Investigation 2 - Think Piece

On Haunted Devices and Hauntologies

tl;dr: Research and write a topical essay that raises an interesting question or perspective related to the themes of the module: relationship between designed technologies (ubiquitous computing, tangible devices, designed technologies) and the supernatural (myths, magic, monsters, folklore, superstitions, alternative belief systems, rituals and practices). Document and report your findings to the class and reflect on their implication for what and how we'll make.

Learning Objectives

This investigation will ask you to design a speculative spooky technology and we’ll develop a body of knowledge that explores how we can leverage spookiness as a resource for design inquiry and the production of new forms of ubiquitous, physical and tangible computing. As part of this exercise, you will:

build familiarity on research, scholarship and thinking relevant to ubicomp and spooky lines of inquiry ; identify and review concepts that relate to the course and that can inform our work; helped co-create a body of knowledge on spookiness (myths, magic, monsters, superstition and the supernatural) and technology to draw on as part of their own explorations; reflect on how technology and belief do and might overlap and the issues we should consider in designing approaches to smart and connected devices.


As part of this thinking piece, you’re asked to critically examine a topic relating to hauntings, hauntologies, spooky lines of inquiry, and/or designing tangible tools. It should be a topic that you’re personally interested in, that’s relevant to this course, and report it to the group.

Topics for exploration might include:

  • How can spookiness reveal what’s broken about technology today?
  • What are the ‘gremlins’ in our everyday devices?
  • Hauntological encounters with our pasts that haunt us through data, media or devices?
  • Metaphors and tropes of the supernatural in interaction design
  • Concepts relating to predictability or prediction
  • Divination and data driven prediction
  • Rituals and practices for connecting with otherworldy forces or intelligences;
  • The history of a specific alternative belief system and how it has changed in a networked age
  • Issues presented by the Internet, social media or other networked forms of knowledge e.g. Pierce’s networked anxieties
  • The emergence of new enactments or engagements with superstitions, divination, or belief
  • Research and practice in designing alternative smart home devices;
  • Etc.

They should be ideas that you haven’t encountered before, are relevant to the course and you find particularly interesting or exciting. The emphasis here is on discovery and critical reflection. Writing about concept you already know intimately defeats the point of the assignment, which is to deepen your familiarity with the field.

Requirements & Considerations

You should:

  • Read and review articles, papers, and other sources i.e. do good research!
  • Inquire into new areas.
  • Be rigorous and systematic; and
  • document your findings as you go.

Then, share your thinking and discoveries with the group by reporting your findings in a 750 word summary incl. sources. Your sources should be included at the end of the essay and referenced directly in the text.


Add your Thinking Piece to the #think-pieces as a new post on slack (see below).

This post should contain a essay (750 words) on a topic of your choosing. This should a) introduce the topic you have chosen, b) raise questions and provocations, and C) provide a critical reflection or perspective on the topic.

The thinking piece should include appropriate citations, link referenced texts and works and acknowledge authors appropriately. You’re welcome to include illustrations and images as needed too.


As part of thinking pieces, students will identify an open question or challenge posed in developing responsive technologies within the scope of the themes or projects assigned and that they are personally interested in. This should include a clear description of your area of interest as well as supporting research, examples, precedents, and other sources that provide context to your ideas and argumentation.

Reflect on the ideas you’ve encountered as part of the course and select one you’d like to explore more. You’re welcome to go beyond the three investigations to other ideas you’ve encountered too.

In your statement do three things:

  1. Start from a problem, open challenge or area of interest i.e. give a little explanation what you chose the area/idea/question you did and why its interesting and relevant;
  2. Formalize a question or statement which expresses that interest effectively and narrowly i.e. distill it down to something quick, easy and clear to communicate
  3. Develop a statement of how it relates to ideas and outcomes which precede it i.e. support it with references and research; tell us why this is important; how does it advance or extend prior work; etc.

For part 3, don’t rely only on things introduced or surfaced as part of the course materials or discussions. You’re expect to go beyond the course materials and readings and bring in new literature, projects, exemplars, and ideas.

Submitting your work:

You’ll submit your work on Slack. As a new post:

  • Open Slack and navigate to the #think-pieces channel
  • In the text box (bottom), click the + on the left hand side. Choose the option to ‘Create a new post’
  • In the post editor, give the case study and appropriate title.
  • Add your narrative to the body of the post.
  • When you have added your post, click the Share button on the top right.

Resources and Sources

See the Resources for this module and Library Section of course Website.