Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 26 Apr 06 10:56
You talk about "addressing the challenges of ubiquitous information technology in public space the way [Jane Jacobs] might have" - perhaps that's a place to start. Can you imagine how she would have approached the subject?
Adam Greenfield (adamgreenfield) Wed 26 Apr 06 12:36
I can't imagine but that Jane would have started from a healthy appreciation of the things we already have, the things that aren't broken and don't require fixing. This was certainly her point of departure in "Death and Life of the Great American Cities," and I'd want it to be mine in any consideration of everyware in urban space. I'd want to take a careful look at the great urban places of Earth, and ask myself how the flow of information helps them become what they are, consider the dynamics of their structuration. I'd want to get out some of the urbanist classics of the 60s and 70s, Jacobs' work and "A Pattern Language" and Kevin Lynch and so on, and ask how their conclusions and recommendations might differ under the condition of ambient informatics. (William Mitchell does some of this in his recent collection of essays, "Placing Words," by the way, but I'd want to go deeper.) And given the widespread fondness for the Situationist moment (which I share), I'd also want to wrestle with the inescapable fact that the Situationist program for the city has in a sense triumphed, and been inverted in its victory. The Situationist "unitary urbanism" aimed to collapse binary oppositions like "work/leisure" and "public/private," and I'd argue that this is in fact what has come to pass with things like the mobile phone and the Blackberry, but in a way that would depress the hell out of the people who advanced these ideas to begin with. These are ideas I would have loved to get deeper into in "Everyware," but it wasn't the time or the proper venue, really.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 26 Apr 06 20:38
Interesting parallel there - Situationists saw art as something that would blend into everyday life, and everyware is about technology blending into everyday life. In a way art/technology disappear, but only because they've been assimilated as part of the environment. You mention _A Pattern Language_ - have you looked at any of the work on design patterns for ubiquitous computing?
Infradibulated Gratility (ssol) Thu 27 Apr 06 05:26
I was just reading about the humanoid robot, Repliee. In the videos and photos <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0610_050610_robot.html> she seems quite authentic, but her sensorium and computing is distributed around the room where she is operating. They can't fit inside her body. This is interesting. Her senses and "brain" occupy the space around her body and surround the human observer interacting with the robot as tho Repliee actually existed in that body. We are easily misdirected, I think.
Adam Greenfield (adamgreenfield) Thu 27 Apr 06 19:09
Jon, I haven't, no. Whose work are you thinking of, in particular?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 27 Apr 06 21:28
James Landay at UC Berkeley and Gaetano Borriello of the University of Washington - see http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/landay/pubs/ieee-computer-ubicomp-design-pa tterns-final.pdf There's also some work here: http://guir.berkeley.edu/projects/patterns/
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Fri 28 Apr 06 17:01
Adam, I'd be curious about your take on something I just put up today: http://www.openthefuture.com/2006/04/everyware_blogjects_and_the_pa.html (Thanks for the footnote shout-out to WC in Everyware, btw.)
Adam Greenfield (adamgreenfield) Fri 28 Apr 06 21:04
Two quick takes, 'cause I'm here at USC's Networked Publics conference, and it was a huge data dump and I was jetlagged to begin with. ; . ) Jon, you're right, I had seen those papers before, and I guess I had sort of shunted them to the sidings in my mind. The reason stems from the major distinction between the ubicomp patterns they advance, and the patterns Chris Alexander proposes in "A Pattern Language": the former strikes me as being in a proscriptive, and the latter in a descriptive mode. When Alexander says, for example, if you build your balconies less than six feet deep, the likelihood is that they won't get used...well, this is something that he generalized from his and his students' observations of the way people arranged human space across cultures and epochs. Each of the patterns is a gestalt that emerges from an empirical consideration of long-term, "naive," vernacular practice, out in the wild. By contrast, the ubicomp patterns strike me as anticipatory projections, projections of the way we might like things to work. And, as a matter of fact, in my view they have the most in common with those parts of the Alexander work that are the weakest and the hardest to defend empirically (if the closest to my own sentimental-anarchist heart), which are the patterns that call for autonomous regions and city-country fingers and so on. Until we have some good solid data that emerges from the long-term study of reasonably well-assimilated everyware, I'm not sure it makes sense to talk about pattern languages for it. I admire the intention, but I think it misses the entire point of what Alexander, at least, was trying to convey. Jamais, I saw that this afternoon, maybe 15 minutes after you posted it. I haven't absorbed it yet and wouldn't want to nail myself to any of this, but my first impressions are that your framework is sound (and could be important), but that I disagree with where you place everyware in the grid. To me, everyware is *both* intimate and "extimate," even occasionally both simultaneously. It's both nestled up close to us physically, that is, and outward-facing, in the broadest possible sense. But, like I say, I'm going to want to come back to this tomorrow, after I've had a nice long sleep. Is it a deal?
