Chapter 10 Discussions and Conclusions
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
In its course this research has explored a number of areas around the central premise of designing for IoT. Along the way the most prevalent concept reverberating throughout has been the crafting of transdisciplinary method assemblages for executing philosophical carpentry as design research practice. Among the different assemblages imagined, two core aspects resurfaced: an iterative RtD approach, and an attitude of playfulness within the act of design. As this thesis is even titled ‘Design by Play’, one may easily think that was always the focus. Though playfulness has a strong presence in each artefact in this work through an ever present attitude, this research remains concerned with design of IoT and specifically an object-oriented more-than human perspective from a RtD approach. The rhetoric of playfulness was used to facilitate the application of the supporting philosophy applied through carpentry as a methodology, which as I highlighted in Chapter 6 that for me design is inherently playful. Therefore, while I will be addressing the topic of play more directly later on in this chapter, the main focus will be collating findings from previous sections to offer a closing discussion around more-than human perspectives and the use of playful methods for design of IoT.
The core research question asked in Chapter 2 was, how a RtD process manifests itself within performing philosophical carpentry intended for a diverse audience. This was expanded with three sub-questions around (1) whether it was possible to highlight potential problematic effects of IoT through a philosophical lens, (2) How does an attitude of playfulness occur in this research through design activity, and (3) whether philosophical concepts of a proposed non-anthropocentric IoT could be manifested through RtD artefacts.
After presenting the three artefacts of this research that attempted to address the notion of more-than human design practices for IoT, the artefact chapters addressed their positions in light of the sub-questions. Though I will return to them later to expand further upon, the core question can now be addressed directly. Since this thesis has dealt with philosophy throughout, some of the answers and supplemented questions I present below may feel more philosophical than others. Therefore, to facilitate questions around the implications of this research as a broad RtD project for design application, this chapter revolves around three core aspects presented as an interwoven discussion: carpentry and the more-than human, things of the Internet, and an attitude of playfulness.
10.1 The Living Internet of Things
To begin, the argument of non-anthropocentric perspectives for IoT will be addressed starting with agency within IoT. From the very start, this thesis has been nudging at the notion of animating the inanimate. From the automatons of yesteryears to AI-powered assistants on our desks, the bringing of life into an object is an act that has occupied design and is fuelled by the limits of our imagination (Marenko 2017, 30). While laying the foundations for this research I defined IoT as a network of non-digital objects facilitating a language for digital ones, as if existing on multiple planes (Madakam, Ramaswamy, and Tripathi 2015, 166). These planes I later defined as one being our own which we occupy as non-digital human-objects, and the other a digital ether of binary code and algorithms. In the start of Chapter 4 I mentioned an episode of IT Crowd that described the Internet as a tangible object. Though the sitcoms intentions were satirical, concepts established in previous chapters argue for philosophical weightage of a tangible Internet.
We use the phrase ‘surfing the Web’ describing the Internet similar to a wave on the sea. We talk of ‘going online’ as if it were a physical location like upstairs or outside. But unlike the internet you can touch the water, acknowledge the sea, and calculate the dimensions of spaces through real-world physics. In Chapter 9 I presented the idea of using post-phenomenological and object-oriented perspectives to imagine a physics for IoT, down to a digital quantum level. Furthermore, using the model described in Chapter 7 IoT was characterized as heterotopic spatial configurations, presenting a perspective of how IoT interactions may be charted through philosophy and understood as independent yet interdependent unit operations.
Moreover, these chapters have been presented as steppingstones towards the artefact in Chapter 9 that proudly embodies concepts coming from before in one place. The Tarot of Things is in that regard is the result of the RtD project that has been my PhD. Artefacts designed in the process were each exercises in philosophical carpentry and each intended for different audiences. The model represented a deep dive into dissecting the non-anthropocentric IoT. The board game focused on expressing the details of the model to a wider audience. And the final artefact presented a merger of dense philosophy with the approachability of fiction. The human/non-human threshold was thus approached through this process of RtD and carpentry.
These approaches allowed for the acknowledgment of an alternative perspective of IoT. One that posits viewing the workings of digital worlds as a parallel to our own non-digital world of atoms, molecules, and particles. OOO was presented in this thesis as the means for exploring this hidden digital-particle realm. The convoluted ontographical relationships of these physical incarnations of digital spaces forward the question of whether the Internet can be seen as a living thing? Because if so, then design is required to accommodate it in addition to the human.
