Critical Objects - Body Politics project - Club Gloves

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Approaching this project I felt strongly that if I were to attempt to address a critical issue surrounding body politics that I should attempt to offer a commentary or solution aimed specifically at the shortcomings of people who identify like myself, rather than trying to impose an idea on the people that tend to be negatively affected by our behavior.

Throughout my brainstorming process, I kept coming back to the project by Oglivy and Schweppes which was a smart dress that highlighted how often women are groped in the club. This project is a high profile example of what often almost feels like a sub-genre of critical design focused on female-centric objects that defend against unwanted touching that overwhelmingly comes from men. The framework of this sort of idea is that the behavior of men is inevitable and so designs must be created to react to that. This reality is obviously horribly troubling, but for the sake of this project i decided to draw it out to an exaggerated conclusion to attempt to shine a light on this unfortunate circumstance. If we assume that it is true that men can’t be helped, then doesn’t it make more sense for them to be inconvenienced by preventative technology rather than female-identifying individuals being forced to go out of their way to protect themselves?

This Speculative Design framework is what led to the idea of Club Gloves. This object represents a working prototype for a device which would be offered to club owners in bulk. When male-identifying people arrive to the club, along with showing their ID’s they will also be fitted with a pair of Club Gloves which are locked onto them by an RFID card held by the bouncer at the door. They will then be required to continue to wear the gloves throughout their time in the establishment to at least mitigate some of the inappropriate touching and grabbing that they would inevitably have performed.

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The inflatable portion of this piece owes an incredible design debt to the 90’s children’s toy called Sock’em Boppers. In fact in this prototype, the hand covers are actually just repurposed versions of a knock-off of this toy which I spray-painted and then added my own custom logo to the front of.

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Most of the engineering went into the electro-magnetic lock mechanism and enclosure. Gathering all the electronic parts, I experimented with cardboard prototype shapes to insure that they would fit into the enclosure that I was designing. I also tried a few different handcuff shapes to ensure that it would be both comfortable as well as secure around the wrist of the wearer. I then took that cardboard prototype design and measurements and created a 3D model in Fusion360. The model itself was fairly rudimentary except for the interlocking hinge that I created to ensure I would not need any addition parts for the device to hinge open and close.

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The inner workings were made up of an RFID card reader breakout board and 5V electromagnet all powered by an Arduino Nano. I wrote simple code which toggled off and on the electromagnet when a recognized RFID card was touched to the sensor. Upon assembling all the parts, I realized that my locking mechanism design was not holding firmly when the magnet was activated. To solve this problem I fastened a spring mounted latch that allowed for a more secure connection.

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Ultimately, while I am happy with the result and the new tech I got a chance to experiment with, there were a few lessons I learned which would improve this design if I were to iterate on it. Firstly, in the process of redesigning a custom latch for my device, I realized that it is possible to purchase fairly simple and effective solenoid door latches which would have offered a much simpler mechanism for locking the handcuffs. I also was having some issues with combined current requirements for the magnet and RFID reader that meant that the device only correctly functions when powered by a brand new 9V battery or an outlet-connected microUSB cable. This would be something worth further examination if I were interested in creating a more robust version of this project.