I haven’t switched personalities. I went to the exact sort of tech panels at today’s conference that one might expect me to go to: accessibility, communities, mobilization, crafting and feminism. SO PREDICTABLE.
The younger folks always swear more than the older folks. And there are lots of younger folks at SXSW.
I’m a big fan of tapas. And sauternes. And I should have more of both. Also, I should just go to Spain. Or Europe, generally. Or anywhere. I should just travel and eat more interesting food.
I’ve never been anywhere with such a large collection of nerdery/geekery/etc. in one place. Perhaps only a Star Trek Convention could compete with this. This is the one arena in which I feel totally safe to use my cell phone to Twitter and text madly. Because everyone just assumes you’re live blogging, and that’s cool. I got into one conversation today with someone about what we were going to blog about this event. Madness!
The crafting panel: okay, first, there was a woman knitting, which is cool at a tech conference. Second, I met the BurdaStyle folks, and that was awesome.
[Note: The woman who was knitting found me! Her name is Julia - see comments ]
The panel, well, it was interesting, but I was hoping for something more provocative. The folks were interesting – they talked about uses of technology in crafting – adding diodes and lights to things, experimenting with hi-tech fabrics in sewing, etc. etc. The idea was to experiment with new mediums and new methods of expression, with the idea of not being afraid to venture out into things usually left to engineers. And I think the project of pushing boundaries beyond traditional craft materials and concepts is great. Crafters absolutely should explore new mediums for expression.
But in the end, I wish this panel had relied a bit less on what I thought were some cliche ideas. Their definition of technology … well, technology isn’t math or futuristic electronics or wires or diodes. It isn’t a useless gadget you superimpose onto a thing like taping a light bulb to a dress. It’s not an awkward, inexplicable addition to a traditional craft.
The best technology is always integrated – it’s not the end product, it’s actually part of the process. Technology is how we use what we have, how we make our lives better, how we add meaning, how we improve – it’s innovation, new tools, new processes, new ways to do things. Technology isn’t the future, technology is here, it’s in our everyday lives.
I really missed a recognition that crafters are already huge into technology, not just getting started. In fact, given the innovation and creativity I see from fellow crafters, in a lot of cases I’d say craft IS technology.
Think about tech crafters use already: my sewing machine is a damn fine piece of technology (they did mention this). The blended fabrics we use are the product of technology, and so are most micro-knits, milled fabrics and prints – like cotton quilting prints. Even the plastic rulers and plastic zippers I use are chemistry tech. The metal pins and needles we all use are amazing technology – how do you think those pins got standardized to such precisely correct diameters? There are so many ways beyond these that technology that has already been molded into our crafting lives.
More of my 2 cents.
I’d really hoped that they’d look at crafting and technology from a new media standpoint – crafters have taken a real interest in online interactive technology to explore, invent, open source, trade, experiment, connect and commercialize.
Crafters more than many groups have really embraced what this techie conference is all about – interaction and conversation. Crafters belong here, they should be a part of this conversation about interactivity. I’ve personally seen and met crafters of all ages, from many countries, many socio-economic groups, doing many crafts. But they’re all participating in the same circles, reading the same blogs and magazines, keeping up with crafting trends, and making friends. I think it’s an incredible phenomenon, and worth a serious look.
On a personal level, technology is YOU, dear readers, through this blog. I value all of you and my conversations with you. I try to say hi when you stop by, and read what you have to say too, and it makes my day to get comments and feel like I’m not talking to myself or the wall And I think that’s the technology I wanted to talk about today, this extraordinary phenomenon of all of us – it shows so well that technology is necessarily an end in itself, it’s a means to an end, and the end is human interaction.
Panel “Why Sewing and Knitting Still Matter” – about mixing “technology” with “traditional” crafts to create new things and push boundaries. From left that’s Mouna Andraos of Electronic Crafts, Alison Lewis of IHeartSwitch, Syuzi Pakhchyan of SparkLab, Diana Eng the fashion designer (hidden) and Natalie Zee Drieu of Craft