Anne Galloway > PhD Dissertation

As a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellow, I completed a PhD in Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. For this work I was awarded a University Senate Medal for Outstanding Academic Achievement.

Abstract: A Brief History of the Future of Urban Computing and Locative Media

Since the late 1980s, researchers have been working on a "post-desktop" paradigm for human-computer interaction, known as "ubiquitous" or "pervasive" computing. Combining any number of mobile, networked and context-aware technologies, pervasive computing involves the embedding of computational capacities in the objects and environments that surround us. When this research began to spread from university and corporate labs to the popular imagination, there was an almost immediate and negative reaction, marked by anxieties around the idea of technologies penetrating into everyday life. In North America and Europe in particular, privacy concerns came to the fore as commentators envisioned a world of absolute surveillance. Conversely, the more recent emerging research agendas in "urban computing" and "locative media" present a strongly utopian vision.

Following urban computing and locative media and their accompanying visions from labs, conferences and classrooms to journal publications and popular media accounts, this dissertation presents four case histories in corporate, academic and artistic design practice. An analysis of the Mobile Bristol, Passing Glances, Sonic City and Urban Tapestries research and design projects draws out the idea that everyday life in the future city is expected to become more expressive, engaging and meaningful. The increased extensibility and transmissibility of the city itself, along with an increased ability to be socially embedded within it, is seen to be a fundamental promise inherent in these projects. The dissertation argues that such spatial and cultural potentialities can be productively understood as involving temporary, selective and mobile publics, where creative and playful interactions emerge as primary means of social innovation.

The dissertation builds on available sociological approaches to understanding everyday life in the networked city to show that emergent technologies reshape our experiences of spatiality, temporality and embodiment. It contributes to methodological innovation through the use of data bricolage and research blogging, which are presented through experimental and recombinant textual strategies; and it contributes to the field of science and technology studies by bringing together actor-network theory with the sociology of expectations in order to empirically evaluate an area of cutting-edge design.

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