In November last year I received funding for a three-year project called Connected Homes and Distant Infrastructures. During spring and early summer I’ve made two conference presentations and a number of presentations at seminars to kick off the project. Here are two of the abstracts:
The Look of Siri
-Visual Manifestations of Digital Voice Assistants
Siri, by company Apple, is one among a number of digital voice assistants promoted and provided by some of the world’s largest corporations. Siri is based on sonic interaction, but the voice assistant also has a visual identity. This paper will discuss how Siri has been given a visual identity, and how it is related to visualisations of ungraspable technological infrastructures, corporate brandscapes and digital ephemerality. How is the voice of Siri combined with different visualisations in order to evoke corporate trust and tangibility as well as sensations of the technological sublime? What is the look of Siri, and what are the imaginaries evoked by various visual manifestations? Siri doesn’t have a face, but it is the interface to complex corporate operations.
The background to this paper is a 3-year project that has just been initialised. The project deals with how digital networked technologies are gradually changing domestic life, and it also brings in the role of imaginaries of complex technology. Internet connected devices link private and intimate spheres of homes to ungraspable technological infrastructures. During the recent year voice activated home assistants as part of The Internet of Things has been promoted forcefully by major providers of digital services like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google. The assistants have names like Alexa (Amazon), Siri (Apple) and Cortana (Microsoft) in order to humanize and also engender the distant, ungraspable and dispersed technological infrastructures of which the home assistants are part. These assistants are assumed to become central in homes, and to supplement screens and to interconnect entertainment devices, lighting and several other appliances. For the users of these systems the embodied sensory experience of being at home become entwined with digitally driven distributed corporate brandscapes. Part of this experience is also the visual manifestations of ungraspable technological infrastructures.
The Darkness Beyond The Digital – Internet of Things and Disquiet Connectivity
New possibilities to connect things to the Internet is promoted forcefully by various stakeholders. While new networked products are shipped and implemented, the knowledge about consequences of digital connectivity is low among users of technology. This means that digital technology permeates everyday life in often bewildering ways. This paper will take the bewildering, and potentially dark, world of networked digital everyday things in domestic settings as its point of departure. What are the Internet-connected devices, equipped with microphones, sensors and cameras, that people habitually dwell with? Who or what might be watching or listening through these things? What about all the data that is generated, while people use products and services?
In recommendations for users how to deal with potential threats coming through digital technologies, users are told not to connect more things than necessary. At the same time, technologies are designed to be connected in order to be useful. Users are recommended not to click on links or open messages if they are suspicious. At the same time, the clicking on links and opening of messages is engrained in the routinised everyday behaviour of lives together with Internet-connected things. How do people deal with these paradoxes of connectivity? How are imaginaries about what is going on beyond the interfaces of digital things influencing everyday behaviour? This paper will take its point of departure in the project Connected Homes and Distant Infrastructures, financed by The Swedish Research Council, to discuss The Internet of Things and potentially disquiet connectivity.