Roaming Objects: Encoding Digital Histories of Use into Shared Objects and Tools



Design Research
Field Study


Qualitative Interviews
Contextual Observations
Technology Probe
Design Ethnography




With the advent of “sharing economy” services everyday objects such as household items, domestic electronics, and even vehicles may be easily shared among people, in other words they roam from one borrower to another. Once shared, the object creates a unique experience with a borrower that often could be described with a story. This unique experience not only forms personal attachments with the object itself, but also may spark curiosity about previous ownership of the shared artifact, hence provoke social speculation about its previous shared experience. Checkout cards in library books is a good example of contemplations about previous encounters of a borrowed object. Building on a “checkout card” metaphor this project introduces Roaming Objects — everyday physical items augmented with a digital tag. As the objects pass between one borrower to another, their users can review its digital history and contribute personal experience in the form of pictures, videos, geolocation, comments and ratings, though a smartphone app. I embedded a digital tag into a roaming object in order to allow borrowers to capture their experience with an object and to inquiry a story behind a material artifact.

An increasing number of non-profit groups and organizations have formed “libraries” of shared things to leverage the collaborative use of underutilized resources (e.g., power tools) for the benefit of local communities. Their key challenges are the transience and anonymity of their members, and how to nurture creative interactions among them. I designed the Roaming Objects iOS application aimed at supporting the capture and sharing of equipment-use experiences among these members. I subsequently deployed the Roaming Objects app for two months in the Vancouver Tool Library, a tool-sharing cooperative in Vancouver (Canada), to explore how it may help to address these challenges. This project offers insights into how resource sharing cooperatives and collectives could be better supported, by proposing design opportunities that facilitate sharing both physical objects and digital information about their use.

Project in collaboration with Ron Wakkary and Will Odom from the Everyday Design Studio at the School of Interactive Arts + Technology at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver (Canada), Lucas Pennati and Marc Langheinrich from USI Lugano (Switzerland).




Anton Fedosov, William Odom, Marc Langheinrich, Ron Wakkary (2018) Roaming Objects: Encoding Digital Histories of Use into Shared Objects and Tools **Best Paper Award**, Proceedings of the 2018 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference 2018 - DIS '18, p. 1141-1153, New York, New York, USA: ACM Press, url, doi:10.1145/3196709.3196722 pdf

Anton Fedosov, William Odom, Marc Langheinrich (2017) Leveraging Digital Histories of Use For Resource-Sharing Organizations, COST Workshop on Digital Platforms for the Collaborative Economies, url pdf

Anton Fedosov, Lucas Pennati, William Odom, Marc Langheinrich (2017) Towards Digitally Encoded Experiences with Real-World Artifacts, Workshop Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Designing Interactive Systems. DIS ’17, url pdf