Radar Roundup: Ubiquitous computing (ubicomp)

  • The Street as Platform (Dan Hill): amazing essay by Dan Hill (yet another genius formerly at the BBC) about the invisible cloud of data in a city street. “We can’t see how the street is immersed in a twitching, pulsing cloud of data. […] This is a new kind of data, collective and individual, aggregated and discrete, open and closed, constantly logging impossibly detailed patterns of behaviour. The behaviour of the street.
  • Service Design Notes: Tools, not Services (Chris Heathcote): frustrated by the limited functionality in his Nike+ because the service is intentionally feebly aimed at feeble “typical” consumers, Chris dashed off a quick rant about the trap of designing services. Users want tools, not services. And by building tools, you can build a service people want. The last two paragraphs are gold: “Tools will be bent and misused – which means you sell even more. And you don’t have design in the usefulness – just find the useful functionality and package it up in an open-enough way to show possibilities.”
  • A Very Long Conversation with Dopplr’s Matt Jones (SecondVerse): a long interview, mostly about design stuff, with Matt Jones. The bit that resonated with me was “Mother Box is not in the Box“, which I translate as “you buy products that are front-ends to services”, which is a short hop away from “these days a device needs a network to be useful”. If you think of ubicomp as “it’s about sensors, outputs, and computation”, you can’t forget the network that connects them all–and what life is like when that network disappears.
  • Review of Everyware by Adam Greenfield (heyblog): a very detailed review of “Everyware” by Adam Greenfield. Matt Jones recommended Everyware to me as the first stop in a quick catchup of ubiquitous computing. “Everyware strikes a good balance between the impenetrable proceedings of the UBICOMP conferences and design writing. Adam expects the reader to get references to “Ctrl-Zing something away, “elevator pitches”, and “user experience” and something about how people behave with mobile phones“.
  • Being Human (Microsoft Research): subtitled “Human-Computer Interaction in the Year 2020”. Love the “Transformations in Interaction” section: “The End of Interface Stability; The Growth of Techno-Dependence; The Growth of Hyper-Connectivity; The End of the Ephemeral; The Growth of Creative Engagement”.
  • William Gibson – The Rolling Stone 40th Anniversary Interview: “One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real. In the future, that will become literally impossible. The distinction between cyberspace and that which isn’t cyberspace is going to be unimaginable. When I wrote Neuromancer in 1984, cyberspace already existed for some people, but they didn’t spend all their time there. So cyberspace was there, and we were here. Now cyberspace is here for a lot of us, and there has become any state of relative nonconnectivity. There is where they don’t have Wi-Fi. In a world of superubiquitous computing, you’re not gonna know when you’re on or when you’re off. You’re always going to be on, in some sort of blended-reality state. You only think about it when something goes wrong and it goes off. And then it’s a drag.” I linked to it from the first Radar Roundup but I know you skipped it, so I had to quote it all here. You made me do it.
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