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Problematising upstream technology through speculative design: the case of quantified cats and dogs

By Shaun Lawson, Ben Kirman, Conor Linehan, Tom Feltwell, Lisa Hopkins

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There is growing interest in technology that quantifies aspects of our lives. This paper draws on critical practice and speculative design to explore, question and problematise the ultimate consequences of such technology using the quantification of companion animals (pets) as a case study. We apply the concept of "moving upstream" to study such technology and use a qualitative research approach in which both pet owners, and animal behavioural experts, were presented with, and asked to discuss, speculative designs for pet quantification applications, the design of which were extrapolated from contemporary trends. Our findings indicate a strong desire among pet owners for technology that has little scientific justification, whilst our experts caution that the use of technology to augment human-animal communication has the potential to disimprove animal welfare, undermine human-animal bonds, and create human-human conflicts. Our discussion informs wider debates regarding quantification technology.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2015
Pages 11
Publisher University College Cork
Location of Publication Cork, Ireland
Conference Title 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
DOI 10.1145/2702123.2702260
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animals in culture
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Cats
  5. Communication
  6. Dogs
  7. Health
  8. Mammals
  9. Pet ownership
  10. Pets and companion animals
  11. technology