Investigation 2 - Creative Project

Ubiquitous Presence

tl;dr: Imagine a world where IoT devices are haunted by supernatural beings; where specters, familiars, or gremlins are fundamental components of of smart devices. Realize a plausible but alternative IoT product or service that builds in the supernatural, the mystical or on superstitions.

Due: Tuesday, Mar 30th

Submit Documentation: Gallery Pool - Ubiquitous Presence


Due Date Deliverable Details
Tuesday, Mar 23 Proposal Create a proposal for your creative project (200 words + illustrations) and share on the Gallery
Tuesday, Mar 30 Project Develop a rough cut to discuss during desk crits
Thursday, Apr 1 Project Present your prototype in class.
Friday, Apr 2, midnight Documentation Deliver documentation of your creative project

Brief and Goals

Taking cues from ‘Networked Anxieties’ by Pierce and DiSalvo and ‘Material Speculations’ by Wackery et al, we’ll continue to explore otherworldly design opportunities applied to tangible, ubiquitous and responsive technologies. Specifically, we’ll imagine a series of alternative belief-based or superstitious smart home products.

Brief: Imagine a world where IoT devices are haunted by supernatural beings; where specters, familiars, or gremlins are fundamental components of of smart devices. Realize a plausible but alternative IoT product or service that builds in the supernatural, the mystical or on superstitions.

The goal of this exercise is to consider the blending of tangible and digital practices: you’re going to design a physical practice connected to digital information, informed by superstitions, the supernatural and in particular alternative beliefs, rituals and practices. To do this, we’ll first find a compelling ritual, practice or belief to build on. The warm up activity for this module will help with that. Next, draw parallels to existing smart home products and consider a critical position around issues such as predictability, privacy, or pervasive data. Draw analogs between these issues, existing technologies and systems of divination, belief or superstition. Then reimagine a smart home device (or a series of cooperating devices) and enacting a ritual or practice around it. Envision and prototype that experience and how the ritual is performed too. Remember: You should anchor your design in a specific alternative belief system or superstitions and investigate this deeply. You should develop a critical stance on contemporary technology that sets up an intentional propostion for an alternative design.

You should develop at least one prototype that demonstrates your ideas for how you can build alternative belief-based or superstitious smart home product. The proposal should consider how data and digital information operate within the device. You may choose any one of the four broad approaches to do this:

  • Diagetic props or performances of existing products, e.g. Lindley, Gradinar, and Coulton’s “Ghosts in the Smart Home”
  • Revealing unseen forces in current Smart Home devices by developing prototypes and enactments suggest provocative ways to detect electronic ‘spirits’, reveal and perform Hertizan forces, or help to make visible the hidden systems and data we are entangled with for dialog. e.g. Ghost Bug and Wave Detectors from Lindley & DiSalvo; Arnall & Schulze’s ‘Immaterials: Ghosts in the Field’
  • Reinterpreting IoT Products through conceptual designs of alternative consumer products offer valuable strategies to present issues of explainability e.g. eGregor by Geeng, 2020
  • Machine Assisted Beliefs could builds on lineage of work in rituals suggests the value of new material enactments that examine and support alternative, occult, otherworldly rituals and practices. e.g. Believe it Yourself by
  • Hauntologically-informed research products can help to reflect and presence questions and concerns about a technology’s histories, entanglements, explainability, or other issues e.g. Chthonic Rites by Goatley

The possibilities are wide and varied. But you should:

  • Make - i.e. test your ideas and give them a form.
  • Research - i.e. uncover theory, ideas, and precedent projects that inform your approach.
  • Gather - i.e. find inspirational resources from speculative designs, design fiction, science fiction, etc..
  • Experiment - e.g. don’t just prototype the device and interactions but simulate/construct the data it might produce or use;
  • Document - e.g. test your ideas on yourself or others, how do you or others experience and encounter the device, what are your reactions and responses, document how you respond to it, what values it offer, and why it might matter to you or others.

