Currently our team is working on the following contributions:

ARTICULATION OF PRACTICES WITH WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY IN FINNISH DIGITAL MEDIA:

A Toolkit for potential users

Morozova Daria (in preparation)

Wearables are a mix of design and technology that can be worn on user’s body. It is a relatively new technology that has yet to find its consumer. Development and appropriation of many technological innovations occur in the context of back-and-forth negotiations over this technology’s definition and applicability. Media has traditionally participated in this negotiation process by creating meanings and directing public’s attention towards technological change. As a result, many consumers familiarize with new technology via media accounts rather than through direct experience.  Frequently, media discussion on new technology has been evolving either in dystopian or utopian terms, the former highlighting the risks and problems that technological solutions bring, the latter stressing its advantages. Accounts on data security, on the one hand, and on improvement in elderly care, on the other, have been frequently framing discussions on wearable technology. In this research, I offer shifting attention to concrete examples of practices discussed in the digital media in Finland. Drawing on practice theory framework, I am asking, who the practitioner are, what meanings are attached to these practices as well as what skills and materials are needed to become a practitioner. In this respect, I maintain that these examples might act as a tool-kit of symbols, views, rituals and meanings readers rely on to shape their daily life, albeit no claims regarding actual popularity of the practices beyond media are made. Using data scraping technique, 453 article which featured wearable technology as a major topic were extracted from two Finnish news platforms. Finland is chosen as a context for research as a country with one of the highest trust rates towards media in the world. Additionally, webpages and applications of digital news media have been the primarily source for news search in the country. Next, Finland  has been scoring high in Innovative Nation Index excelling in technology and high-tech solutions, and was the first country to develop the national innovation system concept as a basis for national policy. Overall, taken Finland’s high level of trust into news media, stable readership numbers and long-standing interest towards technology, the country makes an interesting case for research. As far as the results are concerned, a broad variety of practitioners, materials, skills and meanings within the examples of practices is identified. Further, these examples of practices can be linked to societal issues that have been high on the agenda in Finland, including increase of ageing population, modern parenthood, prospects of Finnish business community, Finnish image abroad, etc. On a broader scale, inclusion of media into discussion on practices brings new insights into how they are introduced, shaped and changed.     

A CLOTHING ODYSSEY 2020

Olga Gurova, Daria Morozova and Alisa Javits

This short aspirational video is about a future of clothing and wearable technology. The video is done in collaboration between social science researchers and a visual artist. It is created as an arts-based research video, a quickly growing methodological genre that “adapts the tenets of the creative arts in social research in order to make that research publicly accessible, evocative, and engaged” (Chilton & Leavy 2014). The video develops a narrative of a future of multifunctional clothing merged with technology, known as wearables.

A FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE WEARABLES THROUGH IMAGINARIES OF DESIGNERS

Chrissy Patton and Olga Gurova (under review in Digital Creativity)

Taking for analysis particular examples, this conference paper/research article answers the questions of what do current designs of wearable technology imply about future designs – what will wearables be in the future? What issues will they solve and how? How will they connect people with each other/themselves/the world? How will technology be applied (overt/covert, aesthetic/function)? Taking all this into consideration, are there multiple imagined futures of sustainable wearables being conveyed through the analyzed designs? What are they?

BEING LIKE OTHERS VS BEING DIFFERENT: Wearable technology and daily practices of consumers 50+ in Finland and Russia

(published in International Journal of Consumer Studies)

Morozova Daria and Olga Gurova

This is a qualitative study of consumers aged 50+ and their daily practices connected to wearable devices (smartwatches and fitness trackers). Drawing on the practice theory, we seek to uncover how participation in such practices might enhance users’ wellbeing as an integral part of social sustainability. We assume that both ageing and wellbeing are not pre-given but they rather co-evolve when users of wearables engage in situated practices. Hence, wearables such as smartwatches and fitness trackers might positively reconfigure the existing practices of consumers over 50, or even recruit them into new ones, resulting in higher wellbeing and social sustainability. The phenomenon is examined in both Russia and Finland, as ageing has been high on the agenda in these countries due to controversial pension and social welfare reforms. Though these countries are different in terms of possibilities (access to medical help, employment, social participation, etc.) for their ageing populations, an active ageing framework that emphasises individual responsibility over one’s health and wellbeing has been gaining popularity in both Russia and Finland. This framework is compatible with the use of wearable devices that measure physical activity and basic health characteristics. Based on data elicited through 17 semi-structured interviews with Russians and Finns aged between 50 and 73 y.o., this study suggests that engagement in practices with wearables might have a positive effect on consumers’ wellbeing by helping manage one’s daily tasks, reducing stigma that is sometimes attached to ageing individuals, and boosting feeling of togetherness in social interactions that might decrease with ageing. In addition, an important difference between the two countries lies in how ageing consumers see themselves in relation to other ageing people when using a wearable: in Russia, the use of a wearable can signal one’s social distance from an “average” ageing person, while Finnish consumers regard themselves as doing what everyone of the same age does.

