Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing (MIT Press)

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Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Divining a Digital Future: A sociotechnical investigation of ubiquitous computing as a research enterprise and as a lived reality. Ubiquitous computing or ubicomp is the label for a "third wave" of computing technologies. Following the eras of the mainframe computer and the desktop PC, ubicomp is characterized by small and powerful computing devices that are worn, carried, or embedded in the world A sociotechnical investigation of ubiquitous computing as a research enterprise and as a lived reality. Following the eras of the mainframe computer and the desktop PC, ubicomp is characterized by small and powerful computing devices that are worn, carried, or embedded in the world around us.

The ubicomp research agenda originated at Xerox PARC in the late s; these days, some form of that vision is a reality for the millions of users of Internet-enabled phones, GPS devices, wireless networks, and "smart" domestic appliances. In Divining a Digital Future , computer scientist Paul Dourish and cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell explore the vision that has driven the ubiquitous computing research program and the contemporary practices that have emerged--both the motivating mythology and the everyday messiness of lived experience.

Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the authors' collaboration, the book takes seriously the need to understand ubicomp not only technically but also culturally, socially, politically, and economically. Dourish and Bell map the terrain of contemporary ubiquitous computing, in the research community and in daily life; explore dominant narratives in ubicomp around such topics as infrastructure, mobility, privacy, and domesticity; and suggest directions for future investigation, particularly with respect to methodology and conceptual foundations.

Hardcover , pages. Published April 22nd by Mit Press first published January 1st To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Divining a Digital Future , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about Divining a Digital Future. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Jun 23, Ed Summers rated it really liked it. This book came recommended to me after I was bemoaning the fact that my ethnographic research project yielded no satisfying "implications for design".

It was well worth the read, and I'm very grateful to have run across it. If you do take a look don't be put off by the term ubicomp. It's a bit of research jargon, but really it's just a stand-in for the application of computing in This book came recommended to me after I was bemoaning the fact that my ethnographic research project yielded no satisfying "implications for design". It's a bit of research jargon, but really it's just a stand-in for the application of computing in everyday life away from the desktop or traditional sites for computing.

I also didn't quite understand why no reference was made to Law's After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. It felt like there were some sections that were almost directly paraphrasing him, but not one citation, which was kinda weird. But there were lots of other citations to the literature that I'm going to be adding to me to-read list.

Aug 09, Kingsborough Library rated it it was amazing. Picked this book out of a bibliography as follow-up reading, really knowing nothing about it, and I was surprised by two things: Dec 13, Mike marked it as to-read Shelves: Rather starts out as a review and breakdown of the early works of a seminal researcher in what wasn't yet clearly a useful field of computing.

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Paul Dourish

Phrases at stand out to me: Nov 28, Brad Needham rated it really liked it. Written as a sociological critique of Ubicomp and as a roadmap for further multidisciplinary research in that field, this book also clearly defines the specific and substantial value anthropologists bring when working with designers, engineers, business developers, and managers to develop strategies and experiences.

In the current context of the Internet Of Things - which is really Ubicomp in different clothes - Divining a Digital Future is a valuable guidebook to the unstated and unquestioned as Written as a sociological critique of Ubicomp and as a roadmap for further multidisciplinary research in that field, this book also clearly defines the specific and substantial value anthropologists bring when working with designers, engineers, business developers, and managers to develop strategies and experiences. In the current context of the Internet Of Things - which is really Ubicomp in different clothes - Divining a Digital Future is a valuable guidebook to the unstated and unquestioned assumptions of the field, and flings open a door into a much wider world.

As in reflexive modern art the medium itself becomes scrutinized, legibility, literacy and legitimacy of mapping and spatial narratives are by nature part of locative media practices. A point to be made somewhere else.. The supposed democratic appeal of open data then merely serves to discursively legitimize the quantification of almost any aspect of urban life. More concretely, the question arises whether the good city is one where every possible variable is set, measured, visualized, and therefore can be acted upon.

Is the air clean enough to go out? Is the traffic not too dense? Is the house party across the street not producing more noise than allowed by policy? Is the crime rate in the new neighborhood low enough for my insurance? Have I burned my calories today? Sure, but it also raises new concerns. For instance about representation, both as in who represents and as in what is represented. Who sets the norms? Who does the measuring?

Who have access to those technologies, data sources and enough skills to do something useful with it? What is actually represented, what is being left out? What problem is being fixed and for whom? Steven Johnson for example asks in Wired whether these data and apps can do more than solve clearly definable problems.

Dr Genevieve Bell - 2016 Advance Global Australian Technology Innovation Award Winner

And what about urban issues that are too complex or impossible to quantify? Martin asks in Next American City magazine: In other words, will a break with institutional proprietorship result in a broadly felt ownership of the city? An ethical question to finish: Dealing with differences in public space seems to me one of the more interesting concerns for situated computing. To be sure this is not a bad thing, neither for those who wish to read a book on the current state of affairs in ubicomp, nor for ubicomp researchers who wish to enlarge the scope of their own practice.

The book attempts to foster an anthropological sensitivity among its presumed CHI readership.

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Fundamentally, their proposition to approach technology and urbanism through an ethnographic lens is highly relevant in my view. Imagine what the future of our cities look would like if it were the sole concern of coders and engineers? I also appreciate their relational view of ubicomp as intricately bound up with the messiness of everyday life, their concern with its multiplicity of forms and shapes, and their attention for fringes edges, periphery, margins. The everyday does not consist of stable pre-given categories home, mobility, etc. It arises from socio-cultural performances and is continuously negotiated.

As said above, what I feel is lacking from their approach is a clear vision how ubicomp can reciprocate to an understanding of the intricacies of techno-urban practices. What can ethnography and urbanism learn from ubicomp? Surely these are familiar insights to urban sociologists and anthropologists. There is nothing particularly ubicomp about them. Moreover, there is a certain circularity in the argument: Metaphors however conceal as much as they intend to reveal, so the cultural lens is problematic for at least two reasons.

First, it does not give an account of how culture itself is internally divided and subject to change. The lens is a rather static metaphor. Second, it implies that people can only wear one lens at the same time. It does not take into account that an increasing number of people move between various cultural settings, or are brought up in multiple cultural contexts, and therefore are accustomed to multiple — often conflicting — lenses.


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Questions like these should be posed as well in order to forward the work on computation that is truly contextual. Divining a digital future: Human-Computer Interaction , 16 , p. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing , 11 2 , p. Mobilities, Immobilities and Moorings. Mobilities , 1 1 , The rites of passage.

The Gift of the Gab?: Wired , November 1 Next American City magazine , Summer issue.

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Yale French Studies 41 , Ehrman criticizes the unquestioned assumption of an a priori realm of the everyday, the ordinary, reality, as somehow separate from play. He is the co-founder of The Mobile City , an independent research group founded in that investigates the influence of digital media technologies on urban life and the implications for urban design and policy.

Here he worked on several projects at the intersection of ICTs and the city, e. He also volunteered and worked for Cybersoek , a computer neighborhood center in Amsterdam.


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Michiel is on Twitter and LinkedIn. Our cities are becoming increasingly shaped by digital media technologies. The Mobile City investigates this relationship between digital media technologies and urban life, and the implications for urban design. The Hackable City is a research project that explores the potential for new modes of collaborative citymaking, in a network society.

In these three cahiers notebooks we share our insights gained both in Amsterdam Buiksloterham as well as in a series of international study trips.

Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing by Paul Dourish

This socio-cultural perspective again weaves through the chapter about mobility: Notes [1] Moran, T. Mobilities , 1 1 , [3] Van Gennep, A. Wired , November 1 [6] Courtney E.