Elizabeth has a great post on her blog (which is rapidly becoming a favourite) about the orthodoxy of ubicomp future visions:

“I love the ways our visions of the future never quite see the real changes to come: who could imagine now a world in which female military officers wear miniskirts? We’re always crucially wrong on those small details — and the larger cultural changes that create them.

But one vision of the future seems to remain constant: the idea that somehow computers will magically read our hearts and minds, then respond appropriately”

My shorthand for this sort of thing:

“There’ll be Spandex jackets – one for everyone”

Then Chris finds this neat counterpoint:

Aaron Marcus: 12 Myths of Mobile Device User-Interface Design

Developers share many illusions and delusions about mobile-device user-interface design. In the UI development world, there are many assumptions or myths floating around about the future of mobile devices. Myths are useful in civilizations. They summarize inherited wisdom and guide us to the future. Some become obsolete, like the ones about the flat earth and the sun as the center of the universe. Let’s make sure our ideas about mobile device UI design remain fresh and useful.A 35-year veteran of user-interface design pops a few conceptual balloons and puts a few new twists on others.

Myth: Users want power and aesthetics. Features are everything.
Myth: What we really need is a Swiss army knife.
Myth: 3G is here!
Myth: Focus groups and other traditional market analysis tools are the best way to determine user needs.
Myth: If it works in Silicon Valley, it will work anywhere.
Myth: The killer app will be games, er, no, I mean, horoscopes, or
Myth: Mobile devices will essentially be phones, organizers, or combinations, with maybe music/video added on.
Myth: The industry is converging on a UI standard.
Myth: Highly usable systems are just around the corner.
Myth: One underlying operating system will dominate.
Myth: Mobile devices will be free-or nearly free.
Myth: Advanced data-oriented services are just around the corner.”

Myth systems and orthodoxies in design and strategy for technology… Hmm. Kuhn I guess talks about it in science – what about design and technology, which goes through paradigmic change far more quickly I’d assume. Any notable thought and writing on this you know of? Peter?

Word of the day: Telepistemology

As explored in The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet.

From Eugene Thacker’s review at Rhizome:

“One of the common dissatisfactions with interactivity on the Web is that telepresence is not, well, presence. Certainly some of the more interesting new media projects have deconstructed our assumptions concerning presence and the sense of “really” being there. But, when it comes down to it, we are faced with the experience that you and I in our separate computer-hovels chatting over CU-SeeMe, is not the same as you and I having drinks in a cozy bar. This difference has prompted talk of a qualitative difference between two essentially different modes of communication and interaction, each contingent upon a variety of factors (technology, class, cultural difference, race, geography, language, etc.). The “noise” that often comes through is not just technical, but
can also be social.

Part of the problem of computer-mediated communication has to do with the status of the body in the interaction–or rather, the state of “embodiment.” We all want our communication and interactions to be as transparent as possible, and there is a sense in which physical presence plays an important part in giving us that feeling of authenticity, of transparency. But how do we address the importance of embodiment when dealing with technologies such as the Web?

This is one of the main questions in Ken Goldberg’s new anthology, “The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet” (MIT Press, 2000) Using the term “telepistemology” to talk about how knowledge is transmitted, produced, and circulated on the net, Goldberg has assembled a collection of different perspectives on tele-robotics, as both a technological and a cultural issue

Happiness machines

“To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.”

A fantastic series, and unfortunately not available on bittorrent… First watched this in parallel to reading The Filth, which was a helluva combo.

» BBC Four: The century of the self

EnoQuest#3: Day 3, and it’s done…

The man himself posts in the comments:

“This was too easy! You should have tried a Mongolian goatherd or a Republican Senator instead of me. We’re probably in too-similar worlds.

Steven Johnson mentioned your site to me – so that’s only two degrees of separation.

My suggestion is that you keep quiet about the fact that I’ve made contact and see if anyone else comes up with a more circuitous and interesting route.”


Half-baked thought: the goal of all the ‘Sters is to collapse our social web to a surveyable size, bringing our friends and connections close enough to see beyond them to new people. A little like glancing over the shoulder of someone you’re talking to at a party in order to see who’s coming through the door.

The picturesque and playful exploring of our social connections is sacrificed. The mathematics of coincidence are intruding on the delusions we enjoyed every time we exclaimed to a new acquaintance the reassuring cliche “what a small world!”.

Where’s the business model in social networks? The same as email and other generators of information overload: the new luxury of meaning. I will pay to sustain the space, the silence and the signal. Give me privacy and anonymity, but also possibility. Extend my connections, but don’t collapse them. Jason Kottke’s satirical job advert for such social network concierge services could be answered one day, as he suggests, by an arms-race of web apps or software agents at a price.

The republican senator and the mongolian goatherd that Eno mentions have the same luxurious, unobtainable high-ground at the lip of the connectivity well, for very different reasons.

The money and the privilege give the benefits of access without the overload. Those down in the connectivity well will pay for a short trip up into the weightless, noiseless luxury world of the goatherd/billionaire like we do expensive spa weekends or wilderness trips.

Or when we bore of our “too similar worlds” we’ll swap identities and networks for a while – for picturesque experience of other uncollapsed networks, connections and the possibilities they bring. A student at the RCA based his “identity tourism” project on the statistic that 70% (I think) of us lie about what we do when a stranger on an airplane asks us. Playing dress-up is pretty profitable in the real-world as it is.

But I digress.

The final goal of sitting down for a nice milk stout with the man has yet to be accomplished, but EnoQuest is done; with a nice three-act structure at ridiculous internetweb social-singularity-speed.

Big thanks to Steven Johnson, and everyone who joined in.

EnoQuest #2: Day Two…

And I have five leads:

  1. Some access to previously privileged knowledge: the name and phone number of his agent from someone who read this blog and has a big red book for agents of the rich and famous.
  2. A two-degrees connection from someone I work with, perhaps
  3. A possible two-degree connection from noted flaneur and esotericist Dan Hill.
  4. A tenuous four-degree connection from Kim P
  5. A tantalising IM me” from Euan.

Some promising stuff, and a lot of background material from others in comments – thanks!

For some reason phoning his agent seems like cheating, and certainly not the stuff that social network visionquests are made of. Plenty of room still for your suggestions…