A device of one’s own
This NGI Salon, titled “A device of one’s own” aims firstly at raising the awareness of participants around their digital personas and their own relationship with their mobile devices. Secondly, the reflection will serve as basis to elaborate alternative meaningful scenarios for the human-mobile device interaction.
FOCUS OF THIS EVENT
The Salon “A device of one’s own” will take place at KINNERNET, a wild-out-of the box, irreverent, disruptor event looking for innovation, creativity and new ideas. On this third edition in Catalonia, the event will feature over 120 innovators and creators from all disciplines (science, technology, business, media, education, art and social work) and from all around the world (US, Europe, Israel and Asia). The mission is “to meet, share and invent desirable future together”.
This annual networking event for innovative professionals provides the opportunity to gather informally and discuss topics of mutual interest. Kinnernet mixes in depth conversations, debates, workshops, but also creative and artistics moments. All participants are equal and contributors and set up the programme.
REVIEW NGI Salon: A device of one’s own
On June 2 KINNERNET Catalonia – a wild-out-of the box, irreverent, disruptor event looking for innovation, creativity and new ideas – hosted a Salon titled “A device of one’s own”. The event, part of NGI Move series of Salons, was conceived and moderated by Marta Arniani (futuribile/curating futures). Get in touch at marta(at)futuribile.org if you would like to host a similar event.
We have an extremely intimate relationship with our own digital devices. Protected by their claimed neutral nature of objects, they know things about us that we do not dare or bother sharing with our human peers. Meanwhile, every single act we do through digital devices contributes to draw a partial picture of our identity. Enough to assign us a character designed through an accumulation of data, a fictional persona composed by a sum of decontextualized elements. Through our unbalanced dialogue with devices, we contribute to the building of extremely addictive, clustered, partial and numbing technology-mediated experiences. But what if we could shape the way our data and digital behaviour are employed so that they can generate meaningfulness for us?
By means of guided self-reflection and ideation exercises, the Salon aimed at raising the awareness of participants around their digital personas and the meaningfulness of their digitalised behaviours. Through simple facilitation exercises attendees have been called to express quantifiable and qualitative aspects of their identity. When asked which of these elements was more important in defining their identity, there was consensus around the irrelevance of goods possession and need, which is instead a key component in digital targeting and profiling.
The scope of this first part of the salon was to led participants to realise to which extent quantification gives a distorted and limited vision of who we and our behaviours and beliefs. Technology works mainly through information accumulation. If data are the new oil, then data providers (people) should be able to have a say about how their private data are invested. Participants have been asked to think of how to renegotiate their relationship with their mobile device, and to come up with ways to make their experience less tailored and more meaningful for them.
Most of the proposals focused on health and time/focus management. A participant working in health suggested that through biometrics mobile devices could understand when somebody is depressed and help her navigate out of that zone through suggestions and assistance. Whereas today devices work as a distraction, they should support people’s focus: providing regular summaries of how long/how many times the person has been fully focused and on what; switching off automatically after a certain amount of hours of usage; assisting in scheduling the best moments to unplug or to focus on a specific task and providing supportive features (e.g. selecting music); analysing when the person is close to breakout and supporting the streamlining of her agenda. As it is structured today, our relationship with mobile devices is utterly overwhelming and automation is mostly focused on aspects with little added value for people.
It was proposed to have more agency in deciding to which projects/initiatives contribute to with one’s personal data. With the conscience that the current data-extractive business models are not going to disappear from one day to another, an evolution is sought: while the data automatically collected keep providing value to the corporations beyond the device and the apps, can’t these data also be invested by the person in data-based endeavours that she considers valuable? For instance, local open data projects, health services and research, circular economy, information sources that the reader enjoys over others. Moreover, a sort of programmed obsolescence for data profiling was suggested: if a profile must be retained, then it should be temporary and contingent to the person actual status. Identities are more fluid then the way technology depicts them.
Finally, another strong point raised concerned the reinforcement of human feedback and interaction. Many expressed the need to protect their domestic environment and make it a space for meaningful human interactions. Due to the expressive limitation of text – which in the experience of participants mostly replaced verbal exchanges, more interactive/multidimensional means to increase the quality of conversation are sought. Interestingly, technology intensifies negative/aggressive/hate debates but fails at amplifying good and meaningful conversations. Measuring/sensing the emotional response and feedback of the communication receiver, or switching off when the person is having a face to face conversation so that it could focus on who is in front, were among the possible features suggested. Automatised tours outside one’s filter bubble were proposed.
“Take care of me like I take care of you: charge me, update me, protect me” – Main takeaways
• It was strongly stated that devices must help people live better (accordingly to their own standards) and increase their IQ, surely not replace people’s agency by automatically acting on behalf of their (artificially presumed) will.
• Citizens should be able to intentionally invest their personal data in initiatives they care about. The return on investment is a positive impact on the world or on their everyday life.
• There should be a programmed obsolescence for personal data.
• The reinforcement of positive (enriching, proactive and respectful) human feedback and interaction is very needed.