A Ludic Internet of Things

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Masters thesis in design, 2018

Can IoT systems for the home be designed to support ludic communication?

As homes increasingly grow into ubiquitous computing environments, re-imagining the interplay of computing and everyday domestic life is pertinent to HCI. Building on the traditions of critical and speculative design, this is a first-person inquiry of how Internet of Things (IoT) systems can be designed to support ludic communication between family members at home. In building two bespoke IoT systems and living with them, this research provides alternative visions, beyond efficiency and productivity, of how we might weave computing more deeply into the fabric of the home while supporting the activities traditionally found there, like rest, reflection, and interpersonal connectedness. 

[view thesis document, gallery installation]

Committee members: Audrey Desjardins, PhD; A.J. Brush, PhD; & Michael Smith

We built two unique IoT systems to test by living with them.

The Thought Projectors: A network of video projectors that play a single collaborative YouTube playlist, on loop.

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The Inter(net)coms: a refurbished intercom system functioning like a private whole-house chat-room.

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“By focusing on how users react, rather than on the internal content of the software, a simple computational artefact can be used to communicate a rich and complex idea.”
— Odom et al. 2009, "Understanding Why We Preserve Some Things..."

Design Process

Conducting research in intimate spaces—like the home—is complex. It requires deep ethical sensitivity.

Research methods: diary studies, personal inventories, observations, environment analysis, semi-structured and informal interviewing, participatory design, co-speculation, technology probes

Data collection: photo, video, written notes and reflections, co-design artifacts

findings & future work

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By reducing access to social networks, and perhaps functionality, IoT systems can be designed to encourage communication private and unique to the family/home.

With internet-connected devices in our homes, there are opportunities to recall moments from our pasts, especially through video. The projectors in particular prompted reminiscence on family members’ lives and seemed to foster individuals’ expressions of their unique interests, or sense-of-self.

There are further opportunities to consider how domestic IoT systems can serve as both calming attributes of the home and functional ones at other times. Calm and slowness (slow TV) was an unexpected favorite in the family’s YouTube playlist.

Ludic interactions increased between family members, though longer-term study is needed to know how the design process, distinct from the systems, encouraged such interactions.