[preprint-paper] “It Becomes More of an Abstract Idea, this Privacy” – Informing the Design for Communal Privacy Experiences in Smart Homes

This paper summarises a pivotal chapter of my doctoral thesis. It has just been submitted for peer review and is now available as a preprint.

In spite of research recognizing the home as a shared space and privacy as inherently social, privacy in smart homes has mainly been researched from an individual angle. Sometimes contrasting and comparing perspectives of multiple individuals, research has rarely focussed on how household members might use devices communally to achieve common privacy goals. An investigation of communal use of smart home devices and its relationship with privacy in the home is lacking. The paper presents a grounded analysis based on a synergistic relationship between an ethnomethodologically-informed study and a grounded theory approach. The study focuses on household members’ interactions to show that household members’ ability to coordinate the everyday use of their devices depends on appropriate conceptualizations of roles, rules, and privacy that are fundamentally different from those embodied by off-the-shelf products. Privacy is rarely an explicit, actionable, and practical consideration among household members, but rather a consideration wrapped up in everyday concerns. Roles and rules are not used to create social order, but to account for it. To sensitize to this everyday perspective and to reconcile privacy as wrapped up in everyday concerns with the design of smart home systems, the paper presents the social organization of communal use as a descriptive framework. The framework highlights critical challenges and opportunities for the design of communal privacy experiences.

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