Tag Archives: ubiquitous computing

Moores, S. (2004). The Doubling of Place: Electronic media, time-space arrangements and social relationships. In _MediaSpace: place, scale, and culture in a media age_, N. Couldry and A. McCarthy , eds. London and New York: Psychology Press.

Shaun Moores is Professor of Media and Communications, Associate Director of CRMCS (the Center for Research in Media and Cultural Studies), and RAE/REF Unit of Assessment Leader. He was formerly Associate Professor of Media and Communications in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne. His is a “non-media-centric” media studies, one that reaches across disciplinary boundaries to engage critically with phenomenological approaches within philosophy, geography, anthropology, and sociology. His research, above all, investigates media use in every day living.

In this piece, Moores submits media technologies in fact represent a “pluralizing of place and relationships” (27). While time’s social organization has shifted and become abstracted from discrete locations, it hasn’t resulted in the eradication of place. Per Joshua Meyrowitz (1985), electronic media affect us not just through content, “but by changing the ‘situational geography’ of social life” (as cited on 22). Places’ boundaries are more permeable.

Place is “pluralized, not marginalized” (21).


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McCullough, M. (2006). On the Urbanism of Locative Media [Media and the City]. _Places_, 18(2).

Malcolm McCullough, M.Arch from UCLA, is Associate Professor, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning from the University of Michigan. He researches digital media for the built environment. His best-known book is Abstracting Craft (1996), a philosophical inquiry into work practices.

In this article, McCullough praises locative media: “Would be flâneurs are now streaming their dérives. The urban media experience is now interactive; comprising not just the broadcast push but walker’s own messages, maps, tags. Locative media is “the newer paradigm of ubiquitous computing [that] brings thing back to the messy multiplicity of street level” (26).

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Dourish, P. and Bell, G. (2007). The infrastructure of experience and the experience of infrastructure: meaning and structure in everyday encounters with space. _Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design_, 34:414-430.

Genevieve Bell, PhD in Anthropology from Stanford, is Director of Intel Corporation’s Interaction and Experience Research. As a cultural anthropologist, she studies how various cultures use technology. In addition to this article, she and Paul Dourish co-wrote Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing (2011). [See other Dourish entry for his bio.]

What happens when computation leaves the desktop and enters our daily practice in the “third age” (Weiser, 1991, as cited on 414) ubiquitous computing (aka “pervasive computing,” “context-aware computing”)? In this context, computer devices penetrate all our actions, so “though each device may be small, the overall effect to be achieved through the combination of hundreds of thousands of devices…can be massive” (415).

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Dourish, P. (2001). _Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction_. Cambridge and London: The MIT Press.

Paul Dourish, PhD Computer Science from University College London, is Professor of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at UC, Irvine. He also has courtesy appointments in Computer Science and Anthropology, and is co-director, with Bill Maurer, of UCI’s new partnership with Intel, the Center for Social Computing. His research is at the nexus of computer science and social science, with a particular interest in ubiquitous and mobile computing and the cultural practices surrounding new media.

“Embodied interaction is interaction with computer systems [everything, really] that occupy our world, a world of physical and social reality, and that exploit this fact in how they interact with us” (3).

This book has a four-part hypothesis. (1) Tangible computing, the notion we improve our everyday lives with direct interaction with devices of computational power, and social computing, the process of using social sciences and anthropology to enhance user/system interface, share a common base. (2) Embodiment is that common base. (3) Embodiment is not a new idea but has deep roots in phenomenology. E.g. Husserl’s lebenswelt, Heidegger’s preontological experiences, Schutz’s model of intersubjectivity, and Merleau-Ponty’s three aspects of embodiment. (4) These and related explorations of and into embodiment offer material for devising a basis for embodied interaction.

Tangible computing (either virtual reality or ubiquitous computing) designs foreground awareness: of communication, of the importance of holistic design, and that the computer and physical worlds are connected.

Social computing holds design is shaped through sociological methods and reasoning. Context has several definitions: the system’s tasks being performed, why they’re being performed, the settings of that research, etc. “The context, though, is as much social as technical” (57).

Dourish privileges place over space. Where space amounts to physical properties, literal and metaphorical, place is contextual and “refers to the way that social understandings convey an appropriate behavioral framing for an environment” (90). The upshot:

  • place is comprised by its activities, rather than its dimensions or structure
  • “place can’t be designed, only designed for” (91)
  • place relates to a specific “community of practice” (91)

Finally (well not finally — there is much more to this book than I’m writing about), I want to add Dourish’s thoughts about affordance. His office chair’s size and dimensions match his legs’, and thus affords him a comfortable seat.* But the seat would not be so comfortable for a horse or a rabbit, which “are not ‘appropriately equipped individuals” (118).

“In other words, an affordance is a three-way relationship between the environment, the organism, and an activity. This three-way relationship is at the heart of ecological psychology, and the challenge of ecological psychology lies in just how it is centered on the notion of an organism acting in an environment: being in the world” (118).

*William H. Whyte writes about how certain public spaces afford (or don’t) people comfortable seats — and gives specific measurements — in his great The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces [1980]).

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Greenfield, A. (2006). _Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing_. Berkeley: New Riders.

Adam Greenfield, principle of the Studies and Observations design consultancy, is a user experience consultant and critical futurist. He is also co-founder of Boxes & Arrows, a web-based journal on interactive design and information architecture.

Greenfield has a simple objective in this book, parsed into a few parts. To define “everyware,” explain its feasibility (the necessary technology already exists) and inevitability (following late-capitalism’s requirement for accumulated production), and caution us about its implications. “Everyware” comprises the “powerful informatics underlying the apparent simplicity of the experience, but they never breach the surface of awareness: things Just Work” (1). The things in question include all these and more: “wearable computing, augmented reality, locative media, near-field communication, body-area networking” (13).

For all the promise of scare-tactics, and Greenfield does come through here, I think he went too on easy on ubicomp. I think this is because, in the end, he’s your classic fanboy. Ubicomp is marvelous, technologically sublime, and Greenfield’s not immune. So he admits, without worry, that his prediction centers around the First World, not giving a moment’s thought to the deepening chasm between it and the Fourth World (Castells, 1998). Likewise, he gives barely a paragraph’s notice to the certain social inequities at the local and regional levels. What of the buildings that disallow people of certain ethnicities and socioeconomic levels? And what of the border implications? There’s so much more dystopic potential here, but Greenfield doesn’t get at it. I’d call it a pity, but that’s the wrong response.

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