Wearable Health Technology Design: A Humanist Accessory Approach
Trine Møller, Sarah Kettley


This article presents the “accessory approach,” conceived as a holistic form of body adornment, not only associated with fashion, but also as a design approach which includes a wearer’s physical, psychological and social preferences. We propose this as a humanistic design philosophy which may inform the design of future wearable health technology, in contrast to increasing trends toward the medicalization and quantification of people’s whole lives. At the same time, there is a pragmatic case to be made for more human-centred approaches to the design of assistive technologies for the body, which are frequently rejected by end users due to poor cultural (as well as physical) fit. We examine the potential socio-phenomenological framework offered by the accessory as a relational category of both expressive and functional objects. Using Cunningham’s framework of narrative contemporary jewellery, we analyse three projects, and show how the accessory can function as a complex platform to support relations between maker, wearer and viewer. Finally, we relate this approach to the debate in interactive wearable design regarding the visibility of technology on the body, and propose a shift from designing wearable health technologies with minimal “social weight,” to providing a relational platform capable of supporting what we have termed “social agility.”

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