In a first attempt to materialize this idea, I interconnected two objects in my flat: A toilet flush and a turning table. The aesthetics of this prototype were focused on the circular movement generated by the two events, which defines a formal approach to the materialization of the concept. It goes in a surrealist direction linking the two objects at a visual level. The questions that I raised after presenting this prototype concerned the aesthetics of the layer of technology and electronics of the system: seamless vs. exposed. I referred to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, by Architect Renzo Piano to talk about the experience of having ‘inside-out’ objects where functionality is revealed. I also questioned the aesthetics of the network that these two objects started to create by asking ‘What is the algorithm behind the interaction?’ and ‘What happens to the data that these objects produce on the internet?’
I realized after Cynthia Lawson’s comments2 about these questions that the word algorithm was confusing in my case. It was referring to finding out what was happening in terms of interaction between the objects whereas the intention was to question the aesthetics of the networks and not the step-by-step procedure of the function. The aesthetics of the prototype are an important factor since the thesis is based on the material and immaterial. It is important to materialize or maybe visualize this notion of ‘immaterial’ layer of technology that is the data in order to have a better understanding of the system these objects are creating. But that was not my main question; it is something to think about in the making of prototypes. My main interest and concept go in the direction of agency to objects, acquiring the ability to behave in unexpected ways in relationship to a context. But since the prototype was not yet exploring these aesthetic questions, the link between the concept idea and the prototype were not clear in the overall presentation of the process. However, it was successful in raising interesting questions by the critic:
- Is the ‘algorithm’ a commentary on Surveillance?
By bringing in the notion of surveillance, we start to think about the communication of data that these objects have the potential to produce and perhaps make public.
- In the mundanity of everyday objects, is the uselessness of these objects given meaning through the data If something that is meaningless triggers something equally meaningless, where does it gain meaning?
This question is interesting to move forward in the prototyping process, it raised for me a simple thought about quality vs. quantity. Is it a chain of action, like a Goldberg machine that produces a useless network of interconnected things or is it a different form of interaction
Melanie Crean’s feedback was focused on “studying the relation objects have to context”. Which makes more sense than “the space around objects,” which mostly sounds like physical space, though it is meant literally, physically, and metaphorically. However, this is still a general question. So her questions were: What are you studying about that context? Which objects, where?
Concerning the delirious home and in the scenario of “objects gone wrong,” or at least doing the unexpected; and in our rush to make all objects / devices addressable, with the assumption
that this will only further their service to us, it is important to point out how they might subvert our assumptions, be transgressive, go awry, take on agency for their own purposes etc.
So Melanie’s central critique is that I should now think in more detail about different possibilities that abhorrent or transgressive agency might take, and possible ramifications. What would design noir be in reference to the Internet of things?
If objects work together, what rights might they demand that differ from humans (maybe in terms of workers rights, work place equality, etc). Might they try to contribute to human politics and economy, or form their own subsets? Would they break any laws, or engage in organized crime? Or would they try to reform humans, and ironically make us more accountable for all the things we do? Also, my statements and questions are still too general, good as a starting point, but need to describe the context much more specifically for the thesis to have meaning and be interesting.
“If our infrastructure goes beyond sensing and detecting, how can we ensure the objects are affecting network the way we want?” can be reframed to go beyond it. It is true that we can ensure that and that they will do what we want, but it wouldn’t be as interesting as to explore hypothetical options of crazy things that might happen if / when they do their own thing.