Can User of IoT technology be more then “just user”? How do they relate to technology?

User and Device Agency

With technology in reach of everyone and the technology sector in ascendance, it is central to investigate the relationship people have with their devices. We use the concept of agency to capture aspects of user’s sense of mastery and control in relation
to their device. This study gives preliminary evidence of the existence of two dimensions of agency for modelling the interaction between humans and smart devices: (i) user agency and (ii) device agency. These constructs emerged from an exploratory factorial analysis conducted on a survey data collected from 587 participants. Mapping the users’ dynamics with their devices into user agency and device agency advances our understanding of how digital technology shapes human cognition and emotion and how
users interact with technology. This approach can assist in designing interfaces that match the beliefs users have regarding their capabilities and the capacities of their devices.

Key words: Agency, Human-Computer Interaction, smart devices, user agency, device agency, exploratory factorial analysis, survey.

Items in the Survey of Agency in Human-Smart Device Relationships: An Exploratory Study

we show that agency in human-smart device interactions is a twofold and graded construct, consisting of user agency and device agency. The attributing of agency to themselves and to their device frames how the users are perceiving and leveraging the affordances of the smart device. The attribution of user and device agency can be used as a measure for understanding if the user masters the device’s potentials to the fullest or not. Thus, user agency and device agency can be used as proxies for understanding how users experience their relationships with their devices.

The conceptualization of agency proposed here should be further refined in relation to other existing constructs. We should investigate whether user and device agency act as mediators for other factors of human-device interaction such as anthropomorphism and other concepts mentioned in this article. Furthermore, our exploratory study should be developed further to a point where we can perform confirmatory factor analysis. As the next step, an expert panel will be summoned to review the items used in this study, in preparation for refining the survey before collecting new data for the second set of statistical analyses. Furthermore, we should continue exploring the nuances of agency in different contexts of smart device use, such as work vs. personal.
Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden in Fight Club (1999) states that “the things you own end up owning you”. In the context of smart devices, this is true only if we are unaware of the agency we attribute to our devices and to ourselves. Perhaps the secret of a balanced relationship with our gadgets is in making an aware decision of when and how to be “owned” by the device and when not.

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Cite this paper as:

Toivonen, Heidi and Lelli, Francesco, “Agency in Human-Smart Device Relationship: an Exploratory Study” (2021). PACIS 2021 Proceedings. 145.

Check out the Related Dataset: Lelli, Francesco; Toivonen, Heidi, 2021, “A Survey for investigating human and smart devices relationships“,, DataverseNL, V1

Agency in Human-Smart Device Relationships: An Exploratory Study
Article Name
Agency in Human-Smart Device Relationships: An Exploratory Study
Can User of IoT technology be more then "just user"? How do they relate to technology? Here you can see how:
Publisher Name
PACIS 2021

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