ArticlePDF Available

Abstract

In an ideal world, computers will blend into the landscape, will inform but not overburden you with information, and make you aware of them only when you need them.
Calm Technologies in a Multimedia World
In an ideal world, computers will blend into the landscape, will inform but not overburden
you with information, and make you aware of them only when you need them.
By Alexandru Tugui
"In the twenty-first century the technology revolution will move into the everyday,
the small and the invisible. The impact of technology will increase ten-fold as it is
imbedded in the fabric of everyday life. As technology becomes more imbedded and
invisible, it calms our lives by removing annoyances while keeping us connected
with what is truly important. This imbedding, this invisibility, this radical ease-of-
use requires radical innovations in our connectivity infrastructure". M. D.
Weiser
Multimedia, interoperability, and intelligence science hold the attention of the information world
today. The jump to tomorrow's technologies will require the incorporation of the computer as a
common item of such technologies. Thus the computer will remain omnipresent in the background
as a facilitator. It has been said that a characteristic quality of tomorrow's technologies is that they
will be calm. The term, first used by Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown in the early 1990s, has
been interpreted and built upon ever since. This paper briefly presents some dimensions of the
concept of calm technology against the multimedia background of tomorrow's world.
Historical Clues
The idea of calm technology originates in the writings of Weiser of Xerox PARC who in 1991 in
his article "The Computer for the 21st Century" [1], tackled in detail the concept of ubiquitous
computing in one's daily life. Weiser with Seely Brown collaborated in December 1995 with the
publication of the book "Designing Calm Technology" [2]. These publications laid the conceptual
basis of a future society dominated by calm technologies and the Internet. Afterwards, other
specialists have continued to develop the concepts launched by Weiser and Seely Brown.
In 1997, on the anniversary of 50 years of computing, the same article was published under the
name, "The Coming Age of Calm Technology," in the book "Beyond Calculation: The Next Fifty
Years in Computing." [3] Afterwards, other specialists added their ideas to the concept of Calm
Technology, including B. Hermans, in "Desperately Seeking: Helping Hands and Human Touch."
[4] These ideas appeared and developed as multimedia was rising as a basic information
technology.
The Evolving Human-Computer Relationship
Internet, Internet2, intranets, extranets, cyberspace . . . it is hard not to have heard or read about one
of these terms in the media. [5] Several trends categorize computer use in the information era.
1. Mainframe stage. Computers were used by experts behind closed doors, and
regarded as rare and expensive assets. This stage was the beginning of the
information era. The human-computer relationship was one of several humans to a
single computer.
2. Personal computing stage. In this stage the human-computer relationship became
balanced in the sense that individuals had one-on-one relationships with their
computers. This stage brought a certain closeness into the human-computer
relationship.
3. Ubiquitous computing stage. In this stage one person will have many computers.
People will have access to computers placed in their offices, walls, clothing, cars,
planes, organs, etc. This stage will have a significant impact on society.
The Internet and applications deriving from this technology will mediate the transition from the
first stage to the third stage. It is clear that information technology expands every second, which
leads to the question, how will this technology disturb us? Will it be aggressive toward the
environment in which we live?
D. Rijken [6] formulates this issue in the following passage:
"Consumer electronics, telecommunications, the computing industry, the
entertainment industry and the media industry are all entering the digital arena. All
information will be digital; all information will be inside computers and computers
will be everywhere. While technological innovation contributes to human progress,
some people experience the world as a technopolis that causes feelings of alienation
and aversion with regard to technological products. People are still people and
many of them are having a hard time trying to make sense of all the information
around them. They are feeling bad about it. Yet, our ability to function and survive
in the future depends on our ability to relate to information. Can we interact with
this cybersoup in a meaningful way? Is there an alternative for the technocratic
approach?"
These concerns led to the concept of calm technology, which assumes that computers should
disappear into the "background" of our architectural space and easily switch between the center
and the periphery of our attention much like ambient displays.
