Anticipatory or representational visions of ubiquitous computing

Catching up with accumulated RSS feeds, I read with great pleasure the slides from Sam Kinsley's presentation at the RGS-IBG annual international conference.

Kinsley interestingly addresses the vision of ubiquitous computing and how it is employed in the domain of corporate R&D. He takes the example of HP's Cooltown project and what "stories" were set to define the project and the vision. Of course there were some issues with the large quantity of material produced in the Cooltown project. Some excerpts I enjoyed from Kinsley's notes:

"After CEO prominence came, some HP managers went to this producer to create a ‘vision’ video for CoolTown. From a corporate ‘vision’ perspective: the video was a very compact articulation of a lot of things CoolTown as a research project was trying to say about the type of world being created by these types of technologies. From the technology research scientist standpoint - there were things about the video they liked, but many things that made them cringe and say 'we didn't say it would work like that'. As some of the researchers saw it, the producer wasn't very ‘tech savvy’.

The video became an interesting double-edged sword. It had a particular effect on how CoolTown was received. It wasn't accurate to technological development the ensued but represented a ‘vision’. The researchers felt that the overly emotive and simplistic corporate vision elided some of the interesting and important things they were trying to achieve to make the world better. (...) whilst visions are not necessarily realised, nor likely to be, they are productive of particular types of relation between researchers, business managers, clients and various places and things. (...) Vision texts and videos are, in most cases, certainly not glimpses of a future. Rather, they are representational constructs born of anticipatory impetus. "

Why do I blog this? I often find interesting when this sort of gap is revealed as it shows the importance of culture and imaginary expectations in technological developments. The notion of "visions" less teleogical but representational is also important here as it shows that reality is more complex than presented in the pop press/PR communication.