Saving E-Textiles from an E-waste Fate

Ji Sun Lee's moonlit flower project

Dec 14: Also posted at The Hacktory.

E-waste sucks. In the US we trash about 400 million electronic devices every year. A study published this summer says that soft circuits and e-textiles are on track to become an even more intractable waste problem, unless early adopters turn it into a green technology.

An article in the Journal of Industrial Ecology from August discusses how the very thing that makes e-textiles interesting–the unobtrusive integration of electronics and fabric–could make them an e-waste nightmare.

What makes traditional e-waste so difficult is that it contains valuable stuff like precious metals and rare earths, but in small quantities that are hard to recycle and laced with toxins.

Enter e-textiles. Who isn’t charmed by the idea of a biking sweatshirt with built-in turn signals or accessories that could let your doctor know if your heart rate goes wacky? … Read the rest

Gender, Technology, and the Desk Job

I’m inspired by the speakers at Textile Messages earlier tonight, an event about e-textiles organized by Yasmin Kafai at UPenn.  One of the speakers, Leah Buechley, developer of the Lilypad Arduino, is also speaking tomorrow at a UArts/Hive76 event that I wish I could make it to.  The Lilypad took the Arduino idea and put it in a sewable form that gave e-textiles a big kick in the pants.  E-textiles or soft circuits are exciting for a lot a reasons that deserve their own exploration, but suffice it to say that what gets me gesticulating excitedly is the idea of mashing up different audiences with fluency in different technologies.  Putting electronics in crafts/clothing/sewing gives it a new accessibility, and gives it access to new creative thinkers.  By clearing a path for crafters and sewers to start thinking about conductivity and sensors, soft circuits make space for electronics (especially … Read the rest