About automated journeys

Automatic door A good list of papers from the Automated Journeys workshop (at Ubicomp 2008) has been put on-line recently. This event was about examining how automation reconfigure people's interactions with cities and speculate on what innovations might be to come. I unfortunately missed it, although this is a favorite topic of mine.

I haven't checked all the papers but I was intrigued by the one called Automation as a Very Familiar Place written by Mads Ingstrup. Some excerpts that I enjoyed:

"The constraints set by the infrastructures supporting our journey through spaces we create are a strong determinant of how we experience those spaces and their places. We argue that rigidity of infrastructural constraints causes familiarity, and that familiarity breeds the automatic experience. (...) They are familiar because they are stable across a variety of contexts—a journey by train in Scandinavia now compared with one in Japan some hundred years ago, while not exactly the same, has some stable and defining features: the passive traveler situated in the train car, observing the landscape passing by the window. (...) What happens to our experience of journeys such as train travel if it is infested/blessed with the wave of technologies ubicomp represents—enabling people to increasingly personalize their surroundings? (...) Digital technologies that increase the opportunity for personalization may change the ways in which infrastructure influence our experiences. In particular, we raised the question of whether it makes the meaning of our experiences more personal and therefore less shared. Further we suggested that the notion of automation can usefully be analyzed in terms of where control is situated and in terms of the rigidity of its implementation."

Then "Connectability in Automated Journeys" by Shin'ichi Konomi & Kaoru Sezaki is also interesting as it uncovers a specific dimension of automated journey: connectabiliy:

"Ubicomp technologies can enable new forms of connectability in a city, and technologies for supporting connectability need to be integrated into subtle human processes. We then introduced the 6 dimensions that could be used to explore the design space for supporting connectability:

  • People - things - spaces Connections can be made within and across the following categories: people, things and spaces.
  • Digital - physical Connectability can be represented by using digital, physical, as well as ‘hybrid’ media.
  • Explicit - implicit Connectability can suggest connections explicitly or implicitly. Connectability can be ambiguous.
  • Real time - batch Connectability can be identified in real time (e.g., Lovegety) or through batch processing (e.g., post hoc analysis of GPS traces)
  • ^

  • One Time - repeated Some opportunities to connect arise only once. Others arise multiple times and even repeatedly. This dimension is also relevant to serendipity.
  • Ignorability Connectability can/cannot be ignored without causing negative effects (cf. “plausible ignorability”)"

Why do I blog this? Automation is one of the dimension of technology that I find the most interesting since it's an obvious locus of research. It directly embeds the topic of human relationship to technologies given that automation is often a goal for system designers (as a substitute for human activities) and if often leads to failures and troubles.