PhD’ing – Wonder, Autonomy, Frameworks, and Infrastructures

November 6, 2017

Trying something new with the aim of semi-regular updates regarding what I’m reading, working on, and thinking about.

Framing Wonder by Ann Light

Last week had a short chat with Ann Light from the University of Sussex regarding my work and attended her guest lecture Framing Wonder: Beyond Design for Existential Crisis (sketch notes above). Dark yet very inspiring talk and highly recommend her related paper Design for Existential Crisis from CHI17. Both the talk and her paper inspired me to look into care ethics and feminist theory regarding my work.

For a recent paper and my ongoing multi-disciplinary project work, have been thinking a lot about Terry Winograd’s Shifting viewpoints: Artificial intelligence and human–computer interaction, in particular how to work across philosophical and methodological differences.

Based on a colleague recommendation, recently listened to Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy by David Mindell, a very accessible contribution to discourse on the meaning of autonomy. Throughout the book, within each of many case studies, he repeatedly challenges listeners (readers) to ask, ‘Where are the people, which people are they, what are they doing, and when are they doing it?” as he proposes an emphasis on human-computer relationships rather than the idea or potential of replacement. My favorite of his examples regards remote control of Mars rovers from Earth bound operators and the coinciding debate if presence can be felt at such a distance and with significant time delays – is remote presence real presence?

Last week discussed Things That Keep Us Busy: The Elements of Interaction by Lars-Erik Janlert and Erik Stolterman in a research book club with a focus on Implicit Interaction. I found the book an easy read as it was very much like a collection of papers (which most of it draws from). While I appreciated the provision of definitions, frameworks and objective perspective – as in taking the object’s instead of the user’s perspective – overall there was much I disagreed with, in particular the notion that implicit interaction decreases interactivity, and found it difficult to maintain a narrow perspective that doesn’t regard the social or systemic implications. Perhaps also, it seemed to contrast philosophically with Dewey’s Art of Experience which I am reading for a PhD course on the theoretical foundations of UX, and as a design researcher situated in a technical university am over-resisting the application of frameworks upon a field dependent on embracing the subject, chaotic, and messy nature of the world.

Attended a great talk by my friend Lorenzo at IxDA Stockholm’s event Questions and answers in the design process with Nordic Morning. Great nuggets regarding the materialization of cultures to engage people in discourse and materialization of infrastructures to enable designers to transform them. Definitely calls for a revisit of his paper Materializing infrastructures for participatory hacking.

Lastly, in addition to a bunch of course grading, this week I’ll be continuing concepts derived from a recent project workshop on designing with data and starting a new project with three KTH master’s student on prototypes to probe the notion of training when approaching Machine Learning as a design material. A related paper includes UX Design Innovation: Challenges for Working with Machine Learning as a Design Material.

EuroIA 2017 – Smart Implicit Interactions

October 11, 2017

Two weeks ago I had a lovely time speaking about my current research interests and questions surrounding Smart Implicit Interactions with industry practitioners at EuroIA 2017 in Stockholm!

Karey Helms speaking at EuroIA 2017

Thanks EuroIA for the INTENSE photo above and Inge Nahuis for the sketchnotes below!

Sketchnotes from talk at EuroIA2017

DIS 2017 – Workshop Reflections and Design Fiction

June 26, 2017

As previously mentioned, I attended, and thoroughly enjoyed, the workshop at DIS17 on People, Personal Data and the Built Environment. Not only was the topic relevant to my project, interests, and background, but I also found the strict structure (and quick introductions) very effective and thus resulting in meaningful discussions at the end of the day.

The below image is a fraction of a future IoT system followed by a corresponding fictional narrative created with Albrecht Kurze.

Internet of Things workshop at DIS17

Unfinished Business
2022 – five years after 2017 – a public space odyssey

It is the year 2022, five years after the government started to implement the dynamic waiting management system in public buildings. To simultaneously reduce waiting times while keeping visitors preoccupied, the system routes visitors on an adaptive, and often the least efficient, way through the building. As this has unsurprisingly resulted in many lost visitors, a place-based location-aware voice-controlled guiding and help-and-get-helped system was introduced, in which visitors can leave voice messages to aid other lost visitors.