As suggested by Ropolyi (2018, 44), acknowledging the Internet as an artificial living organism when seen through these philosophical arguments places precedence for redefining our relationship with technology. “Philosophy of the internet discloses that human existence is being transformed” (2018, 47). A More-than Human perspective urges us to ponder over the Internet as no longer a presenter of information or the super-highway as it once was, but an entity capable of generating, calculating, and fostering information.
10.1.1 Is this discussion about privacy and security in IoT?
The Internet is also not inert and is capable of harbouring threats as the Internet of Things Board Game capably demonstrated in Chapter 8. The topic of privacy and security on the Internet has been the elephant in the room looming in the backgrounds of each chapter. One of my sub-questions has been whether this process may highlight problematic effects of IoT through philosophy. This research was not necessarily about that, yet it is difficult to remove this argument from any discussion of the Internet. Rosen (2000, para. 7) calls the many smart devices we collect around us “gossiping appliances” as they are constantly in conversation with each other about none other than ‘us’, their human cohabitors. The threat to privacy from pervasive technologies is one of constant debate (Austin 2003; Vamosi 2011; Acquisti and Gross 2006; Berman and Bruening 2001; Booch 2015). There are valid points made in the argument for if the future of HCI is in advanced pervasive technologies such as IoT and ubiquitous computing, then at some stage privacy and security become assets of interest to multiple parties and therefore easily violated (Stajano 2010, 287).
Vamosi (2011, 25) presents the case of Adam Laurie aka Major Malfunction (a white hat hacker), who while staying at a hotel attempted to interact with his mini-fridge through the infrared channel found in the room’s television78. Moving from there he managed to access other guest names and room numbers. This insecure backchannel not only provided him with sensitive information but also gave access to the objects in those rooms. The hotel clearly required to reassess its network security, but given that the channel Laurie used to access these spaces was so unusual it becomes a design concern above all. Why was such a loophole in the design of the television possible?
Discussions into HCD from Chapter 3 place it as complicit in this obfuscation of information; ease of access enabling underlying complications to go unnoticed. Booch (2015) argues for how newly established technologies face problems yet eventually become acceptable. Giving the example of how boilers were once uncommon yet soon became a necessity in every home, he argues that this same logic now holds true for contemporary technologies like IoT. Boilers had their problems as well and so does IoT, so should we just ride out the storm?
The problem is that the nature of how IoT is connected to the home is very different to technologies of before. The interactions we have with these new technologies are intimate and therefore as designers/developers we are required to be more vigilant in their making (Booch 2015, 13). Even though the primary concern for The Internet of Things Board Game was not highlighting privacy/security concerns in IoT, it ended up being the core rhetoric of play only because that was the most legible means of conveying our relationship with IoT. It also happens to be what is considered problematic with contemporary imaginings of IoT. Though I might have explored IoT as a more-than human construct, our relationship with it remains one of utility even though its relationship with us is not necessarily the same. The Tarot of Things and the constellation metaphor (J. G. Lindley and Coulton 2017) reminded us that we shouldn’t take these objects of the Internet lightly as they are probably operating in ways we as users haven’t considered. Viewing through this alternative object-oriented perspective is an argument in promoting vigilance as much as redefining relationships with technology through design.
That said, I did not set out to answer the question of whether IoT can be made more secure or private. The concern of SQ1 was to see if taking a non-anthropocentric approach towards design could help navigate the recurring problems of anthropocentric methods. Privacy and security on the Internet happens to be an easily relatable construct, but that shouldn’t divert attention from the more-than human discourse here. The extent at which the Internet has permeated our lives has brought with it a world meticulously crafted with imitations of life through IoT objects. I’ve refrained from calling my artefacts ‘tools’ even though I utilise the metaphor of a toolbox to build them because they can’t be equated to exact design tools. Rather, they are engines for generating discourse around the idea of a Living Internet of Things. They present alternative perspectives within our relationships with IoT. Therefore on that front, taking a philosophical carpentry approach at design for IoT was indeed successful, even if all its done is highlight further the inherent concerns of privacy and security. In other words, rather than waiting out the storm of ill-fated design decisions in IoT, measures for designing meaningful interactions in IoT could be taken from using philosophical discourse in design through such artefacts as the model in Chapter 7. Certainly, if anything through this journey of RtD the artefacts carpentered have embodied the philosophical foundations for non-anthropocentricity within a reference of IoT.
