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What it is / O que é

Engage _IoT is a research project funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (EXPL/SOC-SOC/1375/2021).

Engage_IoT é um projeto de investigação financiado pela Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (EXPL/SOC-SOC/1375/2021). (resumo)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a range of technologies through which everyday objects are connected to the internet. It has applications in countless domains, such as health, assisted living, environmental monitoring, energy saving, or industrial manufacturing. Online connection between objects allows significant gains in efficiency, sustainability, public health and convenience. Many considered it a factor for promoting economic development and employment. However, as well as carrying the same risks as other ICT (data protection and security, privacy and surveillance, tracking and manipulation), it entails additional ones, since hacked or malfunctioning devices may endanger users, workers and the community.

The core aim of this project is to understand how social actors (producers, consumers, regulators) engage with a new kind of technology (IoT), from the macro level of sociotechnical imaginaries to the micro level of practices of use.

On the one hand, we aim to explore the narratives collectively held and institutionally stabilized that preside over the making and governing of this type of digital technology, the discourses and imagery around its affordances, as well as its risks, and to assess whether upstream engagement, codesign and inclusive governance are being incorporated in the development and dissemination of IoT.

On the other hand, we will examine how users of IoT incorporate this
technology into their daily lives, how they interact with and appropriate objects, how they attribute them meanings, develop new skills, and transform practices.

The project will focus on the domestic uses of IoT: house automation, smart consumer goods (domestic and personal appliances, toys), monitoring devices used in people and pets, digital assistants, etc.. With regard to sociotechnical imaginaries, this project proposes to tackle the following questions:

– How is IoT envisioned by policy-makers, regulators, innovators
(scientist), business companies (that manufacture and market these devices), architects and engineers (who incorporate these devices in homes), civil society organisations (consumer associations, digital rights interest groups) and citizens?

– What are the perceived affordances, benefits and impacts over the economy and society of this technology?

– What are the perceived risks of IoT?

– How are technological developments in IoT regulated, incentivised or constrained by supranational and national policy making bodies?

– What dialogue or rapports are established between policy makers, business companies, scientists, architects and engineers, stakeholders and the public with regard to IoT?

– Which concerns, needs, interests are expressed by citizens/consumers regarding IoT?

With regard to adoption and use of IoT by households, this project proposes to address the following questions:

– Which IoT technologies are being adopted at the domestic level and which are being rejected?

– What households adopt/use domestic IoT technologies?

– How are IoT technologies being used in the home and how the uses vary according to gender, age or family role?

– What imaginaries/narratives do users build around the use of IoT technologies and their role in the domestic sphere?

– What impact do IoT technologies have over consumption practices, everyday life and family dynamics?

-How are IoT risks assessed, monitored, prevented or mitigated in the household?

The project relies on a combination of social research methodologies and comprises five main tasks:

1. Mapping the network of actors involved in IoT (media and document analysis, social network analysis, exploratory interviews)

2. Examining the socio-technical imaginaries of IoT (media and document
analysis, semi-structured interviews with key actors)

3. Analysing the uses of IoT in daily life (semi-structured interviews, ethnography and visual methods in households)

4. Hybrid forum: debating imaginaries and domestication (workshop with users, producers and regulators)

5. Communication and dissemination

On the social and economic domain, this project aims to generate knowledge that can be used fruitfully by policy makers, business companies, scientists, stakeholders and citizens/consumers. The proposal foresees that the
project results will feed into policy recommendations and the design of tools for novel and effective ways of incorporating citizen/stakeholder interests and concerns in the development of technological products, in the creation of safeguards and mitigation measures for potential risks, in the regulation and policy decision making around innovations in the fields of ICT.