How Living Digital Football Shirts Were Made From Online Abuse Of Female Athletes | Technicolor Creative Studios | Open mic
Mill artists Will MacNeil and Seph Li have designed a next-gen football (soccer) shirt that highlights the negative online treatment faced by female footballers in England. The shirts have been worn by EE’s Hope United football team, including several players from England’s women’s Euro squad.
As our beloved athletes triumphed on the world stage at EURO, now is the perfect time to talk about what’s happening in the shadows of social media. The type of ongoing abuse our players are exposed to and the psychological and physical impact it has on them.
The EE Hope United team was created by Saatchi and Saatchi to highlight the problem of hate speech on social media and across the metaverse. The team includes well-known players from the men’s and women’s leagues as well as paraathletes.
How online hate materialized
The shirts, unique to each player, were created using a specially developed generative art application that converts statistical data on online hate speech into a mosaic of patterns and colors. Each jersey reflects the amount of anti-women, anti-black and anti-LGBT+ hate speech directed at the player.
As design director Will MacNeil says, “Online abuse tends to be anonymous, and as a result abusers get away with horrible behavior. We wanted to bring this story out of the shadows and put it, literally, on a player’s chest.”
The Mill Experience team explored a range of visual expressions of hate speech and created graphic language with different motifs representing racism, sexism and homophobia. They then looked for ways to bring these patterns to life in code as part of their generative art application. The app was designed specifically to accept data values that represent hate speech and drive the prevalence and intensity of each pattern based on the strength of those values. The system is designed to automatically update itself whenever new data sets are entered.
Data Science and the Materialized Art of Online Abuse
The team worked alongside Dr Matthew Williams, a criminologist and data scientist specializing in online hate crime, and founded Cardiff University’s HateLab. Dr. Williams’ team has built a unique machine learning system that reads social media posts and identifies hateful comments. HateLab scanned Team Hope United’s Twitter posts over a six-week period and created datasets for each player. These were then ingested into The Mill’s generative design system to create the individual shirt designs.
Digital fashion and the finality of value
As well as supporting a vital campaign against online abuse, MacNeil sees it as the start of a wave of personalization in digital art. “A lot of people talk about NFTs as a way to create value in digital art. The idea being that you create a sense of exclusivity that makes something valuable. We’re much more interested in creating art and objects that people love because they “are unique to them. Imagine having your very own football shirt that is clearly linked to your favorite team, but is also unique to you and tells your story. We’re exploring a range of ways to link digital designs to people’s personal experiences. “This approach opens up a world of online applications and social media.
Live Virtual Clothing in Live Sports and Entertainment
This virtual fashion has the potential to be a living organism that constantly serves as a live reflection of the online feelings an athlete is exposed to. Using augmented reality, we can ask our athletes to wear their virtual shirts during press conferences, post-match interviews and other public appearances to give the public a real-time glimpse of what our fabulous athletes are exposed online during specific matches or tournaments.
“Digital fashion should be responsive and has the power to reflect a wearer’s behavior and personality in real time, while reflecting the time, place and culture that defines our behavior,” said Stephan Bischof (ECD , Mill Experience).
The Mill wants to explore the future of hybrid clothing, leveraging innovations in electronic fabrics to create physical fashion that can be as responsive and reflective as virtual fashion. Athletes could wear these shirts during a match and depict both online and offline support and fabric abuse in real time. The fabric design would morph and change as the game progressed, amplifying awareness, while giving fans the ability to count the hate with messages of support and hope.
New worlds, new stories, new experiences
Here at The Mill’s Experience Studio, we are focused on listening to emerging global culture to reimagine brand worlds in bold new spaces and connect people with new ways of being and seeing.
Come talk to us, we are passionate collaborators to create with you the next generation of experience.
Read more about the EE Hope United campaign here
Learn more about The Mill and its commitment to DEI here
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