Accidentally Evil: On Questionable Values in Smart Home Co-Design

Now, at long last, the concluding paper for my postdoc project »Miteinander« (2015-2019[2022]) has been published at ACM SIG CHI 2023. Great collaboration with @AlbrechtKurze & @analog_a & @proxyjesse & @richmondywong & @_elsehow


An ongoing mystery of HCI is how do well-intentioned designers consistently enable products with unintentionally evil consequences. Using “questionable values” as a lens, we retell and analyze four design scenarios for smart homes that were created by participants with an IoT toolkit we designed. The selected design scenarios reveal practices that violate principles of responsible smart home design. Through our analysis we show (1) how participants explore sensor-driven objectification of the home then leverage data for surveillance, nudging, and control over others; (2) how the dominant technosolutionist narratives of efficiency and productivity ground such questionable values; (3) and how the materiality of mass-produced sensors pre-mediates questionable design scenarios. We discuss how to attend to and utilize questionable values in design: Making space for questionable values will empower design researchers to better “look around corners”, anticipating tomorrow’s concerns and forestalling the worst of their harms.

Open Access Publication

Arne Berger, Albrecht Kurze, Andreas Bischof, Jesse Josua Benjamin, Richmond Y. Wong, and Nick Merrill. 2023. Accidentally Evil: On Questionable Values in Smart Home Co-Design. In Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’23). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 629, 1–14.

We acknowledge open access support from the Open Access Publishing Fund of Anhalt University of Applied Sciences.