putting people first

by experientia
by experientia
29 July 2011

Review: Paul Dourish & Genevieve Bell – Divining a digital future (2011)

Be the first to share
putting people first
by experientia

Divining a Digital Future
Michiel De Lange has published a very long and somewhat critical review of the book Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing by Paul Dourish and Genevieve Bell.

“In Divining a Digital Future D&B reiterate many arguments made in earlier work, provide them with more flesh, and formulate some future directions for ubicomp. To be sure this is not a bad thing, neither for those who wish to read a book on the current state of affairs in ubicomp, nor for ubicomp researchers who wish to enlarge the scope of their own practice. The book attempts to foster an anthropological sensitivity among its (presumed) CHI readership. Fundamentally, their proposition to approach technology (and urbanism) through an ethnographic lens is highly relevant in my view. Imagine what the future of our cities look would like if it were the sole concern of coders and engineers? Indeed, we should never forget Jane Jacobs’ lesson that livable and lively cities are about people.

I also appreciate their relational view of ubicomp as intricately bound up with the messiness of everyday life, their concern with its multiplicity of forms and shapes, and their attention for fringes (edges, periphery, margins). Important too in my view is that D&B implicitly question the notion of ‘the everyday’. The everyday does not consist of stable pre-given categories (home, mobility, etc.) that can be supplemented with ubicomp. It arises from socio-cultural performances and is continuously negotiated. Still, they could have stated this even more explicitly, because ‘the everyday’ is so often unproblematically assumed as a self-explanatory term in both technology and urban studies.

That being said, D&B’s focus is too much directed inward in my view. D&B dish up insights from urban ethnography, sociology and human geography to a ubicomp audience. The ubicomp crowd may find this refreshing; those more familiar with these ‘soft’ disciplines will already consider such insights well-accepted. As said above, what I feel is lacking from their approach is a clear vision how ubicomp can reciprocate to an understanding of the intricacies of techno-urban practices. What can ethnography and urbanism learn from ubicomp?”

Read review

Be the first to share
Related Article
3 December 2014
The politics of the sharing economy
Trebor Scholz, Associate Professor for Culture and Media at The New School in New York, writes that he "support[s] peer production and sharing practices but [he is] vexed by attempts to subsume them into the …
Related Article
21 November 2014
Everyday rituals and digital tech in the families of mobile workers
Quotidian Ritual and Work-Life Balance: An Ethnography of Not Being There Jo-Anne Richard and Paulina Yurman (Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art) David Kirk and David Chatting (Culture Lab, Newcastle University) Paper presented at the …
Related Article
20 November 2014
[Book] Design for Policy
Design for Policy Edited by Christian Bason, Chief Executive, Danish Design Centre Series: Design for Social Responsibility Hardcover: 250 pages Publisher: Gower Pub Co; December 28, 2014 Design for Policy is the first publication to chart the emergence of collaborative …
Related Article
19 November 2014
Why wearables should be free
Companies shouldn't just give out wearables for free; they should pay users for data, argues Hans Neubert, frog's chief creative officer. "Owners of wearable technology, like the upcoming Apple Watch or Microsoft Band, are the most …
Related Article
2 November 2014
A constructionist approach to behaviour change and the Internet of Things
Dan Lockton just posted an essay on how to enable social and environmental behaviour change by using IoT-type technologies for practical co-creation and constructionist public engagement. It got him immediately some Sunday morning Twitter commentary …
Related Article
30 October 2014
Graphic novel explains our role in the world of Big Data
Big Data powers the modern world. What do we gain from Big Data? What do we lose? Al Jazeera America examines the role of technology and the implications of sharing personal information in the network’s …
Related Article
25 October 2014
Report outlines future of UK social design research
Social Design Futures: HEI Research and the AHRC By Armstrong, Leah, Jocelyn Bailey, Guy Julier, Lucy Kimbell University of Brighton and Victoria and Albert Museum October 2014, 84 pages The UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has …
Related Article
7 September 2014
Nudging and behavioral regulation gaining interest across Europe
Behavioral regulation is afoot in Europe and is drawing the interest of a growing number of OECD countries. Professor Alberto Alemanno has just posted a brief overview of what happened over the last few months: In …

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.

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.

27 November 2014
Why the world needs anthropologists – an update

Why the world needs anthropologists – Coming out of the ivory tower Location: Padua, Italy, Centro Culturale Altinate/San Gaetano Date and time: Friday, 5 December 2014, 13:00 – 18:00 Padua, Italy, 5 December 2014 – The second edition of the international symposium of applied anthropologists attempts to erase the boundary between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ anthropology, […]

30 October 2014
The BancoSmart ATM by Experientia for UniCredit selected for ADI Design Index

Last year Experientia designed the interface of an ATM of UniCredit, a major Italian bank. The interface is now rolled out across the bank’s ATMs in Italy, to great satisfaction of the bank and the customers alike, since interaction speed is much faster and error rates went down dramatically. Last year UniCredit and Experientia also […]

29 October 2014
Experientia at EPIC: UX transforming a financial institution

In September 2014 Experientia gave a presentation on working as UX professionals with financial institutions at the EPIC conference in New York. The paper is now available on the EPIC site in HTML and PDF versions (free registration req’d). Abstract Application of a user-centered approach rooted in ethnographic methodologies facilitates a major European bank’s transition […]

25 October 2014
Experientia president to speak at User Friendly 2014 in China

Experientia president Michele Visciola is one of the keynote speakers at User Friendly 2014, the annual user experience conference of UXPA China, to be held in Wuxi, China, 13 to 16 November. The theme of the 11th conference is the “new era of the experience economy,” thus underlining the importance of transferring UX concepts and […]

19 October 2014
Event: Why the world needs anthropologists

An upcoming event is encouraging anthropologists to “come out of their ivory towers” and work more closely with their colleagues in the field, in order to bridge the gap between “pure” and “applied” anthropology. The international symposium “Why the world needs anthropologists” (Facebook page) will be held on 5 December 2014 in Padua, Italy. Experientia […]

See all articles