The Tarot of Things posited this idea by allowing an embodiment of the non-human through the technological life-giving elixir of IoT coming from the RtD process. This was a main premise of this research after all, manifesting the non-anthropocentric through a practice-based approach of carpentry. Conclusions from the participants of that study in Chapter 9 add to an ever-growing underlying fallacy of the object-oriented approach—how does one truly divorce the human?
10.1.2 Going beyond Human-Centred Design
All three artefacts (four including Madame Bitsy) put forth the notion of the more-than human, in that IoT exists as an entity that supersedes the presence of humans that use it. The human-user relationship with the non-human objects of IoT is one of facilitation, with anticipations mapped out accordingly via monopolies of orthodox design methods such as HCI and HCD. If anything, these artefacts beg the question of why design can’t step away from the human?
Though a human-centred ideal in design is readily and widely accepted, arguably the most prominent and quoted scholar on the matter Donald A. Norman (2005) had later warned of the potential perils of HCD speaking in favour of Activity-Centred Design instead. His argument revolved around the fact that technology does not adapt to people, rather it’s vice versa predicating the notion that saturation of HCD might prove harmful.
The basic tenet of HCD where technology adapts to the human is not possible with IoT where every day newer tools and devices are designed to ‘enhance’ human interaction. This relationship of facilitation requires the human to alter itself, thereby, no longer being human-focused but activity-focused. In this guise of HCI, IoT objects break because users can’t see the woods for the trees being too focused on the detail that it must serve ‘them’.
This is the anticipations of interactions discussed in Chapter 9, how our established understandings of technology have fostered a particular world view of them. They must operate in a certain way, ergo they must be designed in a certain way. Yet, in truth that is what is holding these devices back, the tether to the human. In The Mushroom at the End of the World Tsing (2015, 247) talks of more-than human perspectives through entanglement with nature arguing that we are dependent on “natural processes” such as time and entropy and unable to counter them. Ropolyi (2018, 47) posits that as humans we are now part of three domains, one relating to the natural world, the second the social world, and third the digital world. As such, we are now equally dependent on the ‘natural processes’ of the digital world, ironically a design of our own. This is akin to the context collapse argument of Boyd (2008) discussed in Chapter 7. The Internet has altered our social mediations effectively redefining our humanness to accommodate these technologies as part of us. A few years ago a mobile phone was a luxury item, today a necessity for functioning in modern society. When our understanding of being human around technology has changed, so should the approaches towards solving the wicked problems associated with them.
This is not an argument against HCD throughout, it is an argument for acknowledging alternative approaches for certain uses, such as IoT. Cruickshank and Trivedi (2017, S4161) discusses how the merger of alternative discourses in design practice present innovative positions towards redefining relationships between designers and users. This research presents its artefacts in a similar light: The Internet of Things Board Game as a means for overviewing IoT interactions as dynamically produced assemblages; the model for establishing a philosophical baseline and grounding practice within theory through application; and, the Tarot of Things for pushing the envelope further into post-anthropocentric more-than human perspectives proudly.
Carpentry as an approach facilitated the possibility of thinking around these philosophical lines with design practice. It was able to ask alternative questions because the method assemblages were capable of fostering such discourse. Stam and Eggink (2014) argue in favour of philosophy and design converging to shape the worlds around us, saying that through socio-technological mediation and open ended imaginary perspectives presented by philosophy, new design approaches may be envisioned. Each artefact in that regard played with the idea of what taking a More-than Human-Centred Design approach could be like.
10.1.3 Is this a transhumanist argument?
Viewing IoT as a living organism with objects having their agendas is not a rejection of the human in design. The irony of this approach is that at the end of the day, all design must converge back towards the human. Whilst some argue that these objects of the Internet may well be moving in the direction of a singularity therefore future-human design would be different, however, currently their purpose remains servitude79. Design’s anthropocentric agenda of retaining control to the human through HCI presents further hurdles than clear paths in imagining viable futures. Particularly taking into account contentions between the futures promised by concepts such as IoT and ubiquitous computing, compared to the way technology has evolved (Kinsley 2012).
In the early twenty-tens, companies like Ericsson and Cisco80 (Evans 2011) predicted the expansion of IoT to 50 billion connected devices by 2020. As of end 2019, roughly 20% of that prediction has come true with the lack of actualisation being assigned to the complexity associated with IoT81. Designed IoT objects fall prey to their own folly with an estimated 30% of IoT projects never leaving proof of concept82, with many that do ending in consumer’s arguing over the benefit and meaningfulness of such devices83.
