Space, Resources and Needful Things

Hello! We’ve had a bit of a break whilst four of our six households have been finishing the project. I’ll be heading over to Russell’s tonight to find out more about his projects; and Julian and family have about a month left to go after that.

I’m crunching the notes, videos, photos and interviews through an analysis and I’ll be talking more about what we’ve learnt at the Open and User Innovation Workshop, Greenbelt and The Royal Geographical Society annual conference. For now though, some thoughts what we’ve got so far.

Space Building a DIY smart home doesn’t happen in a spatial vacuum. Luke and Louise abandoned one of their early ‘Trick or Treat’ project prototypes because it would involve looping wires out of their front door and down into the shared staircase in their block of flats. Darja specifically built her noise-detector to let her know when she was making too much noise in her own thin-walled flat, and might be annoying the neighbours below. Even though the physical home might start and end with the walls, windows and doors, the living space extends far beyond that and involves sharing and negotiating with other people.

Resources The ResearchKit was never meant to be an end in itself and we were interested to see what its limits were and where the households started to expand on it. Nearly everyone supplemented the kit in some way, sometimes through extra bits and pieces that the experts brought to meetings and also through vendors such as SparkFun and Wickes. Yet bringing more electronics in was only half the story – pulling together smart home toys requires access to more auxiliary resources, and Gareth, Darja and Julian have been lucky enough to make use of the soldering irons, 3D printers and other engineering resources in their local hackspaces and innovation centres.

Needful Things In the very first meetings with our households we explored how people inhabited their homes – what they liked and disliked doing around the house, and how they would like to improve it. Russell and his family pointed out that one way to make home better is to make it ‘less boring’ – and hence Marvin The Discreet Reminderer was born. ‘Need’ can also be subjective – Julian’s daughter was gung ho about helping to build their Santa detector, but less enthused about later projects which had less obvious need for her.

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