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Just turn me off

Ubiquity, Volume 2000 Issue August, August 1 - August 31, 2000 | BY Bernard Goldbach 


Full citation in the ACM Digital Library

Fed up with embedded technology? Read the Articles of Association Between Design, Technology and the People Formerly Known as Users.

Have you ever thought of the cultural consequences when every object around us is both smart and connected? What kind of head-wrecking happens when you know that wherever you walk some camera is following you?

A lot of people have simply turned the page and don't care how far technology has penetrated everything we do. Almost everything man-made combines hardware and software. Embedded systems bring machine intelligence to doors, cars, ships, aircraft, fans, fridges, lights, shoes and packaging.

These things show that we are designing a world of pervasive computing. Every object, every building and everybody have become part of a network. Medical telematics and biomechatronics are growing exponentially. The space where human ends and network begins is becoming blurred.

John Thackara calls the passive acceptance of technology into our bodies "Borg Drift". It happens when knowledge from many branches of science and design converge without us noticing.

Do we really want this kind of world? Or might we have another opinion after reading the Articles of Association Between Design, Technology and the People Formerly Known as Users?

Article 1. We cherish the fact that people are innately curious, playful and creative. We therefore suspect that technology is not gong to go away: it is too much fun.

Article 2. We will deliver value to people, not deliver people to systems. We will give priority to human agency, and will not treat humans as a factor in some bigger picture.

Article 3. We will not presume to design your experiences for you but we will do so with you, if asked.

Article 4. We do not believe in "idiot-proof" technology, because we are not idiots, and neither are you. We will use language with care, and will search for less patronizing words than "user" and "consumer."

Article 5. We will focus on services, not on things. We will not flood the world with pointless devices.

Article 6. We believe that "content" is something you do, not something you are given.

Article 7. We will consider material and energy flows in all the systems we design. We will think about the consequences of technology before we act, not after.

Article 8. We will not pretend things are simple, when they are complex. We value the fact that by acting inside a system, you will probably improve it.

Article 9. We believe that place matters, and we will look after it.

Article 10. We believe that speed and time matter too. But sometimes you need more and sometimes you need less. We will not fill up all time with content.

Bernard Goldbach is a technology journalist with The Irish Examiner and an Information and Communications Technology programme specialist with the Tipperary Rural and Business Development Institute in Ireland. Goldbach's work can also be found at webshoptalk,


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Ubiquity symposium is an organized debate around a proposition or point of view. It is a means to explore a complex issue from multiple perspectives. An early example of a symposium on teaching computer science appeared in Communications of the ACM (December 1989).

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Ubiquity Symposium: Big Data

Table of Contents

  1. Big Data, Digitization, and Social Change (Opening Statement) by Jeffrey Johnson, Peter Denning, David Sousa-Rodrigues, Kemal A. Delic
  2. Big Data and the Attention Economy by Bernardo A. Huberman
  3. Big Data for Social Science Research by Mark Birkin
  4. Technology and Business Challenges of Big Data in the Digital Economy by Dave Penkler
  5. High Performance Synthetic Information Environments: An integrating architecture in the age of pervasive data and computing By Christopher L. Barrett, Jeffery Johnson, and Madhav Marathe
  6. Developing an Open Source "Big Data" Cognitive Computing Platform by Michael Kowolenko and Mladen Vouk
  7. When Good Machine Learning Leads to Bad Cyber Security by Tegjyot Singh Sethi and Mehmed Kantardzic
  8. Corporate Security is a Big Data Problem by Louisa Saunier and Kemal Delic
  9. Big Data: Business, technology, education, and science by Jeffrey Johnson, Luca Tesei, Marco Piangerelli, Emanuela Merelli, Riccardo Paci, Nenad Stojanovic, Paulo Leitão, José Barbosa, and Marco Amador
  10. Big Data or Big Brother? That is the question now (Closing Statement) by Jeffrey Johnson, Peter Denning, David Sousa-Rodrigues, Kemal A. Delic