Talk: Bill Buxton

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2018 Talks
Ani Kristo
Oct. 10, 2018, 6:41 p.m.

Ubiquity or “Ubiety”? The Place of “Place” in the Design of Future Systems

As our physical ecosystem becomes ever more populated by diverse technologies, the meaning of the word “mobile” will shift from the means (our smartphone), to the ultimate objective (our activity). This will be driven by a parallel shift from the means relying primarily on a single device, to relying upon the momentarily available digital ecosystem.

This expanding digital ecosystem largely draws upon Mark Weiser’s notion of Ubiquitous Computing. Yet, much of what is emerging risks missing a key attribute of Mark’s vision: transparency - especially as concerns movement within the ecosystem.

An example, drawn from the original PARC team is how the PARCtab was designed such that its function would, on approaching the Liveboard, morph from a PDA, to an input device held in one hand, which enhanced interaction with it using a stylus in the other.

Essential to such adaptive behaviour are considerations of "place" - considerations which do not readily emerge from the notion of Ubiquity.

Simply stated, I believe Mark used the wrong word, and did so while one better suited to his purpose lay on the same page of the OED: Ubiety.

In this alternative, place is the core factor. As Marks use of Ubiquity demonstrates, new usage of words can crystalize new thoughts. It is for such purpose that I will explore the relevance of what lies behind Ubiety.

Bill Buxton is Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, and Distinguished Professor of Industrial Design at the Technical University of Eindhoven. He was a colleague of Mark Weiser during his formative work on Ubiquitous Computing, has been an active contributor to the discipline of human-computer interaction, and an advocate for the increased practice of design in computer science.

Host: Professor Andy van Dam