Sustainable solutions for wearable technologies:

Mapping the product development lifecycle

(published in Sustainability)

Gurova Olga, Timothy Robert Merritt, Eleftherios Papachristos and Jenna Vaajakari

Wearable technologies involve the integration of technology into clothing or accessories to bring new functionalities for people on the move. Many examples of wearables are emerging from simple fitness tracking watches to electronics deeply embedded into garments for multi-touch sensing and control for personal music players. Wearables have the potential to support positive experiences in the lives of many people, however, without careful development, wearables can have a negative impact on the environment due to increased production of electronic components, increased e-waste from abandoned devices, and increased energy usage. We examine environmental sustainability issues through a review of recent research and cases across three broad areas including the fashion industry, information and communications technology (ICT), and wearable technologies. In the analysis, we examine stages in the product lifecycle and identify the unique issues for each sector including the extraction of materials, production process, distribution of products, use, and disposal of products that have reached the end of life. The findings are gathered as implications for design to offer researchers, designers, developers, and product managers an overview of the issues related to environmental sustainability and related examples of products and prototypes that have been developed to be more environmentally sustainable.

How the practice of commercializing comes together and falls apart IN A MARKET OF WEARABLE TECHNOLOGIES

(accepted for publication in Journal of Consumer Culture)

Daria Morozova, Olga Gurova

Wearable technologies, or wearables, are a combination of design and technology—for instance, a smartwatch that measures blood pressure, or lingerie that imitates the touch of one’s lover. Regardless of initial optimistic forecasts for wearables’ market growth, there are few examples of successfully commercialized wearables, except those by technology giants like Apple or Xiaomi. In contrast to large companies, start-ups developing wearables, while numerous, struggle to survive. Previous studies on commercializing failures suggest that this is due to poor design of wearables, inappropriate business models, or an extended time lag needed for customers to accept such novel technology. In this article, we add to the ongoing discussion by approaching the commercializing process as a complex integrative practice that consists of materials, skills and meanings. Looking from this angle allows for discovering new dependencies that are otherwise left unseen. Drawing on three examples of wearable start-ups that correspond to a proto-practice, reproduced practice and ex-practice, we analyze how the practice of wearables’ commercializing takes shape, perpetuates and falls apart, what problems accompany the practice, as well as how an understanding of commercializing can go beyond a traditional interpretation of profit increase. The article is based on qualitative research among startups of wearable technologies in Finland, Russia and the Netherlands approached through a lens of the practice theory.

Коммерциализация умной одежды как практика: арт-, бизнес- и государственный проекты    

(published in Fashion Theory, Russian edition)

Морозова Дарья, Гурова Ольга

Данная статья основана на качественном исследовании умной одежды с использованием теории практик в качестве теоретической базы для анализа. Умная одежда (wearables) – это сочетание моды и технологий, например, умные часы, синхронизирующиеся с телефоном, или нижнее белье, имитирующее прикосновение любимого человека. Несмотря на оптимистичные прогнозы, на рынке мало успешных проектов коммерциализации умной одежды. Исключение составляют крупные электронные корпорации, такие как Apple или Xiaomi. Исследования стартапов умной одежды объясняют неудачи на рынке характеристиками самой одежды, неправильными бизнес моделями стартапов или растянутым временным лагом, необходимым для того, чтобы пользователи привыкли к технологической новинке. Данной статьей мы хотим включиться в существующую дискуссию, предложив рассмотреть коммерциализацию как сложную интегративную практику, складывающуюся из материальных вещей, компетенций и значений. Мы предполагаем, что такой подход позволит увидеть новые взаимосвязи, влияющие на процесс коммерциализации. На примере трех проектов – арт-, бизнес- и государственного – в статье анализируется, каким образом формируется и развивается практика коммерциализации, какие проблемы характерны для каждой из этих областей, и каким образом можно интерпретировать коммерциализацию, не ограничиваясь таким пониманием, как получение прибыли через увеличение продаж.