The promise of interactivity is quietly but systematically undergoing a downgrade that will require a lot less activity on the part of the user – and a lot more on the dispersed ‘smart’ objects that will eventually populate their lives. This article reads the promotional literature on ‘smart’ clothes through the lens of Benjamin's discussion of fetishism and flânerie, considering the ways in which such clothes provide a mobile form of bourgeois interiority: a ‘casing’ that allows the user to make an individualized impression on the world. The promise is one of comfort and convenience, offered in exchange for the ability to gather detailed information about consumers. Smart clothing realizes the phantasmagoria of the commodity world described by Benjamin – one in which the commodities embark on a life of their own, taking on the active role ceded by the pacified consumer. At the same time, one can recognize in the digitally encased consumers the after-image of the flâneur insofar as they participate in the work of being watched. The article concludes with a discussion of the uncanniness of this re-emergent form of commodity fetishism.
- new media
- Walter Benjamin