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Entangled Threads Studio – TEI 2024

Our Entangled Threads workshop TEI 2024 (Tangible Embedded and Embodied Interaction) Conference took place at the Architecture Factory at Munster University’s Bishopstown Campus in Cork. Focus for the Studio was the embodied practice and ethos of craft in response to privacy, trust, bias and the Internet of Things.

During the Studio workshop we used embroidery as a communal/social practice to scaffold a discussion around our hiCraft framework of our craft characteristics; subjectivity, bespokeness, localism, embodiment, provenance, authenticity, and care-full-ness. Embroidery created a mindful craft process that served as a background for conversations around participants’ experiences of IoT and connection. The research value of the workshop lay beyond the literal objects made, creating space for a deep dive into issues with IoT. Joining the hiCraft team were Loraine Clarke and Martin Skelly

Landscape of Craft

The first Landscape of Craft task was to position the craft ethos terms within a scaled landscape. Reflecting on their creative practice or a recent project, participants defined their individual priorities, and talked through their perspectives on IoT. On gathering the responses the most prevalent of the craft ethos was ‘care’, ranging from care for the users’ experience as well as care in ‘making things well’, next was ‘trust’. Provenance was the least important, and was by some seen as being closely related to localism. Mapping craft practice onto the IoT space, it was suggested that the practice of a craft maker’s fingerprint as authorship could be valuable to parallel within the IoT space. Martin also talked about good creative technologist practice as embodying care as ‘healthy agency’.


In the middle section of the workshop fabrics were made available to embroider, some of which were pre-printed with IoT related texts. Concurrently we watched the hicraft commissions and researcher-led project films, and Martin Skelly and Loraine Clarke’s highly relevant Our Friends Electric made in collaboration with Superflux and Connected Wall Mozilla projects while sharing observations and on the nature and health of IoT.

Martin discussed the Our Friends Electric project development, including creating the narratives for each object and the aesthetic. Differences were highlighted in the making of prototypes approach compared to hicraft’s aim of making working objects. While speculative objects deliver ‘what you need’ and can be conveyed well in the videos, delivering working devices, while challenging, potentially offers an opportunity to live with objects and learn from that experience. Next Loraine presented the DeDi work which took place in India and focused on sustainable hopeful futures through delivering kits for small scale communities to build themselves and live with, along with documentation and 12 fictional artefacts. The ‘to handedness’ of craft practice was mentioned as relevant in the use of locally sourced gourds for example, which stood in tension with the use of imported electronics.

During the embroidery the difference between digital material work and craft work was apparent – if you’re really used to digital, committing to the first step with physical world materials is really hard … too precious to begin (Martin); the more time you spend with digital things, I think that impacts your expectation of physical things. Like, oh, I can’t just go back (Jayne).

Scale was discussed also. Repeatedly the inherent problems of making working prototypes in a research context compared to large companies that create prototypes at a commercial scale. ‘…once you’ve got 10,000 or something versus your prototype’ – Dave. Privacy was raised in relation to the mirrors project and the accompanying pre-nuptual agreement and the dilemma of family members unwilling to sign pre-nups while at the same time personal data is shared in an operationalised way online. In person agreements through physical touch were compared with online agreements along with the longer term impacts of agreeing to data sharing – we might agree to sharing our data but we don’t know how that data will be used in a year.

Topics of agency and privacy were considered in relation to embroidery practice and Dave Chatting’s ‘designerly hacking’ methods. This led to mentions of hacking and playing and how craftspeople tend to prefer control and full knowledge of materials vs. bodging enough to get things to work.

The finished embroidered pieces were made into badges and each person shared their story of their badge and what it represented.

Hopeful visions of IoT

For the final envisioning exercise participants were used a set of predesigned props to construct their hopeful vision of being connected through IoT by placing miniaturised physical components were available to make individual connected networks. 

Martin: we could have a router of good. We trust this middle man really well with our biometrics and personal stuff, then this one is for day to day things we don’t fully trust.
Sara: This is a dice so its about more playful approaches. … the whole flat mediates our connection … this one is an option to say how much you want to be connected
Dave: connecting to every other people’s ideas. And animals and plants so an environmental thing …a utopia of networking.

In summary, the outcomes of the workshop participants aspirations prioritised social, human connection and natural systems, and maintained the historic vision for the internet of knowledge sharing.

Using abductive ‘what if’ thinking, where we follow the input from participants, a new direction for living with sensors. Not systems driven by data gathering, product improvement, surveillance capability, or market expectations, but by people’s hopeful visions. Prioritising Care and Trust as craft ethos, creating Meaningful Social connections that connect to Natural systems in Legible ways that model trustworthy Knowledge sharing.