A Network of One's Own

September 2017 - present

phd, goldsmiths

My thesis is a design research practice-led inquiry of the domesticated Internet; at its heart it questions what is meant by home. It sets about challenging the normative assumptions and design tropes commonly present in ubiquitous computing visions of the smart home.

My practice-led research takes two approaches to engage the complexity of the home network. Firstly, through an autoethnographic inquiry I deeply engage with the technologies of my home network. By making a series of self-initiated hacks, I attempt to unpack the network’s black boxes and make possible reconfigurations apparent. This inquiry is framed by a series of workshops in which participants were invited to Hack my House. In this context, I develop some designerly ways of hacking and consider forms of knowledge that enrol other designers to challenge the status quo – specifically by building and annotating functional design artefacts. Secondly, by engaging with households in rented homes through cultural probes and with a series of designed WiFi measurement instruments, I contribute a contemporary account of real lives with the domesticated Internet. This study then gives an insight into the ways in which the technologies of the network are understood and encountered, in the context of the struggles identified and specifically with precarity.

Together these approaches will frame the home as a complex site of struggles with a changing world. As the home network is typically a network of one’s own, configured around the home router, with some intervention, a struggle for individual liberty can be enacted. My thesis then contributes a means by which designers can offer alternatives in these complex networked techno-social systems; to make the home network more homely.

Supervisors: William Gaver (Design), Andy Boucher (Design) and Alex Wilkie (Design)