Unusual approaches, left-of-center thinking and impracticality is encouraged!

Note: Hardware, technologies and other resources can be requested or purchased using the course budget.

Learning Objectives

This exercise is designed to develop knowledge relating to forgetting and digital technology, as well as, explore the ways in which forgetting (or aspects of letting go) can potentially be supported with new hybrid interactions through connected, ubiquitous and pervasive computing. As part of this exercise, you will:

  • Develop your domain understanding of ubiqutious computing, embodiment and rituals and practice;

  • Imagine how new hybrid practices (blended physical digital rituals) might be able to draw from alternative belief systems to present critical perspectives on technology;

  • Speculate on potential approaches and interactions for alternative smart and connected devices, from the practical to the outlandish (strongly encouraged);

  • Investigate existing technologies which can, could, and are used with alternative belief systems, superstitions and practices;

  • Develop a hands-on exploration that begins to tease-out the broader considerations, issues and requirements in designing for the smart home/IoT (social, cultural, personal, implications etc.)

  • Work collaboratively in an applied investigation to tease-out the broader considerations, issues and requirements in building alternative IoT devices.


  • You must work with computational processes.
  • It must result in a physical/tangible thing.
  • You must work collaboratively.


  • A 1-2 minute video. Create a short (1-2 minute) video illustrating how the device would be used and how the ritual is performed with your smart object. This should illustrate the intended scenarios, interactions, and how it operates, etc.

  • A physical prototype of one hyrbid ‘tool’. You can take any approach to preparing this tangible manifestation that you feel is appropriate. This should be of reasonable fidelity to give form your your proposal, but will reflect your skills with prototyping interactive systems. This could include:
  • A detailed speculative design. This covers:
    • situating the design for the project (context, scenarios, cases, etc.),
    • the goals and rationale for the approach
    • articulating informed position that integrates theory, research, and precedent projects
    • low-fi and high-fi design materials (mockups, concept videos, diagrams, experience maps, sketches, etc.)
    • other collateral to support the design (a user manual, webpage, flyer, advertisment, etc.) as needed
  • A digital presentation of your design work (10 minutes maximum)
    • Prepare a digital presentation and take part in a crit.
    • Showcase/demo your prototype during this time
    • Integrate feedback and prepare digitial documentation on the Gallery
    • Pose open questions and highlight challenges or failures encountered.

Final deliverables to be presented at the Crit/Review

Final Documentation Requirements:

Include a write up of the following:

  • Intent and Design: What is the intent of this project and how does it reflect a critical perspective? Write about the big ideas behind your project? What are the goals? Why did you make it? What are your motivations?

  • Prototype/Outcome: Describe your experience/working prototype: What did you create, how, etc.? What tools and technologies were involved? Include appropriate content and illustration (e.g. a concept video, a video of the device in operation, diagrams, code, etc.) How does it relate or build on existing work (provide acknowledgements or cite this work).

  • Precedents: Give examples of prior work, ideas and projects that influenced your design. What work informed this idea i.e. make links to the material in class and the cases/projects you uncovered in this module. Describe theory, concepts, and research from this module that relate to your outcome.

  • Process: Describe how you arrived out the outcome. What iterations, refinements, design decisions and changes were made? What challenges were encountered and how did you resolve them?

  • Open Questions and Next Steps: What remains unresolved (in the concept, implementation or conversation around this outcome)? What are the things we should pay attention to for future explorations? What questions about ‘spookiness’ or everyday technology did this exploration raise or generate? What questions reamin to be addressed?

  • Group Reflection: Reflect on making this project. What did you learn? What would you do differently? Did you get where you wanted to? If not, why not? What do you need to get there, etc?

  • Attribution and References: Reference any sources or materials used in the documentation or composition.

Each of these sections should be no more than 200 words max. and well illustrated (images, videos, etc.)

For the Project Info’s goal description: it must be tweetable - summarise your outcome in no more than 140 characters