Critical Wearables Research Lab

This is an open event: we welcome anyone interested in critically reshaping the future of wearables and their impact on society. Here’s the registration form for the event. There’s more information below.


There is an urgent need to open up critical thinking and doing around wearable technologies. The headlong rush to market and the huge potential for applications like personal health monitoring occlude both the potential dark side and the possibility for wearables to be part of alternative social formations.

In the post-Snowden era we cannot ignore the consequences for privacy, ethics and governance of wearing networked devices. Nor can we ignore the way a narrow focus on individual applications overlooks the potential role of wearables in collective and community-driven activities. By questioning the dominant narratives around wearables and facing up to the dark sides of surveillance and unsustainability, the research lab will help to clear the way for fresh and more unexpected questions about their transformatory potentials.

This research lab will be an intensive one-day event that brings together researchers and practitioners to raise questions and generate new ideas, collaborations and methodologies. It will link directly to a second event which will take the form of a hackathon, prototyping practical devices that draw on questions raised by the research lab.


The lab itself will be based on ‘material thinking’ – making speculative devices that combine real wearables with junk material which is used to materialise research questions . This hands-on method can make visible the overlooked aspects of existing assemblages and can encourage new questions about what kind of futures are likely or possible.

During the day this will be combined with demonstrations of real devices, firestarter presentations, group work and discussions. In the morning we will address head-on the the dystopian aspects of wearables, and in the afternoon we will raise interesting research questions about alternative possible futures. The overall format will be in the unconference or barcamp style.

Participants will include researchers from a wide range of fields & disciplines, from fashion to machine learning and from computing to cultural studies. It will appeal to practitioners who are seeking the space to reflect on the meanings being materialised by their current work, and who are looking for new ways to frame future activities.

Categories: Digital Sociology

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