The continual forward trajectory into the marriage of human and technology through attempts such as IoT is a nudge towards transhumanist futures. Though this thesis does not attest to the worldview of transhumanism where human minds and bodies are obsolete and in need of an overhaul (O’Connell 2017), there is no denying that taking on the more-than human perspective is also taking on an alternate transhumanist perspective. Rather than surgically embedding diodes in humans to become walking RFID tags, the more-than human approach is embedding a perspective of life in IoT.
Moving past carpentry Bogost (2012, 131) discusses the fate of OOO through the alien presence of our objects in everyday lives. Arguing against the anti-object-oriented rhetoric that it demeans the human entity by calling us objects, he instead is of the opinion that it is cowardice to think that placing interest in non-humans is an embezzlement of resources towards understanding the human better (2012, 132). “Speculative realism provides the best means for creative work to be done, and it provides genuine excitement to think that there are new argumentative realms to explore” (Srnicek cited in Bogost 2012, 132).
‘Futures’, be they technological or otherwise, are often imagined through embodiment, telling, or symbolising (Adam and Groves 2007). Presenting at times their paradoxical natures (Anderson 2010). The case of iRobot (manufacturer of popular automated vacuum cleaner Roomba) can be taken as an example when in 2017 they raised alarm in consumers by openly acknowledging their devices tracked dimensional data along with considerations of sharing among third parties84. The fallacy of IoT thus hinges on design choices and interventions.
A potential for tyrannical future Roomba’s aside, the common factor here is a connection between human and the beyond (as in machine, organisation, institution, policy, more-than human, and so on). The artefacts created through this manner of carpentry discuss the beyond in terms of OOO using methods like speculative design and ludic design to invoke a playful curious engagement with the world. Future-oriented or alternative present provocations—such as those presented in the transhumanist worldview—could be imagined by simply asking ‘what if’ and allowing the playful centre of design practice to radiate.
What if toasters did not want to toast? What if chairs knew who sat on them and held grudges? What if a refrigerator denied access to encourage weight loss? What if automated doors required us to tip them? What if cars understood our moods to give more scenic routes? These are questions that are at once fascinating, terrifying, and ridiculous. Though they might seem as being about a post-anthropocentric approach, the process of approaching them could present valuable information for the greater Anthropocene85. These bizarre transhumanist agendas imagined through blurred visions of IoT are difficult to approach without the playful appropriation of philosophy and speculative design combined, which carpentry and RtD aptly facilitated.
Morton (2011, 165) while discussing OOO argues in favour of Heideggerian philosophies of humans to be present among nonhumans, explaining how speculative realism affords imagining alternate realities difficult to contest. His description of the Hyperobject as an object so massive it’s distributed across time in a way that their true extent cannot be imagined (Morton 2013), it is a testament to the fact that humans are not the centre of concern as orthodox design practices have lead us to believe. Think global warming, quantum theories, the Internet, these entities exist as much greater objects than the human-object that OOO speaks of. Morton (2013, 41) further goes on to express how through its execution OOO acknowledges the world aspect that Hyperobjects exist in and may provide vital knowledge for unearthing these realities further. It’s no longer a question of why think of more-than human futures, but why not?
10.2 The Mantra of Playfulness
This is now a good time to bring about the attitude of playfulness I chant throughout this manuscript. I’ve attempted to retain this attitude in each chapter. The parallels between design and play presented in Chapter 6 point towards a homologous entity of designing through the act of play. Playfulness is a core conduit to my practice of design and life in general as I described in Chapter 1. As a maker my approach towards design is present within RtD in light of Faste and Faste (2012, para. 17) presenting of RtD as a “hands-on” approach at designing. My own view of play resides in an overlap of Sicart (2014) and Bogost (2016a) perspectives of play, as something that is in both people (former) and things (latter). Furthermore, DeKoven (2014, 21) expression of play as a path we opt to take as an adult reminding us to be playful at times, is also something I cannot ignore as that expressive path is present in how I conduct my daily existence. I remind myself to be playful when confronted with interactions. Some of that playfulness manifests in my actions where others might not, but that expression remains in my personality and is carried on in my design practice.
