Group discussion around the theme “Wicked Fabrics,” eTextile Summer Camp 2017. Photo by Mika Satomi.

When faced with the idea of wickedness as it relates to our experiences, world, and practice, what are the questions we must ask? The goal of this discussion is not to start solving our wicked problems. First we must determine the questions in order to start untangling the complexity that fuels them.


Audrey Briot
Rachel Freire
Lara Grant
Zoe Romano
Becky Stewart
Liza Stark (moderator)


FOCUS: Sustainability

Why focus on sustainability?
Given all the wicked problems confronting us, for this discussion the group decided to focus on one that is relevant to our practice, that impacts our global society, and that we might have the most impact on: sustainability. We will take a broad definition of sustainability focused on quality of life both now and later. This includes environmental impact, labor, and preserving practices that value pushing boundaries instead of acquiescing to them.

Where we started: What will happen when eTextiles and wearable tech become mainstream?
Fast fashion has become a cultural norm with companies and consumers reinforcing the trend. What will happen when a million people purchase an eTextile product? How can this new field enter the mainstream without having such a negative impact? What are the actions we need to take as early practitioners? What are the preventative actions? How can technology > fashion > textile not make the problem even worse? We’re still on a cusp, we’re still nascent. Perhaps there is still time to change.

Lots more questions…

  • Will it become a part of this trend?
  • What will be its lifecycle? It’s impact on people and environments?
  • What will labor practices look like – will they be fair or not?
  • How will we properly dispose of ewaste and other potentially toxic materials?
  • Is it early enough in the eTextiles/wearable era for us to impact manufacturing practices and act as
  • leaders in sustainable practices and values?
  • What values are at the heart of such a movement?
  • How can a focus on these values align to the personal stories and beliefs of different stakeholders?
  • What is the role of narrative to create meaningful connections between consumer and object?
  • What can we learn from “slow” movements (e.g. slow food)?
  • What tools do we need to create awareness?
  • Who are the stakeholders that we consider leverage points?
  • How do we communicate this to different audiences (companies, colleagues, consumers)?
  • How will mainstream adoption change our community of practice?
  • Will it lead to more or less curiosity and inquisitiveness and mischieviousness?
  • What possible structures can we build in now to ensure a shared vision and set of values moving forward?
  • How will the consumer become educated, informed and aware of the consequences so they can make informed decisions.
  • Can we ensure consumers will make the right choice? What’s will make the consumer a stakeholder?
  • Does scale come into factor? Do we go with a “sky’s the limit” global capitalist model or scale down?



  • Part 1: Moderated small group discussion. (30 min)
  • Part 2: Breakout roundtables. Two panel participants will lead a small group discussion with 8-10 other summercampers around one of the following subgroups (40 min)
    • Materials: Are we thinking about the materials? Is it important to think about? When does that come into our awareness? RACHEL + LARA
      • This small group discussed the potential of reward systems that would incentivize companies to implement more sustainable practices. But it’s not just about changing the story at at industry level – we need to shift the narrative at every level: company, distributors, consumers, government, etc.
    • Awareness + Activism: How can we present our practice in a way that pushes sustainability to forefront as leaders in our field? How can we create more awareness around sustainable practices? LIZA + BECKY
      • This group discussed the agency (and responsibility?) summercampers have starting to change the story. Since we know the steps, we know the stitches and seams and circuits, we can intervene. They explored current shifts in consumer culture (fast fashion), the companies we should be influencing, and different service-oriented business models (cobblers are still kicking). How can we create a culture of lending/repair and self-reliance? Perhaps there is an empowerment element as well – it’s not about taking it to someone else to get repaired, but learning how to repair it yourself. What would it take to shift the masses’ mindset in that direction?.
    • Slowness + Stories: What can we learn from other “slow” practices? How can we embed deeper meaning into our process and designs that allow people to connect it to their own experiences? What cultural narratives are the most relevant? What rituals can we connect to? ZOE + AUDREY
      • This group examined ways of exchanging knowledge and the narratives that drive how we use information. They discussed forming support groups to share best practices and resources (i.e. which are the companies are open and sustainable so we can source from them over others, how to recycle conductive material, etc) as well as open sourcing all of the information as a means of educating new generations of practitioners. Stemming from this, what are the long and short stories around invention and innovation? What value do these stories have to the company, the masses, and the individual? We need to be proactive.
  • Part 3: Share out (30 min)
    • Here are the final questions from the groups:
      • What business models lead to sustainability?
      • What are the big companies and/or industries we should influence?
      • How do we design for customization, modularity, evolution of the aesthetic?
      • How do you sell sustainability? To companies and investors, to the mass market, and to yourself?
      • How do we make an easy-to-read global standardization of the recycling/reuse process?
      • How does the use lifetime of an object affect material choice?
      • How to we rate the sustainability of materials? Can we create a price/fee-based model on this scale?