Dave was born in 1950 and retired in 2017, the same year his wife died. Every time he enters public buildings, he is asked to confirm the usage and data processing terms of the building, as smart building are being classified as interactive data processing units by the 2019 extended GDPR. These temporary consents are based on minimum viable data and are thus only valid for a single visit as all data collected is automatically deleted or anonymized upon leaving.

Dave pretends to apply for a hunting license but actually just wants to hear his wife’s voice in a message she left in the help-and-get-helped system after the system’s implementation. As the system is gender intelligent, he needs a female to find his wife’s message. Furthermore, the message is not locationally linked nor directly addressable because of dynamic shuffling and the anonymization policy.

Claire was born in 2001 and has been applying for a family planning permit for the past five days. As the system is implicitly regulating family planning, prioritizing lonely widows and widowers for which Claire is not, it sends her on an impossible route. As she is not successful in her quest for a permit by the end of each day, the temporary data consent causes her to restart the whole process the following day, resulting in a never ending journey.

But this one special day Dave and Claire met, two lost visitors, trapped some way in and by the system. They decided to help each other and resolve their unfinished business.

DIS 2017 – Workshop on People, Personal Data and the Built Environment

June 11, 2017

Yesterday I attended the workshop Workshop on People, Personal Data and the Built Environment at DIS 2017. Was incredibly inspiring and perhaps the best workshop format I’ve experienced as of yet! Below is my position paper.

Karey Helms workshop submission for DIS17 conference

Implicit Interaction: Information, Intention and Infrastructure (position paper PDF)

In this position paper I present three in-progress design projects that are initial explorations into Smart Implicit Interaction, which is investigating data as a design material and a new paradigm of interaction for the Internet of Things. The first project, Context Clues, critically examines our existing interactions and exchange of implicit information across digital mediums. The second project, Manuals of Misuse, is an Internet of Things design brief in which students are exploring the peripheral intentions embedded within everyday objects to design novel connections while exposing hidden patterns of behavior and engagement. The third project, Phygital Layers, is an architectural study seeking to understand the implicit relationships between physical, technological and social infrastructures within domestic environments. While all three projects differ across scale and medium, they offer potential avenues of investigation into designing for people, data and the built environment.

EuroIA 2017 – Upcoming talk on Implicit Interactions

May 31, 2017

Very excited to be giving a 20 minute talk on September 30th at EuroIA in Stockholm on Implicit Interactions: Implied, Intangible and Intelligent! Below is my talk abstract.

Karey Helms - talk on Implicit Interaction

As our physical and digital environments are ubiquitously embedded with intelligence, our interactions with technology are becoming increasingly dynamic, contextual and intangible. This transformation more importantly signifies a shift from explicit to implicit interactions. Explicit interactions contain information that demands our attention for direct engagement or manipulation. For example, a physical door with a ‘push’ sign clearly describes the required action for a person to enter a space. In contrast, implicit interactions rely on peripheral information to seamlessly behave in the background. For example, a physical door with motion sensors that automatically opens as a person approaches, predicting intent and appropriately responding without explicit contact or communication.

As ambient agents, intelligent assistants and proactive bots drive this shift from explicit to implicit interactions in our information spaces, what are the implications for everyday user experiences? And how do we architect dynamic, personal information in shared, phygital environments?

This talk aims to answer the above questions by first introducing an overview of explicit and implicit interactions in our mundane physical and digital environments. Then we will examine case studies in which unintended and unwanted consequences occur, revealing complex design challenges. Finally, we will conclude with example projects that explore a choreography between explicit and implicit interactions, and the resulting insights into architecting implied, intangible and intelligent information.

DIS 2017 – Accepted Works-in-Progress (PWiP)

April 28, 2017

Both very unexpected and exciting to have a work-in-progress accepted to DIS 2017 in Edinburgh. I wrote about an ongoing autobiographical design project that was started this spring along side a few other explorations to kick-start my PhD at KTH this year. Very thankful to Kia Höök who talked me through my insight at a KTH Interaction Design writer’s camp in March and the reviewers who gave great feedback on how to continue developing it into a full paper.

