This is the most important thing you will read this year if you have any interest in or passion for ubicomp, design, making-things. I’ll quote a bit, then send you to the source. Eric wrote this on the centenary of The Futurist Manifesto, bringing these sensibilities into the context of ubicomp in particular, but I read a lot into this in terms of approaches to making things that provoke, that make us think, and that can create new or refigured and more habitable near future worlds. Spend a minute. Spin it in your hand. Re-read it. Share it.
Ubiquitous technology is with us and is indeed allowing us to communicate, buy, sell, connect, and do miraculous things. However, it is time for this technology to empower us to go beyond finding friends, chatting with colleagues, locating hip bars, and buying music.
While we should celebrate our success at delivering many vital aspects of Mark Weiser’s original vision of ubiquitous computing, we should also question the scope of this progress. Step back for a moment. What really matters? Everyday life spans a wide range of emotions and experiences – from moments of productivity and efficiency to play, reflection, and curiosity. But our research and designs in ubiquitous computing do not typically reflect this important life balance. The research we undertake and the applications we build often employ technology primarily for improving tasks and solving problems. While these are indeed noble and important areas of research that we must undertake, we claim that the successful ubiquitous computing tools, the one we really want to cohabitate with, will be those that incorporate the full range of life experiences. We want our tools to sing of not just productivity but of our love of curiosity, the joy of wonderment, and the freshness of the unknown.
Why do I blog this? There are strong sensibilities towards new practices for new ways of living in here. The deliberate undisciplinary approach of doing unexpected, far-reaching, unknown things outside of the now-bankrupt realm of commodity fetishism and me-too product lines. The time now seems right to do things differently, to bolster the growing force of productive creativity, making the things that are our own, rather than those things that are least-common denominator, designed for everyone else so that all of our sensibilities, expectations and hopes are normalized to the least inspired amongst us. Yes. Maybe we should plant our own gardens, form local energy production collectives and tar-and-feather bank executives. But, then lets also make our own imaginations, materialize the things that we only think about rather than grousing about the crap that the bad-old, decaying manufacturing industries force upon us. Make weird things.