This week the task was to think about potentials and positive outcomes of ubiquitous computers. Which I first found a lot easier to understand. The first two films still pictured a world depending on tablets or cards (#daymadeofglass #productivityfuturevision). Information in all films are personalized. Somehow the pictured technology managed to select the important information for the specific situation. Which is quite different to the way information technology works, in my opinion, at the moment. We are dealing with a lot of information on the web right now, which has to be selected and organized. There are of course attempts to do so, such as the algorithms of several search machines (Dirk Lewandowski has done a lot interesting research on this topic). We also try to reduce information overload by letting our social (online) networks tell us what is important, especially young people do so.
Nonetheless these visions lacked real interaction with the environment. They pictured people still sitting in front of screens, words, and tablets. This may be the near future, but not the end of our technological development. Especially when it comes to ubicomp, the way I understand it, its more about embedded technology instead of embedding the environment into technology. #sight may fit this vision better, but I cannot agree with the perspective of us as total homo ludens. It’s of course a nice feature, but I think it covers only a small part of ourselves.
The most realistic film for me is ‚Charlie 13 by Michael McMillian‚. The idea of embedded chips in human bodies or clothes which can tell who and where you are, transfer money and so on, feels familiar. In some way we are already doing this, e.g. with animals and also with our ID Cards (except for money transfers). From credit and ID cards to chips its just a small step. And we are already tracking customers of clothes. Although an implanted chip may be a great relief to people who are – like me – always loosing their wallets and forgetting their IDs. Returning to the content of the film: It demonstrated that important transactions can be done where ever you are and crimes are much harder to come through with. But – and this is a quite interesting thought of the film – I should be free to decide if I want to be part of this or not. And that’s also the trouble. Once society decided to walk down this road, it’s hard to not be part of it.
Technology can be a great improvement, when it comes to information without borders of space or time. We also don’t have to care about organizational or trivial tasks and hence are able to concentrate on bigger, more complex and maybe more philosophical areas. Therefore it frees us from survival acts while bounding us again on other issues. So an utopia of ubicomp becomes a decision of which boundaries we want for ourselves. What I get from these thoughts are following questions:
(1) How can we improve our lives through technology without loosing contact to nature?
(2) How can we assure living in an embedded world stays a free decision?