taCity

The future’s not bright, it’s a little cloudy…

Leave a comment

That most memorable of advertising slogans coined by Orange way back in the early 90s sticks in the mind as the signal for the future communications that we were about to embark. Yes, in the 90s, the ubiquity of mobile phones seemed as likely as the demise of the shellsuit as a fashionable health and safety nightmare. Now, we all have mobiles and anyone who doesn’t have one is labeled as weird and it’s arguably so ingrained into society’s Lefebvrian ‘rhythmanalysis‘, that it is starting to effect the gene pool – would you like it if your child was about to embark on a relationship with someone who didn’t own a mobile?

Computers and/or visual screens dominate our eyeballs all day. Yet, the variety of them is increasing. Some of us will have a work computer, laptop, iphone and a TV – and screens are now all over the tube, in hotel lobbies and are even appearing in magazines now. This ‘pervasive computing‘, while increasing, is not new, however the transfer of actual data between these mediums (and by data, I mean that which is of importance to the users) is starting to melt into ‘the cloud‘. Once upon a time we would carry around USB pen drives or have access to our home computers’ hard drive. But these days, dropbox will suffice. Our emails are stored a dusty server deep in Google’s basement. Our photos are not on an external drive which is now bursting at the seams, but on Facebook, Picasa, Panoramio, or whatever is popular this week. With Spotify’s availability on the iphone now confirmed, no one will download actual files anymore, instead they are just a click (and an annoying advert) away.

All this leaves us free. Free from the burden of having to remember to copy this file across or upload that photo. No longer do we need a USB stick or a bulky external hard drive and a plug point in order to present our latest paper. Instead, with the help of our variety of devices we now have at our disposal, we can just pluck it out of the cloud. Easy.

So where does this leave us? Civil liberty campaigners are already dubious as to the nature of storage of our material by third parties, and the cloud is only likely to increase this suspiciousness. But we don’t have to use the cloud do we, so we can opt out right? Well yes, but you could opt out of having a mobile phone and look what that does to your social mantra. You can even hide all your money under a matress and flip bank accounts the finger, but you try and function in our economic-centric society without one and you soon become something worse than an outcast – you are viewed with suspicion by the powers that be. So ignoring the cloud is not really an option, at any individual level at any rate.

But with Moore’s law seeming now ‘too slow’, the alacrity of those at the forefront of our technological hybridisation means that the cloud may be superseded by another technological ubiquity in a few years time. Maybe driven by AI or ‘Augmented Reality‘. And it is this that forms the main prevailing deux et machina of this post. There are no dystopic murmurings here, simply a focus on the philosophies that ‘UbiComp’ or the cloud afford us. If we continue to surrender agency to this realm of ones and zeros, then ultimately we are hybridising ourselves and the duality of humans and nonhumans really is confined to a pre-historic era (if it wasn’t already – which is was). My previous post discussed 2001: A Space Odessey as the quintessential film about tools, and the more we live with our head in the clouds, the more the finale of the film resonates. In essence, there is a need to dispel the categorization tendencies of a neo-Marxist tradition, and reject a unambiguous reality of Descartes and embrace a rhizomatic (even Spinozian) language of continuity. There are no human nonhuman boundaries, only a continuing journey. So bring your brolly, it looks very cloudy out…

Advertisements

Author: Oli

Human Geographer at Royal Holloway, University of London

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s