Power, participation, and the dog internet

Shaun Lawson, Benjamin John Kirman, Conor Linehan

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationFeatured article

Abstract

Just as lightweight, reliable, affordable computing devices have enabled wearable technology for humans, we are beginning to see similar devices developed for companion animals. But how do we implement design processes that are respectful of the needs and values of all users, when some of these users are not human? The human ability to use language to share complex ideas and opinions makes for ideal partners in a user-centered design process in a way that is problematic with animals. Those human strengths can actively undermine this process, since anthropomorphism can lead us to consider our users on unsuitable human terms. As such, we argue that most technology currently being designed for use by pets is exploitative and entangled in human-centric values. To illustrate and explore the implications of this deeply unintuitive problem, we suggest using tools like speculative design to attempt to understand what an animalcentric technology might actually look like. Our examples highlight issues around agency and security as it relates to technology for animals, especially in contrast to similar technologies designed for people. We argue that designers working in this area must engage openly and honestly with our lack of understanding of the subjective experience of our animal collaborators. Copyright held by Authors.

Keywords

  • animal-computer interaction
  • design fiction

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