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Un-Computing: Shaking off the ‘Computer’ Baggage

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I learned at an early stage in my computer science research career that when relatives and friends ask me what I do, I shouldn’t try to give them a literal explanation but instead keep it brief, answering with a few simple words…’computing’ or ‘computer science’. However, very often this is met with the response “Oh I don’t like computers, I can’t use them!”. My internal reaction is “Really? But don’t you own a smartphone and an iPad and a Pebble…etc”, (which they exhibit no issues with when fluidly video chatting, browsing, social networking or navigating around a city). What is interesting is how the modern form of a computer has become so hidden behind other form factors and consumer terms such as ‘phone’, ‘ tablet’ and ‘watch’ that the term ‘computer’ has been left behind on the same shelf as the desktop PCs from what Weiser called the personal computing era. In a sense we are ‘un-computing’ – shaking off the computer term and all its baggage as an often challenging tool, and replacing it with other terms and familiar objects through which we engage, consume and entertain ourselves. In this talk I look further at ‘un-computing’ and discuss several of my recent works that fall under the realms of tangibles and IoT; two fields that are dramatically rethinking what a computer for the 21st century looks and acts like.

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