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“Resistance is futile”: reading science fiction alongside ubiquitous computing


Design-oriented research is an act of collective imagining—a way in which we work together to bring about a future that lies slightly out of our grasp. In this paper, we examine the collective imagining of ubiquitous computing by bringing it into alignment with a related phenomenon, science fiction, in particular as imagined by a series of television shows that form part of the cultural backdrop for many members of the research community. A comparative reading of these fictional narratives highlights a series of themes that are also implicit in the research literature. We argue both that these themes are important considerations in the shaping of technological design and that an attention to the tropes of popular culture holds methodological value for ubiquitous computing.

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  1. The 1980s also represent the period in which personal computing became a reality and in which Mark Weiser began ubicomp research at PARC.

  2. The show was relaunched in 2005, and new episodes are produced in Britain and shown around the world. While many of our comments are relevant to both shows, it is the original in which we are especially interested, again because its of intersection with the emergence of the ubiquitous computing vision.


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This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under awards 0205724, 0527729, 0524033, and 0712890. We would like to thank several earlier readers for their feedback and encouragement, including Johanna Brewer, Bruce Sterling, and Amanda Williams.

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Correspondence to Paul Dourish.

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Dourish, P., Bell, G. “Resistance is futile”: reading science fiction alongside ubiquitous computing. Pers Ubiquit Comput 18, 769–778 (2014).

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