Sunday, 27 July 2014

Post 1: Beware of Everyware

Call me paranoid, old-fashioned or claim that I've watched too much sci-fi, but I'm a bit pessimistic about the "media life" Deuze and the other writers this week describe. Ubiquitous media is definitely simplifying everyday life and it may only be a matter of time until everyware really is everywhere. We have obvious examples, like smart-phones, and more others like smart-houses. But among all the positive implications described by this week's readings, the negative implications also need to be considered. Everyware has been imagined in fiction both viewed both positively and negatively. One example that came to mind is this episode of Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law:

The episode satirizes popular visions of the future, implying that due to the over-abundance of convenient technology, the Jetsons have become incapable of surviving without it, finding it hard to even walk from one side of the room to the other. Furthermore, they act condescendingly towards present day characters, whom they view as primitive due to their lack of technology. Therein lie two negative implications that I see with humanity's shift towards everyware.

The rise of convenient technologies make life easier, but can also lead to complacency. As computers start becoming embedded in everything and gain more and more responsibilities, one wonders how our already techno-dependent society would fare should the power go out? While Harvey Birdman takes this notion to a humorous extent, it doesn't seem too farfetched that as we grow more reliant on smart-houses or smart-phones, we can also become overdependent on technology. These days, most people I know can't even go a day without going on Facebook, myself included.

The other issue the episode raises is class disparity. Take television for example. While nearly all NZ households own TVs, only a small percentage of households in poorer countries like Afghanistan and Guyana have TVs. Now what if these were medical technologies, like the prescription alert in the smart bathrooms described by Gershenfeld? Wealthier countries will be first in line for these, gaining an instant advantage in health care. Poorer nations wouldn't be able to afford these until the price drops, putting them at a disadvantage for a longer period of time. Thus, while everyware may be making lives easier for some, progress is disproportionate, and its benefits are far more visible in wealthier nations.

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