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2008 Out of the Woods

Out of the Woods

Out of the Woods: Urban Sensing, 51 COMM. ASSOC. COMPUTING MACHINERY 24-33 (2008) (with Dana Cuff & Mark Hansen) (peer-reviewed).


A fundamental shift is underway in pervasive computing. Within academic research, pervasive computing in the form of embedded networked sensing has leapt from the laboratory to the natural environment. Simultaneously, in the domain of personal communication and corporate marketing, pervasive computing has entered the backpack, purse, and coat pocket in the form of mobile phones, laying the groundwork for Mark Weiser’s vision of ubiquitous computing. We characterize this contextual shift as urban sensing, which augurs a fundamental transition from science and engineering into the realms of politics, aesthetics, interpretation, and motivation. More than a change in degree, this is a change in kind that warrants careful, transdisciplinary study. In this paper, three authors representing the fields of architecture and urban planning, statistics and visual arts, and the law explore how urban sensing can help produce a data commons with public sphere benefits. But the construction of some such data commons cannot simply be assumed; instead, the commons must be encouraged and built. We conclude by examining certain dangerous fates, such as the tragedy of the cyclops, to strive to avoid.

  • Keywords: pervasive computing, privacy, sensors, ubiquitous computing, data commons
  • [download published version @ SSRN]