Human Breadboards

May 16, 2016 - Research Project

Last year I participated in an etextiles symposium. I collaborated with a group of educators to explore learning + etextiles and wrote about what we made. I’ve just been re-visiting this in the process of making steps towards defining “squishyness”. I (think) I may be converging on some kind of meaning, and I think that this meaning resonates with the post from last year. I’ve started to move towards a squishy computing that is a slimy-boundary-crossing-primordal kind of sensation. In the e-textiles post form last year I write about the intersection of people (and their bodies) with computers, it was written after a short residency where I explored an idea called “human breadboards” with a group of practitioners.

Below is an extract from that post. The full post can be read here.


The idea behind Human Breadboards grew out of the Education group discussion at the 2015 eTextile Camp (there is a detailed post the about breadth of these discussions here). Working collaboratively, we developed a non-kit-kit called the Kit of Process, which is a online library of swatches designed for educators to learn and teach eTextiles. We spent a lot of time sharing experiences and ideas, and the Human Breadboards came a bit later.

Human Breadboards came about when we started to think beyond the idea of a static swatch, and centre ideas around learning in multiple dimensions. As a concept it was not as developed as much as some of the other ideas we had, however discussions were (are) happening right at then end of the camp, on the train home, and on email, so we are hoping to developing this idea much further. For now though, I’ve made some illustrations that punctuate some key points we discussed to give an overview of the idea surrounding Human Breadboards.


This is what we started to test, and began to ask at the camp: what do we learn when we are leaning with reference to people, the body, the space around us? and how do we are respond to movement, to the heat of the summer, and moisture of the air?

An underlying foundation to eTextiles is that it is a spatial discipline: it is either about the body, place, or environment. And, more often than not, it is movement based. This is where Human Breadboards exists, it is a prototyping tool, just like a regular breadboard, however the prototyping exists in the same dimensions as the discipline. This is the beginning of Human Breadboarding.


Above are some of the thoughts and ideas we discussed in our group, but did we actually make a “human breadboard”?

Yes! At least, we made some initial tests to develop a prototype of a Human Breadboard that uses connectors, wearable swatches, and wearable sensor readings (in progress) on the body. Testing the swatches was more complex than we had anticipated. The big issue was connections (as always), and we developed some custom connections as a solution.

The Human Breadboards concept resonates with a lot of the work I’ve been doing in education over the past year or so, and I hope to research more into how multi-dimensional learning could be used in teaching traditionally technical subjects (such as programming and electronics). I’ll be starting an MA course this month (more on that soon), and I’d like to take the multi-dimensional-technical-learning road in my research.