Divining a Digital Future

Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing

Paul Dourish and Genevieve Bell

MIT Press, May 2011
ISBN 978-0-262-01555-4
Amazon.com page
MIT Press catalog entry


This is an exciting, intellectually crackling critique of the influential paradigm of ubiquitous computing. It restraints the taking for granted of the present in the ethos of future-oriented IT labs by showing the future to be already embedded in the everyday experiences and practices of diverse cultural and social lives. Ethnography is the authors' chosen means, and in their wonderfully eclectic readings and impressive record of creative research, they show, topic by topic, how much of ubicomp is and will be shaped by designs for living. -- George Marcus, Director, Center for Ethnography, University of California, Irvine.

Most books on ubiquitous computing do little to examine fundamental cultural categoies like domesticity, privacy, ownership, and order, even if -- as Dourish and Bell argue -- infrastructure is inherently cultural as well as material. In a theoretically wide-ranging book filled with interesting case studies of 'messiness' from around the globe, as well as from the recent history of computing, they make a compelling case that science and technology studies and ethnography should play a more important role in the field of computing and the development of new mobile and embedded technologies. -- Liz Losh, Director, Culture, Art and Technology Program, University of California, San Diego.

Beautifully written and ubiquitously grounded in scholarship, this landmark book will open horizons for all interested in the way information technology works today, and how to design a better world from the infrastructure up. -- Geoffrey Bowker, Professor and Senior Scholar in Cyberscholarship, University of Pittsburgh.