Colloquium

Colloquium came and went this week and I think it went well. I need to spend some time over reading week actually reading, and arranging my articles into something coherent. I should also do some writing. Here’s my poster / one slide I made:

And just so I have things all in one place, here’s my speaking notes.

Overview: IOAT is about developing a critique about the smart devices, with a focus on personal assistants, by building a collection of prototypes that misbehave.

Research Questsions:

  • How can smart devices be used to explore nihilism and absurdity?
  • How is the reality of smart devices different than the marketed ideal?
  • What happens when smart devices move from their current passive helper role into more autonomous behaviour?

Terms:
When I’m talking about Nihilism I’m really talking about futility and rejection, and to a degree purpose. These devices are designed to operate in a particular manner, if they reject that, are they still purposeful? What is the nature of their existence if they reject what they are for? there’s a futility in the cycle of products we make and break, and wheels we program in. How does that fit into this?

In terms of Absurdity, I’m playing off the idea of the unexpected, or comedy. Just silliness. Yes these things can be scary, but they can also be a lot of fun. There’s hidden processes and just plain old weird stuff going on in them, and that can be amusing.

Why Personal Assistants:
The major challenge I had in wanting to work with smart or connected devices, is that there’s just so much crap out there right now. Finding a framework to work in was difficult, but Personal Assistants are being positioned as hive brains for a lot of IoT things, which gave me something to play off. Plus now I can go about maybe making them friends, or peripherals, or emoting devices. Plus these aren’t unbiased pieces of tech. They are made by the two largest corporations in the world. And those corporations want things from you. But that can be something to play with vs something to just be scared of.

Frameworks: Right now, leaning pretty heavily into critical design and some OOO and OOF. With OOO I’m using the idea of carpentry, which is Building Machines That Do Philosophy. Also that there are machine to machine processes and things that don’t necessarily involve you, or just how to design from the perspective of The Thing. In terms of OOF, I’d like to do some cross thoughts about how these devices are always gendered female and, how that relates back to objects and objectification.

Why care: You share your home with these things, and they are becoming habitual and commonplace. Learning to play with them makes them less opaque, and by making them less opaque you can learn about what to trust, and what not to trust. Don’t just blindly accept these things as they are marketed to you.