Engaging Communities through Meaningful Connected Objects

Project Supervisors:  Nick Taylor and Sandra Wilson

Project Summary:  We often think about how connected technologies can help us to engage with the wider world, but they also present opportunities to connect us with our local area and communities—for example, in engaging citizens in local issues or capturing local history [1]. It is notable that these community technologies have typically been designed to engage a community as a whole. However, people’s relationships with their community and urban environment are complex, unique and personal, and it follows that connected objects playing a role in mediating this relationship might adopt similar properties.

This project will explore how citizens can be engaged with their local area and community using connected technologies. These might include objects situated in public spaces or wearable technologies, but will explore the idea of meaningful, experience-centred [2] connected objects, distinguished from mass-produced products more commonly associated with connected products.

The project will address the following topics: 

  • How can meaningful connected objects support or improve citizens’ relationships with their local area?
  • How can existing platforms be adapted to allow non-technical users to create or modify meaningful connected objects?
  • How can a network of such meaningful objects bring communities together around matters of shared concern to have a positive impact on their community?
  • How can we support craft cultures around the creation of meaningful connected objects?

The student will have the opportunity to collaborate with Mozilla Foundation through the Open IoT Studio, a global network run jointly with University of Dundee to envision open futures around the Internet of Things. This collaboration would revolve around the studio’s central questions: 1) How can we design contextually relevant privacy controls in IoT that are knowable, modifiable and empowering to the people using them? 2) How can locally relevant and locally produced IoT contribute to more resilient systems [3]?

[1] Taylor, N. and Cheverst, K. (2012). Supporting community awareness with situated displays. IEEE Computer 45(5), 26–32. http://10.1109/MC.2012.113

[2] Wright, P., Wallace, J and McCarthy, J. (2008). Aesthetics and experience-centered design. ACM Transactions on Computer–Human Interaction 15, 4, 18. http://doi.org/10.1145/1460355.1460360

[3] Mozilla. (2017). The Internet Health Report. https://internethealthreport.org/v01/