Stitching Worlds: exploring Textiles and Electronics

Ricardo O' Nascimento
4 min readJan 20, 2021

This text aims to reflect on the book ‘Stitching Worlds: exploring Textiles and Electronics’ edited by Ebru Kurbak and contributions by a stellar team of writers, thinkers, and textile practitioners.

Book cover.

The book is the written outcome of the art-based research project of the same name. The research explores a speculative scenario where the materials involved in consumer electronics production belong to the textile realm. Between 2014 and 2018, the team created artefacts and installations that offer critical comment on how we relate to technologies and how they are produced. Ebru Kurbak, the principal investigator and project leader, stresses that ‘Stitching worlds’ is an art project. She says that the intentions behind the project are what places it in the art field. This approach contradicts the utilitarian and unbiases processes that the tech industry has been taking while forcing technologies down our throats. In this research, the goal is not the profit, but instead “the defining criteria can be set on values.” The researchers propose a critical reflection on technologies through the craft of a new technological object. This process highlights skills, contexts, and actors that seem misplaced at first, but it makes a lot of sense in the proposed imaginary past.

Irene Posch, the key researcher and contributor to this book, made evident the crossover between textile crafts and computational technologies. A brief look at the history of computer sciences validates the notion that both fields have a lot in common. Posch points out “the invention of the Jacquard weaving loom, as an early, digitally controlled machine or the weaving of magnetic -core memories as random-access memory for early computers” as examples of this intersection. After this initial common ground, both fields went their own ways in separate.

Posch makes a fascinating point by comparing a pair of liturgic papal gloves from the sixteenth century with a winter night biking gloves she made herself. She notices that both use similar material: golden threads. For the papal gloves, the material is used for embellishment purposes. For the bike gloves, they are used for their conductive qualities. She rightfully questions why the combination of textiles and electronic did not happen much earlier. In the research, they speculate…

Ricardo O' Nascimento

Ricardo is a Postdoctoral researcher in human and material experiences at the Materials Science Research Centre.