WOrking with Useless Machines: a look at our shifting relationship with ubiquity through personal assistants

Nadine LEssio


Project Description

Nadine’s project explores how a nihilistic approach to the development of personal assistants can problematize the ways these technologies are being brought to market by using the concept of the useless machine. The research is organized around the creation of four prototypes: SAD Blender, Home Hub, Calendar Creep, and Fortune Tasker, and a personal web server nicknamed Punchy. Each of these prototypes seek to critique the current corporate agenda of productivity, efficiency, and consumption, by creating machines that have no utilitarian function. This work investigates and defines useless machines in the contemporary context of personal assistants, and documents the development of each of the prototypes and server. Overall the research shows that whilst it is not possible to completely divorce these devices from their parent corporations, they do serve as an important vehicle to explore the changing landscape of ubiquity, and our shifting ability to work and live with these connected objects.



Nadine Lessio is an artist and technologist who likes making and breaking things. Her past work building weird game controllers has been shown at The AGO, Indiecade, and GDC. Her current work, which won a Canadian Graduate Scholarship, focuses on personal assistants and how our expectations of these consumer devices can be subverted through new interactions and behaviours. By mixing development, humour, and criticism, Nadine’s work reflects on how technology is making its home in our everyday lives.