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Internet of Things from a Design Point of View. The Reading List.

The Internet of Things is a way of describing an envisioned future where not only computers and mobile phones are connected to the Internet, but also everyday objects through the use of sensors. Any object could be equipped with sensors that measure parameters such as air pressure, brightness, distance to objects around it etc and the data gathered is distributed wirelessly to the Internet to be used for different application areas. The discussion about the Internet of Things has been going for 10 years and it has generally been a a pure engineering concern. Interestingly, the Internet of Things has now made it into the design circles where the focus is less on technical solutions but on users and application areas.

The things around us will start to act like media and as mediators and the difference between what is physical/tangible/material and what is virtual is blurred. This calls for a discussion around a new kind of media materiality, or material media. At MEDEA, we would like to talk about what we call collaborative material media. This is a field where at least three things are converging: (1) the IT/Telco business and the traditional mass media business, (2) material and virtual products and services, and (3) producers of media and consumers of media.

The purpose of this post is to share the knowledge we already have within the field of material media and how the Internet of Things can be approached from a design point of view. The reading list below is a good start for anyone interested in this field and in related fields such as ubiquitous computing and embodied interaction.

If you have books, articles or blog posts you’d like to recommend, post the titles and links in the comment section below!

Reader suggestions
Kuniavsky, Mike (2010.) Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design. (shared by Postscapes)
Greenfield, Adam (2006). Everyware: the dawning age of ubiquitous computing. (shared by Postscapes)

Reading List

Examples 1-5 provided by Jonas Löwgren.

1. The Coming Zombie Apocalypse – How Small Cheap Devices Will Disrupt our old-school UX Assumptions

2. New Ecology of Things – A research initiative of the Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design

3. Dourish, P. (2001). Where the action is: The foundations of embodied interaction. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. (on Google Books) Comment: This book illustrates the value of foundational concepts not only for abstract reasoning but also for practical design. Dourish introduces the notion of embodiment, based mainly in phenomenological philosophy. By way of definition, embodied interaction is taken to be the creation, manipulation and sharing of meaning through engaged interaction with artifacts. Embodiment integrates the fields of tangible computing and social computing; Dourish covers many existing examples and outlines fruitful directions and principles for future interaction design.

4. Johnson, M. (2007). The meaning of the body: Aesthetics of human understanding. Chicago: Chicago University Press. (on Google Books) Comment: Interaction design is increasingly realizing that people are engaged in interaction with their whole bodies, and with aesthetic sensibility. In this book, Johnson connects cognitive science and neuroscience with his own previous work in language and meaning, as well as with a Deweyan notion of aesthetic experience, and the final result is a theoretical platform that appears solid and useful for any interaction designer interested in concepts such as embodied interaction.

5. McCullough, M. (2004). Digital ground: Architecture, pervasive computing and environmental knowing. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. (on Google Books) Comment: Ubiquitous computing is moving from the research labs into the everyday practices of ICT development and use, and the interaction design community is increasingly realizing that naive notions of anytime-anyplace mobility are missing out on the more important qualities of place and situatedness. This is where architecture offers a contribution. McCullough introduces an architectural perspective on pervasive computing, arguing that the human need for place is not obviated by ubiquitous digital technology. He introduces foundational concepts of place and situatedness, and outlines a design programme for situated interaction involving material as well as virtual elements. The book is important reading for designers and researchers involved in pervasive computing and mixed-media environments.

Examples 6-16 provided by Pelle Ehn.

