Further Questions

Designing electromagnetic environments involves thinking about space in non-visual ways. It also understands overcoming the dominant instrumentalist debate about technology and the solely materialist practice tradition in architecture. Yet, there are indications that contemporary networked pervasive technology has already contributed to a spatial change, intensifying the way people engage with places and spaces. Marc Shepard finds that this might actually result in participative and adaptable designs, the goals that architecture and urban design have set for themselves for decades (Shepard 2010).

Thinking about technology is always linked to thinking about it’s future, trying to forecast the next ‘big thing’. How will wirelessness ‘look’ in 10 or 20 years? Bluetooth was still a promising technology in 2007; next year it was pushed back to the headset industry, while Wi-Fi standard took over wireless exchange of data. As Norman wrote in The Invisible Computer, “we tend to overestimate the immediate impact and underestimate the long-term impact” while at the same time placing the emphasis “on the technologies themselves, when it is really the social impact and cultural change that will be most dramatic.” (Norman 1999)

Today, Wi-Fi is competing in popularity and convenience with the UMTS service. Just 6 years ago, The New York Times was speculating that Wi-Fi telephony (such as voice over IP) might displace the current business model used by cell phone providers (Richtel 2006). In the meantime, cellular telephony has diffused rapidly through the world. With the release of 3G phones that provide mobile Internet access, mobile phones became a popular interface for location-aware computing and applications. Taking the usual browser access to a more personal level and allowing for a mobile experience of the Internet, smart phones threaten to render Wi-Fi protocols obsolete. This development is interestingly convenient for ISP providers, whose clients could easily share their networks with no compensation. To the contrary, cellular networks provided by cell towers and base stations allow users to roam seamlessly between cells, for a fixed price paid by each user. Considering previous indications, it might become even more difficult to ‘tap in’ the new centralised protocols of electromagnetic environments.



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