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Infant Wearables, Intimate Surveillance & Affective Amplifiers


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Presented at Digital Intimacies 3.0, RMIT, Melbourne, 13 November 2017.

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Infant Wearables, Intimate Surveillance & Affective Amplifiers

  1. 1. A/Prof Tama Leaver, Internet Studies Infant Wearables, Intimate Surveillance and Affective Amplifiers 13.11.2017@tamaleaver
  2. 2. @tamaleaver Overview. 1. Shifting Contexts and Intimate Surveillance 2. Infant Wearables: The Owlet 3. Affective Amplifiers Image:
  3. 3. I. Shifting Contexts and Intimate Surveillance
  4. 4. @tamaleaver ‘Identity’ Shifting Online  Push toward real-name and persistent identities (van Dijck, 2013b; van Zoonen, 2013)  Networked selves: identity as persistent, replicable, searchable (boyd, 2010) and owned (Aufderheide, 2010)  Challenges of context collapse & context collision (Nissenbaum, 2009; Marwick & boyd, 2011; Davis & Jurgenson, 2014)
  5. 5. @tamaleaver The Networked Self  Individual agency is central.  Presumption that identity should be controlled, curated and managed by the ‘self’ being presented.  When agency is not the controlling influence, this is seen as an issue to be overcome (eg better privacy settings).  BUT what about identities not tied to users with agency? (eg babies and young children!)
  6. 6. @tamaleaver Changing Surveillance Landscape  Datafication: all social activity is being tracked and digitized  "dataveillance—the monitoring of citizens on the basis of their online data—[which] differs from surveillance on at least one important account: whereas surveillance presumes monitoring for specific purposes, dataveillance entails the continuous tracking of (meta)data for unstated preset purposes" (van Dijck, 2014, p. 205).
  7. 7. @tamaleaver “We define Big Data as a cultural, technological, and scholarly phenomenon that rests on the interplay of: 1.Technology: maximizing computation power and algorithmic accuracy to gather, analyze, link, and compare large data sets. 2.Analysis: drawing on large data sets to identify patterns in order to make economic, social, technical, and legal claims. 3.Mythology: the widespread belief that large data sets offer a higher form of intelligence and knowledge that can generate insights that were previously impossible, with the aura of truth, objectivity, and accuracy.” (boyd and Crawford, 2012)
  8. 8. @tamaleaver “Surveillance is the business model of the internet. Everyone is under constant surveillance by many companies, ranging from social networks like Facebook to cellphone providers. This data is collected, compiled, analyzed, and used to try to sell us stuff. Personalized advertising is how these companies make money, and is why so much of the internet is free to users. We’re the product, not the customer.” - Bruce Schneier, 2017
  9. 9. @tamaleaver Lateral / Peer Surveillance “we are becoming habituated to a culture in which we are all expected to monitor one another—to deploy surveillance tactics facilitated at least in part by interactive media technologies—in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones and to maximise our chances for social and economic success” (Andrejevic, 2007, p. 239).
  10. 10. @tamaleaver Intimate Surveillance “the purposeful and routinely well-intentioned surveillance of young people by parents, guardians, friends, and so forth. The surveyed have little or no agency to resist. On one level, intimate surveillance points to the limits of most surveillance models, in that they are incomplete in trying to address subjects who have no agency or awareness of the means of resistance (for obvious reasons).” (Leaver 2015a, p. 153)
  11. 11. II. Infant Wearables: The Owlet
  12. 12. @tamaleaver Google Smart Crib Patent (Awarded 2016)
  13. 13. @tamaleaver “Internet of Toys” (Holloway and Green, 2016)
  14. 14. @tamaleaver Owlet (Early version)
  15. 15. @tamaleaver
  16. 16. @tamaleaver Owlet
  17. 17. @tamaleaver Owlet Product Vision
  18. 18. @tamaleaver
