Inviting connected objects into our homes

How do we choose which connected objects to invite into our homes?

Which connected objects do we invite into our homes? We believe that fundamentally, when answering this question, we should not consider connected objects differently than any other object.

However, as a matter of personal philosophy we believe that it pays to be mindful of what we surround ourselves with. As connected things in our homes might change through software updates or learning algorithms, a careful look at what we invite in is certainly warranted.

Mindful ownership

"You are what you eat," the saying goes. In the same spirit, you are what you own. Just like one can be mindful about their diet in an effort to have a healthy, balanced body, one can also be mindful about the objects one invites into their lives to ensure a healthy, balanced environment.

The home is where we house most of our possessions. It matters what we choose to surround ourselves with. A comfortable chair makes us feel at ease and supports us. A cherished family memento makes us feel loved. A malfunctioning appliance causes frustration.

Objects affect us. In the connected home, we should be mindful about what we invite in.

"Solving problems" isn't the only criterion

In technology circles, a lot of attention is given to building useful things and then to optimizing them. Does this fix something? Does it solve a problem? If so, how can we solve it more efficiently?

Yet, the ability of an object to "solve a problem" isn't the only criterion humans have when choosing the things they surround themselves with. The urge to replace human judgments with algorithms and optimized efficiency has its limitations.

"Constructing a world preoccupied only with the most efficient outcomes—rather than with the processes through which those outcomes are achieved—is not likely to make them aware of the depth of human passion, dignity, and respect." —Evgeny Morozov1

As we imagine the connected home, one that helps us be more human and that brings us joy, we must explore a fuller set of selection criteria when deciding what objects to invite into it.

Four categories of objects

A possible set of criteria for personal possessions is laid out by the science fiction writer and design critic Bruce Sterling:2

1. Beautiful things.
2. Emotionally important things.
3. Tools, devices, and appliances that efficiently perform a useful function.
4. Everything else.

Sterling explains how to assess the objects you own using these categories. He encourages the mindful selection of the objects you surround yourself with everyday.

You are not "losing things" by acts of material hygiene. You are gaining time, health, light and space. Also, the basic quality of your daily life will certainly soar. Because the benefits of good design will accrue to you where they matter—in the everyday.

Does it spark joy?

An even more compressed approach is suggested by Japanese "tidying up" specialist and best-selling author Marie Kondo.3 She advocates for using just one question when deciding whether to have an object in your home:

Does it spark joy?

Her argument is that if an object is useful, it will spark joy because you acknowledge its ability. If it's beautiful, it will also bring joy. If it's emotionally important, you will also recognize that through joy.

Make joyful objects

Humans deploy a range of criteria when selecting what objects to invite and keep in their homes. The ability for an object to solve a problem is certainly a factor, but not the only one.

As we build and consider things for the connected home, let us bear in mind the other ways in which objects help us be human: Are they beautiful? Are they emotionally important? Do they spark joy?

1. For his critique of so-called solutionism see Evgeny Morozov's To Save Everything, Click Here. clickherethebook.com
2. See viridiandesign.org
3. See The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. tidyingup.com

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