Preliminary Thesis Research

This post contains early concept development and research resources.


Research Description
Concept Building trust in the everyday technologies we engage with everyday by creating a better understanding their underlying systems. I think there are snapshots and details of different parts of the system, but not many things that I found that zooms out to look at the bigger picture. I think the most important thing about this content will be able connecting a bunch of seemingly unrelated dots.
Audience My project is geared towards consumers and creators of the daily technologies we use. I’d like to examine the most pervasive ones like smartphones, Internet/IoT, flows & gathering of data. I’d like my project to be accessible via the Internet, but have a physical component as well.
Context I want to frame my project around our commonplace activities and interactions. Likely to framed around places like “home” and “the internet”. They will probably be biased towards my habits, but I want to talk with more people to provide a fuller picture.
Content I need to gather info about various parts of these systems, and also delineate where I feel like their edges are. There will be a mix of library and exploratory research involved to find those edges.
Tech I’m feeling okay about creating websites and I think I might have to learn some new libraries. I’m interested in having a physical component, but no major fabrication, which should be okay for me.
Timeframe & Scope Not 100% sure. I think I still need to flesh out more details. I think I might make a couple prototypes on my way to making a proof on concept. I am kind of viewing this as an exploration at this time.

othernet flyer

Othernet by Dhruv Mehrotra

From the Othernet wiki - “While the internet continues to develop into a tool for institutional control and corporate surveillance, we believe that the local area network can function as a site for resistance, coalition building, and disaster mitigation. The Othernet is a community wireless network. It is not the internet, but something else entirely.”

firechat image


FireChat allows users to communicate through a peer-to-peer connection using bluetooth and wifi without connecting to the larger internet. It is essentially using mesh networks as an alternative way to connect people and share data. The company who makes it, Open Garden, also makes products that try to decentralize internet access.

trustable tech logo

Trustable Tech Mark for IoT

This essentially like getting the approval of the BBB (Better Business Bureau) except for IoT devices. This is less of a tool and more like a certification that the creators hope will help customers make more informed choices.


  1. Is it better to work within the limits of technology we already have to improve our trust? Or do we need to fight against technologies that exploit people, perhaps by creating alternative technologies Something in between?
  2. Is the base of a trusting relationship with technology rooted in the product itself or rather in the creator of the tech?
  3. What aspects of the system are most hidden and important to uncover? Product-makers like to draw attention away from negative externalities like the environmental, labor, access to tech, SEO/curated access, etc
  4. What pieces of data moving about the Internet/networked technology are most important to investigate? Maybe things related to our devices like MAC addresses or IP addresses? Or things related to our personal info like cookies?
  5. How important is the distinction between us and our data? Are we becoming our data? In other words, how are “data-driven” products exerting their influence on us (reprogramming us) and unconsciously changing our behaviors?
  6. How can we reverse the power of user data collection? - Can we become our own data brokers?

Reference List