X.pose is a startling piece of wearable technology that investigates our paradoxical attitude towards privacy in the digital age. Designed and manufactured by Pedro Oliveira and Xuedi Chen for their NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program thesis show, the corset-style dress connects to the wearer’s Smartphone.
As they use social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, it reacts to the amount of personal information they are, often unconsciously, sharing with the various agencies that specialise in collecting data online. The more exposed they become digitally, the more transparent their outfit becomes in reality.
Though it often does not occur to users, merely by signing up to social media applications you give implicit permission to various organisations to use the information you share through the sites. When you casually comment on your friend’s wedding photo or tweet a link to your favourite cat video, your location, your friends, your job, your favourite products, your social habits and much, much more are all up for grabs.
As the designers explain:
In the physical realm, we can deliberately control which portions of our bodies are exposed to the world by covering it with clothing. In the digital realm, we have much less control of what personal aspects we share with the services that connect us. In the digital realm, we are naked and vulnerable.
The design process began with the creation of a mobile app and server that collects the wearer’s information from their phone across a month. This recorded information then produces the pattern and creates a 3D mesh after being exported to Rhino. The personalised dress is printed in a flexible, comfortable and durable material. While it is worn, the app feeds real time data being shared on the device to affect the 3D mesh, making it more transparent the more “passively generated information” is created.
Describing the process, the designers say:
These displays are divided up into patches that represent neighbourhoods and change in opacity depending on the wearer’s current location. If she is in the NYU neighbourhood, that area will be the most active, pulsing, revealing her current location, revealing the fact that her data is being collected and, at the same time, exposing her skin. As her data emissions are collected, the more transparent and exposed she will become.
x.pose is most certainly provocative. Not only does it highlight how exposed we are in the digital age, it also focuses upon our own role in our exposure. In an age where masses of people are both obsessed with publicising the least significant details of their day to the online ether, yet rabidly furious when commercial or governmental bodies use those details for their own ends, x.pose is a stark, visually confrontational evocation of a troublesome contradiction in the soul of a generation raised online.