da•ta rash \ˈdātə ˈrash\, n. an irritating or unsightly eruption of information on the wrist or other site of wearable technology.
We find the idea of data rash to be extremely compelling, so we’re featuring a series of posts in which IoT usability expert (and our emerging platforms advisor) Josh Clark dives into the idea. This is part 3 of 6.
Clunky objects lend themselves to unsightly data rash. (Literally. The plastic Fitbit Force bracelet was recalled after causing allergic rashes and blistering.) As we’ve begun to dress bodies with wearable technology, the focus has been more on “technology” than on “wearable.” The industry has tended to focus on the engineering question (how can we bolt this technology onto a body?) instead of a more challenging and subtle fashion question (what if this beautiful wearable object happened to be magic?).
We should strive to create objects that people want to wear even without its built-in technology. We might love our gadgets for their special powers, but we should equally love them for their essential wearability as aesthetic objects and personal fashion statements.
Just look to our earliest wearable technologies—eyeglasses and wristwatches—for instructive inspiration. Both gained real commercial traction only when they also became fashion statements—ornamental as well as functional. Fitness fashion (rubber bracelets) and tech fashion (screens and polished titanium) are fine as far as they go, but it’s time to explore a fuller range of fashion and personality in the smart objects we intend to wear. It’s time to look smart, not just act smart.
Our clothing and accessories are personal expressions to the world. Too many of this first generation of smart objects ignore this fundamental external role. They are instead designed for a relentless inward focus, tracking data for private consumption, or displaying info intended solely for its wearer. These gadgets let us wear data, but they rarely share that data with the outside world in the traditional way that we share what we wear. Meantime, the selfie stands in for our current state of digital dress-up.
This is an observation that raises more questions than answers, but those questions all present fascinating and useful starting points for designers. What does it mean to wear data? How can I project data in a way that expresses my passions, my sense of humor, my well being, my state of mind, or whether I’m available for interaction versus feeling private?
In other words, how might we turn data from a rash-inducing assault of information to a personal expression of self?
Next, we’ll dive deeply into how our wearables should also be designed for identity. You can read the article in it’s entirety here.
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