Ubicomp vs. The Web

Liz and I had a conversation yesterday based on my post about Neil Gershenfeld's book; specifically the part about the Web distracting people from ubicomp for most of the late 90s and early 00s.

Her point is that the Web had two big advantages over ubicomp in 1997 (whether or not it actually took resources away from ubicomp--it's not a zero-sum game):

  • The barrier to entry was low. Hardware is hard. HTML is easy.
  • The Web was about bringing people together, ubicomp was about making cool stuff.

The second point is really important, I think. Something that I've always talked about in UI design, and seem to have forgotten in my recent excitement with physical computing and the embedding of computation in everyday objects, is that people's ultimate goals in using any tool is to communicate with other people. There's little that's done solely by yourself, for yourself. That's a pretty boring closed system...and it's boring by definition since, by definition, we find purely solitary behavior kinda boring, on the whole.

Thus, forgetting that smart objects need to be in the service of social effects is a surefire way of making stuff that will be popular to a narrow niche, at best. An important lesson in design. Thanks, Liz!

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Kuniavsky published on February 9, 2005 1:19 PM.

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