"Click here to delete the family group": 'smart' taxonomies and domestic life
Murray Goulden (University of Nottingham)
Paper short abstract:
Realising the 'smart home' vision requires the integration of domestic life into the global digital economy. This talk interrogates current efforts by Google and Amazon to apply taxonomies of family life which are amenable to technologies of commerce.
Paper long abstract:
The deployment of 'smart' ICT technologies into the home has created a new domain in which technology companies compete to establish a monopoly platform (Srnicek 2016). Such a platform offers a marketplace in which domestic life interfaces with global capital. More than simply offering another channel through which to consume, this entails the integration of the home into the digital economy. Such a move requires a disciplining of domestic life, through a series of standardised metrics. Addressing this effort, my talk focuses on the implementation of Google Families and Amazon Household. These services, from the front runners in the race for domestic platform dominance, prescribe a domestic group, and a series of roles within it. On one level, these classifications can be read as a recognition, by an industry built on the atomism of individual user and personal data, of embedding technologies within a social environment. Classification is always a performative, ethical act however. In formatting domestic relationships such that they are amenable to digital reproduction, technology designers define a set of relations and interactions between both group members, and the group and the world outside. This process also implicates the platform owners themselves, particularly in the tensions between domestic hierarchies and the flat topography of Silicon Valley's social worlds. Institutions have a long history of shaping the structure of domestic life. The talk shall address the novel aspects of this latest incursion, its possible consequences, and the lessons it offers for understanding the smart home project.
The social life of smart homes