create your own wearable technology to critically engage with invisible borders

what is invisiborders?

Our world is divided by borders. While some are famous for their walls and checkpoints, others impact everyday civic life in invisible ways. Invisiborders was designed to engage wearers with these borders -- the first iteration being a jacket which lights up upon crossing a border. This project was inspired by the practice of gerrymandering in the United States, wherein legislative borders are redrawn in order to benefit one political party over another. Many such borders go invisible in daily life, despite their contentious origins and outsize impact on political action. Initially tested with school district borders, Invisiborders is now being deployed at sites of contestation across the country.

Results from the initial user study led to a theory of wearable politics, which goes beyond merely wearing one's politics on one's sleeve, to contextualize an embodied engagement with political phenomena and associated active reflection on the part of the user. Wearable politics is inherently social, going beyond personal embodiment of abstract processes to also express that embodiment for the provocation of others and the self. Invisiborders enacts wearable politics in intimate and social encounters, in its many different forms. The next phase of Invisiborders seeks to understand these forms and deploy Invisiborders in sites of contestation across America.

Invisiborders was created by Kyle Barnes, an undergraduate studying computer science at Princeton University. It was originally presented as a Work in Progress at the ACM Designing Interactive Systems conference in Eindhoven on July 6-20, 2020.

check out the invisiborders video from designing interactive systems, an acm conference in july 2020

build your own invisiborders:

  1. buy your wearables: AdaFruit Flora GPS kit.
  2. sew your wearables: pick any article of clothing you'd like! but you'll need space for a battery pack, flora board, flora gps, flora neopixels (lights!) and conductive thread. sew your circuit to match this one, and test along the way! more advice in this article (thanks, AdaFruit!).
  3. identify your invisible border: what borders dominate the space you travel through frequently? what borders are less visible? how do they operate? who draws these borders? what invisible aspects of society do they illuminate?
  4. find your coordinates: this may come from a local database, the us census, or elsewhere. i recommend using QGIS to take a closer look and make your data more manageable.
  5. load your coordinates: connect to your flora main board with a microUSB. fire up arduino! add those coordinates to the code on invisiborders github.
  6. wear your invisiborders: wear invisiborders throughout the day. how do you experience this border differently, now that it's made visible? how do you embrace it as a wearable politics? what else could you do with invisiborders?

contact kyle if you have any questions. thanks for checking out invisiborders!