I recently had to fill in an application for something. I was asked to provide a list of a few resources that had inspired me to do the research I’m doing now.

It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, and feels like the perfect way to explain to anyone who’s interested in how I think about my research, and why.

So, here’s the list. Enjoy!

Podcasts

I have often told people I started getting interested in digital technologies and society because of podcasts. They usually look at me with a mixture of alarm, amusement and fear. But that’s because they’ve not heard these.

I started listening to Note to Self on a flight back home from Sydney. I basically listened to it for a day straight. It considers all aspects of technology and society - with topics ranging from portability to the dark web to sharenting and tech ethics. The various projects that the podcast undertook - learning how to be bored; how to control your personal data - all very eye-opening.

Reply All. I am a Reply All evangelist. That’s all I can say other than apologise for how often I talk about it. It’s a podcast about technology and society and everything and anything. There is, honestly, a Reply All episode for everything. However, in terms of my research, they cover all manner of cyber security issues in incredibly engaging ways.

I particularly recommend:

Cyber security resources

During my Master’s year, resources such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self-Defense tools and Motherboard’s Guide to Not Getting Hacked were the most valuable resources to help me really understand how cyber security – and particularly threat modelling – is a personal endeavour that requires significant knowledge and thought, even when systems are appropriately designed to begin with.

Designing for all

I also recommend Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez to everyone I meet. It is incredible to note how little of what has been designed for everyday life has been done so alongside the lived experience of all who use the product. This can lead to truly terrible results (in medicine, or health and safety, for example), but also has really profound implications for almost any digital technology product that is sold.

I have recently also read Marika Cifor and Patricia Garcia’s paper Gendered by Design: A Duoethnographic Study of Personal Fitness Tracking Systems – a dual ethnography of fitness tracking from the point of view of the two female researchers. This paper underlines the point that situations where differences between users are superficially touched upon make it worse than if they had been ignored. The examples given in this paper include devices assuming that all those identifying as women menstruated. Having made that assumption, and despite taking no details of the menstrual cycle, the device then provided one researcher with a tip to combat “pre-menstrual symptoms” – at a time when it was entirely irrelevant to her. It doesn’t take much to destroy a relationship with a device.

Researching in interesting ways

I have loved reading some of the more experimental methods of research undertaken in relation to the Internet of Things within the home. Papers such as A Day in the Life of Things in the Home (Crabtree & Tolmie, 2016) and “What do you want for dinner?” (Hyland et al., 2018) have really made me realise that there needs to be more than simply interviews and surveys as a means of getting to grips with how devices work in the home.