Summary of Radical Technologies

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Innovators designed and marketed networked digital information technology, such as the omnipresent smartphone and even 3D printers, to make life better, easier and, perhaps, even more egalitarian. But, argues tech specialist Adam Greenfield, the real impact of these technologies goes further: they transform people’s day-to-day life. For many people, navigating urban life without a smartphone has become impossible. Yet despite the increasing centrality of these information technologies, few people know how they work, what drives their design, who makes them or whether anyone else has access to what they do on their phones all day long. Greenfield explains the ways in which disruptive technologies leave incumbent political and economic powers intact and often serve them. To maintain individual autonomy and control, people need to know more about the “radical technologies” they embrace. Greenfield may sometimes overstate the degree to which those who create new technologies and those with access to the vast data they generate put ordinary users at risk and undermine their agency, but his scope is broad and his vision is compelling. getAbstract recommends his eloquent and passionate argument to entrepreneurs, business students and activists concerned with the impact of technology.

About the Author

Adam Greenfield, also the author of Against the Smart City, taught in the Urban Design Program of the UCL Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London and the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. He was head of design for Nokia; an information architect in Tokyo; a rock critic for SPIN Magazine; a medic at the Berkeley Free Clinic; and a sergeant in the US Army’s Special Operations Command.

 

Summary

The Smartphone in Daily Life

Smartphones may be history’s most swiftly and universally accepted technology, “the signature artifact of our age.” They rapidly became a ubiquitous, essential high-tech accessory for daily life. People use smartphones for a variety of often unrelated activities. You can use your phone to call and text people, read and send emails, take photographs, find a restaurant or a shop, order rides, or book a place to stay. You can even open your garage door with your smartphone.  

The smartphone supplanted a wide variety of physical objects: telephone booths, address books, maps, guidebooks, cameras and even money. The smartphone mediates your experience of mundane daily tasks. It is part of a worldwide movement toward “dematerialization,” which makes once ordinary objects seem strange or unfamiliar. While smartphones changed the way many people lead their lives, few understand how they work.

The smartphone itself depends on a complicated infrastructure of base stations, cables and microwave relays designed, manufactured and built for profit, but the public doesn’t know the interests and incentives involved. Every...


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    S. S. 7 months ago
    Interesting read that will make you question the technologies around us and look at them from a different perspective