Ubiquanny: Uncanny Perceptions of Ubiquitous Computing

By Lee Cadieux.

Published by The International Journal of Design in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Designers have worked diligently to dispel early uncanny perceptions of computers and computing devices as threatening and malevolent by developing Snow White devices such as the MacBook or the family-targeted Wii games console. OSX home folders, user accounts, and the friendly Mii avatars of the Nintendo console are the latest attempt to dispel negative mythologies from media such as 2001’s Hal 9000 and the techy bedroom programming culture of early home computing, a design trajectory which may be evidenced as far back as Jerry Mannocks friendly case design for the original Macintosh. Not all users however, are content in confining their activity within these safe environments and choose instead to extend their computing experience by connecting to outboard peripheral devices such as the Arduino board. With its exposed and modifiable components cabled to the host device, it echoes the visceral impact of performance artist Stelarc’s techno-appendages, a literal embodiment of McLuhan’s extensions of Man. The virtual home of the GUI is not the only home at risk. Devices such as the 3DS console threaten our perceptions of our real homes through AR cards and virtual reality. Users may conjure a holographic image of a dragon for example, which when viewed through the device’s screen, appears to occupy real space within the user’s actual home environment. Do these corruptions of the home environment, virtual and actual, serve to reinforce a literal interpretation of Freud’s uncanny or unheimlich (literally, the unhomely) when observed through the pervasive and physical embodiments of ubiquitous computing devices, or do they indicate a need for designers of devices to embrace extensibility within their remit?

Keywords: Ubiquitous Computing, Uncanny, Macintosh, Wii, 3DS, Virtual Reality, Stelarc, McLuhan

The International Journal of Design in Society, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.39-51. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 9.334MB).

Lee Cadieux

Lecturer in Animation, School of Creative Arts , Faculty of Arts, Research Institute for Art and Design, University of Ulster, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, UK

Lee Cadieux, originally from Canada, holds the post of Lecturer in Media Arts in the School of Media, Film and Journalism, University of Ulster. His academic career follows a 20 year career in Film and Animation and he has worked extensively on Features, TV Series, Documentary, Video Games and Commercials in the roles of Director, Editor and Animator. He has worked for Disney, Warner Bros., Nelvana and Crawley Films in Canada, China and the UK. He is Course Director for the Skillset accredited programmes MA Documentary Practice and MA Media Management and Policy, concentrating on research and teaching. His research interests include practice and theory-based work in Film, Media and Digital Performance.