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In dialogue with our bodies: becoming embodied knowers

Authors:
  • ITI/LARSyS IST U. Lisbon

Abstract and Figures

We discuss how explorations in art and design, at the intersection of science and technology, are uniquely situated to address women's intimate care and contribute to revolutionize practices within the female body. We review feminist theories that underpin our woman-centered designerly approaches to creating technologies and interactions that promote bodily awareness, and invite women to become embodied knowers. Certainly, the female body remains a contested topic. As advanced elsewhere by philosopher Denise Riley, the concept of the female body is underpinned by a core of identification of experiences associated with women, such as pregnancy or menstruation. Yet, woman as a category continues to evolve and women are far from being one homogeneous group. Nonetheless, knowledge available about women's and men's bodies is disproportionate, and knowledge, or lack thereof, is actively produced. In building on this, we argue that knowledge available to women is lacking. Moreover, knowledge that was once inaccessible and technologies that were institutionally bound are currently being challenged by the rise of citizen science, do-it-yourself (DIY), and open source approaches. If, on the one hand, such approaches emphasize active participation as an option to gathering and generating data, e.g about ourselves, our bodies, or the environment, on the other, these data have the potential to disrupt, e.g institutional care, and to promote self-care, all in all creating opportunities for change. We will introduce our own artistic explorations and designs that attempt to explore notions of the scientific body in its relation to biology and entanglements with technology. These include DIY alternative biological practices that embrace domestic remedies (Future Flora, please see figure 1) and wearable biosensors that monitor pH fluids (Alma, please see figure 2) through playful hands-on interventions with electronic textiles (an eTextile Toolkit, please see figure 3) and digital applications (Labella, please see figure 4). Our exemplars align with the ongoing inquiry concerned with addressing the body as a lens for innovating in intimate technologies, the kind that are not confined to the clinical setting. These novel explorations, we argue, configure woman as an active participant, and her (taking) action is at the fore when we design systems that enhance and nurture knowledge.
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FEMeeting 2019
FEMeeting2019 (https://femeeting.com/)
Vila Nova de Milfontes/Lisbon/Porto
June 2019
Teresa Almeida and Giulia Tomasello
Presentation Title: In dialogue with our bodies: becoming embodied knowers
Keywords: Women’s Health; Intimate Care; Woman-Centered Design; Female Biophilia; Toolkits.
Abstract
We discuss how explorations in art and design, at the intersection of science and technology, are
uniquely situated to address women’s intimate care and contribute to revolutionize practices within
the female body. We review feminist theories that underpin our woman-centered designerly
approaches to creating technologies and interactions that promote bodily awareness, and invite
women to become embodied knowers. Certainly, the female body remains a contested topic. As
advanced elsewhere by philosopher Denise Riley, the concept of the female body is underpinned
by a core of identification of experiences associated with women, such as pregnancy or
menstruation. Yet, woman as a category continues to evolve and women are far from being one
homogeneous group. Nonetheless, knowledge available about women’s and men’s bodies is
disproportionate, and knowledge, or lack thereof, is actively produced. In building on this, we argue
that knowledge available to women is lacking. Moreover, knowledge that was once inaccessible and
technologies that were institutionally bound are currently being challenged by the rise of citizen
science, do-it-yourself (DIY), and open source approaches. If, on the one hand, such approaches
emphasize active participation as an option to gathering and generating data, e.g about ourselves,
our bodies, or the environment, on the other, these data have the potential to disrupt, e.g institutional
care, and to promote self-care, all in all creating opportunities for change.
We will introduce our own artistic explorations and designs that attempt to explore notions of the
scientific body in its relation to biology and entanglements with technology. These include DIY
alternative biological practices that embrace domestic remedies (Future Flora, please see figure 1)
and wearable biosensors that monitor pH fluids (Alma, please see figure 2) through playful hands-
on interventions with electronic textiles (an eTextile Toolkit, please see figure 3) and digital
applications (Labella, please see figure 4). Our exemplars align with the ongoing inquiry concerned
with addressing the body as a lens for innovating in intimate technologies, the kind that are not
confined to the clinical setting. These novel explorations, we argue, configure woman as an active
participant, and her (taking) action is at the fore when we design systems that enhance and nurture
knowledge.
FEMeeting 2019
Figure 1. Future Flora: Celebrating a female biophilia approach by wearing bacteria in underwear.
Photo credit: Tom Mannion
Figure 2. Alma is a wearable biosensor designed for women to monitor vaginal fluids.
Photo credit: Giulia Tomasello
FEMeeting 2019
Figure 3. DIY Wearable eTextiles, assembling pelvic floor muscles: from screenprint to knickers. Photo
credit: Ko-Le Chen
Figure 4. Labella, using a bespoke piece of underwear and a mobile app to ‘Look Down There’. Photo credit:
Ko-Le Chen
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