From September 2005 to June 2006 a team of thirteen scholars at the The University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication explored how new and maturing networking technologies are transforming the way in which we interact with content, media sources, other individuals and groups, and the world that surrounds us.
This site documents the process and the results.
Using radio waves as their carrier, wireless networks provide network connection to users in the surrounding area through cellular phones as well as higher bandwidth technologies such as WiFi and the emerging proprietary technology of WiMax.
The future mashups were produced by netpublics. More info soon...
This BBC article quotes Dr Jo Twist,a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK,as saying "once the net was ubiquitous like power and water,it had the potential to be "transformative".The divide that separates people from their online lives will utterly disappear. Instead of leaving behind all those net-based friends and activities when you walk out of your front door,you will be able to take them with you.The buddies you have on instant message networks,friends and family on e-mail, your eBay auctions, your avatars in online games, the TV shows you have stored on disk, your digital pictures, your blog - everything will be just a click away.It could also kick off entirely new ways of living, working and playing.For instance, restaurant reviews could be geographically tagged so as soon as you approach a cafe or coffee shop, the views of recent diners could scroll up on your handheld gadget.Alternative reality games could also become popular.These use actors in real world locations to play out the ultimate interactive experience.Key to the transformation,said Dr Twist,would be mobile devices that can use wi-fi.These handsets are only just starting to appear but will likely cram a huge amount of functions into one gadget.Dr Twist believes the move could start to close the digital divide".Further,"when chips,sensors,and wireless devices mesh together, there may be some unintended consequences," said Dr Twist."We have to make sure we think about those, and think about what other exclusions might be brought about by those developments, too."
Why do I blog this? I don't agree to the knee-jerk assertions about everything changing (the authors use the politic "transformative" instead of the usual exuberant adjectives), and this business about restaurant reviews pushed to devices is positively irritating to think about which probably means it could start a consumerist insurgency were it to actually happen. But, I have been working on a paper — recently accepted to the WWW2006 - MobEA IV workshop that says "we are in the midst of a mobile revolution" so maybe I have something to contribute to the transformation/revolution that will mitigate such an insurgency.
Slashdot carries a story today about a project by UC-Irvine's Beatriz da Costa in which cellphone and GPS bearing pigeons (...just how much cargo can a pigeon haul into the sky?...) will report back about the pollution they encounter.
My argument against a headlong embrace of wireless as a solution to the last mile problem is that there has always been a dialectic between wireless and wired (e.g. optical telegraph vs. wire telegraph, telephone vs. radio, coaxial cable vs. microwave, satellite vs. fiber). In most of these cases, the flexibility of wireless solutions has been counteracted by the greater bandwidth of wired solutions. So even though wireless seems like a way of giving the Internet to those who live in poor, under-served areas and even though it holds the potential of setting us free of the grips of network pipes, I have maintained that faster connections will be the envy of those on wireless. A recent online discussion tackles this issue. Om Malik suggests that the next generation of broadband will do little for the user experience, but he warns that slow upload speeds are an issue. But make sure you read the comments and the online discussion that follows. My take is here
I wrote up some reading notes on my research blog on the topic of co-location and the Familiar Strangers theme, brought to the future Mobile Social Software world from Stanley Milgram's work in 1967.
Familiar Strangers is a recurring theme in the mobile designed experience world, particularly since Goodman and Paulos' Familiar Strangers project. It's also topical for a more tragic reason. In 1964 Kitty Genovese was murdered in the middle of a busy apartment courtyard in Queens, New York City. Many people were "witness" to the event — overhearing it — yet did absolutely nothing.
This is the other side to the promise latent within the Familiar Strangers concept: even though we may be amongst lots of familiar strangers, we may not want to become involved in each others' lives. We may have familiarity with the strangers we see, but what are the design implications for that phenomenon in the age of social software? How much do we really want to involve ourselves in the lives of familiar strangers? What are the social practices in which a networked public can comfortably engage through the networks created by mobile, networked terminals? Dating? Sharing? F2F exchanges? Finding someone who speaks your language when in a foreign country?
I just ran into a set of nice summaries of emerging wireless technologies from Ofcom, the UK telecom regulator. They give straightforward descriptions of technologies like mesh networks and polite protocols, with added notes on why policy makers would care and what aspects they are particularly interested in.
Vodaphone's excellent series of insightful, culturally-aware essays on the mobile society has just released Issue #14. Pick it up..it's free!
Mobile services are constantly breaching new boundaries, and will have an enormous impact on the logistics of life — both in terms of productivity and social networking. But the one most important basic feature will always be the ability to dynamically connect everybody with everybody else. So the question is: What do we want to bring together, exchange or take with us, and how can we do this when we're out in the field? This time around, receiver levels a look at applicability issues — how can we work, learn, cooperate and know better using mobiles?