PEOPLE case presented at the main anthropological meeting in Europe

  • EASA conference, PEOPLE project, presentation, paper, 2018, Stockholm, anthropology, Erasmus+, sensors, data, ethnography, Dan Podjed

The PEOPLE project and the Slovenian case study findings were presented at the 15th EASA conference (European Association of Social Anthropologists). The paper Making Sense of Sensors: Combining Ethnography with Data Mining to Understand and Improve Smart Buildings was co-authored by PEOPLE team member, Dan Podjed (ZRC SAZU) and PEOPLE Learning Cycle 1 student, Ajda Pretnar (PhD candidate in anthropology and researcher at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science, University of Ljubljana).

Staying, Moving, Settling was the theme of the 15th EASA conference, which was hosted by Stockholm University, 14 – 17 August 2018. The paper was part of the Anthropology and Emerging Technologies panel, convened by Sarah Pink (RMIT), Debora Lanzeni (RMIT), and Karen Waltorp (Aarhus University). The panel examined emerging technologies and the ways in which they participate in constituting futures that cannot be predicted or necessarily imagined.

The paper Making Sense of Sensors presented an analysis of a smart university building and showed how the built-in sensors can be used for understanding and influencing people’s behaviour. The research data presented was part of the PEOPLE project’s Slovenian case study (read more about it here) and research from the Horizon 2020 project MOBISTYLE (also read our interview with MOBISTYLE project coordinator). In 2014, the University of Ljubljana opened a new €81M complex. It was the University’s largest infrastructural investment in its entire history. The building, located in a swampy suburbia of Ljubljana, is equipped with state-of-the-art automation systems and sensors measuring large amounts of data mostly related to the building’s energy performance and thermal comfort. In their paper, the authors presented an analysis of the building and demonstrated how smart solutions influence people’s lives, both positively and negatively. The ethnographic study had been supplemented with quantitative approaches, from questionnaires for employees and students to data mining sensor signals. The study showed that a smart building does not necessarily guarantee wellbeing and satisfaction. On the contrary, smart solutions have often proven to be a source of discontent, especially when they appropriate agency from people and try to ‘interpret’ what people want and need. In such cases, people often find innovative solutions for outsmarting the building and taking back control.