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  • IdIOT: second-order cybernetics in the 'smart' home

Fantini van Ditmar, Delfina, 2016, Thesis, IdIOT: second-order cybernetics in the 'smart' home PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

During thesis brings second-order cybernetics into design research, in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT) and ‘smart’ homes. My main proposition is to question and critically analyse the embedded epistemology in IoT technology in relation to human centred activities.
I examine how human lives are represented within the quantified approaches inherent in current notions of ‘smart’ technology, derived from Artificial Intelligence (AI), and characterise this as the Algorithmic Paradigm. I explore questions of how complex, lived, human experience is oversimplified in the IoT. By adopting an epistemology derived from second-order cybernetics — acknowledging the importance of the observer — combined with my ‘IdIoT Proposition’, a way of ‘slowing down’ research on a fast-paced topic, I explore designing reflectively.
The IdIoT is a methodological framework characterised by the process of slowing down and asking ‘What are we busy doing?’ in order to become aware of algorithmic oversimplifications. This methodological approach provides self- awareness and self-reflection on ‘the way of knowing the world’ to the researcher and to the participants, in the context of the Algorithmic Paradigm applied in IoT.
Through a series of practice-based projects, I use the figure of the ‘SMART’ fridge to examine the implications of the Algorithmic Paradigm in the ‘smart’ home. The consideration that ‘smartness’ is relational is investigated in Becoming Your ‘SMART’ Fridge, in which I position myself as the algorithm behind a ‘smart’ fridge, using quantitative and qualitative data to make sense and ‘nonsense’ outcomes, and exploring householders’ interpretations. In the ‘SMART’ Fridge Session, I developed scripted dialogues characterised by active, reflective users, and assigned roles in which the ‘smartness’ of the algorithms is explored via professional performances and fictitious roles taken on by members of the public. The findings reveal the value of second-order cybernetics, acknowledging an unpredictable observer and embracing ‘smart’ as relational in interaction with IoT technology. They suggest that a shift in perspective is required to create more meaningful interactions with devices in the ‘smart’ home, questioning the current technological path, challenging the dominant epistemology and proposing alternatives. My methodological approach demonstrates how design research and
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second-order considerations can work together, asking novel questions to inform disciplines with an interest in the IoT, both from a design perspective and in terms of broader implications for society. The work has value for design, HCI, Critical Algorithm Studies, and for technical developers involved in the creation of IoT systems.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Architecture > K100 Architecture
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
School or Centre: School of Design
Funders: National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT), Government of Chile
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2016 15:53
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2017 20:04
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1835

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