Asking questions such as whether my Roomba has tyrannical tendencies or if a chair can be designed to reject its sitter is akin to Bogost’s (2016b) playful musing that words within buns are pleasant 86. They ask the odd question coming from a history of observation. Bogost presents his Put Words Between Buns as a “magic crayon” (2016b, para. 19) for making, in this case a commentary on meme-culture 87. The seemingly obscure questions asked throughout this thesis present RtD and carpentry as a process for viewing the world through that glint of playfulness to approach alternative musings for IoT.
My application and justification of design in this manner raises a question of whether ‘design is play’? As a designer, it is important to be explorative and what these artefacts present is that when ludic engagement is included in the mixture of the design process, the exploratory drive may be pushed further. Perhaps this might not work for all forms of design but in the case of design for HCI, there is compelling literature arguing for ludic pursuits (Rose 2015; Gaver et al. 2004; Gradinar 2018).
On the subject of HCI and design, one needs to be open to different engaging formats of interpretations, particularly those that facilitate multiple meanings in design and its evolution (Sengers and Gaver 2006, 100). Essentially, users of artefacts and designers of artefacts approach ‘the artefact’ differently. “If we take supporting multiple interpretations as a central goal, design shifts from deciding on and communicating an interpretation to supporting and intervening in the processes of designer, system, user, and community meaning-making” (2006, 102).
The argument made is to design systems as blank canvases which can be modified, interpreted, reinterpreted, and evaluated at will. A ludic forward approach could present novel opportunities for taking on objective views such as these. On ludic artefacts like the Drift Table, Sengers and Gaver (2006, 103) claim that if there is a goal it is not to communicate a “single correct interpretation but to avoid communicating an incorrect one”. This can be taken to an extreme even to allow a design to communicate no single interpretation at all and be entirely ambiguous, something that is very commonly seen in Art (Gaver, Beaver, and Benford 2003).
A large part of the play rhetoric used throughout this work comes from Bogost (2016a) for a reason. Not only does his views of ‘play everywhere’ partly align with this interpretation of design practice, but as the leading voice in carpentry as a methodology (Bogost 2012) this was a perfect merger of ideals. Carpentry at its core may not be a playful activity as Sicart, Gaver, or DeKoven see it, but it certainly is as Bogost sees it as existing within things. The purposes of incorporating these alternative perspectives into the folds of carpentry was to encourage that core sense of playfulness that I as a designer retain in my practice. I am a playful individual and so are the objects around me hence my interest in playing with them.
Carpentry is not strictly defined by Bogost as about curiosity, but I argue that through its process of laying bare systems as ontographs it invokes a sense of curiosity. Like when the light-gun from my Famicom was opened up during my childhood I saw it as individual components that created this thing, yet it simultaneously presented me with a sense of further intrigue. Within the design processes of both the Tarot of Things and the Internet of Things Board Game, ambiguity was the driving force for generating knowledge by presenting as little information as possible. Players made connections themselves using mechanics provided to them. Role-playing within IoT presented the opportunity however limited, of entering existential experiences with objects. Though it could be said that these artefacts were both heavily curated, the counterargument is that design must be curated. Bereft of a bespoke IoT tarot deck, discourse could have been achieved through a standard Rider-Waite deck as well. But, the meaning associations between the fantasy imagery of tarot juxtaposed with IoT would have sent things in completely different directions.
Granted carpentry itself is not about ambiguity either instead it is about making things clearer. But to that I say that every unit operation envisioned through carpentry ambiguates itself from the world around it existing as a piece on its own. A pair of sand covered gears lying on a beach in Karachi might have once been part of a printing press in Germany, that ontographical nature of the gears is retained if the knowledge of their relation to the press is present otherwise they could equally be components for a number of things. As a unit operation the gear’s function becomes as ambiguous as its history.
Taking a playful attitude towards things changes the structures that frame any given activity making them transformative experiences (Back, Segura, and Waern 2017). Due to the nature of design as an activity that involves attributes of playfulness, this function can easily be translated into a design artefact. Playfulness, curiosity, ambiguity, and emotion all thus become attributes that design practice can have. More importantly, they become assets a designer can use in their design.
I can’t go as far as saying all design is play, but it is something I would like to think and perhaps strive for. The artefacts of this research certainly worked with a ludic agenda present. Choosing a board game as a medium was not driven simply by the idea that a game would make the complex philosophy of OOO more palatable. Rather, that games offer unique experiences in which complex rhetoric can be explored in a meaningful way. Both, as an experience for academic and personal value.
