When Your Toaster is a Client, how do you design?:Going Beyond Human Centred Design

Cruickshank, Leon and Trivedi, Nina (2017) When Your Toaster is a Client, how do you design?:Going Beyond Human Centred Design. The Design Journal, 20 (Suppl.). S4158-S4170. ISSN 1460-6925

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This paper does not argue that artificial intelligence will make objects truly intelligent but it does make the case that within the sphere if the Internet of Things (IoT) objects will increasingly have agency, be making their own decisions responding to data they have collected beyond the direct control of humans. As such these networks and objects can be regarded as actors or stakeholders. There has been an assumption that humans should be at the centre of the creative process since Normans seminal texts , ‘UserCentered System Design: New Perspectives on HumanComputer Interaction’ (Norman & Draper, 1986) and ‘The Psychology Of Everyday Things’ (Norman, 1988). Here he maps out a new direction for good design that has been incorporated into the design mainstream (Sanders and Stappers 2008, Markopoloulos et al. 2016, Coleman and Clarkson 2016). In an age of automated Bots and IBM`s Watson (Baker 2011) the bedrock of this assumption is being eroded daily. Kortuem et all define the Internet of Things as ‘a loosely coupled, decentralized system of smart objects — that is, autonomous physical/digital objects augmented with sensing, processing, and network capabilities’ (Kortuem et al 2010). They draw a distinction between sophisticated but ‘dumb’ systems that for example track the movement of goods through warehouses and systems that use ‘smart objects’ that have a level of understanding built into them. Its these smart objects that characterize a move to the true Internet of Things. Kortuem et al define smart objects as having the capacity to ‘sense, log, and interpret what’s occurring within themselves and the world, act on their own, intercommunicate with each other, and exchange information with people’ (Kortuem et al 2010). In this paper we argue that rather than trying to humanise technology considering everyone as a ‘smart object’ offers some interesting and provocative challenges to design that help get beyond human centred approaches. There is an extensive body of literature examining the idea that everything (including us, ideas, smalls…everything) can be classified as an object or a thing. With a few notable exceptions, for example Ian Bogost`s Alien Phenomenology, or, what it's like to be a thing (2012) and Levi Bryant`s, Onto-cartography (2014) the connections between this area of philosophy and design are not well developed. In this paper we use this materialist or Object Orientated Ontological (OOO) perspective to explore the implications for design practice. Specifically we look at the fundamental principles of Human Centred Design as laid out by Norman (1988), for example ‘Use both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head. By building conceptual models, write manuals that are easily understood and that are written before the design is implemented’. We apply an OOO perspective to this, challenging notions of knowledge, the average user, the visibility or explanation of actions and designing for error.

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Journal Article
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The Design Journal
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18 Sep 2017 12:52
Last Modified:
19 Sep 2023 01:46