New media—we are told—exist at the bleeding edge of obsolescence. We thus forever try to catch up, updating to remain the same. Meanwhile, analytic, creative, and commercial efforts focus exclusively on the next big thing: figuring out what will spread and who will spread it the fastest. But what do we miss in this constant push to the future? In Updating to Remain the Same, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun suggests another approach, arguing that our media matter most when they seem not to matter at all—when they have moved from “new” to habitual.
Today anyone can purchase technology that can track, quantify, and measure the body and its environment. Wearable or portable sensors detect heart rates, glucose levels, steps taken, water quality, genomes, and microbiomes, and turn them into electronic data. Is this phenomenon empowering, or a new form of social control? Who volunteers to enumerate bodily experiences, and who is forced to do so? Who interprets the resulting data? How does all this affect the relationship between medical practice and self care, between scientific and lay knowledge?
What has planetary-scale computation done to our geopolitical realities? It takes different forms at different scales—from energy and mineral sourcing and subterranean cloud infrastructure to urban software and massive universal addressing systems; from interfaces drawn by the augmentation of the hand and eye to users identified by self—quantification and the arrival of legions of sensors, algorithms, and robots. Together, how do these distort and deform modern political geographies and produce new territories in their own image?
If only today’s technology were simpler! It’s the universal lament, but it’s wrong. In this provocative and informative book, Don Norman writes that the complexity of our technology must mirror the complexity and richness of our lives. It’s not complexity that’s the problem, it’s bad design. Bad design complicates things unnecessarily and confuses us. Good design can tame complexity.
The relationship of humans to computers can no longer be represented as one person in a chair and one computer on a desk. Today computing finds its way into our pockets, our cars, our appliances; it is ubiquitous—an inescapable part of our everyday lives. Computing is even expanding beyond our devices; sensors, microcontrollers, and actuators are increasingly embedded into the built environment. In Architectural Robotics, Keith Evan Green looks toward the next frontier in computing: interactive, partly intelligent, meticulously designed physical environments.
Online communities are among the most popular destinations on the Internet, but not all online communities are equally successful. For every flourishing Facebook, there is a moribund Friendster—not to mention the scores of smaller social networking sites that never attracted enough members to be viable. This book offers lessons from theory and empirical research in the social sciences that can help improve the design of online communities.
We are active with our mobile devices; we play games, watch films, listen to music, check social media, and tap screens and keyboards while we are on the move. In Mood and Mobility, Richard Coyne argues that not only do we communicate, process information, and entertain ourselves through devices and social media; we also receive, modify, intensify, and transmit moods. Designers, practitioners, educators, researchers, and users should pay more attention to the moods created around our smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
Intelligence does not arise only in individual brains; it also arises in groups of individuals. This is collective intelligence: groups of individuals acting collectively in ways that seem intelligent. In recent years, a new kind of collective intelligence has emerged: interconnected groups of people and computers, collectively doing intelligent things. Today these groups are engaged in tasks that range from writing software to predicting the results of presidential elections.
In Adversarial Design, Carl DiSalvo examines the ways that technology design can provoke and engage the political. He describes a practice, which he terms “adversarial design,” that uses the means and forms of design to challenge beliefs, values, and what is taken to be fact. It is not simply applying design to politics—attempting to improve governance for example, by redesigning ballots and polling places; it is implicitly contestational and strives to question conventional approaches to political issues.
The world is filling with ever more kinds of media, in ever more contexts and formats. Glowing rectangles have become part of the scene; screens, large and small, appear everywhere. Physical locations are increasingly tagged and digitally augmented. Amid this flood, your attention practices matter more than ever. You might not be able to tune this world out. So it is worth remembering that underneath all these augmentations and data flows, fixed forms persist, and that to notice them can improve other sensibilities.