Aural Expectations of Home: An Autoethnography of the Amazon Echo Smart Speaker

Stephen J. Neville



This article reports on the findings of an autoethnographic case study of the Amazon Echo smart speaker to explore problems of acoustic privacy at home. The concept of aural expectations of home (AEH) is introduced to theorize how one lives with and through sound at home. This contribution centers on a gap in surveillance studies literature: critical discussion of smart speakers tends to focus primarily on issues of data bleed, the extraction of knowledge about the household, as opposed to multisided issues of sonic bleed. In response, the goal of this article is to highlight issues of acoustic boundary control to explore how Amazon Echo’s logic of surveillance might interact with the acoustic environment and sonic practices of home. I argue that smart speakers do not enact an “utter invasion” of domestic privacy, but rather affect interpersonal, embodied, and environmental processes of acoustic boundary control; however, this new media development represents an emergent vector of surveillance in the domestic sphere that can indirectly render one’s AEH as data.