Notes on Media

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Just another weblog. Lasse Bo Timmermann.

Calm Technology

Ubiquitous Computing is a concept firstly formulated by Mark Weise in 1991. Afterwards is has been used in various contexts and under various names. Pervasive computing, the Internet of things and ambient intelligence are only some of them. Whether the high expections formulated by Weiser and others can ever be reached or if the goals are at all desirable is a question still discussed. Dealing with Weiser and his work itensively during my Bachelor program I have been reminded of one of his ideas in a quite remarkable way. On TV I stumbled upon an ad of the new HTC campaign, which comes under the slogan “quietly brilliant”. As a description of mobile communication devices the slogan shows a striking closeness to Weiser’s notion of calm technology that appears in a paper from 1999. There he describes how technology fades to the background and adapts to the context in order to remain calm and disappear from the focus of attention. The ad itself then nicely plays with the ubiquity of phones in daily live. While the phones sold by HTC are arguably far from Weiser’s vision, the example still indicates a nice way to see the relevance of writings that are almost 20 years old.

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Filed under: Future, Media, Nostalgia, Technology, Ubiquitous Computing

The End of (Reality) Browsing?

Siva Vaidhyanathan’s notion of googlization is around for quite a while already. The practice of search arguably spread from the Internet into other areas of life. With mobile devices the ability to search became increasingly pervasive and finally enabled, however basic, augmented reality applications. Jeff Jarvis calls this the hyperlocal and recently published a nice blogpost summarizing where this might lead. There he speaks of the annotated world and he concludes with a redefinition of search:

This is the new way I want to look at search: not to search a data base but to search my world, to see what is around me in new ways […]

Arguably being a form of googlization in the sense of Vaidhyanathan the idea might imply some more things. Before the massive success of search engines one was browsing the Web by calling a URL to start from, and then followed its links to the next page and so on. Very similar one is ‘browsing’ reality today, just strolling around to see what comes. In a local context one usually knows certains paths, like on the portals used earlier on the Web. Landmarks could be described as links that are used for navigational purposes. If this reality is increasingly augmented with data and constantly searched will this change? What happens if I can search the reality around me? The experience of reality changes fundamentaly when I can point a device to anything and anyone in order to search for further information. It might be too far fetched to argue that the way one experiences reality will change from browsing to search. Thinking about the implications of such a shift, however, remains interesting. Google’s experimental “near me now” button points to a possible outcome. Rather then walking on known paths one can explore the local by searching it.

Filed under: Future, Google, Mobile, Ubiquitous Computing