The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity

The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of American Domesticity is a satirical design fiction of a near-future society in which individuals are required to produce all the electrical energy they need or desire to consume in response to anthropogenic climate change. Motivated to provoke discourse in sustainable HCI regarding energy consumption and conservation, the design fiction is composed of an ecosystem of diegetic prototypes that through use, appropriation, and infrastructuring result in uncomfortable behaviors and unforeseen consequences. An accompanying narrative details a day in the life of a fictional family and residents of the society, in which social and material relations are reconfigured as the prototypes participate in the production and consumption of energy.

This project was completed in 2014 for my MFA thesis in Interaction Design at Umeå Institute of Design, and revisited 2018 at KTH Royal Institute of Technology when the near-future became present-day.

The Family Circuit was exhibited as a physical manifestation of a room from the home of the Power family of five, residents of Newtown, South Iota. Within the exhibition room are seven diegetic prototypes, or seemingly everyday objects that only exist within the fictional world. The prototypes include energy harvesting products, freeze frames, an energy bill, a smart home brochure, the Energy of Things catalog, and an infomercial within a radio show. The radio show shares its title with the project, and is a resulting narrative which describes the contemporary political climate and a day in the life of the Power family.

In addition to the exhibition as a dissemination venue for conversation, an infomercial and radio show were produced.

For the full script please visit this blog post.

Publications

Karey Helms, Ylva Fernaeus. 2018. Humor in Design Fiction to Suspend Disbelief and Belief. ACM Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI 2018), Oslo, Norway.

Karey Helms. The Family Circuit: A New Narrative of Domesticity. Interaction Design, Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå, Sweden 2014 – MFA thesis.