Ubiquitous Computing – in whose hands?

Computers have become so intertwined in our everyday lives, and whilst there are many obvious benefits to these technological advancements, it has led some to believe that an Orwellian future with complete state control and surveillance in every aspect of our lives is not that farfetched after all.

This idea that computers are so integrated into our everyday lives that we no longer notice their presence, known as Ubiquitous Computing, was popularised in “The Computer for the 21stCentury” by Mark Weiser in 1991. He stated that “the most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”

This statement couldn’t be any more accurate today, computers seamlessly talk to each other over wireless networks, Bluetooth connects mobile phones to smart TVs to laptops instantly, and Smart metres monitor every bit of our energy consumption and feeds back data to a control centre hundreds of miles away without us even having to lift a finger. Whilst this shows that ubiquitous computing has become an essential part of our very existence, we must be vigilant of the potential security risks that come with letting technology in to every aspect of our lives.

Our dependence on technology and our yearning desire to be constantly “plugged in” to the network (such as social media addiction), from social media to real-time news and instant as well as unlimited access to information leaves us vulnerable to attack. This obsession and constant desire for more information provides opportunities for our information sources to control, or change behaviour on a massive scale instantaneously. Facebook algorithms only show us the information they think we will agree with, and with more and more people using social media as their main source of information, this opens up new avenues to control or manipulate the information we consume.

As has been seen time and time again throughout history, those who control the media hold all of the power, as Gutsche (2015) stated the media are power players and their business models are often heavily aligned with forces who have a vested interest in maintaining the ‘status quo’. This, coupled with the seemingly unstoppable rise in the avalibility of instant information, along with our reliance on smartphones, tablets and laptops, the possibilities for the control and manipulation of the information we receive on a massive scale is a worrying issue for our generation.

However, not all is lost. With the rise of open source data and the sheer amount of information available to us across multiple platforms gives the people an opportunity to take control and opens access to marginalised communities. Harnessed in the right ways, this interconnectivity through devices that exist today opens up new opportunities for activists and community groups to collaborate, hold governments and large corporations accountable and provide a platform for the people to take control in the areas of society that matter most to them. The rise of alternative communication platforms such as telegram, protonmail and signal offer new opportunities for groups to mobilise without the watching eye of “big brother” looming over them.

References

M. Weiser, “The Computer for the 21st Century,” Scientific American, vol. 265, no. 3. pp. 94–104, 1991.

Media Control: News as an Institution of Power and Social Control. By Robert E. Gutsche Jr. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. 383 pp. ISBN: 9781628922967.

Emerging Trends in Psychology: Tech Dependency. From: https://online.csp.edu/blog/psychology/technology-dependency. Date Accessed: 30/10/2018

Social Media Addiction. From http://netaddiction.com/ebay-addiction/. Date Accessed: 30/10/2018

 


Author: Bobbie Bailey

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