The State of Responsible IoT 2020

We’re planning to release our annual report The State of Responsible IoT (RIOT for short) in the last quarter of 2020.

For this publication, we’re opening a call for contributions. If your organization would like to support this publication financially, please get in touch (riot@thingscon.org).

The theme: Good Things

By connecting products to the internet — by adding a data layer to the physical world, and by physically manifesting the internet — we change the very nature of the things themselves. And for the last decade or two, just about everything has been connected one way or another. At ThingsCon, we’ve been exploring how to do so more responsibly, and… better.

Yet, what does that mean? What is “good” IoT? What approaches lead to the creation of better Internet of Things products? Who even decides?

  • What are promising definitions of good in society, design, and technology?
  • How has our understanding of the interplay of design and technology evolved?
  • Which fruitful hypotheses does academic research offer, and how does industry think of them?
  • What methods are there to approach Good Things? (speculative design, interventions…)
  • What criteria, thoughts and insights are relevant in our striving for Good Things?
  • What desirable scenarios are there for people to live in and with connected environments?

We do not have final answers to those questions, but we think we are at a point in time where this discussion is worth re-igniting at all levels from the big picture to zoomed in details. Hence, our annual ThingsCon report on the State of Responsible IoT (RIOT for short) explores the theme of “Good Things”.

(This complements our ongoing research project, goodthings.thingscon.org, an open-ended exploration and collection of promising approaches, projects, initiatives and ideas for a better IoT.)

We aim not to find one perfect answer, but to show the breadth this debate requires by definition, and embrace the complexities and tensions that will invariably surface between the individual contributions. For example, there has long since been a strong call for human-centric (as opposed to organization-centric) design. More recently, though, we’ve seen new voices emerging around the theme of post-human, planet-first or society-centered design. These approaches, while sometimes in tension with one another, all offer a vision of how to get to better outcomes, even though they have different priorities. We hope that hosting these different schools of thought side by side offers a meaningful contribution, and a platform for debate, that will elevate the level of discourse and knowledge for all of us.

In this spirit we cast a wide net for contributions and answers, with only one common theme: We are not looking primarily for criticism, but for seedlings of good practices, promising approaches, and for criticism that is constructive: Any insight that can help advance the field for all, demonstrate that IoT doesn’t have to be the internet of shit. Any pointers that can offer us hope, widen our horizon, and show that a different, better connected world is possible, and how.

Invitation to contribute

We are inviting proposals for contributions to the upcoming RIOT report. The fine print:

  • Alas, as a volunteer organization we cannot offer payment, and of course understand if that is a dealbreaker.
  • We’re looking for contributions of 2-4 pages (incl. images if you have them and can grant permission for us to use them) of original content (no pre-published pieces, but with the right to freely re-publish, see below). Should you prefer a different format, let’s discuss.
  • Results will be published under a Creative Commons license; beyond that the author retains all rights and will of course be credited/linked. The publication will first take place through the ThingsCon website, might be reproduced on other platforms and/or social media as well. The authors are free to also re-publish their contributions after the official publication.
  • We reserve the right to copy-edit before publication, but will only publish once both sides are happy with the results and give their consent.
  • We’re planning for a digital-first, and most likely digital-only, publication for now. If we manage to pull of a small print run (to be decided), it might be sold online or to partner organizations, but only at cost, for archival/sharing purposes. In that case, authors receive a free copy.
  • Happy to brainstorm and explore the theme of your piece together, if you prefer.

If you’d like to contribute, please share a brief outline of your idea (a paragraph or two should do) and a few words about yourself with us (riot@thingscon.org).

About ThingsCon
ThingsCon is a global initiative to explore and promote the development of fair, responsible, and human-centric technologies for the IoT and beyond.

About the RIOT Report
ThingsCon has been publishing the State of Responsible IoT Report since 2017. In 2019, the theme was Surveillance Capitalism. RIOT is an annual collection of essays by the experts within the larger ThingsCon community. For the first time, we’re planning to complement this year’s RIOT report with interviews (video, podcast and/or text).