10.2.1 Being a playful philosopher-designer
My experience of attempting to be a philosopher-designer as posited by J. G. Lindley, Coulton, and Akmal (2018, 232) through this exercise of carpentry reminds me of the many enchanted objects presented by Rose (2015). His use of metaphor to describe human connection with the non-human through an air of enchantment resonates with this idea of Carpentry for design of IoT:
“Think of the network as the new electricity. Connected products as the new electrification. Electricity is plentiful, invisible, and powers hundreds of products we take for granted. We rarely consider all those electrons running through every wall of our homes, schools, and businesses. Yet invisible as they may be, those electrons do flow, and we feel paralyzed during a power outage when the flow comes to a halt. Only then do we remember that candles and hand-cranked mixers and drills and phonographs were once the norm.” (Rose 2015, 265)
The quantum level interactions of OOO and those of metadata within IoT are no different from this perspective presented by Rose. It is when the perfect model of a smart future breaks that we return to simpler times. The philosopher-designer approach is to see past the frames of human anticipations and illusions to view objectively. If the smart future is to break, then look from the other side to see what happened. As a contribution to design research, this work attests to the potential presented by the exercise of carpentry in becoming philosopher-designers, especially where practice-based design is concerned.
In the conclusion to Chapter 7 I present a view where the philosophical concepts discussed through the model are used as play-things. This idea is close to how Sicart (2014) understands his concept of the “plaything” though not in a one to one manner. For Sicart (2021, 2) his argument resides on the premise that play is a manner of “material entanglement” through his understanding of play as a “mode of being”. To him playthings are a way to “describe the ontology of the things that come to being in the material practice of play” (2021, 12). Going into a philosophical discussion around play and the objects play is facilitated through, his definition of playthings defines the ontology of said playable objects being separated from their epistemology. As an example he presents Twitter bots as playthings that playfully engage with Twitter. Though this approaches Bogost’s ‘play is in things’ concept slightly, it retains Sicart’s stance of play as a mode of being human. For this reason I hyphenate my understanding of playthings to retain my separate hybrid stance towards play in the process of design, what fits with my understanding from this is of how a play-thing can facilitate understanding across this material entanglement.
Sicart (2021, 9) presents his argument by connecting this concept to Karen Barad’s Agential Realism suggesting that play becomes a “discursive material practice” which he argues (using Barad’s terms) “matters” the things being interacted with to facilitate playfulness 88. I like this notion because it suggests play exists in both the person playing and the objects being played with in a manner that playfulness is being reciprocated. He goes on to suggest with an example of playing with a stick that, “the stick is not a toy, or a game: it is a thing I am playing with, and that plays with me” (2021, 9).
Metaphors such as constellations, thought experiments such as Tarot of Things, philosophical models, or experiential ludic experiences such as the Internet of Things Board Game allow for an objective stance for design of IoT to be presented. In this manner of equating concepts, models, artefacts, people, and more to play-things I am encouraging a manifestation of playfulness within the design process facilitated through a practice-based RtD approach. The contention associated with OOO will remain until further philosophies emerge that ‘play better’ together. Exercising carpentry in this manner might just help fuel greater philosophical debates around OOO and other philosophies answering those deeper set questions (J. Lindley, Akmal, and Coulton 2020). However, what is clear is that the process of using design and philosophy in this manner helped to elicit ideas of security, ethics, agency, power, intention, and others that were otherwise undisclosed.
Future directions for this approach lie in the potential for merging philosophy with design. This body of research explored the tip of the iceberg when it comes to philosophical constructs. OOO made sense here because the artefacts related to IoT in this manner of understanding a post-anthropological stance for technology. Other philosophical movements and concepts could bring their oceans of knowledge with them; consider the existential IoT, the moral IoT, the perceptive IoT, or the Nietzschean IoT. Furthermore, stripping this research down to its philosophical discourse concerning design presents the potential in using philosophy and design in this playful manner to further knowledge in other areas, such as between Hyperobjects and Sustainable Design. On that note, I would like to add to the note by J. G. Lindley, Coulton, and Akmal (2018, 232) that we should strive to be ’playful’ philosopher-designers practicing carpentry and other such methodologies that discuss broader perspectives in design, technology, and society.