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Fri 28 Apr 06 21:12
Todd Allen (seraphim) Sat 29 Apr 06 10:46
These new technologies will bring up a myriad of privacy issues-and as we've been pretty starkly reminded these past few years, not only can we not always rely on the government to watch out for us, they're all too often what needs the watching. Should the focus be on forming new organizations as privacy watchdogs, or to rely on established organizations such as ACLU and EFF? Or something else entirely?
Adam Greenfield (adamgreenfield) Mon 1 May 06 06:59
(Ahh, a little smoke from the tires and we're down. I'm two cups of coffee away from getting over my jetlag and getting back into the swing of things.)
Adam Greenfield (adamgreenfield) Mon 1 May 06 09:18
OK, now I'm able to mount a coherent response to those last few questions. Let's see here. Jamais, I wouldn't want this to be interpreted as a land grab on behalf of a word I coined ; . ) but even after some reflection I really do think that everyware, at least as I think of it, squats sprawling over all four sectors of your grid. That is to say, I think it's fruitful to understand the wearable body monitor (intimate and inwardly-focused), the parka that changes its loft according to the outside temperature (intimate and outwardly-focused), conditioned architectural space (out in the world and focused on us) and conditioned public space (out in the world and focused on large-scale flows) as aspects or epiphenomena of the same underlying cause. The situations certainly differ, and I'd want to be among the very first to argue that the differences matter intensely in terms of understanding these technologies and deciding which ones we're OK with...but I also don't think we can fully understand any one of your four sectors without wrapping our heads around how information generated in each flows into and informs the others. I'd love to see you develop the grid a little further, and begin (*begin*) to characterize each sector in terms of what its likely impact on the world will be, socially/psychologically/politically. And that's obviously a conversation I'd like to be a part of. Todd, yours is an excellent question too. My gut response is to say that the specific issue of privacy is probably pretty well covered by the organizations you namecheck - each of whom would need, at most, expert counsel about the specific nuances of the everyware case, but who otherwise have a hard-won understanding of the terrain and the players. But that's just privacy. Where I think there is a legitimate need for new organizations is in crystallizing a community of competent practice in what is obviously a very thorny and complicated space. I've had daydream notions of starting a Center for the Ethical Development of Everyware, for example, and I do think there will eventually need to be some standards or certification body that can credibly distinguish between systems that have been designed with the human user in mind and those to be wary of. This is something that I'm willing to bet we'll be seeing the emergence of, alongside the technical stratum, in the next few years.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Mon 1 May 06 10:55
Given the hypothetical, tentative character with which you express things in the recent posts above, why did you choose to write the book in the form of a series of theses? Or is that making too much of it?
Adam Greenfield (adamgreenfield) Mon 1 May 06 11:14
Yeah, that apparent tentativity is probably an artifact of my "speaking" voice here. That said, I do view each of Everyware's 81 theses as provisional, to a varying degree. The reality they're describing is too new and as-yet inchoate to set them in quick-drying concrete.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Mon 1 May 06 11:28
Adam, I understand why you see everyware as covering all four quadrants, and I'm actually pretty amenable to the argument. The focus of _Everyware_ the book, however, seems to be on those systems which are "out in the world and focused on us," which is why I put it in the single box. (FWIW, I found the term "extimate" -- as opposite to "intimate" -- in use in academic philosophy and rhetoric, so I appropriated it for my uses.) You're spot on, of course, when you call out the need for a better understanding of what it's like to live in a world with this kind of technology. The ethical question is primary: all technology is biased by the assumptions of its designers, so how can we encourage designers to build ethical behavior in from the beginning? Is it another manifestation of the UI problem (that is, user interfaces bolted on to a system at the end are invariably lousy, while UI designs included from the beginning are very often functionally elegant)? Does a social technology require social rules? I'm also curious about the "theses" approach, btw.
Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Mon 1 May 06 11:28
the man himself slipped
Adam Greenfield (adamgreenfield) Mon 1 May 06 12:19
Haw. "Does a social technology require social rules?" I don't know. I *do* know that getting everyware right more often than not is going to require a wholesale reconsideration of just how it is that enterprise goes about developing complex informatic systems. Because you're absolutely right: as a few folks point out a ways upstream, when good UI work is among the last things attended to in the design of a system, it's too late. My frustration is how rarely this seems to be a disincentive. My current case in point is Motorola's RAZR phone, simultaneously one of the runaway successes of the last few years as digital gadgetry goes, and the possessor of what is widely acknowledged to be an awful, user-hostile, thoroughly outmoded interface. How do we incentivize companies like Motorola to devote the same care and consideration to the flow of user interactions that they have to engineering the (lovely) physical form of these last few designs? If we can't solve this problem even at the mobile level, I tremble at what's going to happen when the UI is all that's left of a product or service...
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 1 May 06 17:02
Doesn't that have to be market-driven? Design will improve if improved design is a market advantage? And I mean "market" in a broader, not necessarily commercial, sense.
Adam Greenfield (adamgreenfield) Mon 1 May 06 19:59
So what constitutes the broader "market"? As of the moment, I see a lot of advantages accruing to first movers, a lot of advantages accruing to those who are willing to cut corners and push UX concerns to the back bunrer (or off the stovetop entirely), but no visible mechanism for closing the feedback loop. A big part of the problem in IT at present is of course that the purchaser of technology is very often someone other than the end user. I hold a _little_ more hope for producers coming out of the consumer electronics mindset, where there does tend to be some relationship between good design and mass uptake. But even here we see examples galore like the RAZR. I think part of the answer to your question has to be that the market can function the way it's supposed to, if it's been provided with clear, high-visibility indicators of a given system's adhesion (or lack of adhesion) to guidelines for ethical development. This would include third-party certification of same. I've got a question, one that I'm always particularly alert to: any guesses as to why more women haven't participated in this discussion? I find it worrisome to have conversations like this when only 49% of the target audience is represented in any way...
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 1 May 06 21:55
I was using the word market in terms of adoption/selection rather than sales... making room for Open Source, for instance. Good question about women. You attended some conferences on this subject; were there many women in attendance?
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 1 May 06 22:44
Hi! Can't speak for anybody else, but I have enjoyed reading, and have just been a little overcomitted to get in and post. I know this conversation wraps up tomorrow, but that's kind of hard to believe. It's moved along with so many interesting tacks along the way. One recent question that's interesting was "Does a social technology require social rules?" I think codes of behavior are implicit in software code, even in single-user applications, but much more so in group toolsets, where some of the codes of behavior are explicitly made part of the interface. (Can somebody delete the words of another? Are you permitted to create private spaces? Is the founder given some kind of moderator/host powers? All of that is laid out in the code. In fact, that's why they call it code. We're swimming in a river of rules.) I'm also interested in what for me would be the next round of questions, getting into the practical: How can social technologies be designed to accomodate ongoing evolution of rules and community roles? I have an odd perspective. I'm on the the staff at The WELL, where technical change has been excrutiatingly slow in many ways. It's hard to not be able to move on doing requested improvements, yet nobody can be sure that is (or isn't) what gives our online home town its best characteristics. I'd also throw in one random thought that came to me in reading the topic. When I bought my first modem in 1991, and became obsessed, it was very tough for me to sit through a plane ride or a basball game -- I was compsing emails in my head the whole time. I was jonesing to get back to my keyboard and my friends again. The worst thing was drafting a reply to a post in my head *while skydiving.* I kid you not. Fifteen years later I like being unplugged. I just got a regular mobile phone and not a treo or blackberry. The ubiquity I craved when first in this environment has become less attractive to me over time. I know most of the implications will not sink in until a generation or so lives this way. Our software evolves a lot faster than our brains and our familial social structures. So here's an important trend, you're posted eloquently, and I'm finding myself at least as interested in the opposite direction, in preserving the right to unplug. Does ubiquity have to be 24.7 ? Will we be able to opt out for a day and not be connected? Or is that model in jeopardy?
