Thursday, June 12, 2003

Calm Technology and Resistentialism

Today's word from The Word Spy: calm technology. For more on this, see The Origins of Ubiquitous Computing and Calm Technology.

And then there is resistentialism n. The belief that inanimate objects have a natural antipathy toward human beings, and therefore it is not people who control things, but things which increasingly control people.

More later on the connection ...

LATER: Various efforts in ubiquitous computing have sought to bring computers to "our world" (effectively domesticating them), rather than us having to adapt to the "computer world" (and domesticating us). But such simple dichotomies incorrectly assume there are easy distinctions to be made between the virtual and the actual, subject and object, or human and machine.

John Law suggests that in order to understand these relationships between people and technologies "we might use Louis Althusser’s structuralist notion of interpellation, his way of talking of the production of subject-object distinctions in a process of instant recognition – of instant recognition, fixed points, and of the way in which the two go together."

Now, I'm not sure this is the best way to proceed, but this might lead us to ask how "calm technologies" - despite their relative invisibility and peripheral nature - interpellate us as subjects. What if, for example, ubiquitous computing is used to bring us closer to sites of consumption, as might occur with "augmented reality" adverts as seen in Minority Report? Upon recognition of these ads, we are interpellated as consumers.

Did "calm technology" emerge in response to resistentialist fears? What assumptions are implicit in these sorts of relationships between subjects (humans) and objects (computers)? How does "calm technology" interpellate us as "users"? And how might we resist these interpellations, or other potentially painful interpellations?


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