Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Technologies situated in urban cultures of fear and safety

Two tasks today, and one is to finish off my presentation for the Architecture and Situated Technologies symposium in NYC next week. I'm still not entirely clear on the scope and focus of the event *, but since I have only fifteen minutes to present something, I've chosen to focus on - and thus open up for discussion - one matter that I believe is instrumental in shaping pervasive computing.

If the internet emerged from war, then so too is ubicomp - it's just a different war. For all the ideal (and idealist) research in mobile, wearable, distributed, networked and context-aware computing, it's actually on-the-ground right now as part of a bigger technosocial exercise in managing security and terror. This isn't the network society - it's the risk society and bare life.

So I'll be talking about technologies situated in urban cultures of fear and safety, technologies situated in everyday life, technologies of inclusion and exclusion: from the rfid tag in my cat and the young woman who uses her cell phone to discourage unwanted male attention, to workplace and schoolyard biometrics, as well as contactless payment services and smart cards. I'll talk about spatial surveillance as social sorting, about locative media and their relation to refugee camps, and about how the imperative to be "connected" and experience the "good life" shapes individual and collective expectations around technologies and urban life.

But mostly I'm just looking forward to discussing this and more with the other participants and the audience. If you're there, please come say hello.

*To be honest, I found the associated list discussion interesting in its range of perspectives, but without the moderators anchoring the content, it quickly eluded my grasp. I mean, collaborative practice shouldn't mean a free-for-all. I don't support generalised or universal guidelines, but that doesn't mean that playing together doesn't require temporary rules of engagement, or some form of contextual etiquette. After all, it's not just academics who are capable of abstruse conversation.

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