(A03)
The social life of smart homes
Location Faraday Lecture Theatre (Faraday Complex)
Date and Start Time 28 Jul, 2018 at 09:30
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Murray Goulden (University of Nottingham) email
  • Stuart Reeves (University of Nottingham) email

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Short abstract

In this session we explore the attempted domestication of Internet of Things technologies, and the interactional implications for members, materials, and the multinationals for whom the smart home offers a new platform to claim.

Long abstract

In this session we explore the attempted domestication of Internet of Things technologies, and what this means for the doing of home life. The shared home presents a dynamic, hierarchical, variegated space, to which the smart home project responds with a shift from designedly 'personal' devices to designedly shared 'ecosystems' that build in ever more complex interactions with organisations and data. The insertion of ubiquitous data collection, processing, and actuation within such intimate and socially complex spaces represents a profound shift and in doing so creates a series of tensions requiring exploration: between lifeworlds outside and inside the home; between black-boxed algorithms and human occupants; between agency and automation; and between the accountabilities of implicated organisations and the household members themselves. At the same time the smart home offers a focal point for investigations into the materiality of new interaction modalities (e.g., voice) and their form (e.g., 'implicit' or 'unwitting' interactions, 'aggregated' or 'collective' interactions). Finally, the smart home implicates novel design perspectives based in unfamiliar 'materials' (e.g., data, AI techniques).

We call for papers that address the social life of smart homes in different ways, which might include:

1. Visions of the smart home, and the language of 'smart'.

2. Smart home technologies and the reshaping of practices and roles in the home.

3. Material interactions with and repurposings of smart technology.

4. Lateral surveillance, sousveillance, privacy and trust.

5. Digital economy, data, control and the smart home.

6. Metrics and quantification of shared domestic life.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

On the embedding of voice agents in everyday home life

Author: Stuart Reeves (University of Nottingham) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores a series of empirical examples of voice interface use (Amazon Echo) in the home and the practical achievement of embedding this use into the organisation of action.

Long abstract

This paper explores a series of empirical examples of voice interface use (Amazon Echo) in the home and the practical achievement of embedding this use into the organisation of action.

"Click here to delete the family group": 'smart' taxonomies and domestic life

Author: Murray Goulden (University of Nottingham) email
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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.

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.

Your mother is watching you: lateral surveillance in smart homes

Authors: Albrecht Kurze (Chemnitz University of Technology) email
Andreas Bischof (Chemnitz University of Technology) email
Johanna Richter (Chemnitz University of Technology) email
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Short abstract

The paper reports a cultural probe study on Smart Home data. During the study several cases of lateral surveillance occured within the households. The analysis reveals two major preconditions for lateral surveillance in the Smart Home: Situated knowledge and asymmetrical access to data.

Long abstract

Smart Home applications raise questions over privacy. Even seemingly inconspicuous data from simple sensors for light or humidity can reveal domestic activities. In order to investigate if users are aware of potential threats of simple sensor data, we designed a probe study (Gaver 1999; Graham et al. 2007). Participants from 9 households collected data, performed data work and conclusively discussed their experiences.

One surprising finding of the field study was that it lead to lateral surveillance within the households. Participants used sensor data to confront other residents with their domestic activity, e.g. being wasteful with energy or controlling their presence/absence. The analysis of this situations reveals two major preconditions for lateral surveillance through Smart Home technology: Participants used situated knowledge (Haraway 1988) about the place and the routine to identify and track other persons in the data. Furthermore, if the access to the data and the literacy of using it was asymmetrically distributed, lateral surveillance was far more likely to occur. Interestingly, the perception of the surveillance aspect of the sensor data was ambivalent. While the participants understood that surveilling others became possible through the data, they did not feel critical about the technology per se and would grant access to their own data in some cases.

Concluding the paper reflects those findings in two dimensions. Firstly, it is exploratory work to investigate social implications of Smart Home technology in situ. Secondly, we can derive design implications for future, more participatorily designed Smart Home applications.

Supporting caregivers and care recipients with home-based technology: an Amazon Alexa pilot

Author: Galina Madjaroff (University of Maryland Baltimore County) email
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Short abstract

With this research, I explore how home-based technologies, specifically the Amazon Echo can support the autonomy and safety of both caregivers and care recipients subsequent to the onset of cognitive disability (i.e. before the progression to severe neurocognitive disorder).

Long abstract

Mutually supportive technology - a technology that could potentially maintain both actor's (caregiver and care recepient) psychosocial needs - will allow for an adequate negotiation of autonomy and safety between the care recipient with mNCD and their familial caregivers. This in turn will shift the actors' predominant narrative from the impact of the decline on both actors to the state of the biopsychosocial well-being of both actors.

To explore this question, I am utilizing a technology that can be used by and can potentially support all actors in the family system - a home based digital agent, or smart speaker that combines voice recognition and possesses intelligent assistant capabilities; specifically, the commercially available Amazon Echo. This technology can afford those affected with mNCD with something they have lost- self reliance, for the caregiver- a feeling of safety for the person they care for, and for both actors- autonomy.