  19. 19. @tamaleaver Owlet = Big Data “The thing that’s most interesting is we’re collecting the largest data set about infant health and sleep and wellness and safety that’s ever been collected.”
  20. 20. @tamaleaver Owlet = Tech Startup Company  $US9 million dollars in startup funding (TechCrunch, 2015)  Best Startup Award at CES 2016  Two products: • The Owlet Wearable device itself. • The collated big data collected from all infants wearing Owlet  The big profit expectations come from the BIG DATA sets and whatever insight these can offer.
  21. 21. @tamaleaver Review of Infant Wearables “medical professionals and consumers need to be aware that such devices have no proved use in safeguarding infants or detecting health problems, and they certainly have no role in preventing SIDS.” (King 2014, p. 2)
  22. 22. @tamaleaver "Until these monitors have been thoroughly evaluated and guidelines for use have been established, the recommendations physicians should give to parents who ask about these products is simple. There is no evidence that consumer infant physiologic monitors are life-saving, and there is potential for harm if parents choose to use them." -Christopher P. Bonafide et al, 2017 (Both false reassurance as well as false warnings!)
  23. 23. @tamaleaver Owlet Terms of Use This Application, the Services and our Monitor are not medical devices and are not intended to replace, modify or supplement any prescribed medical device. Further, this Application, the Services and Monitor are not for high risk infants and are not intended to be a substitute for obtaining medical advice and/or treatment from a physician or other health care practitioner. (Owlet Baby Care, 2016b).
  24. 24. Owlet Features
  25. 25. @tamaleaver Owlet’s Connected Care App Selling your child’s data back to you!
  26. 26. @tamaleaver Care Confidently
  27. 27. @tamaleaver  “sensor society” (Andrejevic and Burdon, 2015)  Design displaces other narratives (Rettberg, 2014).
  28. 28. @tamaleaver Channel 7 News, Melbourne, 4 November 2017 "The Owlet Smart Sock uses pulse oximetry, the same technology used in post-natal hospital wards. The sock then sends the information wirelessly, straight to your mobile phone."
  29. 29. @tamaleaver III. Affective Amplifiers
  30. 30. @tamaleaver Owlet
  31. 31. @tamaleaver “How else are you supposed to know they’re ok??”
  32. 32. @tamaleaver
  33. 33. @tamaleaver (Friendemic, 2016)
  34. 34. @tamaleaver (Friendemic, 2016)
  35. 35.
  36. 36. Positively Oakes
  37. 37.
  38. 38. @tamaleaver & Owlet officially launched in Australia in November 2017
  39. 39. @tamaleaver GoFundMe: Kipp-a-Roos Cause SIDS AWARENESS
  40. 40. @tamaleaver Parental Influencers as Affective Amplifiers ...  Parental influencers (aka ‘Instamums’) have been the main locus of Owlet sponsored posts (ie advertising) since Owlet launched.  Their posts tend to replicate the Owlet promotion lines closely (‘peace of mind’) with some customisation.  No evidence of any concerns raised about the use/aggregation/commercialisation of children’s data.  All directly associate good parenting with Owlet use, and imply (at different levels) non-use = bad parenting!
  41. 41. @tamaleaver Affective Connections...  Affective strategies are central to selling baby and kids products.  Sponsoring a GoFundMe providing Owlets to prevent SIDS builds affective connections, displacing health, medical or privacy questions.  Affect/care wins over concerns about privacy, in part, because Owlet use is cast only in terms of parenting (assisted by ideas of agency which ignore children’s rights).
  42. 42. @tamaleaver Re-Directing Affect ...  A co-creation model (which emphasizes all social media and data use/creation as always creating/making other people as much as ourselves) shifts emphasis and responsibility (Leaver, 2018, forthcoming).  Affect can be re-direct as care about social media and data futures for young people (created by parents and loved ones).  Children’s rights to privacy need to be considered from birth, not just seen as emergent and incomplete (Livingstone and Third, 2017).
  43. 43. @tamaleaver Questions or Comments? Or find me later … @tamaleaver