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The Future Is Metahistory: Using Spime-based Design Fiction As A Research Lens For Designing Sustainable Internet of Things Devices

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNConference contribution/Paperpeer-review

Publication date2/09/2019
Host publicationIASDR 2019: Design Revolutions. International Association of Societies of Design Research Conference 2019
Number of pages22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


A spime describes a device that could generate data about itself throughout its entire life-cycle and this ‘metahistory’ would be saved and remain searchable and mineable. Given growing Internet of Things (IoT) device e-waste and material scarcity issues, the concept of spimes provides a useful approach to addressing the current lack of consideration of sustainability in the IoT. Using Design Fiction, we generated a series of near future artefacts that help concretise a world in which the UK Government sanctions the use of blockchain technologies to sustainably manage spime metahistories. The Government’s so called ‘Open Traceability Protocol’ enables citizens to securely trade data-rich spime objects, use recycling apps to search for replacement spime components, and to access spime devices’ provenance information. The paper outlines the design of the artefacts that ask whether increased data transparency would place greater accountably upon designers and producers in relation to the resources they deplete to manufacture connected products, while at the same time making such issues explicit to users of IoT devices. We also discuss how reflecting upon our design process enabled us to develop a theoretical lens – IoT Design Ethics and IoT Data Ownership – through which aspects of IoT unsustainability can be more thoroughly considered. Finally, we argue that viewing this lens alongside two previously developed spime research lenses allows the formation of an overarching multidimensional lens for spimes, which we contend researchers and practitioners can harness in order to begin reframing IoT design culture as a more sustainable paradigm for design practice.