Promises of ubicomp

My research seems to orbit around the future orientation of ubicomp research and development and in that wavering trajectory I encounter various modes of anticipation. In presenting a semblance of certainty (where there need not be, and perhaps is not), obligations may be construed, and promises apparently made. Promises can be thought of as a ‘giving of ground’ to a potential future, an opening of self to a responsibility, perhaps as Nietzsche suggests, to vouch for oneself as a future. Considerations of promises can be suggested as a reading of our anticipatory knowledges that retains an intention, and perhaps responsibility, for particular futures but, against a prescriptive ‘going forward‘ or technological determinism, includes an inherent potential of uncertainty.

I would not presume to dismiss out of hand particular commitments to specific futures. Rather, I am interested in the orientation towards commitment as such and the ways in which we might read various ‘promises’ for ubicomp futures, what they do (deliberately and serendipitously) and how we might decode their meaning for various actors and audiences. Here are some of the examples of would-be ‘promises’ for ubicomp that have caught my eye:

Mike Kuniavsky speaking at Adaptive Path’s UX Week:

I believe that ubiquitous computing holds amazing promise for making the world a better, happier and more interesting place. One that’s a little more magical than what we have now. We, the interaction designers, have the responsibility to make it that better place. Manufacturers are going to make ubicomp devices with us or without us, and this technology is going to be the next big thing, simply because it’s so cheap. It is our job to make technology work for people, regardless of whether there’s a screen involved or not. I think that far too much attention has been paid to screen real estate speculation in the last 10 years, and it’s time to burst that bubble.

Pervasive Media Studio:

The evolution of the internet with ‘smart’ devices will unlock media from computers, phones, TVs and cinema screens and make it more of an integral and portable part of our daily lives. Designing the experiences and technology for a pervasive media environment will not only require a diverse set of skills and insights but also a collaborative approach to innovation.

HP Cooltown:

People, places, and things in the physical world will have increasingly complex online representations, allowing them to participate in web services. They will become first-class citizens of the web. This will enable services to become more personalised, more spontaneous, and more responsive to the wide variety of contexts in which people live their lives.

Marc Weiser, ‘The Computer for the 21st Century‘, published in Scientific American:

When almost every object either contains a computer or can have a tab attached to it, obtaining information will be trivial: “Who made that dress? Are there any more in the store? What was the name of the designer of that suit I liked last week?” The computing environment knows the suit you looked at for a long time last week because it knows both of your locations, and, it can retroactively find the designer’s name even if it did not interest you at the time.

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