6. A.Telier (Binder, De Michelis, Ehn, Linde, Lacucci and Wagner), Design Things, MIT Press (forthcoming)

Classics in ubiquitous computing:
7. Ishii, H., and B. Ullmer. 1997. Tangible bits: Towards seamless interfaces between people, bits, and atoms. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 234–241. New York: ACM Press. (on ACM Digital Library)

8. Harrison, S., and P. Dourish. 1996. Re-place-ing space: The role of place and space in collaborative systems. In Proceedings of the 1996 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 67–76. New York: ACM Press. (on ACM Digital Library)

9. Weiser, M. 1999. The computer for the 21st century. ACM SIGMOBILE Mobile Computing and Communications Review 3 (3):3–11. (on Google Scholar)

Classics in basic theory:
10. Appadurai, A., ed. 1986. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. de Certeau, M. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press. (on Google Books)

11. Ingold, T. 2000. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling, and Skill. London: Routledge. (on Google Books)

12. Latour, B., and P. Weibel, eds. 2005. Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (Catalog of the Exhibition at ZKM—Center for Art and Media—Karlsruhe, March 20–October 30, 2005). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (on Google Books)

A few other for inspiration:
13. Jacucci, C., G. Jacucci, et al. 2005. A manifesto for the performative development of ubiquitous media. In Proceedings of the 4th Decennial Converence on Critical Computing: Between Sense and Sensibility, 19–28. New York: ACM Press. (on ACM Digital Library)

14. Jacucci, G. 2004. Interaction as Performance: Cases of configuring physical interfaces in mixed media. Doctoral Thesis, University of Oulu, Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. (on ScientificCommons)

15. Redström, J. 2001. Designing everyday computational things. Gothenburg Studies in Informatics, no. 20. Star, S. L., and G. C. Bowker. 2002. How to infrastructure. In The Handbook of New Media, ed. L. (on GUPEA)

16. von Busch, O. 2008. Fashion-able: Hacktivism and Engaged Fashion Design. University of Gothenburg. (on SwePub)

Examples 17-18 provided by Richard Topgaard.

17. Humphreys, L. Liao, Tony. (2011). Mobile Geotagging: Reexamining Our Interactions with Urban Space. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. (Link to paper, open access) Abstract: Mobile geotagging services offer people new ways to interact with and through urban space. In this paper, we focus on a mobile geotagging service called Socialight and the social practices associated with it. In-depth interviews and participant observation were conducted in order to explore how Socialight’s virtual “sticky notes” were used in everyday life. Findings indicated how users communicate about place to help build social familiarity with urban places and communicate through place to allow users to create place-based narratives and engage in identity management. Such findings deepen our understanding of the social production of space and have implications for future location-based mobile services. (Link to paper, open access)

18. Murat Demirbas et al. (2010) Crowd-Sourced Sensing and Collaboration Using Twitter (link to full paper on Despite the availability of the sensor and smart- phone devices to fulfill the ubiquitous computing vision, the- state-of-the-art falls short of this vision. We argue that the reason for this gap is the lack of an infrastructure to task/utilize these devices for collaboration. We propose that microblogging services like Twitter can provide an “open” publish-subscribe infrastructure for sensors and smartphones, and pave the way for ubiquitous crowd-sourced sensing and collaboration applications. We design and implement a crowd-sourced sensing and collaboration system over Twitter, and showcase our system in the context of two applications: a crowd-sourced weather radar, and a participatory noise-mapping application. Our results from real-world Twitter experiments give insights into the feasibility of this approach and outline the research challenges in sensor/smartphone integration to Twitter.

Examples 19-20 provided by David Cuartielles.

19. Cyborg by Steve Mann is a critical analysis of the way we can come closer to computers, how we become media, and how we can browse both localized media and human centered media (in other words, it is like the PolarRose concept, but from a different perspective. It could be seen as how AR can make “media-everything”). Link to the writer’s page with information about where to get the book:

20. The Presence Project is a good example on alternative ways of documenting research. It studies different communities of people and looks how to create mediated spaces, at least at two of the three sites under study. It is out of print, but I have a copy in my office. It is relevant to me because it is about the space becoming media. Reference link to it, where you can find the link to Amazon, etc:

Examples 21-23 provided by Anna Seravalli.

