Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sophia Bender - Embedded Sewer

Hi everyone! I'm Sophia, and I'll be working on sewing outfits this semester.

This is me:

Believe it or not, this is also me:

Yes, that's right! I'll be sewing outfits particularly for the purpose of cosplay!

I'm a third-year Learning Sciences PhD student working in Dr. Kylie Peppler's Creativity Labs, where I'm exploring ways that hands-on making can make education more creative, playful, and interest-driven. I've done a lot of work with e-textiles (more info at our other blog here!), which integrate electronics with clothing, accessories, and other soft articles. We've found that e-textiles help kids to learn circuitry better than other circuit kits do, and seem to be more appealing and inviting to girls than other techie toolkits are, thus opening up the possibility that this could be an alternative pathway into STEM fields for them. This is particularly important because women are so underrepresented in STEM fields. But our goal is not just to introduce girls into conventional STEM fields. We hope that these experiences may inspire them to transform those arenas entirely! Diversifying the voices and perspectives of these traditionally white-male-dominated fields can help to do that.

So it's super exciting that the Re-Crafting Math project builds directly off of this prior work, by looking at how we can rethink math education through the use of traditionally feminine textile crafts. It may be shifting the focus from science to math, but the overarching goal is the same: increasing female representation in STEM fields, and hoping to transform those fields entirely.

Where does cosplay fit into all of this? Fan culture happens to be another one of my interests, but this is the first chance I've had to explore it through research! It's really amazing to me that certain stories can be so powerful that they inspire people to create all sorts of appreciative fanworks around them, including entire elaborate outfits so they can dress up as the characters they love. And surely some math had to go into making an outfit that fits you and looks right! What a fruitful area of already-existing deep engagement! If we can show cosplayers that they're already engaging in science and math when they make their outfits, then perhaps we can open new vistas of possibilities to them.

I'm already involved in a sewing community here in Bloomington, Indiana--Discardia, a group of upcyclers that holds a monthly Mending Day at the local library, where they help you to mend your clothes so you can continue to wear them instead of throw them away, or else they help you upcycle old clothes and scraps into brand new outfits. Already, Discardia members have helped me a great deal with my mending projects and with the cosplay above. In my future posts, I'll share more about this unique, generous community, as well as about my experiences with making and wearing cosplays. Looking forward to sharing my whimsical journey with you!

1 comment:

  1. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

    Stem Education