The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity

Last Friday was IxD thesis gateway presentations – more so a private discussion with tutors and reviewers to assess our thesis progress, plans, and priorities for the upcoming five weeks. As my thesis is taking a strong design fiction direction, I did not give a presentation, yet read my draft narrative. To be completed this week, but please enjoy the preview below… it’s proudly quite ‘punny’ (wink wink).

The Family Circuit: A New Narrative in American Domesticity

The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity

It was a cloudy morning in early May, as were most days in Newtown. Otto Power approached the front door to check the weather, only to encounter resistance. Annoyed at the door’s conduct (tivity), he countered the friction with force, and it hesitantly opened – subtly challenging his potential motive while also directly insinuating the impending consequence. Going outside before breakfast was a break in Otto’s usual morning routine, especially for a weekday, and the mental energy used by the intelligent door to evaluate the uncommon situation would cost him the required electricity for a warm cup of coffee. Otto already speculated as much, for it was rare to have a morning electrical surplus. But he had woken with a vague yet irrepressible weight growing in his body, for Otto Power was tired. And so the forthcoming electricity sacrifice failed to impede the growing hope of a different day, and as he stepped outside he thoughtfully wondered aloud, “Will it be windy today?”

Umea interaction design thesis design fiction narrative

Before he could raise his moist finger in the static air, the intelligent door energetically answered, “No.” This unpleasant truth combined with the unspoken assumption of more caffeine down the drain, short circuited his momentary surge of positive energy. Today, like every other day, the Power family would need to produce all the energy they desired to consume.

Umea interaction design thesis design fiction narrative

The town of Newtown was founded five years earlier in 2025 as the first fully self-sufficient master-planned community under the banner of the New Suburbanism design movement. Following the guiding principles of environmentalism and smart city growth, it also placed an unprecedented focus on a return to the American Dream of social mobility through hard work. Literally. By utilizing the everyday effort of its own inhabitants as a clean, reliable, and efficient source of energy – social mobility, or urban sprawl, was consequently achievable for all. A product of the Clean Party, a new left wing faction advocating renewable energy solutions that create work for citizens, the political platform further emphasized ignoring the future, for our children won’t exist if we don’t address the present. Subsequent to the 2008 recession, the Clean Party rose to power with successful propaganda, featuring campaign slogans such as:

Helms thesis design fiction: Clean Party slogans

Newtown is currently governed by Mayor Bare Lee Wright and monitored by Sheriff Cash King, both of whom were sworn into office to enforce and abide by the following five commandments of the Newtown town doctrine:

Helms thesis design fiction narrative: town laws

1) What happens in Newtown, stays in Newtown: All electricity produced by and for the citizens of Newtown is solely entitled to be used by or for the citizens. *Allocation of resources is subject to change as the government deems appropriate in the best interest of the people.

Helms thesis design fiction narrative: town laws

2) The 110% Guarantee: Citizens of Newtown are guaranteed 110% of all electricity production. 100% of all electricity produced in public spaces is given back to the people to power community spaces and services such as street lamps and recreational centers. 10% of all privately produced electricity in the home is given back to the individual citizens to use as they desire.

Helms thesis design fiction narrative: town laws

3) Three R’s – Reserve, Relocation, and Regime: The remaining of 90% of privately produced energy is allocated in a strategic threefold structure.

  • 30% to the regional reserve energy bank
  • 30% to power public transportation
  • 30% to power government buildings & homes

Helms thesis design fiction narrative: town laws

4) Smarter Home and Grid, or SHAG: All families are guaranteed the obligatory right to lawfully participate in the Smarter Home and Grid, henceforth referred to as SHAG.

Helms thesis design fiction narrative: town laws

SHAG requires all Smarter Homes to have the regional Carpet Footprint preinstalled. The carpet has piezoelectric energy harvesters integrated for basic home production. SHAG also requires all Smarter Homes to have a home fitness center preinstalled and featuring state of the entertainment and cooling systems to keep you motivated and comfortably producing energy. Both the carpet footprint and fitness center are guaranteed to produce enough energy to power the intelligence embedded within the Smart Grid and Home system, but not power any home devices or appliances themselves.

