Reflexive Journal II

In this second iteration, I tried to build up themes from the codes and labels I applied to the data before. This process involves going through the codes and see if some can fit together under an umbrella theme.

In a first attempt I produced around 35 themes, which are way to much for the thematic analysis approach. There is no fixed number proposed either, but I saw between 4 to 6 mentioned at a few places. So I tried to merge the themes down, which was a painful process (kill your darlings), but it somehow worked out quite well. Unintentionally the themes can be put into a nice relationship.

As an intermediary result I can say, that I couldn’t locate any animistic weak signals in my interviews and observations. I hoped otherwise but was prepared that this could fail. Depening on the framework, certain aspects could be interpreted animistic, but not necessary intentional by the user. Especially the concept of uncertainity by Betto Marenko could apply.

I was rather hopeing, that I find weak signals more towards the psychological aspects, as in the research of Piaget on animism in children, where these perceive the world around them as alive and meaningful.

On the other hand I found more then a handful of pain points in the different user journeys and human-machine interactions, and that is something, no? For now I’m happy with the material and especially the themes with which I want to work in a next phase now.

The themes that I’m left with.


Conditioning the User - User

More often then not, the user has to be conditioned into way of communicating or behaving with the assistant as according to the manufacturer and developer of the device and assistant.

What is a voice assistant - Assistant

Starting with how to address the assistant and ending with the further disolvement of work and leisure, the users are generally unsure what they actually bought.

Questions of scale - Ecosystem

A voice assistant is unthinkable without the global systems of big tech in the background, to which it is always attached. This links the private with the corporate, the small with the big, the cheap devices with our planetary ecological crisis.

The in between the stakeholders

Communication, Language and Behavior

There are very specific ways of communicating and behaving involved in the interactions between user and assistant, which are unique to this context.

Posthuman Subjectivity

These two themes maybe go beyond the scope of this project, but they are nonetheless of interest. ### Control and convenience The practices around voice assistants are intimately linked to the control of the immediate environment, usually the home, as well as preserving resources, usually time and physical energy. This practices change us, and thus, what it means to be us. ### Knowledge Practices A continuation of knowledge practices since the advent of digital media; A voice assistant is also an enormous database, backed by the internet. Not one question, that can’t be answer by the assistant. And that is paralleled by the assistant’s ability to relieve us of our mental burdens of thinking and remembering.

The first four themes will find their way into the Expert Workshop I. But before that, I will have to flesh them out and add the different nuances. Thank to the wiki system, the themes have already backlinks to the codes that belong to a theme. I often wrote a sentence or two for a code to make it better understandable. The code itself then is linked to the piece of data it springs from. Unfortunately, in the web-version, the browser doesn’t jump to the specific point in the interview or observation.