Complex Ubiquity Effects Redux - Ulrik Ekman

“A supposedly ‘natural’ setting turns out to be nothing if not a highly artificial context or an information-intensive environment, and it appears attentively oriented towards us rather than being neutral or perfectly non-caring.”

Ekman’s paper tackles a topic that will surely intensify in the coming years, with ubiquitous computing and the internet of things becoming increasingly pervasive. What is most interesting about ubiquitous computing is its invasion into these largely organic spaces, meaning that being truly “off grid” may soon be, or is already, impossible. In a world where data is worth a hefty price, and people’s complicit and probably ignorant disinterest allows corporations and governments to gather any and everything, ubiquitous computing seems an issue we should be rushing to understand and ideally, making educated, ethical decisions about now.

“We are perhaps only in the early stages of articulating the issues to be debated, a task made more demanding because cultural practices and forms of life are to a large extent habitual and tacit knowledge, and because the technologies may appear ‘ubiquitous,’ ‘pervasive,’ or ‘ambient’ but most often do so inconspicuously and invisibly."

It’s this invisibility that means it creeps into our lives without being noticed or questioned. And yet, there are many arguments in favour of some forms of ubiquitous computing, for example where safety is concerned. It is the kind that masquerades as convenience that we should be critiquing first, as well as fighting for an individual’s ability to opt out.