Working With Useless Machines

by Nadine Lessio

alexa google home fun iot community and culture systems

Working with Useless Machines is a project about personal assistants that don’t want to assist you. By mixing humour and satire, this talk looks at a set of prototypes developed on Alexa and Google Home, that critique corporate tech culture by turning them into devices with no utilitarian function.

This talk is the conference presentation format of my MDes Thesis from OCADU. The lens is very maker driven, and uses prototyping as a vehicle for research and exploration. Some things I will be covering in this talk are defining what a Useless Machine is, how they exist contextually in art and pop culture, some of the challenges of trying to make creative products with corporate platforms, and how I went about building the prototypes themselves. Expect a lot of pictures, and banter about platforms, stacks o' yaks, API wrappers, tech-art, and how people respond to things like a blender that has seasonal affective disorder.

About the Author

Nadine Lessio is a designer and technologist based out of Toronto, Canada. She has a background in visual design, programming, and an interest in how technology makes its home in the world. She is part of a wide range of communities, and her past projects have involved building alt-controllers, websites, alternative games, and physical installations. Nadine holds an MDes from OCADU’s Digital Futures program where she spent her time investigating the Internet of Things through personal assistants. By mixing development, humour, and criticism, Nadine’s work considers the interplay between technology and life, sometimes with amusing or unexpected results.

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