21. N.Carolan, L. Cruickshank (2010). Understanding design intervention of democratic innovation – A tool kit approach. The relationship between society and design is in a period of transition. We are observing a move from the “object” to “service”, and from problem solving, to problem finding, to design strategy. In this paper we explore how a “toolkit approach” allows us to both contribute to democratic innovation activity but also build a deeper understanding of the potential contribution design can have in this emerging area. This work was conducted in the prototyping stages of the Homesense initiative, a project run by Tinker London and Électricitè de France. Homesense aims to facilitate user led innovation in smart home development through provision of toolkits and experts support. Through engagement wth the Homesense project we indetify areas and mechanisms for intervention in Democratic Innovation (DI) and discuss methodologies for future potential for a wider professional design engagement in DI.

22. Kevin A. Carson (2010), The homebrew Industrial revolution, a low-overhead manifesto, Book Surge (on Google Scholar). This book focuses on the transition from a mass-consumption, capitalistic economy towards local and resilient economies and how CNC machines, open-source hardware and personal fabrication are having a key role in promoting this shift.

23. E.N. Sanders, 2000, Generative Tools for Co-designing (on Google Scholar). “In this paper I will talk about a journey toward a future being made from the dreams of everyday people. I will describe how we are learning to catalyze,capture and collect their dreams and aspirations. I’ll do so by showing examples of ‘tools’ we give people so they can express themselves visually and verbally. Then I will tell how we are beginning to work with people, using their dreams and aspirations to inform as well as inspire the design development process.”

Examples 24-25 provided by Mads Høbye.

Two books that cover some practical approaches to work with Material Media:

24. Wilson, S. (2010). Art + Science Now (p. 208). London: Thames. (on Google Books) In the twenty-first century, some of the most dynamic works of art are being produced not in the studio but in the laboratory, where artists probe cultural, philosophical, and social questions connected with cutting-edge scientific and technological research. Their work ranges across disciplines—microbiology, the physical sciences, information technologies, human biology and living systems, kinetics and robotics—and takes in everything from eugenics to climate change to artificial intelligence.

25. Reas, C., & McWilliams, C. (2010). Form+Code in Design, Art, and Architecture (Design Briefs). Design briefs (1st ed. p. 176). New York: Princeton Architectural Press. ( The last decade has witnessed a proliferation of artists whose primary medium is software. Algorithmic processes, harnessed through the medium of computer code, allow artists to generate increasingly complex visual forms that they otherwise might not have been able to imagine, let alone delineate. The newest volume in our Design Brief series Form+Code in Design, Art, and Architecture is a non-technical introduction to the history, theory, and practice of software in the arts.

Examples 26-28 provided by Susan Kozel.

26. Carter, Paul. 2004. Material Thinking: The Theory and Practice of Creative Research. Victoria: Melbourne University Press. (on Google Books). Carter (artist, thinker and architect) reflects on several interdisciplinary collaborations suggesting that the material used (digital and physical) display gifts of amalgamation and transformation similar to those of human exchanges. Material thinking is innovative, but also reveals much about ourselves, our cultures and our histories.

27. Kozel, Susan. 2007. Closer: Performance, Technologies, Phenomenology. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.(on Google Books). I include my own book because it demonstrates a scholarly approach to digital media and performance that is embodied, both in terms of methodology and what is created. The movement of thought in the book originated with the assertion that the body is not replaced by media but is transformed. Materiality is best viewed as materialities (plural), and there are many modes of engaging materially with the world.

28. Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. San Francisco: City Lights. (on Google Books). Not just a book by a philosopher about a philosopher, this book reframes bodies and inorganic matter  in a way that is strangely appropriate to much media innovation today: bodies affect other bodies and have the ability to be affected,  and they operate according to complex relations of speed and slowness in a fundamentally interrelated and dynamic way. The same can be said of media technologies and smart devices of all kinds

Examples 29-31 provided by Bo Reimer.

29. David Morley: For a Materialist, Non-Media Centric Media Studies. Television & New Media 2009 (10): 114-116. (download PDF from orgnet). Argues well for the need of taking into account the media’s material as well as symbolic dimension.

