Designing IoT Systems that Support Reflective Thinking: A Relational Approach

Sherry Turkle points out in her book, Evocative Objects, that we often consider objects as useful or aesthetic, but rarely count them as our companions or as provocations to our thoughts (2007). Indeed, according to distributed cognition theory, our cognitive activities are considerably influenced by and also a product of our interactions with external stimuli, such as everyday objects. Within this vast category of external stimuli, we can also include our indoor places: the architectural three-dimensional space, where we spend a large part of our days, doing various activities, using numerous objects, and interacting with people. With the advent of “smarter” homes and the Internet of Things (IoT), space becomes a crucial factor that, together with all other objects, influence peoples’ thinking. We are particularly interested in the kind of thinking that can be labeled as “reflective thinking” as a conceptual way of thinking that enables the re-consideration of experiences and actions. Reflective thinking also as a distributed cognitive process depends not only to the individual mental process, but also it is closely related to the external stimuli (e.g. Hutchins, Cognition in the wild. MIT Press, 1995, [1], Dewey, How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. D.C. Heath & Co Publishers, USA, 1933, [2]). In this book chapter, we present a relational approach to the design of such places considering the social IoT (SIoT) as a technical enabler. We do this by specifically focusing on “reflective thinking” and how it is situated in relation to computer-enhanced and smart places. We will describe how reflective thinking is related to people’s activities and smart objects within that place. Further, we provide models intended to clarify the relationships between the external factors that influence reflective thinking in a space, and how those relationships make a space a Place (Cresswell, International encyclopedia of human geography, 8, 169–177. Elsevier, Oxford, 2009, [3]). Finally, we provide an example in the form of a narrative, to show how might an SIoT-enabled place look like in prototyping lab of a design school as a very specific place. In short, the aim of our work as presented in this chapter is to spark a conversation and discussion about how HCI/Interaction Design can engage in designing of places that supports reflection using Social IoT. In doing so, we suggest that a central dimension in design of such places should be based on the study of relationships among involved components: people, their activities, and objects. We also suggest, as a theoretical contribution, that Social IoT is not only a technical platform, but rather should be understood as a relational technology that enables new kinds of places for reflection.

Publication Date:
Jul 20 2018
Date Submitted:
Jun 28 2019
International Journal of Design
No. 1
External Resources:

 Record created 2019-06-28, last modified 2019-07-11

Rate this document:

Rate this document:
(Not yet reviewed)