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Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing (AIGA Design Press) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2006/3/10
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Ubiquitous computing--almost imperceptible, but everywhere around us--is rapidly becoming a reality. How will it change us? how can we shape its emergence?
Smart buildings, smart furniture, smart clothing... even smart bathtubs. networked street signs and self-describing soda cans. Gestural interfaces like those seen in Minority Report. The RFID tags now embedded in everything from credit cards to the family pet.
All of these are facets of the ubiquitous computing author Adam Greenfield calls "everyware." In a series of brief, thoughtful meditations, Greenfield explains how everyware is already reshaping our lives, transforming our understanding of the cities we live in, the communities we belong to--and the way we see ourselves.
What are people saying about the book?
"Adam Greenfield is intense, engaged, intelligent and caring. I pay attention to him. I counsel you to do the same." --HOWARD RHEINGOLD, AUTHOR, SMART MOBS: THE NEXT SOCIAL REVOLUTION
"A gracefully written, fascinating, and deeply wise book on one of the most powerful ideas of the digital age--and the obstacles we must overcome before we can make ubiquitous computing a reality."--STEVE SILBERMAN, EDITOR, WIRED MAGAZINE
"Adam is a visionary. he has true compassion and respect for ordinary users like me who are struggling to use and understand the new technology being thrust on us at overwhelming speed."--REBECCA MACKINNON, BERKMAN CENTER FOR INTERNET AND SOCIETY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Everyware is an AIGA Design Press book, published under Peachpit's New Riders imprint in partnership with AIGA.
Adam Greenfield is head of design direction for service and user interface design at Nokia. He was previously an instructor at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, where he co-taught a class called Urban Computing. He lives and works in Helsinki, Finland.
The text is an impressive series of 81 precise "theses" that describe "the dawning age of ubiquitous computing". Each thesis explores, through historical antecedent and incisive contemporaneous analysis, one aspect of the arriving "ubicomp" paradigm which he terms "everyware."
Author Adam Greenfield seems to have presaged nearly all useful comment on the nature and near future direction of ubiquitous computing. Compared to this work, even such transformative declarations as the Cluetrain Manifesto come across as merely sophomoric, though sincere drumbeats.
Greenfield is a facile conceptualist, comfortable with traditional academic discipline yet easily capable of creating significant buzz with an avant garde writing style molded through constant travel and communication with moblogging ubicomp fanatics from Tokyo to Stockholm. A thought leader, and certainly not a follower, he's always eager to cross swords with iconic figures of the new media establishment, or to ally with them.
Greenfield's style is to trace geodesic descriptive arcs around the ever-evolving space of this subject. In his view, "Everyware" is driven in parts by historical dialectic, cultural evolution, technological invention and entrepreneurial testosterone. In each thesis we are tantalized and left wanting more. Many of Greenfield's theses could easily - and should be - developed into full volumes on their own.
The text frequently and informally refers to events, people, objects and technologies both present and past that support or amplify the author's points, bespeaking extensive research and correspondence. Despite this thoroughness, the book lacks citations and bibliography, perhaps in an effort to make the content seem less weighty and more of a visionary discussion.
Predictive today, this book may become increasingly relevant as its grand vision becomes reality. It may be that an historical perspective will be needed to fully appreciate this contribution. Its meaning and value will be different in "middle age" (say 4 years from now) when Greenfield's many predictions can be evaluated against coetaneous events. The final test will be well down the line when the influence of "Everyware" as manifesto can be seen in historical context.
One of the most endearing aspects of Greenfield's style is his own self-effacing, fundamentally human take on subjects large and small. He writes as the daring internationalist conceptual thinker he is, but never loses sight of his own humanity. He often makes an arching, bitingly tight commentary, which is immediately leavened gently by a genuine and warm personal perspective.
Greefield's personal style infuses the work and subtly develops what may be the most important message of the entire work: the urgent need to preserve humanity and user-centricity in the component development of this overwhelmingly complex and centerless computing system, one that may someday control the electronic infrastructure of the 21st century world.
Despite my enthusiasm for it, there IS a serious problem with "Everyware." The great flaw of this book is lack of a central theme. Despite skillful seques from one thesis ending into the next, the book remains a series of essays whose essential points interconnect, leaving the reader with the task of finding the larger common denominator. It's as if the author were describing each brilliant facet of a diamond, without ever describing the gem itself. It may be possible to describe a whole through the intimate dissection of its parts, but it's hard on a reader. I'd prefer reading the same material structured as a series of proofs supporting a central theme. With such backbone, it would be far easier to learn, test and evaluate the theses.
A less important though still serious shortcoming is the author's exclusive reliance on (sometimes overwhelmingly complex) text. Reading "Everyware" is not for the faint of heart, as its concepts do not enter one's consciousness easily. Despite a clear attempt to write simply, Greenfield's style is inherently complex and he often writes with a fairly high "Fog Index." As a result the reader must pay close attention, but the result in stimulation and knowledge is well worth the effort.
