Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Notes: technology as social enterprise

I'm currently revising the technologies chapter of my dissertation - the one that positions ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing, wearable computing, ambient intelligence, augmented/mixed reality and locative media as social and cultural enterprises.

For each of these terms I asked the following questions about the contexts of production:

1. Where has the research emerged? (i.e. corporations, universities, artist communities)

2. How is the research funded? (i.e. public, private)

3. What are the research objectives? (i.e. definitions, projections)

4. What are the challenges and obstacles? (i.e. technological, political)

4. Where are the results of research presented? (i.e. conferences, journals, online)

5. What kinds of devices and/or products are being created? For what purposes?

I also asked the following questions about the contexts of use:

1. What are the use scenarios?

2. How is human-computer interaction understood?

3. What assumptions are made about social and cultural interaction?

4. How is context defined? How is 'everyday life' defined?

The part I'm revising is on what it means to say that these technologies are social and cultural enterprises. Basically it comes down to understanding that technologies embody complex relations - real, possible, ideal and actual - between objects, ideas, people and practices. In this sense, any given technology exists as a multiplicity of locations, materials, politics, economics, etc.

My focus on so-called 'emerging technologies' in their states of emergence (i.e. research & design) is deliberate and politically motivated. Because I'm interested in the ability to shape technological development, I want to better understand how particular technologies come to be. I want to identify what is at play: what the 'fields' are and how the 'rules' might be changed. But I also want to trouble the idea of 'shaping' technology. For example, I want to be clear about the politics and ethics involved in the desire to shape technology. I want to question 'mass amateurisation' (or what I call the rise of the 'quasi-professional') as more democratic (than what?) or as a necessary good (give a million monkeys a million typewriters...)

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