Practising tomorrows? PhD Thesis online

I’ve uploaded a PDF of my PhD thesis for people to download [2.1Mb PDF ] should anyone feel so inclined. I have had a finalised version for a little while and have been meaning to make it available but just haven’t got round to it before now.

This work was conducted between 2006 and 2009, with the substantive fieldwork conducted in the summer of 2008 in Silicon Valley. It principally focusses on the ways in which those involved in ubiquitous computing research development, in a corporate context, anticipate particular kinds of future. This work remains interesting and, I would argue, important because “the future” continues to figure as a significant frame of reference in the ways in which we discuss and relate to/through technologies. I have reproduced the abstract, with the inclusion of a key quote, below. Please do get in touch to discuss this work! [ sam (dot) kinsley (at) uwe (dot) ac (dot) uk]

Practising Tomorrows? Ubiquitous computing and the politics of anticipation

Ubiquitous computing (ubicomp) research is characterized primarily by a concern with potential future computational worlds. This notion of research by future envisionment has been a feature of ubicomp discourse and reasoning since it earliest days… Such visions, however, are interesting not just for what they say about the future but also for what they say
about the present. This seems to be particularly the case when it comes to normative social relationships.

Bell & Dourish Yesterday’s tomorrows: notes on ubiquitous computing’s dominant vision

The thesis describes the ways in which technological futurity is a complex array of performative and proactive dispositions towards the future that are irreducible to normative and deterministic understandings of ‘progress’. It takes ubiquitous computing as a significant case study because the future orientation practised in ubiquitous computing research and development is emblematic of the perpetual technological forecasting in which humanity engages. While ubiquitous computing has existed as an agenda for nearly 20 years it is still largely concerned with a future that has not (yet) been realised. In the context of ubiquitous computing the thesis argues that it is necessary to make the politics of anticipation, as the particular discursive and performative ways in which future-orientation is codified and conditioned, explicit in technology development. The thesis therefore enacts a critical framework that charts a discourse of anticipation, as the multiple means for articulating proactive future orientation, internal to which are anticipatory logics that structure and rationalise how such forms of futurity are practised.

The motivation and ambit of the research is to thereby describe a politics of anticipation as the ways in which the anticipation of technological futures is codified and contested, whilst performative and multiple. Empirically, the argument is made through the discussion of interviews conducted with a range of internationally significant practitioners of ubiquitous computing research and development, which were carried out in Silicon Valley, California, in 2008. Attending to discourse, logics and emergent politics of anticipation provides a means of making explicit how our ‘knowledge’ of technological futures is produced. It is therefore argued that we should attend to socio-technical futurity as inherently situated in the living present, with all of its associated concerns, and allow for the indeterminacy of the future.

Practising tomorrows? – Sam Kinsley’s PhD Thesis [2.1Mb PDF ].

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