Chop-Chop: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Chop-Chop: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Master of Interaction

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  • Chop-Chop: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

    Master of Interaction Design Program, K3, Malmö University, Sweden

    ABSTRACT This paper describes an embodied interaction critical design project stemming from a brief to ‘design an accident’. Chop-Chop is a self-tracking Internet of Things (IoT) smart knife system designed to simplify life, better yourself and save you time through coaching you to become the fastest chopper. The system was created with the goal of sparking a debate around how the current state of smart products improve our lives (or not). In this paper embodiment refers to the body of data formed over time by the digital traces left by anyone using Chop-Chop. The question is what the resulting agency and privacy implications are. Additionally we attempt to understand what biases and power relationships are embodied when making objects ‘smart’? We argue that raising awareness around such topics is more relevant than trying to create the ‘best’ smart knife on the market. Lastly we argue that critical design should venture out from the gallery spaces into the real world. There is a need for discussions and raised awareness involving a broader spectrum of stakeholder perspectives to help incite change regarding IoT agency and privacy issues, including political and judicial aspects.

    CCS Concepts • Human-centered computing • Interaction Design · Interaction Design theory, concepts and paradigms.

    Keywords Critical design, smart knife, user awareness, tangible interface, agency, privacy, IoT.

    1. INTRODUCTION The critical design Chop-Chop smart knife system stems from a brief to ‘design an accident’ and is the result of a collaborative effort by a group consisting of Delia Albu, Nicole Carlsson, Raya Dimitrova, and Katrine Lynggaard.

    The Internet of Things (IoT) market has been projected to grow rapidly in the near future, spurred on by the premise of helping people achieve a safer, easier, more efficient, comfortable and exciting lifestyle. Technology wise IoT involves embedding sensors and actuators into everyday objects (things), connecting them to the internet and enabling them to send and receive data.

    The Chop-Chop smart knife system is situated in the IoT smart home sub category. Typically products in this category fall under four main groups: entertainment, energy, security and healthcare.

    Healthcare smart products often provide a person with coaching or the ability to self-track or visualize a quantified self. An example of such a product is Aira smart scales by Fitbit [1], see fig. 2, with the tag line “Smarter Scale. Better Results”. Aira syncs wirelessly and automatically via Wi-Fi, tracks weight, body mass index (BMI), lean mass and body fat percentage. It displays easy to read charts and graphs of your stats and works with the Fitbit app to help set calorie goals and achieve them through coaching.

    Figure 1. Aira smart scales

    Another example is the soon to be released Hello Egg kitchen assistant by RnD 64, see fig. 2, a large voice-powered egg-shaped kitchen assistant with a small reflective screen. Hello Egg is described as “your home-cooking sidekick that liberates you from the throes of mundane decision-making and frees up an extra day off for you every month”[2]. It plans your weekly meals according to your dietary preferences, organizes your shopping list, orders the produce delivery and provides you with easy-to- follow step-by-step voice-navigated video recipes.

    Figure 2. Hello Egg kitchen sidekick

    The term embodied interaction was coined by ethnographer Dourish [3], at Xerox Park in 2001, urging researchers/designers to get out of the lab into the real world to include the physical and social realities of human computer interaction. The approach for embodied interaction in this paper is opened up to also refer to “materiality”. Specifically we are referring to data bodies generated over time through a person’s interaction with a system. With IoT, whether a person is aware of it or not, sensors are often programmed to register everything you say and do in order to provide functionality. The resulting data body is stored, most

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  • often in cloud(s), representing a digital embodiment of a person. Over time, a detailed profile of a person will be built up, as algorithms process, cross-reference, analyze and categorize the data. I.e. bodily interactions with systems are recorded, saved and stored as digital information, (mis)representing a person, often without that person’s knowledge or consent. These systems tend to be of a black box nature in terms of data handling. It is often not clear when and where data is stored or collected. In general, laws concerning who owns data are not straightforward. In the United States user data is owned by the collector, but in Europe and most other countries user data is the property of the user. Data Protection Regulation (European Commission 2012) in Europe defines “personal data” as any data that can be related to individuals [4].

    A common definition of privacy, dating back to the 1890s, is the fundamental principle that every person legally has “The Right to be left alone”[5].

    As Chop-Chop is situated in the home, a place where privacy is expected, we attempt to raise a discussion around what the resulting agency and privacy implications (of a self-tracking smart product situated in the home) are. Additionally we attempt to understand what biases and power relationships are embodied when making everyday objects, such as a knife, ‘smart’?

    2. CRITICAL DESIGN The term critical design has emerged as an attention receiving design approach within the HCI field. Dunne and Raby, with roots in The Royal College of Art (RCA), London, coined the term and themselves describe it as design that “rejects how things are now as being the only possibility, it provides a critique of the prevailing situation through designs that embody alternative social, cultural, technical, or economic values” [6]. Critical design has however come under scrutiny for not delivering on its promises. Oliveira and Prado [7] make the point that critical design has become too “spoiled and self-centered” and is missing the mark by not venturing out of the safe and limited confines of academia, museums and art galleries. According to them preferable developments for the field would involve making the “tricky questions at hand more tangible and visible” to the public. They also stress that a dialogue with the mainstream and mass-culture using less cryptic language is needed. Through this, critical design could be more effective and possibly even transform into a political agent, according to Oliveira and Prado.

    Below is a review of selected related work in the critical design genre to help situate Chop-Chop in the interaction design space.

    2.1 The Placebo Project In the Placebo Project, see fig. 3, Dunne and Raby experimented with taking design research into everyday life. They devised 8 prototype objects and placed them with volunteers found through adverts, workshops and window displays. The aim was to find out if people are more receptive to radical ideas than the industry acknowledges. A non- scientific informal process, aware of ethnographic and anthropological methodologies, was used. As they used real people, although self-selected, the findings were grounded in reality.

    Figure 3. The Placebo Project from Dunne and Raby (2001)

    2.2 Uninvited guests Anglo-Indian design practice, Superflux, created Uninvited Guests [8] , a short video effectively exploring the frictions between a one-size-fits-all IoT smart elder care system. It shows the daily life of Thomas, 70, having been given a smart device system by his children to help him stay healthy by eating and moving as suggested. When not following the suggestions the systems nudges him via a mobile app and his alerted children sms him to ask him if he is ok. This work empathically portrays what it might be like to not have a say in what you eat or how you move any longer as an older person, “cared for” by a smart system. The lack of agency and privacy is disturbing. In the end Thomas cleverly hacks the system by tricking the sensors, but what type of future is this, spending your day fooling sensors so you can spend time as you wish?

    Figure 4. Uninvited Guests from Super flux (video still) (2015)

    3. CHOP-CHOP We developed a series of critical prototypes on the theme of smart knives; these took the form of a website1 and physical devices with tangible interfaces (3 bespoke knives and a cutting board). During a demo hour people experienced the prototypes. Chop-chop is a smart knife system which senses how fast you chop and prompts you to alw