How might Australia's Metadata Retention Policy effect the home of the future?


Location: Umea Institute of Design, 2014
Client: Internal
Project Time: 10 Weeks
Team Members: Individual
Personal Contribution: Research, Brief Definition, Ideation, Concept Development, Video Prototyping, even acting!!




Final Concept 

“Hawthorne at Home” is a work of speculative design that forecasts how the Australian Government

The fiction is based around a fictional mining company called Hawthorne Ltd, and how it transitioned from Mining minerals to mining metadata created through personal communication.

The work reflects on the changing role of commodities in modern society, and how governments will have to have tremendous foresight in creating policy.

Design Fiction

Design fiction is the practice of creating speculative design pieces that exist within a fictional scenario. This project was intended to highlight some aspects of the current political situation in my home country of Australia.

The brief for the project was to explore how the concept of "Faceless Interaction" might impact the home of the future.

My fiction was driven by personal interest in the current policies of Metadata retention being enforced on Australian ISP's.

About Metadata.

The current laws require ISP's and Telecommunication companies to keep records of metadata produced on their services for at least two years. 

This means they have to store

  • Who you contact
  • When you contact them
  • Your location
  • Their location
  • The amount of communication made (like how many texts, or how many bytes of data)



Basically, he new laws make every connected object accountable for it’s actions.

The Australian Home, 2035

The final concept presented within this project is a design fiction called “Hawthorne at Home” to frame the concept I created a design fiction in order to help speculate on possible implications the Metadata Retention Policy might have on the Australian home.

The world of Australia in 2035 is one where the “Mining Boom” that occurred between 1990 and 2015 has ended. In addition, increased control and surveillance has been made possible by the metadata laws introduced in 2015.

These laws have been solidified and economies have emerged around the storage and capture of this data.

With the largest factor in GDP now gone, Australian companies have had to take unique steps to remain in the black.

Hawthorne Ltd. is a 50 year old mining company in the middle of a transition. In order too maintain profitability, Hawthorne has looked for new commodities to mine, such as metadata produced by the Australian public.

Artefacts from the Future

Three artefacts were developed based on iconic Australian Inventions, I wanted to explore how very mundane household items might become tools of a political agenda. 



The power board is based on the idea of sacrificing privacy for content. With many online experiences provided by companies like google and facebook, users are offered services in exchange for personal information that can be commoditised.

With the Power board I wanted to explore how this might work with a physical service offered in the home.  

The concept is that the power board offers free electricity to the user in exchange for collecting data about any other device that is plugged into it.



The concept with the sandwich maker is to explore the concept of digital rights management in a physical form.

The user must agree to specific terms and conditions, which can change at any time.

In addition the user must upgrade the software of the product in order to maintain functionality.





The router explores the idea that metadata is itself a resource that can be mined. Initially this artefact was aimed at measuring a users adherence to nationalist ideals.

However the more I tested the object and came to understand metadata further, the concept changed. 

The basis of metadata is that more is better, and so the core of this concept is now about users fulfilling a basic quota and providing a specific quantity of raw material in order to gain a service or reward.

Fictional Text

The fictional text created to go with the project was a letter to shareholders of Hawthorne Ltd. 

This document takes the position of the fictional CEO of Hawthorne, Bentham Hawthorne as he addresses shareholders.

This text was intended to present a more obvious indication of what the goals of a company might be in a future of data profiteering.

Model Making Process

I decided to use existing objects as my goal was to keep a sense of normality with the objects.

In order to make the products feel like part of a cohesive product line, I branded each object with the same logo and the same raw plywood finish.

I spent a lot of time experimenting with plywood bending, creating moulds, forming with tension, and trying to create bends by subtracting material. 

In the end a combination of over-bending, strong glue and good clamps did the job.


This project has been very challenging in terms of being able to explore ideas about my home country. I think living away from home for the last four years has given me a sense of distance from Australia, and in some ways this project helped me to come to terms with some elements of the Australian identity that I might have been ignoring 

The scary thing about the concept that I presented is that it really only feels about five percent away from reality.

I hope that this project has in some way made visible the problems that can arise when governments take narrow views and heavy handed approaches to the complexity of governing changing digital spaces.