Visual learners will find the book difficult going. Despite numerous footnotes, there is not a single illustration or diagram in the work, nor are there more than a few URL references. For an author and design critic who celebrates beauty in his core (see Greenfield's v-2.org), this is a curious, and galling omission. The theses are replete with references to objects and sites we never see, thus forcing the reader to conjure understanding through the exercise of imagination. I found this highly distracting and made it more difficult to read the work.
Such heavy reliance on text works to exclude visually oriented people, many of whom may be involved in the design of ubicomp hardware and software, and who need to get the message. It also seems odd that Greenfield, until recently a practicing information architect, did not at publication prepare a companion "Everyware" website through which readers could see and experience the scores of supportive examples he provides in support of his theses.
To be fair, it may be that Greenfield (and/or his publisher) did not want to commit resources to the visual description of a subject likely to change within months, preferring to aim at more universal points that might survive the roiling rate of evolution in the field. Time and expense may have been an issue for this first time effort (obtaining reproduction rights and creating original artwork can take much time and money).
Having said that, it seems curiously unforgivable that a book that rides the edge of thought about a potentially significant evolution in human thought and technology should be so lacking in employment of that same technology. It seems incomprehensible that the content was not produced and marketed with equally avant-garde methods such as viral marketing, print on demand production that allows frequent updates, e-book or PDF format (with live links) and website support.
Perhaps time was a factor. The book does seem rushed and breathless, as if it were composed in tense moments of brilliance at a Starbucks, or while infused with ideas after a conference. This tone, taken with the exclusion of graphical elements, makes it seem like the author wanted to be the first on the block to announce "everyware'" and to be credited with coinage of the term. Whether this perception is true or not, it does lead to the conclusion that "Everyware" is a well-crafted effort, but one in dire need of a more thoughtfully considered, better-budgeted, and website-supported second edition.
On the other hand, conceptual density and complex sentence structure seem necessary for Greenfield. His mind works so fast and at such a complex level that he literally needs an explosive, quick way to get the ideas out. I hope that in a subsequent edition, the assistance of more patient and less driven editors would enhance and expand the audience for this importantly predictive and analytical work. A richly graphic approach to the next version would further expand the audience for these important ideas.
In deference to both the reader and the essence of ubicomp, perhaps a future edition can be packaged with (or be)a flash device with a web server embedded in it, containing the text and a full library of reference visuals, diagrams and videos that expand and amplify the concept in the book. By using such a device the reader can be plugged into the meaning of "Everyware" not only informationally but experientially.
"Everyware" rates a B PLUS. B for brilliant because Greenfield truly is, and PLUS for being a superb beginning but not (yet) a home run.
As a final note, I feel sure that "Everyware" is not the last word coming from Adam Greenfield on the subject of ubiquitous computing. An emerging movement couldn't have a more passionate, persuasive and skillful evangelist, nor one whose own humanity and affinity for others helps soften the fear of the unknown, and can help convert resistance to change into open-eyed anticipation.
That website appears to still be there, but it redirects you almost immediately to the Amazon page for the book. You get a glimpse of the page and then it's gone.
I've got the book. I don't need another copy. I could use newer (and more specific) information.
The book is not technical; I was not looking for that.
The book is not creative; I was looking for that.
"Thesis 11: Everyware appears not merely in more places than personal computing does, but in more different kinds of places, at a greater variety of scales."
That doesn't sound very ground-breaking. But let's see what he says about it. The old places were "coffee houses, transit lounges, airliner seats, hotel rooms, airport concourses". Then he says "How do you begin to discuss the "place" of computing that subsumes all of the above situations, but also invests processing power in refrigerators, elevators, closets, toilets, pens, tollbooths, eyeglasses, utility conduits, pets, sneakers, subway turnstiles, handbags, HvAC equipment, coffee mugs, credit cards, and many other things?" That's it. That's the end of Thesis 11.
And all the quotes and references to the 80s and 90s. I thought I was going to hear about new stuff. Although, if you want to go down memory lane, he's your man. He can reminisce even further back, like to the "fondly and much-beloved Archigram projects of the 1960s".
A couple of reviews mentioned how wonderful a speaker Greenfield was. I can see how he has lots of information to draw from. The writing, however, seems to be that of a rambling history professor.
There was too much name dropping and product dropping for me. For sci-fi enthusiasts there's William Gibson, Phillip Dick, Steven Spielberg. Ah, and the Don Norman references; take heart, he eases off on those mid way through the book. He'll be off to another name in the next paragraph, so you won't learn much about them. On the other hand, I guess that could be a starting point for those who wanted to learn more.
I was looking for some psychological or sociological insight, but didn't find it. "Thesis 18: In many circumstances, we can't really conceive of the human being engaging everyware as a "user". Okay, here we go, potential to get some insight here. What do we get - The word "user" is not very good. So how about "subject"? No that's no good either. End of thesis 18.
From the simple "Thesis 24: Everyware, or something very much like it, is effectively inevitable." to the abstract "Thesis 40: The discourse of seamlessness effaces or elides meaningful distinctions between systems." There is something here for everyone. It might just take you awhile to find it.