Leaky Objects autobiographical design project by Karey Helms

Leaky Objects: Implicit Information, Unintentional Communication (PDF)

This paper introduces the concept of leaky objects to describe this phenomenon in which shared objects unintentionally reveal implicit information about individual or collective users. This leaking of implicit information changes our individual interactions with objects to through objects, enabling expressive communication and ambiguous speculation. The aim of this paper is raise awareness of this phenomenon through an ongoing autobiographical design probe in which remote interpersonal communication through a connected object is being explored, and raise questions regarding the potential implications for designers.

Design Brief – Manuals of Misuse

March 20, 2017

Below is the design brief that I wrote for the master’s level course in which I am a Teaching Assistant. The course is Interaction Design as a Reflective Practice.

Manuals of Misuse design brief for Interaction Design as a Reflective Practice

Design Brief

Technological forecasts often predict that someday in the future everything will be connected. What is everything? And why is connected so often synonymous with tangible interactions being transferred to mobile applications or voice-based assistants? Additionally, these solutions primarily focus on efficiency and automation, signaling a shift from engagement to a frictionless relationship with technology. Is this shift necessary, or do our physical things have overlooked abilities, hidden meanings or magical uses?

The project Manuals of Misuse investigates these questions by examining our everyday interactions with faceless objects and reimagining how they might be misused to playfully control or meaningfully communicate with other things, people or places.

You will do this by:

  • Reflecting upon the intended interactions of an everyday object of your choice
    What is the essential use of the object and the ideal scenarios of interactions?
  • Communicating how the object is meant to be used, interacted with and part of an ecosystem
    What information is needed to communicate to a novice user, product partner, or manufacturer?
  • Investigating how the object is or could be misused – used for purposes not intended by the designer
    What are the object’s properties and/or affordances that result in these misuses?
  • Generating novel design concepts of playful, meaningful or magical misuse
    What modifications, interactions and technologies are required to make this possible?
  • Creating a stand-alone, multimedia experience that conveys your reimagined misuse
    What is needed to communicate the essence of your concept and prompt further investigation?

Objectives

  • Reflection: Upon our mundane, micro interactions with everyday objects. How to we use things and why do we use, or misuse, them? What can we learn from misuse and how does it inform how open or closed we design for appropriation?
  • Communication: Of design intent, technical specifications and user experience to diverse audiences through various mediums.
  • Playfulness: For engaged action and meaningful interaction.
  • Documentation: For reflection and communication.

CHI 2017 – Attending Two Workshops

February 15, 2017

Very excited that I’ll be attending two workshops at CHI’17 in Denver! Below are links to the workshop descriptions and my position papers.

Workshop 1 – Making Home: Asserting Agency in the Age of IoT (description)

Design Fiction interaction deign project by Karey Helms

The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity (position paper PDF)

As the world endures and approaches a string of energy crises, The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity, aims to critique and challenge society’s relationship with energy by provoking individuals to examine their current habits of energy consumption, consider the future implications of these actions, and question their willingness to make sacrifices for a cleaner environment. This is accomplished through the development of a fictional near future society in which individuals are required to produce all the electrical energy that they need or desire to consume. Within the daily narrative of a fictional family of five, the events of their domestic lives have been extrapolated to create a liminal world where mundane, yet peculiar diegetic prototypes create tense situations, uncomfortable behaviors, and unforeseen consequences. The project raises questions regarding local to global contextual considerations, behavioral change within the home diegesis, and hyper-localized hacking.

Workshop 2 – Designing the Social Internet of Things (description)

Internet of Things interaction design project by Karey Helms

Phygital Party Mode: A Relationship with Relationships (position paper PDF)

In this position paper, I present an exploratory autobiographical design project, Phygital Party Mode, in which visitors’ interactions with my website remotely control an Internet of Things light within my apartment. I reflect upon my relationship with the project as a ‘thing’ and explore the themes of active versus reactive agency, conditional relationships and designing the behaviors of objects. Finally, I end with discussion questions that address a transfer of agency due the democratization of the Internet of Things, the transformation of relationships with and because of connected ‘things,’ and the empowerment of people over objects.