Investigation 2 - Thinking Piece

Ubiquitous computing and alternative beliefs

tl;dr: Research and write a topical essay that raises an interesting question or perspective related to the themes of the module: relationship between material artefacts, superstitions, alternative belief systems, embodied rituals and practices, and ubiquitous computing, etc. Document and report your findings to the class and reflect on their implication for what and how we'll make.

Learning Objectives

As part of the exercise, students will:

  • build familiarity on research, scholarship and thinking relevant to ubicomp and belief;
  • explore aspects of networked digital information or devices that support rituals and practices;
  • identify and review concepts that relate to the course and that can inform our work;
  • helped co-create a body of knowledge on belief and technology to draw on as part of their own explorations;
  • reflect on how technology and belief do and might overlap and the issues we should consider in designing approaches to smart and connected devices.


As part of this thinking piece, you’re asked to critically examine a topic relating to systems of alternative belief, embodied rituals and practices, and/or designing tangible tools. It should be a topic that you’re personally interested in, that’s relevant to this course, and report it to the group.

Topics, are of your choosing and might include:

  • How systems of divination have been appropriated in the design of interactive technologies
  • Reflections and scholarship that use technology to augment rituals and practices
  • Rituals and practices for connecting with otherworldy forces or knowledges;
  • The history of a specific alternative belief system and how it has changed in a networked age
  • Issues presented by the Internet, social media or other networked forms of knowledge e.g. Pierce’s networked anxieties
  • The emergence of new enactments or engagements with superstitions, divination, or belief
  • Concepts relating to predictability or prediction
  • Research and practice in designing alternative smart home devices;
  • Etc.

They should be ideas that you haven’t encountered before, are relevant to the course and you find particularly interesting or exciting. The emphasis here is on discovery and critical reflection. Writing about concept you already know intimately defeats the point of the assignment, which is to deepen your familiarity with the field.


Add your Thinking Piece to the #think-pieces as a new post on slack (see below).

This post should contain a essay (750 words) on a topic of your choosing. This should a) introduce the topic you have chosen, b) raise questions and provocations, and C) provide a critical reflection or perspective on the topic.

The thinking piece should include appropriate citations, link referenced texts and works and acknowledge authors appropriately. You’re welcome to include illustrations and images as needed too.


As part of thinking pieces, students will identify an open question or challenge posed in developing responsive technologies within the scope of the themes or projects assigned and that they are personally interested in. This should include a clear description of your area of interest as well as supporting research, examples, precedents, and other sources that provide context to your ideas and argumentation.

Reflect on the ideas you’ve encountered as part of the course and select one you’d like to explore more. You’re welcome to go beyond the three investigations to other ideas you’ve encountered too.

In your statement do three things:

  1. Start from a problem, open challenge or area of interest i.e. give a little explanation what you chose the area/idea/question you did and why its interesting and relevant;
  2. Formalize a question or statement which expresses that interest effectively and narrowly i.e. distill it down to something quick, easy and clear to communicate
  3. Develop a statement of how it relates to ideas and outcomes which precede it i.e. support it with references and research; tell us why this is important; how does it advance or extend prior work; etc.

For part 3, don’t rely only on things introduced or surfaced as part of the course materials or discussions. You’re expect to go beyond the course materials and readings and bring in new literature, projects, exemplars, and ideas.

Submitting your work:

You’ll submit your work on Slack. As a new post:

  • Open Slack and navigate to the #think-pieces channel
  • In the text box (bottom), click the Lightning Icon on the left hand side. Choose the option to ‘Create a new post’
  • In the post editor, give the case study and appropriate title.
  • Add your narrative to the body of the post.
  • When you have added your post, click the Share button on the top right.

Important: the hashtag will be used to automatically check you have made the required posts for each module. If you forget to include it you won’t get a grade for the post.

You should:

  • Read and review articles, papers, and other sources i.e. do good research!
  • Inquire into new areas.
  • Be rigorous and systematic; and
  • document your findings as you go.

Then, share your discoveries with the group by reporting your findings in a 1-page summary incl. sources.

Reflection on your findings

Reflect on the outcomes of your research.

  • What are interesting theories, technologies or territories for us to explore?
  • What are the challenges or opportunities that lie in the concepts and examples you’ve surfaced?

Come up with a series of questions and problem statements related to the idea of creating new technologies for embodying rituals and practices, evoking or augmenting superstitions, and/or networking, connecting and distributing alternative belief systems within smart home products

Resources and Sources

See the Resources for this module and Library Section of course Website.