[ISEA2010] Paper: Liesbeth Huybrechts – The Role of Risky Objects in an Internet of Things


A growing amount of designers wants to create mediating objects that contribute to a participatory relation between people and space, like RFID toolkits, mobile augmented reality applications, often referred to as locative media or Internet of Things (IOT) applications. Raessens states that:

Negotiated, oppositional, and deconstructive readings (more so than dominant ones), configuration and selection (more so than exploration), and construction (more so than reconfiguration) are all, in their own specific way, part of what I call participatory media culture.  (Raessens, 2005).

Literature and expert interviews in the framework of my Phd research in the field of Cultural Studies suggest that risky objects offer a good framework for designers of IOT applications, since they trigger a kind of sociality which fits well in the definition of participatory culture. Latour states that the Space Shuttle Columbia was a risky object on the moment of the disaster on February 1, 2003. It talked for itself, about the technical and organisational problems that led to the disaster, when it transformed from something complicated, automatic and autonomous into a more transparent rain of debris. The shuttle seemed silent and autonomous in a ‘normal’ situation, but became critical and a full-blown mediator in this context, putting a social situation under pressure, while stimulating alternative conversations about it (Latour, 2005).

  • Liesbeth Huybrechts (BE) is doing a Ph.D. research in Cultural Studies (KULeuven) on the use of new media as risky objects in participatory design and art projects. She is research coordinator of socialspaces.be (Media, Arts & Design Fac. Genk), exploring the social potential of art, design, new media.

Full text (PDF) p.  424-426