Panopticons of Convenience - The Internal Politics of the Smart Home

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles

Abstract

This thesis explores digitalisation, smart home technologies and how they may affect the power structures of the home. It proposes to view smart homes as emerging panopticons of convenience, where surveillance is accepted in return for conveniences. Digitalisation and smart technologies rely on the continuous collection of data which are used to examine and judge the behaviour of the residents, making it possible to interpret smart technologies as Foucauldian disciplinary technologies. This understanding is explored through a three case studies that examine how smart technologies affect autonomy, agency, and equality. The studies - presented in four publications - use primarily interview data and thematic analysis to investigate narratives of technology in the home. The first case study explores privately owned homes. The second - rental homes, while the third explores IT helpdesks as quasi-public services and the limits of support for those who are marginalised by the process of public digitalisation. The thesis asks two research questions: (1) how can the politics associated with the character of smart home technologies be conceptualised and (2) how do these politics, both intentionally and unintentionally, affect different members of the household and their relation to the home. The thesis answers the first question by conceptualising of smart homes as panopticons of convenience, which are defined as'the acceptance of additional surveillance of one's life for the purpose of acquiring actual or presumed convenience' while drawing on a wide range of theories such as Foucault's theory on disciplinary power, Borgmann's device paradigm, assemblage theory, notions of abjection and foreignisation through technology, and ethical theories such as the capability approach and contributive justice in order to reflect on how the politics of smart homes re-shape power relations in the home. The answer to the second question explores how these technologies reinforce asymmetric power structures, making them part of the infrastructure of the home. Smart home technologies divide the residents into different roles, thus, actively disempowering less technologically adept residents and displacing existing practices. By drawing on Borgmann it is possible to understand how these technologies can commodify the home, exemplified through co-living sites where a home experience is part of the offering. The asymmetric power relations are used to understand how smart home technologies become integrated into a sociotechnical assemblage which favours certain groups over others.
Translated title of the contributionPanopticons of Convenience - The Internal Politics of the Smart Home
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Keinonen, Turkka, Supervising Professor
  • Keinonen, Turkka, Thesis Advisor
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-952-64-1262-7
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-1263-4
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Keywords

  • smart homes
  • panopticons
  • power relations

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