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Mobile and Ubiquitous Media

Critical and International Perspectives


Edited By Michael S. Daubs and Vincent R. Manzerolle

What does the phrase "ubiquitous media" actually mean? Individual definitions are just as varied and ubiquitous as the media to which they refer. As a result, there is to date no large-scale theoretical framework through which we can understand the term. The goal of this volume is to provide a diverse set of critical, theoretical, and international approaches useful to those looking for a more diverse and nuanced understanding of what ubiquitous media means analytically.

In contrast to other existing texts on mobile media, these contributions on mobile media are contextualised within a larger discussion on the nature and history of ubiquitous media. Other sections of this edited volume are dedicated to historical perspectives on ubiquitous media, ubiquitous media and visual culture, the role of ubiquitous media in surveillance, the political economy of ubiquitous media, and the way a ubiquitous media environment affects communities, spaces, and places throughout the world.

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Chapter Four: Google Street View and Representational Ubiquity (Aaron Shapiro)


chapter four

Google Street View and Representational Ubiquity

Aaron Shapiro

“Ubiquity” as Informatic Environments

In his influential 1991 Scientific American article, Mark Weiser (1991) outlined a detailed vision of what the computer would look like in the twenty-first century. Along with his colleagues at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Weiser foresaw a world in which computing machines were invisible through their ubiquity and pervasive throughout built environments, analogous to the bombardment of text, images, and symbols that we experience in nearly every moment of our waking lives. This vision was “diametrically opposed” to the future of computing popularly imagined at the time: virtual reality, the “world inside the computer” (94). Virtual reality requires users to “don special goggles that project an artificial scene on their eyes” and “wear gloves or even body suits that sense their motions and gestures so that they can move about and manipulate virtual objects” (ibid.). Weiser and his team, however, were interested in the world outside the computer. Against the virtual-ization of reality, they proposed a real-ization of the “‘virtuality’ of computer-readable data—all the different ways in which it can be altered, processed and analyzed” (98). He called this vision “embodied virtuality”: pulling the computer out from its “electronic shell” and bringing it into the physical world—into the home, into the office, throughout the city (ibid.; see also Galloway 2004; Greenfield 2006; Greenfield and Shepard 2007; Shepard 2011). “[V]irtual reality is only a...

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