Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science


Geography and Environment


Dr. Agnieszka Leszczynski


To date, studies related to the smart home have often focused on the technical aspects of the home. Few have given attention to how ‘smartness’ is reconfiguring a sense of home and how these changes may be identified in the smart home’s visual signatures. This research closes this gap in the current literature by mobilizing a visual methodologies approach comprised of content, compositional, and semiotic analysis to identify whether and how visual representations of the ‘smart home’ in architectural trade publications reconfigure understandings of the meaning of the "home.”

The outcomes of this research are a typology of smart home aesthetics, and a theorization of how these aesthetics as inform how the smart home is reconfiguring meanings of the home. Based on this typology, this research theorizes what image-based representations of the smart home represent ‘home’ to be, and how ‘smart’ aesthetics reconfigure the home as a site for social relations, intimacy, and leisure. This case study sheds light on the various meanings behind smart home images in architectural trade publications, as well as how they represent the concept of ‘home’. This research shows that there are two modalities of smart home images: i) smart home images with visible technology, ii) smart home images in which technology is hidden. My semiotic interpretations of these images find that images in both of these categories are doing two works simultaneously. On one hand, images of smart homes where technology is visible function to build readers’ trust in the ‘smart home’ concept by visually confirming that they are still homes in the traditional sense of a ‘home’. On the other hand, in images where smart home technologies themselves are invisible, sparse furnishings and minimalistic design aesthetics depict ‘smart homes’ as domestic spaces where smart technologies have already taken care of all the messiness, chaos, and housework that is often associated with ‘home’.

Summary for Lay Audience

‘Home’ is a concept that most individuals are very familiar with; however, a smart home is a more recent development. A smart home is a space designed with minimal and modern design features. Minimalist design aesthetics include using simple materials and smooth surfaces, basic ornaments, lack of extra furniture, and usage of new technologies in space. Smart homes are also characterized by everyday digital gadgets that operate many aspects of the home, from coordinating and automating systems such as lighting and heating. Homemakers and architectural designers attempt to introduce the smart home concept as a new living space to the public through mass media publications, such as magazines and websites.

Today’s research regarding smart homes often focuses on technological aspects of the home, but few studies elaborate on the changes that these smart home illustrations may cause to the understanding of ‘home’. This study aims to analyse smart home images in architectural trade publications to develop a typology of smart homes based on their design aesthetics. Furthermore, my research clarifies how the meaning of home is expressed through smart home images and the shift in the home's meanings. I collected smart home images from different architectural magazines and websites to be analysed through visual methods, including semiology, content, and compositional analysis. I used semiology to study signs and what they signify in images. The content analysis focuses on the content of images and compositional analysis concentrates on the composition of images and on how elements of an image are framed. This research reveals that there are two modalities of smart home images, smart home images in which technology is visible and where technology is hidden. My interpretations of smart home images showed that these categories are doing two jobs. Images of smart homes with visible technology operate to build viewers’ trust in the ‘smart home’ concept by visually reaffirming that they are still conventional homes in which to relax, feel comfortable, and socialise. Simultaneously, in images where technology is hidden, minimalistic design aesthetics portray ‘smart homes’ as households in which smart technologies manage the chaos and housework at home.