The Spatiality of Ubiquitous Computing

Posted: April 13th, 2009 | No Comments »

Martin Dodge announces the Software and Space theme issue for Environment and Planning A with some of the papers available online now. This issues was meant as a useful contemporary review of different developments under what can be labelled, broadly, as ‘the spatiality of ubiquitous computing’ (see the introduction “How Does Software Make Space? Exploring Some Geographical Dimensions of Pervasive Computing and Software Studies“). Through the lenses of Software studies that expands understanding of code beyond its technical aspects, this issue brings geographical work on ubiquitous computing. In other words, it discusses the significance of software as an agent in the making of spaces. For instance, software can make space through the capacity of calculation at a scale and speed far beyond human abilities. Equally significant for geographers is the degree to which software is also spatial; an issue that will become only more important as ubiquitous computing unfolds in the social world. For instance the appearance of “machine readable” spaces:

The growing calculative role of code is of greatest concern with its ability to render all kinds of spaces ‘machine readable’ through identification technologies and fine scale sensors (Dodge and Kitchin, 2005a; Dennis 2008) enabling the generation of ‘data shadows’ and so-called ‘lifelogs’ that record the minutiae of everyday life with great granularity and, potentially, to never forget what has been captured (Allen 2008; Dodge and Kitchin, 2007). These extensive and readable spaces can then be interpreted by code which makes decisions automatically including socially significant ones, in terms of access control and anticipatory governance (cf. Adey 2009; Graham, 2005).

microsoft live local suv
An agent in making Manhattan readable

Close to my observations, the editors Martin Dodge, Rob Kitchin and Matt Zook highlight the particularities of software in relation to their failures and fluctuating quality:

As a product software also enjoys some unusual qualities. How software is licensed means that liabilities for its failures are limited. Although most people do not read the terms and conditions they agree to when using licensed software, they are willingly accepting an imperfect product whilst abrogating the supplier from responsibility for damage caused. These imperfections in terms of bugs, glitches and crashes are at once notorious and yet also largely accepted as a routine part of the ‘conveniences’ of computers.

runtime error in metro
Runtime error in the subway, a routine part of the ‘conveniences’ of computers. Contact your service representative?

Relation to my thesis: After considering the temporal dimension of ubiquitous computing, I use the contributions of my thesis to discuss the aspects of human-space relationships, particularly with the evidences that the integration of ubiquitious geoinformation changes the relations of people with the space. This issue echoes very well with my works that show how software that collect, store, analyze and visualize ubiquitous geoinformation alters the perception of the space, particularly to what the editors describe as “Machine readable spaces” and “Imperfections as the routine part of the convenience of computers”. It complements some of my consideration on the temporal dimension of ubiquitous computing