30. Andrea Mubi Brighenti: New Media and the Prolongations of Urban Environments. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 2010 (16): 471-487. (on Sage) The article addresses the relationships between new media and public urban environments. It advances an anti-reductionist argument, which seeks to understand the material and the immaterial as two irreducible yet intertwined layers or levels of the social sphere.

31. Internet of Things. An Action Plan for Europe. on The EU view on the Internet of Things.

Examples 32-36 provided by Per Linde.

32. EPoSS (European Technology Platform on Smart Systems Integration)

33. IERC – IoT European Research Cluster

34. Homes that make us smart by Alex S. Taylor, Richard Harper, Laurel Swan, Shahram Izadi, Abigail Sellen and Mark Perry From the issue entitled “Pervasive Computing in the Domestic Space” in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing (on SpringerLink). Just one group of many that takes the notion of smart into use rather than in the artefacts/devices/systems themselves. “In this article we consider what it should mean to build ‘‘smartness’’ or ‘‘intelligence’’ into the home. We introduce an argument suggesting that it is people who imbue their homes with intelligence by continually weaving together things in their physical worlds with their everyday routines and distinct social arrangements.”

35. In general, looking for good references, I find the TEI conference (Tangible and embedded interaction) as being a good source for research that combines interaction design perspectives with the more technical work

36. Galloway, Anne. (2004). Intimations of everyday life, Ubiquitous computing and the city. Cultural Studies Vol. 18, No. 2/3 March/May 2004, pp. 384–408. (on Informaworld) Bringing forth a perspective from cultural studies and sociology to ubiquitous computing.

This was a neat little list of books and articles. What’s your suggestions?

Image credit: billaday CC:BY-ND

8 thoughts on “Internet of Things from a Design Point of View. The Reading List.”

  1. Great list! thanks for posting and linking out to all of them as well. I would also suggest having Mike Kuniavsky’s Smart Things and Adam Greenfield’s Everywhere up there too.

  2. That’s a very useful list. Thank you. 

    I’m interested in design view of IOT, but I have a question that make me start doubt about doing my researches on it. why IOT researches are so few in universities?!! Is it because it’s a new topic or it’s not good enough as a research topic in universities? What about HCI concepts in IOT?! I didn’t find any university that works on it. Anybody knows? It’s too important for me.
    Thank you. :)

  3. @svus:disqus : I think you will find there is in fact a fair bit of research on IoT in universities, including HCI-oriented perspectives. However, you might need to search using terms such as “ubiquitous computing”, “ubicomp”, “tangible interfaces” or “physical interaction”. In my experience, the IoT label is mostly used in the ICT/telecom industry and to some extent within computer science.

    Best of luck with your research!

  4. Thank you @google-756395c5c16f55e9ec87e0d85e278ecc:disqus . you are right. I was only searching for IoT in universities. I had found many thing about ubiquitous but I didn’t read them. Actually I’m going to do my thesis on this area (HCI+ Iot or HCI+ ubiquitous as you mentioned) but  I didn’t still find a good topic for that. Which of these references in this list is more suitable for my work? there are many books is introduced here and you don’t expect that I can read all of them :)
    unfortunately I’m alone in my university to work in this area and my advisor don’t have enough knowledge in HCI or IoT. So I’m doing all thing alone and it makes my work very hard. I don’t know which topics are better as a thesis according to my interests. I only know that I want to work on HCI and IoT (ubiquitous Comp)!

  5. Armin, you might want to start with Kuniavsky (2010) and also browse a few years of conference proceedings from the Ubicomp conference. That could be enough to give you inspiration for a brief. Once you have the initial direction of your work laid out, I think you will find it much easier to locate relevant literature.

    But I have to say that it sounds like a hard and difficult task to do a thesis project in an area where you have no access to qualified supervision.

  6. Yesterday when I read you comment I got that book and now I’m reading it. I Also found all ubicomp paper titles and abstracts since 2009. 

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