Megan Knittel

DOCTORAL CANDIDATE (ABD) 

DEPARTMENT OF MEDIA & INFORMATION

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY

A woman with curly brown hair and glasses smiles at the camera.

I am a scholar, teacher, scientist and activist working to understand harm and accountability in the context of emerging social technologies. The way we use computers in everyday life is rapidly moving beyond focused, task-driven activities like sending an email or checking Twitter. Instead, ambient computing technologies that you wear on your body (like FitBits, Apple Watches, etc.) or use in your home (including personal assistants like Alexa/Google Home/Siri, Ring doorbells, Nest thermostats, and other "smart home" devices) are becoming increasingly common. These devices automatically collect data on everyday activities and use them to streamline mundane activities, support personal wellness, reduce energy costs, and many other benefits. However, the obfuscated, 'black box' nature of these devices, including their security design features centered around centralized control, suggest distinct vulnerabilities for intimate abuse in cases of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. 

My in-progress dissertation project expands upon increasing recognition by US and international domestic abuse support agencies that tech abuse in intimate relationships is a growing issue that is poorly understood and challenging to address. My own research on smart home tech abuse suggests Internet of Things-mediated violence and harm is common and highly predictive of adverse personal outcomes for survivors. 

Using mixed methodological approaches including online ethnography, semi-structured interviewing, and survey research, I ask the following questions: 

  • How do experiences of violence related to IoT devices intersect with domestic work and gender roles regarding home technology use?

  • How does IoT intersect with the concept of consent, defined interpersonally, technologically, and by survivors?

  • How does the recognition and experience of IoT-mediated violence manifest, at all, in formal and informal support-seeking mechanisms (legal, health, social, and so on)?

  • In May 2022 I had the pleasure of giving invited lectures to University College London's Department of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Public Policy (click here) and Computer Science (click here)

  • In June 2022 I received a dissertation fellowship from Michigan State University's Center for Gender in Global Context supporting my work on intimate partner abuse and the Internet of Things. 

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