Adriana de Souza e Silva's, "Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces"
De Souza e Silva's article begins by examining three characteristics of mobile interfaces: ubiquity, wearability, and transparency. She makes the point that ubiquitous computing operates in a many-computers-to-one-person paradigm, and one in which computers are "forced to live out here with people." Wearability is discussed in terms of "allowing computers to move with us" by "adapting this technology to the body." Transparency is approached as "wearable computers and small interfaces contribute to creating more natural relationships with technology, including them in our everyday life without the need to really perceive them."
The next section of the text looks at the combining of mobility and communications — again in terms of ubiquity and wearability, while further considering issues of immersion (e.g., "...when people talk on the phone while walking, they just move through the space, but they are not actually there. Moreover, this absent presence transforms physical space into a nonplace, because people do not interact with anyone in their vicinity. Therefore they become walking avatars. An avatar is one's representation in a space in which one is not") and presence (e.g., "...as long as peers participated in the shared communication of the group, they seemed to be considered by others to be present").
The article concludes by discussing the consequences of mobile interfaces by "enhancing communication among people in physical space," as well as "extending communication to hybrid spaces." De Souza e Silva cites Gergen's two categories of communication interfaces: monological (brings public into private) technologies and dialogic (privatizes shared space) technologies. The cell phone is a dialogic technology.
This reading helps in our understanding of cultural issues associated with mobile in technology by making us cognizant of the often subtle, if not subconscious, effect its interfaces has on our perception of not only what a computer is, but on how we're immersed in them, and they reframe our notion of presence.
The very end of the article reminded me of the "history" readings we covered last week as it discussed each new capability — both in terms of function and in terms of how that function might change the way the device is used or perceived.
Mark Weiser, "The World Is Not a Desktop"
Weiser's article is an inquiry into the suitability of the "desktop" as a metaphor for the computer of the future. His main point is that such a metaphor draws attention to the computer instead of it being a "tool that does not intrude on your consciousness, letting you focus on your task and not the tool."
This reading is important because it makes us think about what prompts us (as a society) to recognize when, and why, a deeply embedded metaphor is no longer suitable, and how that realization can be an impetus to innovation.
This reading connects to the Weiser & Brown reading, "Designing Calm Technology," in that, essentially, the current desktop metaphor tends to be "the enemy of calm," while finding a tool that does not intrude on your consciousness would be an encalming approach.
Mark Weiser & John Seely Brown, "Designing Calm Technology"
Weiser & Brown share their thoughts on what they think "may be the most important design problem of the 21st century — calm technology, whose characteristic is that it "engages both the center and the periphery of our attention, and in fact moves back and forth between the two." They go on to say that calming technology "may enhance our peripheral reach by bringing more details into the periphery," and "when our periphery is functioning well we are tuned into what is happening around us, and so also to what is going to happen, and what has just happened." The article concludes with three examples of calm technology: inner office windows, internet multicasts, and the dangling string.
This article is important to our understanding of mobile (and all) technologies, in that it clarifies two points about design that are not intuitively obvious — that "more information can be encalming," and that "the way to become attuned to more information is to attend to it less." These are gems to keep in mind when trying to envision not only the metaphors for future technology, but in trying to assess or predict what "successful" interfaces might emerge.
Howard Rheingold, "The Era of Sentient Things" (pp. 83-112)
Rheingold advances the notion of coming "sentient technologies," sentient "not because embedded chips can reason but because they can sense, receive, store, and transmit information." He describes the possibility of "sentient things," carefully couching them in terms of their drawing from, and effect on, social networking and society.
As with the other articles in this week's reading, Rheingold affirms Weisner's's belief that "the time has come to consider the consequences of computers disappearing into the background..." in terms of their ubiquitousness and transparency. This reading meshed nicely with De Souza e Silva's article in her examination of hybrid spaces, which provided context to Rheingold's descriptions of the development paths taken by VR researchers such as Spohrer, whose "WorldBoard" was in one respect seen as "an overlay on the natural world," and Sutherland's prototypes, which "enabled the computer to superimpose graphical displays on physical environments."
The latter part of Rheingold's article talks about the marrying of "bits and atoms" by describing such sentient technologies as barcodes, RFID tags, smart dust, and the importance of "penny tags." The article concludes talking about wearable computing, and introducing us to Steve Mann.
At one point in the article, Rheingold says, "Although the issue is most often cast as "privacy," arguments over surveillance technology are about power and control." This was a very powerful (no pun intended) statement to me, and it made me think about the group I work in at IBM — we develop an Identity Management product, which is deeply effected, and influenced, by privacy issues. That statement made me think about the possibility of creating a marketing campaign around "power and control" as opposed to the current "privacy" ("oh that issue again"). I think that would really capture people's attention, and perhaps, better engage them in the debate.