If you’ve been to St George’s Church recently, you might have noticed something new on the front doors. Or perhaps you haven’t…
Last year, we held a workshop with the Tillydrone community and discussed Internet of Things devices that might be installed in public spaces. For this, we were mostly looking at fictional scenarios and objects, to get an idea of how people felt about them and how they thought they might best be managed.
At the end of May, we started our first set of tests with real devices: in this case, sensors that record every time they are moved away from magnets that are installed next to them. We put these up on the front doors of the church so that the sensors register every time the doors open and close.
Like a lot of these devices nowadays, they aren’t very obvious. A small white object at the top of the doorframe doesn’t really stand out, and doesn’t give you any information about what it does. When we held our workshop a few weeks later, we wanted to know if anyone had spotted them and what they thought – it turned out nobody who attended our workshop had noticed them, and it took a while to find them even when we pointed out there was something new around the doors!
By installing this sensor in a public space and talking with people about it, we’re hoping to find out more about how this type of technology affects people’s lives, and answer some questions about the consequences. What do people think, and how do they feel, about things that might be appearing and collecting information about us in our private and public spaces? Even if you do notice something new is there, do you know what it does? Do you want to? As our project moves on we’re finding out more about what transparency people want in these objects and the systems that surround them – such as who installed them in the first place, and why.
The door sensors are still there, and collecting information on when the doors open and close, which might help us understand things like how much use the building gets and whether the doors being open affects energy use. But we’ve added a signpost letting people know that the doors are being monitored, and we’re hoping to get some feedback about what else (if anything) people would like to be told about such devices.