Helms thesis design fiction narrative: town laws

5) Energy of Things: The Energy of Things is a weekly government issued catalog of home energy harvesting products available for purchase. Tailored to each family members everyday activities, movements, and behaviors, Newtown is committed to making the selection responsive – adapting every issue to individual family needs. Connected to the Internet of Things, the Energy of Things closely monitors your life and provides accurate information on your potential energy harvesting capabilities.

Upon hearing the deliberate patter of feet on the carpet footprints inside, Otto’s attention transformed states, from present to past – reviving memories of less efficient times.

Otto Power was born in 1985 in a small coastal city to a military family of eight, where “all you need is less” was often followed by “familiarity breeds contempt,” both of which left him slightly confused while simultaneously instilling a creeping sense of personal failure. During middle school, as the family began frequent relocation across international borders due to his father’s quickly advancing career, Otto gradually gained confidence as he acquired a keen eye for detail in his authentic appreciation for the divergent. This slowly translated into placing extreme value in purposeful imperfections and accidental defects. He therefore spent a significant portion of his free time meticulously mending well worn clothing with mismatched fabrics, resulting in a unique wardrobe of polka-dot patches.

During the epitome of adolescence, at an acclaimed art gallery, Otto exhibited an intimate selection of deformed silver spoons rescued from friends’ homes and local restaurants. Titled “My Wounded Soldiers,” the collection resulted in a prestigious college art scholarship. He henceforth received a B.S. in Imaginative Engineering before landing a highly coveted job in Silicon Valley as a Creative Technologist for a startup that was developing an infant gene therapy application called Parental Precision. Sponsored by several major toy manufacturers and avant-garde pharmaceuticals, Otto’s specific role in the ostentatious venture was coding an algorithm for a prenatal personality generator to be used by expecting parents during the first trimester. As this particular component of the service emphasized exactitude within the chosen genetic manipulations, Otto’s spontaneous decision late one night to incorporate a random quirk generator as a hidden feature was unfortunately unappreciated. Though initially unnoticed for over a year, when a billion dollar class action lawsuit hit the startup as the first generation of modified babies began speaking with incompatible yet distinguishable regional accents – saying the ‘Bahston mah’ or the ‘New Yorkah ovah deh’ – he was immediately fired without severance pay.

Not long prior, Otto had met, wooed, married, and impregnated Lotta Power – a former gesture therapist who was instantly attracted to Otto’s abnormal wingspan and hence suggested spooning capabilities. They also shared a mutual interest in the word applicator.

Following a long year of unemployment, Otto eventually landed a job as a Senior Incident Designer at the newly formed Conduct Laboratory – a government consultancy for the Behavioral Development Bureau. As the backbone of his position involves the fabrication of political scandals to generate productive publicity, he has been trained to see the positive in all things negative.

(the below being refined… to be continued/updated soon with related cyclical family scenarios and accompanying images and diagrams)

This characteristic is manifested in the family dynamics through insulting comments sincerely intended to generate a beneficial outcome. For example, Otto tells his wife and daughter when they have gained weight, so they will generate more electricity.

Lotta Power is a stay at home Pinterest Womanipulator: in which she coaches pinterest enthusiasts on strategic creation of misleading boards and unsystematic pins to prevent Google or even friends from forming an accurate stereotype. Her distrustful attitude toward society was instilled after a 23 and me test informed her she was 4 and half % Nigerian, leading to an eventually identity crisis in her late 20s. As a method of self therapy, she developed a secret obsession with conspiracy theories and now enjoys learning Russian and formulating theories on who killed JFK. She believes everything should and could have multiple motives, and views her powers of persuasion as a hidden talent in training her family for mental warfare. This has resulted in her convincing their son Moe Power that his collection of dinosaur figurines come alive at night, followed by her secretly hiding them throughout the house while cleaning. His frantic searching generates impressive electricity.

Robin Power is 17 years old is a high school student and online founder of suburban dictionary.

Moe Power is 12 years old and collects miniature figurines. He has a wild imagination and believes his dinosaurs come alive at night. Due to his weight problem that renders him physically slow, his parents often give him immense amounts of sugar to foster energy generation.

Sharon Power is the 9 month old baby daughter of Robin Power. Almost aborted, Otto and Lotta saw the hidden potential energy in her, who they often refer to as the “Little Mistake that will.”