“Many of the ways we talk about augmenting reality focus on reducing risk. By adding information to the bookstore, we reduce the risk that we buy a boring title and overpay for it. Augment the grocery store and we reduce the risk that we buy endangered, unsustainable fish or toxic glass cleaner manufactured by a gay-unfriendly conglomerate. Surrounding ourselves with information online – from authorities, friends, from the crowd – we make decisions in the physical world with increasing assurance that we’re getting the best deal, value or quality.
I worry about a
world with less risk. With four stars shining over this trendy sushi bar, will
I miss the unrated Uzbek teahouse down the street? Or the admittedly crappy
dive bar that becomes a sentimental favorite? In a world rich with information,
will I still stumble and explore? I don’t want to go back to a world where I
can’t pull up record reviews on Allmusic.com… but I fell in love with music
buying $2 cutout LPs in the back room of my local record store, stumbling
through a forest of forgettable music to my own passions and tastes.” Ethan Zuckerman Geocaching:
Augmenting Reality for Enhanced Serendipity
Why do I post this? I am interested in unintended consequences – in how designing for augmented reality might in truth result in living a more limited reality – a lesser than before lived life. Zuckerman eloquently captures my disquiet over our increasing use of technologies that collect data and information online that is relevant to us. If in augmenting reality we exclude what we think irrelevant and unwanted we isolate ourselves from unplanned and unimagined opportunity and experience. For example, by finding the exact information we need from the screen we no longer seek it from the person on the street or in the motel room next door; we never talk to the complex human being who offers so much more than a line of text. We reduce our opportunity for serendipitous encounter, we never listen to a perspective that confronts our own, we are never undermined in our righteousness. In this sense our use of technologies limits what it is to be human. I like how Zimmerman goes further and explores how augmented reality might be designed in ways that encourage us to be human - he offers a persuasive counter - a fabulous post describing his experiences when geocaching.