Knitting: Not Just for Your Grandma


New technologies are making it easier to communicate with loved ones who do not live very close. After years of birthdays, Christmas, and Weed Appreciation Day (come on, don’t act like you don’t enjoy blowing dandelion seeds off into the universe), finding new and exciting gifts for all your loved ones can be quite challenging. Imagine compiling audio files, images, and red-velvet cheesecake recipes and digitally injecting them into the fibers of a scarf that you knitted for your best friend or mom. With technology like this, you could incorporate many gift ideas into one. A mixture of handcrafting and digital technology, the mobile application Spyn allows users to do just that.

Spyn is another technology that emphasizes the changes in the way that we share and tell stories. The technology works by allowing crafters to record their work by using the mobile app to map each stitch and identify where each piece of data is inserted by the knitter. Once the recipient receives the gift, they are able to use the mobile app to locate the points within the stitches to obtain digital information.  The recipient uses Spyn technology to download the embedded videos, images, audio, GPS information, and text to get a feel for the creator’s journey as the project was crafted. This produces a product that can be worn or used, but can also communicate and engage the receiver.

Ok, so maybe you don’t knit, but it still sounds like a cool idea, right? The larger implications for a technology like this are profound. The ability to carry information in everyday objects, such as scarves, blankets, and sweaters could change the way we communicate, organize, transfer data, and decide what to leave at home or leave the house with. Perhaps one day our jewelry, hats, accessories, and even shoe laces will carry information—with a quick scan of your sunglasses, you are able to pull up your favorite book or movie that is embedded in the product. You would never worry about leaving your ideas in a notebook at home because you’d have them uploaded on your own skin.

What kinds of issues could this bring up regarding public policy and privacy? If anyone downloads the Spyn application, does that mean that anyone could get ahold of embedded information? In what way is information protected? As a product that is still in the works, these are definitely things to consider. It may be unlikely that people would gift sensitive information, but that does not mean that it won’t happen. And although we have applications like iCloud, Spyn allows users to incorporate physical craft and artistry alongside digital fabrication. This cross between tangible and digital gifting emphasizes the balance between craftsmanship and technological creativity—a balance that may be necessary for a while.

Image courtesy of Nuwandalice, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license. Thanks Nuwandalice!