Tuesday, October 14, 2003

It rains a lot in Seattle

UbiComp is going well so far - my workshop yesterday was fascinating. Many good people and ideas that I need to reflect on some more, but what keeps going through my mind today is the performative experience of intimacy. In other words, it seems kind of silly to design "intimate objects" when it is what we do that is intimate, not the things that we have ... But I'll get back to that later.

William Mitchell gave the keynote this morning, and talked about the wireless city. He said that wireless and mobile technologies continue to fragment and recombine urban and regional patterns, as well as building types. This allows for the nomadic occupation of space and creates the need for multi-use space. In addition to more dynamic informational overlays in the city, he said that a true global community is emerging - one based on the recognition of our moral obligations to people far away. But what does this mean for building in the 21st century? He said we need to resist the uniformity of response and commodification of place; that we need to combine local character with global presence; and that we need to create systems of highly differentiated networked spaces, with strong local character, built around people rather than technology, capable of accomodating multiple uses. And - of course - UbiComp will be a great enabler.

His talk was far too utopian for me - there was absolutely no critical awareness or discussion of the social implications.

I asked him: If we are to focus on people rather than technology, which people are we talking about? If being mobile is the way of the future, what will happen to people who are not? And what will ghettos look like in the wireless city?

He had no answers. Well, actually, he said that all technologies have raised these same issues, that these are policy problems ...

Um, okay. Thanks.

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