The irony of the smart home: How the IoT shifts power balances and reinforces household values

Alex van der Zeeuw*, Alexander J.A.M. van Deursen, Giedo Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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We consider inequalities within households to be an important step for increasing our understanding of digital inequalities perpetuated by smart homes. We argue that the key to understanding the use of the Internet of Things is household choreographies rather than individual practices. We specifically address different power relations between household members in regard to their use of IoT devices. Using interview data collected through five visits to 30 households in 15 months, we use abductive analysis to develop our framework that has three dimensions: materiality, accessibility, and harmony. We find that acceptance of the IoT’s materiality by all household members is key, but household rules are also crucial to how well the IoT can operate. Parents can more precisely moderate their children, and data and privacy also require more moderation. In addition, the IoT can help complex household choreographies, but household choreographies that are too complex can hinder IoT use. Finally, we note that traditional gender roles remain prevalent in smart homes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-182
Number of pages12
JournalThe Information society
Issue number3
Early online date21 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2023


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