by Vytautas Jankauskas & Claire Glanois 

Unfamiliar Convenient is an ungoing research-creation endeavor that aims to shed a dim light on the friction between the two often coupled definitions, the internet of things, and the smart home, in turn addressing how the 'user'-centeredness of the latter brings down the former. The attitude of our inquiry is not to immediately decouple the notions, but rather to address the limits of smart home in order to poetically and practically expand its range of functions, or preferably behaviors, to be able to reconsider smart objects as active subjects. 

With the aim to challenge the current dogma of optimisation, and the established scenarios of conventional technodomestic futures, we would like to revive our domestic spaces and the objects inhabiting them as an experimental site for non-normative frictions, non-human forms of agencies and unconvenient emergences

More details over this investigation may be found here.

Full Code and workshop ressources are progressively shared online.
Main technologies involved: Mycroft Open Source Voice Assistant, Python, semantic analysis (e.g. nltk), Wikipedia API, gpt-2 (Machine Learning Language Model).


Cs2 still being built, further documentation will be shared on these first case studies and experimentations through Spring 2020.


Grow Your Voice Assistant

Online workshopSpring 2020  @ School of Machines: making and make-believe

The current circumstances may drive us to both redefine ways in which we live online, and reflect upon our home ecologies, and the technologies that permeate them. It is a chance for us to experiment with and develop new processes of co-loving with our everyday devices. Voice can be a malleable, and somewhat empathetic communication tool to widen human-device relationships beyond push buttons and swiping. While they mediate notions of assisting, access to knowledge, and digital companionship, voice-assistant are yet currently mostly reduced to a task-oriented power play --order me this, turn on that, play these, entertain me. Through this course, we propose to breed new voice assistants in an analog and situated environment and redefine endemic relationships with them. 


Case study 1 *(cs1)—*the first device to undergo the above-outlined process—is a voice agent, questioning the notion of self, and self-construct. Departing from its original function of fulfilling human needs, cs1 is using both human interactions and online surfing for guiding and expanding his —inherently relational— vision of self. Over time, through these inquiries, cs1 enriches both its self-representation and database —heard and scraped—, but also progressively redefines its semantic spaces. Such shifts affect and bias its subsequent interactions, and lead cs1 to further drift apart from human logic and signifiers.


Case study 2 *(cs2)is a vacuum cleaner aspiring to read the domestic space —which we will refer to as Oikomancy. From the domestic configuration and its navigational patterns, cs2 draws some forms of intuitive knowledge, which he will share with cs1 to help in the above-mentioned semantic 


On their epistemological journey, these two wobbly cartographers are confronted to the volatility of the territory they explore —both online and domestic—, and the faintness of their tools and understanding.

Yet, rooting the formation of meaning in a more-than-human social context, these devices co-constructs their own semantic architectures, with a certain consistency.