I finished reading Adam Greenfield’s Everyware a while ago, and was thinking about it the other day when it struck me that despite Greenfield’s more cutting-edge ideas about technology, society, and life, a lot of his theses do apply to education.
Let me provide a bit of context first. According to an interview with Greenfield on the Boxes and Arrows site,
“Everyware” is computing that is everywhere around us, yet is relatively hard to see, both literally and figuratively. Broadly speaking, it is what you get when you take the information processing we associate with the personal computer and distribute it throughout the environment—embedding it in walls, floors, appliances, lampposts, even clothing. I also use the word to refer to the relatively novel interface conventions everyware requires: gestural, tangible and haptic interfaces, and to some extent, voice recognition.
As the interview shows, Greenfield’s definition is very heavily influenced by the work of the late Mark Weiser, who is by many considered to be the father of ubiquitous computing. Even so, Greenfield is adamant about the term ‘everyware’ being different from existing ones such as ubicomp or pervasive computing because he “wanted people relatively new to these ideas to be able to have a rough container for them, so they could be discussed without anyone getting bogged down in internecine definitional struggles, like “such-and-such a system has a tangible interface, but isn’t really ubicomp.””
In any event, here are some of Greenfield’s theses that seem particularly applicable to teaching and learning:
5. at its most refined, everyware can be understood as information processing dissolving in behavior.
7. Everyware isn’t so much a particular kind of hardware or software as it is a situation (just like school is a process, not a place, as Thornburg has argued).
8. The project of everyware is nothing less than the colonization of everyday life by information technology (as in anywhere/anytime access to information, whether we like it or not).
9. Everyware has profoundly different implications for the user experience than previous paradigms (see #s 5, 7, and 8).
11. Everyware appears not merely in more places than personal computing does, but in more different kinds of places, at a greater variety of scales (allowing for more opportunities for just-in-time learning).
17. The overwhelming majority of people experiencing everyware will not be knowledgeable about information technology. (i.e. you don’t have to know how an internal combustion engine works to drive a car, or in this case, you don’t have to know the ins and outs of digital tools to use them well for teaching and learning).
21. Everyware recombines practices and technologies in ways that are greater than the sum of their parts.
23. Everyware has profoundly different social implications than previous information-technology paradigms.
24. Everyware, or something very much like it, is effectively inevitable (today, many expect kids to learn with technology in schools and we can’t imagine doing without).
66. For many of us, everyware is already a reality (in society, yes; in education, a big maybe and probably not).
68. Given that, in principle, all of the underpinnings necessary to construct a robust everyware already exist, the time for intervention is now (YES, we can’t afford to stay behind in education like we have been).
73. Everyware must default to harmlessness (very important in life, even more so in schools).
77. Everyware must be deniable (must be able to opt out; see #73).
Finally, and this will come as a great sigh of relief for many educators, Greenfield is very cautious about everyware and its implications for our lives. His concern is that we are not careful enough about the development of technology that undergirds his concept of everyware, and that it is easy to sacrifice privacy/safety for the sake of convenience. Instead, he proposes that we find “an appropriate place for ubiquitous computing in our lives” so that it will do us good where appropriate and still have room in our lives for experiences that are unmediated and truly our own…
Image Credit: adamgreenfield: