Archive for June, 2017

Nick Merrill, Richmond Wong, Noura Howell, Luke Stark, Lucian Leahu, and Dawn Nafus hosted a workshop on Biosensing in Everyday Life at the ACM Designing Interactive Systems conference (DIS 2017).

From the workshop website:

Biosensing, by which we mean sensors measuring human physiological and behavioral data, is becoming pervasive throughout daily life: beyond wristwatches that measure heartrate and skin conductance, to clothing, furniture, cars, personal robots, ingestibles, virtual reality headsets, as well as visual and wireless sensors that can collect bodily data at a distance.

Biosensing brings with it new challenges (and opportunities) for the design of interactive systems, such as supporting social and emotional interpretations of biosensory data; implications for how people construct themselves and are constructed through data; and what privacy means in such contexts.

This workshop seeks to engage researchers in exploring these themes in lights of the emerging ubiquity of biosensors in everyday life. We welcome participants whose work covers a variety of different topics, including but not limited to:

  • Self-tracking practices
  • Privacy and surveillance
  • Critical and speculative design
  • Infrastructure studies
  • Affective systems
  • Design for reflection

We welcome work from a variety of methodologies, such as design research, anthropology, STS, ethnographic studies, user studies, art practice, systems building, and critical or speculative design. Submissions may take the form of essays, arguments, empirical work, pictorials, video, portfolios or artifacts.

Workshop proposal on ACM Digital Library

Full text workshop proposal


This post is a version of a talk given at the 2017 ACM Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) Conference on a paper by Richmond Wong, Ellen Van Wyk, and James Pierce, Real-Fictional Entanglements: Using Science Fiction and Design Fiction to Interrogate Sensing Technologies in which we used a science fiction novel as the starting point for creating a set of design fictions to explore issues around privacy.  This blog post is also cross-posted on Richmond’s blog, The Bytegeist. Find out more on our project page, or download the paper: [PDF link ] [ACM link]

Many emerging and proposed sensing technologies raise questions about privacy and surveillance. For instance new wireless smarthome security cameras sound cool… until we’re using them to watch a little girl in her bedroom getting ready for school, which feels creepy, like in the tweet below.

Or consider the US Department of Homeland Security’s imagined future security system. Starting around 2007, they were trying to predict criminal behavior, pre-crime, like in Minority Report. They planned to use thermal sensing, computer vision, eye tracking, gait sensing, and other physiological signals. And supposedly it would “avoid all privacy issues.”  And it’s pretty clear that privacy was not adequately addressed in this project, as found in an investigation by EPIC.


dhs slide.png

Image from Note the middle bullet point in the middle column – “avoids all privacy issues.”

A lot of these types of products or ideas are proposed or publicly released – but somehow it seems like privacy hasn’t been adequately thought through beforehand. However, parallel to this, we see works of science fiction which often imagine social changes and effects related to technological change – and do so in situational, contextual, rich world-building ways. This led us to our starting hunch for our work:

perhaps we can leverage science fiction, through design fiction, to help us think through the values at stake in new and emerging technologies.

Designing for provocation and reflection might allow us to do a similar type of work through design that science fiction often does.

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