Spying on loved ones

This project explores tensions in designing for care as conflicts to be resolved, and instead draws upon queer theories to investigate ways of caring for loved ones as not “in-line” with normative expectations. In collaboration with Ylva Fernaeus.

The project began with an autobiographical design probe that investigated how my partner and I communicate through shared domestic objects when one is at home and the other is not. Through the creation of a custom informational infrastructure by the deployment of simple sensors around the home, I was able to monitor and speculate around my partner’s usage of particular objects and spaces. While the project was initially grounded in a genuine concern for his well-being, as a research study and artifact it surfaced social tensions within performances of care. Caring was inadvertently reconfigured as spying, an absurdly obvious post-prototype reflection, giving rise to the concept of “leaky objects” to describe unintentional interpersonal communication through the leaking of implicit information by shared objects in an intimate relationship.

This work is a part of the Implicit Interaction project at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in the Department of Media Technology and Interaction Design.


Karey Helms. 2017. Leaky Objects: Implicit Information, Unintentional Communication. ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS 2017), Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Karey Helms, Barry Brown, Magnus Sahlgren, and Airi Lampinen. 2018. Design Methods to Investigate User Experiences of Artificial Intelligence. AAAI 2018 Spring Symposium Technical Report (The Design of the User Experience for Artificial Intelligence), Stanford, California, USA.