This weaving of transdisciplinary method assemblages to craft unique knowledge benefiting multiple sources could not have been possible without the playful attitude in design I’ve held on to. These combinations bring with them reverberations down to the cores of their disciplines. Be it philosophy, design practice, anthropology, or computer science, vibrations are sent back towards building future implications. These are playgrounds where design is played out and through this playfulness orthodoxies such as HCD can be challenged and improved. To paraphrase Bogost (2016a, 25), in order to enjoy the playgrounds of design and philosophy we need to be less nervous about where we stand in between them, and instead allow these playgrounds to reveal their inner most realities to us through their medium, play.
10.3 In closing
Taking from my unorthodox introduction, a childhood among characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario, and Link is a certain kind of growing up. You see life differently, filled and fuelled with aspirations of playfulness. I can’t say that was not an influence on this work. As a printmaker, I learned to feel pulled prints to understand what happened to the paper. A surreal manner of learning a language from impressions like braille. The games I encountered over my years ranged from complex to simple, but they were capable of pulling me in and holding my attention. The long walks through streets of Lahore finding hidden gems like the USB Ghost Tracker was its own manner of engaging with the playgrounds around me, luring me in to practice their magic. A quote from Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Team-Time of the Soul fits eloquently with my approach at design: “… my methods of navigation have their advantage. I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be” (Adams 2014, 123).
With a continued debate around the security of IoT the initial response from many not related to this field is often the same. When talking of my research, the jokes I hear are that I probably work for MI5 since IoT is surveillance, in fact my cousin thinks I’m working on Skynet from the Terminator franchise!89 She’s now settled on referring to my work as ‘tingling toasters’ a play on Talkie Toaster. I prefer this understanding as it aligns a lot more with what this work actually is. The toaster from Red Dwarf was more intelligent than the onboard computer featured in the show with one episode having it question its purpose in life when it couldn’t make toast. The playfulness associated with this description summarises the intent of this work. Design for me is enacting playfulness and so I approached the matter of design of IoT as such.
In light of the opening quote of this chapter, playfulness and belief in the impossible are what pushes one down the rabbit hole of discovery. YouTube morning show sensations Rhett and Link follow a mantra of Mythicality which they define as “a quality of being that embodies a synergistic coalescence of curiosity, creativity and tomfoolery” (McLaughlin, Neal, and Greene 2017, 8). In many ways, this research followed a similar vein.
This thesis is an argument for a transdisciplinary perspective to understand futures that are no longer simple. An argument for staring down orthodox design practices and welcoming terra incognita. Above all this is an argument for the place of play within the halls of design. In the end, the futures of IoT are all about tingling toasters and devious drones after all.
For more information, see: https://www.wired.com/2005/07/a-hacker-games-the-hotel/↩︎
That is till future AI churn out their killer robots and digital overlords.↩︎
For more information, see: https://www.ericsson.com/en/press-releases/2010/4/ceo-to-shareholders-50-billion-connections-2020.↩︎
For more information, see: https://www.iot-now.com/2019/12/20/100460-missing-41-billion-iot-devices-2/.↩︎
For more information, see: https://venturebeat.com/2019/07/30/microsoft-30-of-iot-projects-fail-in-the-proof-of-concept-stage/.↩︎
For more information, see: https://www.cnet.com/news/juicero-is-still-the-greatest-example-of-silicon-valley-stupidity/.↩︎
For more information, see: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/technology/roomba-irobot-data-privacy.html.↩︎
Generally taken to mean in terms of geological impact by humans such as on climate and environment, my usage of the Anthropocene is more in line with what Morton (2017) considers solidarity with humans and non-humans. “The Anthropocene is the moment at which humans come to recognize humankind…the moment at which species as such becomes thinkable in a non-metaphysical way, such that humankind cannot rigidly exclude nonhumans” (2017, chap. 3, Humankind is a Subscendent Whole, para. 10).↩︎
For more information, see: http://bogost.com/projects/buns-life/.↩︎
For more information, see: https://nuvomagazine.com/magazine/spring-2020/the-philosophy-of-meme-culture.↩︎
Agential Realism and the concept of ‘mattering’ is certainly relevant in a way for expanding upon the discussion in this thesis, as it relates to notions of post-phenomenology and OOO on a level (Frauenberger 2019). I graze this concept rather than going into it further as I believe in the context of this research it stands as a second step into further research on the matter of play, technology, and more-than humanness.↩︎
No one’s returned from the future to stop me so far, but finger’s crossed.↩︎