[media] Whose clutter is this? Tending smart homes

Alexa, Roomba, Kayla, Cozmo, Ring and Nest all crave your attention

This article was published in the Winter 2018 edition of the Oxford’s Computer Science Department’s magazine called Inspired Research

Assistants, household helpers, toys and smart building technology, powered by electricity and data, all are making their way into ever more households. When such new objects are brought to our home, challenges arise to the established way we do things. 

Naturally, change is perceived in different ways by different people. Some change might be rather obvious and mundane. Where should the vacuum cleaner be kept? How should it be used? What rules and limits should be enforced for children?

Research highlights how we have learned to deal with problems but also less obvious change brought about by the very same internet-connected devices. Do we understand how they work? What do we do if they don’t work? This is the process of domesticating new technologies: eventually shoehorning them into our lifestyles or changing the way we live our lives. 

However, people go about such things in inherently different ways, following the established communal order of the home, and personal knowledge, preferences, and attitudes. Such situations can lead to social conflicts between different household members, relating to usage but also to ‘security’ or ‘privacy’. What data, whose, and in which situations is being collected? Is everyone equally content with its collection? What does the collected data say about others in the household? 

Martin Kraemer’s DPhil research seeks to empower householders’ privacy practices, the routine way householders go about defining and managing their own privacy. His research looks beyond the individual aiming to understand how the collaborative work of privacy practices can be understood and supported through system design.

As part of a larger initiative, Martin is working with his supervisor Prof. Ivan Flechais and DPhil student Norbert Nthala to empower households in managing the challenges of achieving a more balanced relationship with technology through digital wellbeing.

More information: https://digiwell.web.ox.ac.uk/

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