Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing

by Adam Greenfield

40 Reader Comments

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  1. The best technology is to not be reliant on technology. I don’t have a cell phone and I get along without one just fine. And it costs less. Actually it costs me nothing. It seems like every new thing that is introduced may have some benefits but there’s always a downside as well.

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  2. Technology is just technology; not bad or good, with it’s implementation dependent upon the programmer and designer. Everyware does sound like a nice concept; the ability to monitor the elderly from afar in case they fall ill, etc. Yet very few ‘new’ innovations in Computer Science (after all that is what we are discussing) actually get to the person in the street in a very useful form. A recent article on the UK site The “Register”:http://www.regdeveloper.co.uk/2006/04/10/henslow_darwin_sqlserver/ in which the discuss the adoption of RDMS in Academia or the lack thereof. Databases has been seen as a ‘solved’ problem in Computer Science research for a long time. Yet your average, even-above average user can not utlise the benefits of such organisation because the implementations(i.e. products) have been woefully promoted and in some cases designed. Technology needs not only to Just Work but also be explained to people for acceptance and uptake to occur. The spread of blackberrys in business is a case in point. Giving people round the clock access to email is great; but why? Why should executives be expected to work more hours and be tied to these e-mail clients? Technology should be used to free up our time and enable us to work less not, chain us wherever we should chose to be. My one hope is that more developers and designers see the consequences of their design decisions.

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  3. Judging from this adv^H^H^Harticle, it seems if I apply the DEBUZZWORD lossless compression algorithm on that book, I’d get at least 98% compression of the original.

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  4. This is just the latest example of overblown “gee Whiz” effect.  We used to call it “rapture of the deep.” He almost gets it right in the passage,

    “. . . We will have to balance whatever improvement we hope to achieve by overlaying our lives with digital mediation against the risk of unduly complicating that which is presently straightforward, breaking that which now works, and introducing new levels of frustration and inconvenience into all the most basic operations of our lives.

    But veers away, with a short sentence about prepatation for the inevitable “breakdown of mediation.”

    The high tech landscape is strewn with solutions chasing problems; marketers pushing products we don’t really need.

    Our lives and business activities depend on many simple, direct transactions that become overly complex and prone to failure with the introduction of computerized “mediation.”

    Let’s be careful about that “breaking that which now works” part. You might want it back again someday.

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  5. …as to how you guys wind up assuming that I approve of what’s coming down the pike, in any way.

    It is true that it’s sort of unfair to expect a reader to infer the content of a book from its introduction. But I’ve reread this quite a few times, now, and it’s right there on the page (as it were). So I’m a little puzzled as to the response this piece is running into here (and nowhere else).

    Y’see, I agree with those of you who think that too often, buzzwords replace critical thought about technology – else why would I worry about “the parade of content-free buzz-prefixes used by the marketers of” same?

    I agree with those of you who think what we’re on the verge of trading away is worth far more than the paltry trinkets we’ve been offered in return – short of outright hyperbole, I don’t think there’s a clearer way to say this than to use words like “risk” and “frustration” and “inconvenience.”

    Above all, I agree that representation and mediation in everyday life are much thornier and more complicated than a UML diagram can represent: this is precisely what I mean by “the dissonance…the odd dislocations that crop up whenever we follow old maps into a new territory.”

    I guess I could understand the hostility you’re bringing to the table if none of that was in there…but it is. I’m not the one trying to sell you this stuff, I’m trying to raise awareness about what’s clearly headed our way, so that individuals and communities can mount appropriate responses. In fact, I think my skepticism about the presumptive “benefits” of everyware is about as pronounced as it could be, without disregarding the actual upside potential.

    So Ralph, and Alan, and bill, I have to ask you: is it simply that you didn’t read the piece before sounding off? Because, otherwise, there’s a time-honored expression in English for what it is that you’re doing: we call it shooting the messenger.

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  6. Adam, I did read the article and I don’t understand why some comments seem to imply that you are promoting (or even happy about) the future you depict.  And I wasn’t shooting the messenger.

    However I admit that my comment was probably inappropriate.

    You do write very well and I’ll bet my tits its a great book.

    Im not a “teenage standards Nazi” either.  And I agree that both content and intention are a million times more important than markup.  I’m also sure that most here would agree.

    I guess my frustration with the article was due to my not having accepted it as a simple intro to your book.  It didn’t have much content.  But that’s because it’s an intro!  My bad…

    I guess I just come here for the no-nonsense balls-to-the-wall information in plain old friendly English.  I just want the facts/advice/tips/whatever.  But that doesn’t mean that ALA shouldn’t publish a plug for an exceptional book that has relevance to my field.  And there is no reason for me to come in here and criticize ALA for not making an article for ME every odd tuesday.

    Anyway all I want to say is that my comment had little to do with your book.

    Oh and I agree with a previous poster that getting outside for a while (maybe a camping trip in the Rockies for a week) will 100% cure anyone of future phobia.  But that’s another book.

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  7. What Erin said.

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  8. …just in case you’re still reading this page. That was an honorable thing you did.

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  9. After reading both of the Everyware articles (and thinking of picking up the book) I have to say that I agree, though I think you are being too optimistic. The forces pushing for ubiquitous technology are too many and too powerful to limit their influence in any meaningful way. Oh sure, people can debate here and elsewhere, but that debate will be held among the very few (globally speaking) and I don’t think it will have any tangible impact. It’s like debating Attila’s hordes. They’ll be happy to sit down and have a conversation, but at the end of the day it will just roll over you anyway.

    It’s not democratic, it’s not beneficial, but when has that stopped anyone? The future, in short, is profitable. Immensly profitable, and the plans and desires of Brazilian farmer meet the plans and desires of a Wall Street investor, it’s not hard to predict the outcome.

    Which is not to say (I hope) that resistance is futile. Unfortunately, social movements, especially global ones, don’t spring up overnight, even if organization, funding, and initiative were a given. The question is whether limiting ubiquitous technology will even be possible in a few decades, or indeed whether the question will still be meaningful.

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  10. I am surprised that no one mentioned the excellent work of Michael Dertouzos in that field, a work that originated in 1999 and that I first get acquainted with via the “Scientific American”.

    “Oxygen project (Brochure about the Oxygen project) “:http://oxygen.lcs.mit.edu/Publications/Oxygen.pdf.

    The Oxygen project is decribed as “New technologies that put humans in the center of computing”

    An absolute must.

    Pat

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