For most common users the ubiquitous computing

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For most common users the ubiquitous computing revolution is too fundamental tobe perceived at such. Some professional users believe in smooth transitions. Tesco’s UKIT director, Colin Cobain, says that RFID tags will be used on ‘lots of products’ withinfive years - and perhaps sooner for higher value goods; “RFID will help us understandmore about our products”, he claims. And some professionals believe “that what we call
ubiquitous computing will gradually emerge as the dominant mode of computer accessover the next twenty years. Intriguingly, it is Mark Weiser who believed “that ubiquitouscomputing will enable nothing fundamentally new, but by making everything faster andeasier to do, with less strain and mental gymnastics; it will transform what is apparentlypossible”.Contrary to Mark Weiser’s claim that ubiquitous computing will enable nothingfundamentally new, I believe that ubiquitous computing will enable somethingfundamentally new, and the main question is: to what extent does it allow for humanagency?Wireless is increasingly pulling in all kinds of applications, platforms, servicesand objects (RFID) into networks. Many people communicate through mobiles,Blackberries, digital organisers and palmtops. Cars have become information spaceswith navigational systems, and consoles, like Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, have wirelesscapabilities and Linux kernels installed. We are witnessing a move towards pervasivecomputing as technology vanishes into intelligent clothing7and wearables,8smartenvironments (which know where and who we are) and pervasive games.9We willsee doors opening for some and closing for others. Mimicry and camouflage willbecome part of application design. iPods will display colours and produce sounds thatcorrespond to your surroundings. Eventually they will come with a “kill switch” that, forexample, that will automatically lower the volume when you are on a train. Mobiles willreact to their environment too, shutting themselves off when they detect that they are ina restaurant.10Artists have always exploited the conditions for technological change, applications andservices. In the move towards ambient - from the internet to the ‘internet of things’ - thepoetic process of making meaning and creating experiences is no longer only productiveon the level of design, but it lies at the heart of the IT architecture of the system, itsstandards and protocols. Distributing security – which is the key to digital systems thatare focused on control – will in an ambient environment halt innovation, emerging usesand services and launch and learn scenarios.Resonancenot interaction is the designprinciple in environments where connectivity is everywhere yet not always accessible toindividual users. How to design resonance? How to employ distributing insecurity as asystem principle? Where is your control as a programmer, as a systems architect in sucha situation?

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