Home energy management in smart homes: what role for householders?

Authors: Robin Smale (Wageningen University) email
Gert Spaargaren (Wageningen University) email
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Short abstract

The potential role of smart home dwellers as 'co-managers' of energy is contested. A Dutch case study of how Home Energy Management practices are performed reveals how smart energy management technologies (fail to) facilitate novel trust relationships and take-up of low-carbon objectives and skills.

Long abstract

Smart grids enable householders to contribute to the better matching of renewable energy generation and demand. Smart homes are a key component of this smart grid vision. However, the potential role of smart home dwellers as 'co-managers' of energy in smart grids has been widely contested in (social practices) literature. Drawing on the findings of 16 qualitative interviews and 'show-and-tell' conversations with householders involved in a Dutch smart grid pilot project, the paper analyses how home energy management is performed in everyday life with a focus on three technologies: monitoring technology (in-home display, online platform), the smart (remote controlled) heat pump, and the home battery.

The case study describes how and why householders engaged and disengaged themselves with energy management during subsequent phases of the pilot project. The analysis shows that householders develop and internalize energy management skills, understandings, and objectives through the performance of Home Energy Management Practices. However, energy management technologies effectively distribute energy management powers and responsibilities across households, technologies, experts and market actors in varying ways, often taking agency away from householders. The implications of this are discussed in relation to the emerging trust relationships between residents of smart homes and providers of (smart) energy management technologies and services.

Engaging with smart assistants, reshaping home activities

Authors: Clair-Antoine Veyrier (SENSE, xdlab, Orange Labs) email
Julia Velkovska (Orange Labs) email
Moustafa Zouinar email
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Short abstract

Drawing on a video-ethnographic study of the usage of voice assistants, we examine how users engage with these systems and how this engagement may reshape everyday home activities. We also consider the social implications of IVAs seen as mediators connecting the inside and the outside of the home.

Long abstract

In this paper we focus on "intelligent" voice assistants (IVA) which are progressively populating home environments. Drawing on video data of the usage of different IVA completed with interviews, we examine how users engage with them at home and how this engagement may reshape everyday activities. Wefocus on two main points:

(1) How the use of IVA reshapes activities and routines inside the household?

Home assistants are seen as a new mediation for a variety of activities at home, from leisure to information or controlling home devices. We suggest seeing smart speakers as embedded in the ecology of shared spaces and activities. The analysis is informed by conversation analysis and ethnomethodology to discuss how daily routine activities are performed and reshaped through the use of smart speakers. We shed lights on how those mediations are embedded in the materiality of daily routines.

(2) How the use of IVA reshapes the border between the inside of the home and the outside world?

IVA are also acting as mediators (Latour 2005) connecting the inside and the outside of the home world. We explore both social practices and regulators recommendations and warnings aiming to manage this border between the inside and the outside, the private and the public, between trust and mistrust.

Our study shows on the empirical level that the diffusion of IVA raises a number of questions concerning interaction and appropriation. It also raises questions about ethical, legal and political framework regarding issues such as privacy, trust, the autonomy of machines.

Are smart electricity display-monitors smart enough to disrupt the everyday?

Authors: Máté János Lőrincz (University of Reading) email
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Short abstract

This paper provides an empirical examination of the lived experiences and energy-usage outcomes of the application of smart energy monitoring technologies within student household. It employs a social practice theory perspective in order to explore the ways in which such technologies are appropriated into daily lives, providing insight into, and possible explanation of, the effects that smart monitoring can have. In doing so, the research demonstrates that smart monitors have an effect, but cannot be explained through rational calculations, which confound the dominant framing of such technologies within paradigms that privilege methodological individualism.

Long abstract

Disruptive life course events often prompt us to re-consider the 'everyday' and it can provide a 'window of opportunity' for innovations and behavioural change. Disruptions (such as moving house) - temporary breakdowns in the flow of events - are central to understanding the norms, practices and technologies that construct the socially accepted definition of normality: disruptions allow us to investigate what is actually perceived as normal (Warde 2005, Shove et al. 2012). More importantly, disruptions allows us to investigate the 'situated process of gathering the knowledge' required to accomplish practices and achieve change (Nicolini 2011, Roberts 2006). In this perspective, disruption would reveal how 'know-how' (or embodied habits, Gram-Hanssen 2011) is learned, travel between moments of performance and how they change and 'fossilise' (Shove et al. 2012). This presentation is informed by research with newly established student households and their evolving electricity consumption practices. Following Strengers et al. (2014) argument that electricity consumption is a social process within a home, I will explore whether and how smart electricity-display monitors shifts the distribution of 'know-how' within students' homes, including its distribution between human and non-human entities (Watson et al. 2008). In conclusion, I will ask whether this process helps in understanding the 'everyday' where the home and its residents transform one another (Pink et al. 2012).

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.