with each other. Imagine clothing and accessories that not only give comfort and reflect your style but respond to your emotions, social contacts, and online media. Researchers formulated this promise of wearable digital technologies reshaping our social life two decades ago. However, to this date, people's wearable technology mainly exists for tracking personal health data. Existing research showed that designs of augmenting appearance often feel out of place. 

This doctoral thesis addresses this gap in adoption in everyday life. It presents studies on real-life practices of adorning with digital technology. We meticulously studied three compelling cases in our exploration and designed novel wearable technology for and with people. The first, a unique fur shoulder accessory that imitates animalistic movements, showcased the power of wearables in facilitating intimate human connections by attracting strangers to touch. The second case explored the potential for sharing personal information through clothing across ordinary urban spaces. The final exploration engaged in the rich tradition of Finnish university students adorning boiler suits. For two years, we witnessed the students transform simple boiler suits into canvases of personal histories, equipped with sewing skills, cloth patches, accessories and intricate traditions. Designing an interactive cloth patch with the students showed how their online behaviour became part of their clothes. For example, the students started remixing online memes and using them to adorn their overalls. 

This merging of clothing traditions and digital practices might have grave consequences when people start trolling and memeing with their clothes. We developed an approach to design that is open-ended and practices-oriented, and we demonstrate it in a practical design concept called ‘Memetic Expression’. These tools enable technology and fashion designers to make ‘augmented adornment’ work and shape social technologies' positive or negative long-term impact.

Contact details:

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Doctoral theses in the School of Science:

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