Adam Greenfield (adamgreenfield) Tue 2 May 06 07:03
That's actually at the center of the things I want to preserve, Gail. One of the five guidelines I offer for the ethical development of everyware is precisely the right to opt out always and at any time. This prerogative is important to me for a variety of reasons - political and social and so on - but above all because I have a strong belief in the value of silence and emptiness. And those are things which are obviously close to unsustainable in a world of totalizing everyware. (Some of the things I wish to preserve are enumerated here: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/everyware2/) I will say this, too: it's precisely the people I know who are furthest along the curve of considering it (and in some cases actually living it) who are least enthusiastic about the prospect of always-on, real-time, anywhere connectivity. I think there's an important clue there for anyone willing to consider it - as well as a potential red flag for anyone whose business model is predicated on an audience's desire to be always-on. I'd like to spend the rest of the time we have together here considering the various facets of opting out, of preserving moments of disconnection and autonomy, if nobody minds?
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 2 May 06 10:29
I'm certainly interested in your take on that.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 2 May 06 20:48
That would be great, Adam. Reading your last post, I was thinking how psychologically difficult it can be for many to disengage. Remember the "rape" in Lambda MOO? For those who aren't familiar, a MOO (Multiuser Object-Oriented environment) is a text-based virtual reality where people hang out in an online world of objects and actions described via text. Some were more powerful because they were "wizards" who knew enough code and had the right permissions to manipulate the environment. When the virtual rape occurred, it evidently never occurred to the 'victims' to simply shut down and walk away. (Juian Dibbel wrote of this incident: http://loki.stockton.edu/~kinsellt/stuff/dibbelrapeincyberspace.html). If the reality of a virtual world can be so compelling that you can't disconnect from an abuse that depends on what William Gibson called, describing cyberspace, a "consensual hallucination," how can we disengage from blended virtual and real environments?
Adam Greenfield (adamgreenfield) Wed 3 May 06 05:58
I think that's an excellent point, Jon. My favorite quote from Marshall McLuhan reminds us that "every extension is also an amputation," and I find that this is still true as regards our experience with ambient informatics. I feel _lessened_ to some extent when my exoskeleton of informational affordances is removed. I'm already having trouble simply sitting in the garden on a gorgeous sunny day reading a book, because I viscerally want (and expect to be able) to Google or Wikipedia every proper noun or unfamiliar word I stumble across. And I'm wary of this, very wary. A large part of the wariness has to do with something I noticed on my honeymoon, during which I spent ten glorious days away from connectivity of any meaningful sort. After I got over what we might call the initial "withdrawal" symptoms - the twitchy, phantom desire to log in somewhere just for the sake of connectedness - I blissed out. I started to feel fully engaged in the present and the local again. Now, it's true that that particular present and local were fairly ambrosial. But I noticed that something happened to my mood, my equanimity, with each increment of time away from the always-on, endlessly extended sensorium I had been occupying for the last few years: I felt better about myself, more interested in the world...happier. And then history began again and all the things I had been able to hold at bay crashed back in on me. And I felt not as if I was regaining something, but as if I was losing something precious. And that's just email, really, and Web access. As you suggest, I can barely imagine how compelling and how organically a part of myself my augmented reality will feel in just a few years...as skeptical and distanced as I am now, will I really _want_ to go without it? Would any of us, in our right minds? And then I remember the beach, and the swaying palm fronds, and the dolphins, and the feel of my wife's hand in mine as we strolled down a path under a hundred billion stars... I recently got into a lot of trouble at a conference I was attending, for expressing the very unpopular viewpoint that the real is privileged over the virtual. But guess what? Even aside from the fact that only one of those places is still accessible to us when the power runs out, I do feel there's something special about the actual. I can barely express why I think this is so without wandering into Buddhist metaphysics, but I do. This is where we evolved, this is where we grew up. And so I think it's crucial that we design _ways out_ into the ubiquitous informatic systems we bring into being. For our privacy, for our liberty, and above all for our sanity.
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