Karey HelmsPhD Student in Interaction Design at KTH Royal Institute of Technology

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I am a PhD student in the Interaction Design Research group at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Prior to beginning my PhD in December 2016, I worked as a Interaction and Service Designer within enterprise Internet of Things in London. Originally from Tennessee, I have an MFA in Interaction Design from Umeå Institute of Design and a BS in Architecture from the University of Virginia. I am currently on parental leave until March 2020.


As our everyday objects and environments are increasingly embedded with data-driven systems our interactions with and through technology are becoming increasingly dynamic, contextual, and intertwined. This has resulted in what some describe as implicit interactions, or interactions with technology that are unseen or unnoticed yet are proactively operating on our behalf. The technology driving these interactions often lacks physical form and participates in larger assemblages of entangled and concealed local and global relations. With complexity hidden in a guise of convenience and efficiency, the messiness of human idiosyncrasies, desires, and needs can be misinferred and misused. This results in a reconfiguring of social and material agencies between human and non-human actants, whereby it is not clear what is being sensed, the implications of this information being used, and when and how to intervene with technology deliberately made invisible.

In response, I am investigating what is at stake and the role of design in this shift towards data-driven implicit interactions by designing where technology is often considered out of place: within social relations of care that draw upon intimate and somatic data. These involve situations that are difficult to quantify, where humans hope to feel their safest, and where a breakdown or unintended consequence of technology can be the most revealing, devastating, and shameful regarding personal well-being. An example is the management of bodily waste through speculative technology that predicts when and how badly one needs to urinate. By critically engaging with such situations of care, I draw upon concepts of intimacy and taboo to challenge definitions of implicit and explicit interactions while investigating the sociomateriality of data-driven technologies.

Inspired by Maria Puig de la Bellacasa’s posthumanist perspective, I view care as “non symmetrical, multilateral, subjective, obligations that are distributed across more than human materialities and existences”. Through this lens, care is a diverse and interdependent mesh of doings to sustain worlds for and by many beings. This accentuates that by “thinking with care” we might detect relational arrangements between humans and non-humans in technologies designed for activities of care, while also address the configuring of affective and ethical agencies regarding who is caring and how.

My research investigates two interrelated questions:
• What qualities and definitions of implicit interactions are revealed from critically designing with intimate and somatic data in relationships of care?
• How can design carefully provoke responses about the reconfiguring of social and material agencies by implicit interactions?

My research is a part of the Implicit Interaction project at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.


In my spare time I support my partner’s fermentation business Homemade Cultures.

I am also an avid hiker, below are some highlights:
Nepal, 20 days Annapurna Circuit (5,416 m / 17,769 ft), 10 days Ganesh Himal
Georgia, 17 days in the Caucasus (including Mestia to Ushguli)
Chile, 10 days Torres del Paine (Circuit trek)
Argentina, 5 days Los Glaciares National Park (near Mount Fitz Roy)
Sweden, 5 days Kungsleden (2014 – Kebnekaise 2,106 m / 6,909 ft), 2 days Sarek, 2 days Höga Kusten
Columbia, 4 days Ciudad Perdida
Norway, 7 days Lofoten Islands (2017 – Hermannsdalstinden Summit 1029 m / 3376 ft), 4 days Lofoten Islands (2014)
Peru, 4 days Inca Trail (4,215 m / 13,829 ft)
United Kingdom, 4 days South Downs Way, 3 days Isle of Wight Coastal Path (105 km / 65 mi)
Panama, 2 days Volcan Baru summit (3,474 m / 11,398 ft)
Indonesia, 1 day Mount Batur (Volcano)
Turkey, 1 day Lycian Way, 2 days Cappadocian Valleys
New Zealand, 1 day Abel Tasman

Sometimes I blog about it: happyspooner.com