Divining a Digital Future

Paul Dourish and Genevieve Bell

Published by

The MIT Press

ISBN

9780262015554

RRP

£22.95

Reviewed by

Dean Burnell MBCS

Score

8 out of 10

This book is a comprehensive review and structured discussion on the subject of ubiquitous computing. It claims that computing has developed through three ages: the age of the mainframe, the age of the desktop and finally the age where computing devices are so small and powerful that they can be worn or carried or even embedded in the world around us.

The rather intriguing title refers to the myths as the stories or concepts for innovation that we aspire to realise for ubiquitous computing (helpful home appliances might be an example), while the mess refers to the point that, in practice, any technology is never quite as simple or straightforward as it is initially imagined to be.

The book is comprehensive in its description of the origins of ubiquitous computing and treats each subject with extensive academic rigor and detail. It includes insightful reflections of how computing has become so interwoven into our lives that it is difficult to determine the extent to which computing is now shaping the way we live and interact in both the virtual and physical worlds around us.

It considers the complexity inherent in any approach to studying ubiquitous computing as a result of the increasingly complex social and cultural contexts in which we now live. It goes on to explore the various ways in which values and traditions in different cultures make it especially difficult to produce a generic view of where ubiquitous computing may lead us in the future.

The book provides descriptions and case studies that consider the extent to which computing is integrated into the lives of people living in the ‘highly connected' regions of the world such as Singapore and South Korea, and provides some really interesting stories of technology concepts that felt like they should be viable, but, for some (on reflection, very good) reason, were unsuccessful.

The book concludes with consideration of the future direction for the ubiquitous computing field and highlights likely areas of technological growth.

This book is reasonably priced and an interesting and worthwhile read for anyone interested in (or studying) this fascinating field of computer science.

Further Information: The MIT Press

November 2011