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Most of my concepts now represent a critical, and perhaps a bit pessimistic, view of the future involving RFID, Wireless technology and the other side of all the useful applications they will bring; our being subjects to technology and the apparent possibility to use it for more and more surveillance of our lives. This approach represents my scepticism and my honest opinion that we need to seriously ask some critical questions to the development of this technology. Perhaps it`s naive; there are too many forces at work to ensure the implementation of RFID in as many applications and services as possible to stop it, and that is not my goal or desire either. But I do think that we need to stay very alert when designing for these types of technology, and the way in which we implement them, and with regard to my own project; when I explain the concept to today`s adults and elders, they mostly respond in the same way as I do; with great scepticism.

That is why I now try and create some critical concepts as well as “supporting” concepts, because they reflect this natural scepticism. “We are used to a certain degree of freedom, and we want to keep it that way. We certainly don`t want any less.” Scenarios like that of Wal-Mart, where you will be identified at the entrance and tracked throughout the shopping mall may seem like a small thing to some, but if this becomes the standard everyday life for us, it will surely become unbearable pretty soon.

The privilige and freedom to be “invisible” from the all-seeing eye of the network of sensors, readers and cameras will be harder and harder to obtain, perhaps only obtainable for the wealthy and priviliged, whereas those of us who need to stay connected for whatever economic or social reasons will have to subcome to being visible.

I`ve made some simple icons to illustrate the feeling of a surrender to, and struggle against, the surveillance that RFID can bring.

($..)

The digital divide is today discussed as the divide between those who have access to The Net and those who do not (the “developed” world vs. the “developing” world). Projects like the Negroponti $100 laptop (also see “Poor People Need The $100 Laptop Because..) is applauded because it seeks to include yet more ‘technologically challenged’ (copyright..?) people into our information revolution. This is no doubt a pressing and interesting issue, and projects like this should obviously be recognized as a good initiative because of their motivation and good intentions. However, looking toward the future, when being online is no longer a option in the terms we think of it today, and unplugging or shielding oneself from visibility becomes a task in itself, being offline will be seen as a benefit, and a freedom.

I was very relieved to hear today in a Youtube clip from the Politics Online 2008, from Adam Greenfield who was on the panel, that this is exactly what a digital divide discussion will be about in our near future; to be able to exclude oneself from the ever present visibility on the network and to have the freedom to shut down, unplug and just be..

Adam Greenfield has admitted to be not a hundred percent optimistic about our future, and is concerned with how we design our ubiquitous future, giving much weight during his seminars on privacy issues, and the invasiveness of a pervasive technology environment. Also, listening to people like him as well as top researchers and technocrats worry about the same issues, leaves me only more secure in my hypothesis that our ubicomp future will come as a strange, scary and alienating experience particularly for elderly citizens (I have stopped thinking about them as “users” in this particular context, as they surely will become subject rather than active users of many types of coming technology).

This means for me, now walking several paralell concept paths, that the one regarding the freedom of being on the offline side of the divide is more interesting and urgent, while the one concerning bridging it, or rather ignoring it, could also render an elderly user somewhat more comfortable with being on the net, but it could also exclude itself precisely because it ignores this divide. Whether or not you will have people of the same age group and demographic on both sides of the divide is obvious, but as I see it, the more relevant issue for all of us, is the privacy issue. So now, working on different concepts very late in the project period, should I finalize the one adressing this very important and interesting issue, should I try to work around it, or should I choose to look on the bright side of it, and utilize the net for the possible rewards it could give elderly people? Certanly the latter would include them in a ubicomp society in a different way, perhaps balancing out the feeling of being unwillingly visible 24/7, or maybe making it worth while somehow, but would you be able to shake that feeling..?

Visuals of the concepts coming very soon.

June 2017
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