King's College London

Research portal

Zoom Obscura: Counterfunctional Design for Video-Conferencing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Chris Elsden, David Chatting , Michael Duggan, Andrew Dwyer, Pip Thornton

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI' 22)
E-pub ahead of print28 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: Many people worked to make the Zoom Obscura project possible, at a time of considerable uncertainty and stress due to the ongoing pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic. Firstly, we are grateful to all the artists who expressed interest in the project, and especially the seven artists who we were able to support and work with to produce the projects described in this paper. We would also like to thank our community partners Jack Nissan and Luci Holland, part of the Tinderbox Collective, and curator Hannah Redler Hawes, who provided platforms for the artists to share their work with new audiences. We especially thank Jessica Armstrong who helped produce the frst Zoom Obscura exhibition at the InSpace Gallery. Finally, we are very grateful to the Creative Informatics delivery team, in particular Kam Chan and Liam Upton, for their support throughout, in administering and promoting Zoom Obscura. Zoom Obscura was funded through an EPSRC Human-Data Interaction Network+ funding call on Ethics and Data: Concepts, Provocations and Solutions. The project was also supported by the AHRC Creative Informatics project (AH/S002782/1), part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme. Publisher Copyright: © 2022 Owner/Author.


King's Authors


This paper reports on Zoom Obscura – an artist-based design research project, responding to the ubiquity of video-conferencing as a technical and cultural phenomenon throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. As enterprise software, such as Zoom, rapidly came to mediate even the most personal and intimate interactions, we supported and collaborated with seven independent artists to explore technical and creative interventions in video-conferencing. Our call for participation sought critical interventions that would help users counter, and regain agency in regard to the various ways in which personal data is captured, transmitted and processed in video-conferencing tools. In this design study, we analyse post-hoc how each of the seven projects employed aspects of counterfunctional design to achieve these aims. Each project reveals different avenues and strategies for counterfunctionality in video-conferencing software, as well as opportunities to design critically towards interactions and experiences that challenge existing norms and expectations around these platforms.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454