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About

Big  Question

How we can define and foster a healthy relationship between people, the internet and things: using the ethos and practices of craft, informed by knowledge within the humanities, augmented with technical know-how and leveraging citizen engagement/collaboration ?

The internet is a profoundly powerful force in society. Yet it is currently in a problematic position: Fake news, centralisation of power, disinformation, cybercrimes, state-control and mass manipulation of citizens, are all very much part of a global conversation that poses the question “how healthy is the internet?”. This question invoked through Mozilla’s Internet Health Report[1],  is possibly one of the most important questions designers of internet related products and services need to respond to. Do people feel safe? Who is in control? How open is it? Can people succeed? Do people feel welcome? For people who make physical things, these are especially important questions in the creation of connected devices.

Why Craft?

We would argue that the current dominant industrial design approach to IoT (and the internet) is not fully delivering on the early promise of an open internet where anyone can prosper. We believe other paradigms of knowing and making could be valuable in providing new perspectives and models of production.  

Recognising craft broadly as intelligent making, we believe it provides way of thinking, centred around a skilled dialogue with the materials of a situation (incl. physical stuff, people, data,) that is distinct from an Industrial Design mindset. Craft practices often draw on concepts of subjectivity, personalisation/bespokeness, localism, embodiment, provenance, authenticity, and care. These notions chime with, and can be mapped onto, the very human critical issues that are highlighted in the Mozilla Internet Health Report (e.g. Who is in control? – decentralisation – individually or locally bespoke and owned). 

Objectives:

To create a compendium of IoT concepts and physical examples that embodies new conceptualizations of what an IoT device might be and how it might be experienced.

To build a critically aware community of local stakeholders in the North East to help focus and steer the project.

To conduct participatory research that understands how internet health issues such as privacy, security, legibility and agency play out at a localised level.

To design, deploy and evaluate bespoke research objects that respond to local needs and desires, with the aspiration to create beneficial and meaningful alternative experiences of IoT for the participants involved.

To generalise these local understandings and embody them in a series of policy and practice roadmaps that can act to focus the future healthy development of IoT.

Where 

The project will be focused in Newcastle, Gateshead and wider Northumberland in the Northeast of the UK, providing the opportunity to work with a diversity of people across both urban and rural areas. 

[1] https://internethealthreport.org/2019/