28 September 2006

No more SMS from Jesus: ubicomp, religion and techno-spiritual practices

Be the first to share

Prayer times application
In a reflective and insightful paper, Dr. Genevieve Bell, a highly respected anthropologist and director of user experience at Intel, analyses the use of technology to support religious practices.

Bell argues that “the ways in which new technologies are delivering religious experiences represent the leading edge of a much larger re-purposing of the internet in particular, and of computational technologies more broadly, that has been underway for some time.”

“We need to design a ubiquitous computing not just for a secular life, but also for spiritual life, and we need to design it now!” she claims. “In no small part, this sense of urgency is informed by an awareness of the ways in which techno-spiritual practices are already unfolding; it is also informed by a clear sense that the ubicomp infrastructures we are building might actively preclude important spiritual practices and religious beliefs.”

She adds that, despite the fact “there are few other practices or shaping narratives [as religion] that impact so much of humanity”, there has been up till now “an ideological and rhetorical separation of religion and technology”, which says a lot about “the implicit understanding of the kinds of cultural work” that technology should enable. Instead Bell positions: “If it is indeed the case, that religion is a primary framing narrative in most cultures, and then religion must also be one of the primary forces acting on people’s relationships with and around new technologies – one could go as far as to suggest that there can be no real ubiquitous computing if it does not account for religion.”

The anthropological research the paper is “informed by”, took place in urban settings in India, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Indonesia and Australia. Bell relied on “a range of ethnographic methods and methodologies, including participant observation, semi-structured interviews, ‘deep hanging-out, and genealogies of ICTs to explore life in one hundred very different Asian households.”

The paper ends with two short scenarios that she wrote “as part of a
corporate exercise to develop a future vision for user-centered computing in 2015.”

The paper was published in P. Dourish and A. Friday (Eds.): Ubicomp 2006, LNCS 4206, pp. 141 – 158, 2006, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006.

Since it is not clear where you can download the paper, but Bell herself sent it out to the public anthrodesign Yahoo! email group with 853 subscribers, I consider it to be part of the public domain and re-post it here (pdf, 216 kb, 18 pages).

Be the first to share
2 July 2015
Getting citizens involved in protecting fragile energy environments
A new project funded under the FP7 European Commission framework is getting citizens involved in testing new tools for reducing energy consumption during peak loads, in the hope that its pilot program will set the …
2 July 2015
Wells Fargo bank uses ethnographic research to design a better customer experience
During a Speaker Spotlight Q&A at Forrester’s CXNYC 2015 conference for customer experience professionals, Mark McCormick, Wells Fargo’s Head of Wholesale User Experience, talked about how past customer experiences shape consumer behaviors and how understanding …
2 July 2015
Interview with HTC’s head designer on experience design
Drew Bamford is the person responsible for making the ITC's experience design – how the company's devices feel and work like 'HTC phones' rather than just another Android handset. HTC's head designer's purvue is focused on …
1 July 2015
[Book] Drawing Energy
Drawing Energy: Exploring perceptions of the invisible Authors: Flora Bowden, Dan Lockton, Rama Gheerawo and Clare Brass. Editor: Rama Gheerawo. Royal College of Art, London, 2015 Free download - Free printed copy Abstract Drawing Energy describes a drawing-based research project …
27 June 2015
Designing for behavior as the critical path for patient engagement
Forget about features, design behaviors. Tying strategic behavior design to engagement outcomes will lead to more pratical and digitally relevant solutions, writes behavioral scientist Steph Habif in a conversation piece on the website of Prescribe …
22 June 2015
[Book] Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics
Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard H. Thaler W. W. Norton & Company May 2015, 432 pages Richard H. Thaler has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans—predictable, …
19 June 2015
The opportunities for wearables in the healthcare space
Daniel Gomez Seidel and Masuma Henry of Artefact have posted a nice write-up on recent developments and opportunities for wearables in the healthcare space. The post contains various interesting cases and points at some of …
19 June 2015
Nesta report and case studies on people-centred smart cities
For smart cities to reach their full potential, they need to focus on the citizens living in them, not just technology, write researchers Tom Saunders and Peter Baeck of Nesta, the UK innovation charity Traditionally, smart …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

2 July 2015
Getting citizens involved in protecting fragile energy environments

A new project funded under the FP7 European Commission framework is getting citizens involved in testing new tools for reducing energy consumption during peak loads, in the hope that its pilot program will set the new state of the art for protecting locations with fragile electricity supplies. One of France’s most fragile regions The Provence-Alpes-Côte […]

5 May 2015
Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록 in Design 4 Disaster

Design 4 Disaster features an engaging illustrated safety manual for ship passengers, a personal project by Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록. After the Korean ferry accident last year, Yuluck (who is Korean) wanted to find a way to make safety manuals more interesting to read. He spent one year designing an interactive safety guide […]

16 March 2015
Better Health and Wellbeing: Giving the elderly in Singapore sparkling golden years

Invitation: sharing session, Singapore, 30 March 2015   What are the hopes and fears of the elderly in Singapore? How can designers offer solutions that support the elderly in managing their health and wellness? What can healthcare professionals do to help them keep active? What role can technology play in the elderly’s daily lives? Design consultants […]

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
21 December 2014
Experientia’s Twitter feed live

Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]

19 December 2014
Putting People First blog redesigned

Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.

See all articles