“Wearable Space” is a complex concept that I encountered while reading Mark B.N. Hansen’s Bodies in Code, and it is certainly a concept in which I do not have much confidence. But I think Hansen’s ideas regarding the matter are interesting enough to give things a go, so I’ll do my best to explain and illustrate how someone can “wear” space.

“Today’s wearables… might listen to you talk, watch your gestures, and sense changes in your heart rate, blood pressure, and electrodermal response… emotion modulates not just automatic nervous system activity, but the whole body—how it moves, speaks, gestures; almost any bodily signal might be analyzed for clues to the wearer’s affective state. Signals that currently require physical contact to sense, such as electromyogram and skin conductivity, are especially well-suited to wearable technology.”
– Rosalind Picard (175)

“Just as we can use an array of pixels to create any image we please within the confines of the screen, or a three-dimensional array of voxels to create any form within the confines of an overall volume, so we can create a precise sense-shape with an array or volume of appropriate sensels. Such a shape would be exact, but invisible, a region of activated, hypersensitive space.” – Marcos Novak (175)

These two epigrams begin Chapter 4 of Bodies in Code in order to illustrate two types of what Hansen calls “wearable space:” the first type, as explained by Picard, is a literal wearing of technology so that, similar to our earlier reading of Weiner, the technology operates in a constant homeostasis. Perhaps not the kind of homeostasis we are accustomed to see (i.e. a thermostat), but rather a constant state of connectivity, as seen in Minority Report (my go-to source for cool visions of a technologically superior future), where the users’ eye interacts with his environment around him so that wherever he goes, he is identified.

Such things exist today. We can set our phones so that when we enter an HMV or some other like store, a message goes up on Twitter to say we’ve arrived. There’s no reason that such technology couldn’t be worn literally, but I think having an interactive phone or other piece of equipment in your pocket could constitute being “worn.” This wearable technology is “space” in the way it interacts with the environment so that your cool Nokia wristband/phone is just as much a part of your surrounding environment as the tree you see in the park, or the car in your garage. And therefore so are you a part of that environment, especially if your phone or wearable media has the electromyogramic technology mentioned by Picard. The video below does a great job of explaining just how “wearable” space can be.

“…Eisenman transforms framing from an ‘objective’ condition of the site into a process encompassing site, space, and body or… from a static, black-boxed technical frame to a dynamic bodily-generated one.” – Hansen (209)

“If the body is born into architecture and is from then on inextricable from it, why not take it up in its full scope as an ‘architectural body’ (the body proper plus the architectural surround)?” – Arakawa & Gins (183)

Eisenman’s Staten Island Institute (below), is an example of architectural space or how a building can be wearable, as Novak touches upon in the second epigram above and as Hansen covers in Chapter 4 of his book. Eisenman’s projects are largely attempts to recreate the human form, or in this case, human motion, with architecture. Because Staten Island is a large ferry terminal with a lot of movement in the forms of people and ships, Eisenman wanted to create a structure that personified the fast-paced action inside of it. As Arakawa & Gins point out (above), why should architecture and biological life forms be so different from one another when in fact they are, in everyday life, inseparable? Why should every house and museum be a cube when the human body is entirely nothing like a cube? Eisenman’s free-flowing and kinetic design is beautiful and natural, contrary to the fact that it is unconventional and unfamiliar.

Eisenman wishes to stray from the idea of “interiority” when it comes to his architecture. Just as you can go outside with a jacket or your customizable Nokia phone (examples of prosthetic wearable space) so too does Eisenman want the visitors of his Staten Island Institute to feel as though they are outside “wearing” the architecture that seems to flow so naturally with their movements. He wants his buildings to be prosthetic for his visitors—objects that interact through automated feedback to maintain homeostasis with objects like thermostats, automatic blinds, music systems that follow users as they move through the buildings, etc. Just as a human body shivers if it is cold or sweats if it is hot, Eisenman’s buildings adapt to their environment as well.

– Dyldebeest

Source: Hansen, Mark B.N. Bodies in Code. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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