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Awareness of Things: Designing Data-Enabled Object Ecologies

2018-now "Awareness of Things" Project

Design Research, Tu/Eindhoven, NL

Research Team: Yu-Ting Cheng, Mathias Funk, Rung-Huei Liang, Lin-Lin Chen 

“What would happen? 

If every human being on earth disappeared? 

This isn’t the story of how we might vanish. 

It is the story of what happens to the world we leave behind.”

(Life After People, 2008)

Transition of a Home (After People)

Transition of a Home (After People)


#1 PeekabooCam: Designing an Observational Camera for Home Ecologies Concerning Privacy

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The home is a rich context for design research to study things and the Everyday. However, home is also a place of utmost privacy for most people. To better understand this context through an observational artefact without impacting privacy, we designed the Peekaboo cam that enables inhabitants to control their data release actively or passively. The Peekaboo cam is an observational research camera with a coverable lens. We validate in a field study in two homes for 14 days. The resulting photo streams provide qualitative insights on Everyday things in transition. We suggest four design guidelines for observational artefacts for home ecologies.

2019. Pictorial. DIS conference

Author Version PDF

#2 Seeing through Things:
Exploring Design Space of Privacy-Aware Data-Enabled Objects


Designing things in a world with ubiquitous surveillance requires an object-oriented perspective: this project explores design spaces for building privacy-aware sensor-augmented research objects (data-enabled objects) for design research.


Increasing amounts of sensor-augmented research objects have been used in design research. We call these objects Data-Enabled Objects, which can be integrated into daily activities capturing data about people’s detailed whereabouts, behaviours and routines. These objects provide data perspectives on everyday life for contextual design research. However, data-enabled objects are still computational devices with limited privacy awareness and nuanced data sharing. To better design data-enabled objects, we explore privacy design spaces by inviting 18 teams of undergraduate design students to re-design the same type of sensor-enabled home research camera. We developed the Connected Peekaboo Toolkit (CPT) to support the design teams in designing, building, and directly deploying their prototypes in real home studies. We conducted Thematic Analysis to analyse their outcomes which led us to interpret that privacy is not just an obstacle but can be a driver by unfolding an exploration of possible design spaces for data-enabled objects.

#3 Thing Constellation Visualiser