Weiser and Seely Brown summarize eloquently this future stage in which humans use a large
number of computers in the social environment:
The most potentially interesting, challenging, and profound change implied by the
ubiquitous computing era is a focus on calm. If computers are everywhere they
better stay out of the way, and that means designing them so that the people being
shared by the computers remain serene and in control. Calmness is a new challenge
that UC brings to computing. When experts use computers behind closed doors,
calmness is relevant to only a few. Computers for personal use have focused on the
excitement of interaction. But when computers are all around, so that we want to
compute while doing something else and have more time to be more fully human, we
must radically rethink the goals, context and technology of the computer and all the
other technology crowding into our lives. Calmness is a fundamental challenge for
all technological design of the next fifty years [7].
Informing without Overburdening
Technology attracts our attention at different levels of awareness. It is either at the center or the
periphery of our attention.
Weiser and Seely Brown suggest that we attune to the "periphery" without attending to it
explicitly. When driving a car, for instance, our attention is centered on the road, the radio or our
passenger, but not on the noise of the engine. But an unusual noise is noticed immediately,
showing that we are attuned to the noise in the periphery, and can quickly to attend to it. What is in
the periphery at one moment may in the next moment be at the center of our attention. The same
physical form may have elements in both the center and periphery.
A calm technology will move easily from the periphery of our attention, to the center, and back.
This is fundamentally calming, for two reasons. First, by placing things in the periphery we can
attune to many more things than we could if everything is at the center. Thus the periphery is
informing without overburdening. Second, by recentering something formerly in the periphery we
take control of it. Peripherally we may become aware that something is not quite right, as when
awkward sentences leave a reader tired and discomforted without knowing why.
Technology is closely linked to the concept of affordance which is "a relationship between an
object in the world and the intentions, perceptions, and capabilities of a person."[7]
Characteristics of a Calm Technology
Calm technology has three basic characteristics.
1. Calm technologies shift the focus of our attention to the periphery. This technological
orientation can be achieved either by smoothly and easily shifting from the center to the
periphery and back, or by transferring more details to the periphery. An example is a video
conference that, by comparison to a telephone conference, enables us to attune to nuances
of body posture and facial expression that would otherwise be inaccessible.
2. A technology is calm when it increases peripheral perceptions with direct implications
on our knowledge, which increases abilities to act adequately in various circumstances
without being overburdened with information. Thus, the use of calm technology develops a
pleasant environment.
3. Technological connectivity enables a quick anchoring in certain circumstances against the
background of a quick shifting from the center to the periphery of our attention, which
determines a quick perception of the past, present and future of the subject. This
characteristic leads to what Weiser and Seely Brown call "locatedness".
These characteristics are important features when enforcing calm data processing technologies.
One example of increasing technological calmness is the use of liquid crystal display (LCD)
instead of cathode-ray tube (CRT). Using such technology has influences our attention, which
leads to an increase of our ability to easily adjust to the environment.
Conclusions
What would happen in our minds if we had to read a book with no table of contents? How attracted
would we be to a book without pictures/figures compared to one having pictures/figures? How
upset would we be if we had to read a paper without being able to visualize certain objects inserted
in it? These questions/problems put our central and peripheral attention to the test, and lead to the
following conclusions:
a. The field of computer science tackles more and more types of data (text, sound, static
images, dynamic images etc.). That is, it works with many different media with a minimum effort.
This leads to a super-computer-assisted world where computers are ubiquitous in people's lives.
b. Data processing technologies should calm down and induce calm, in other words be calm
technologies. This is easily achieved if we take into account the multimedia aspect of data
processing equipment and applications.
We conclude with the conviction that in a super-computer-assisted world we feel better when
special emphasis is placed on the visual side of the means of communication or
information/knowledge transfer, which is a multi-media presentation of the world we relate to.
Moreover, if this makes using technologies less tiresome, then we will have the satisfaction of a
"child playing at his work place".
References
[1] Weiser, M., The Computer for the 21st Century, Scientific American Ubicomp paper,
September 1991, (http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/SciAmDraft3.html)
[2] Weiser, M., Seely Brown, J., Designing Calm Technology, Xerox PARC, December 21, 1995,
(http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/calmtech/calmtech.htm)
[3] Denning, J.P., Metcalfe, M.R., Beyond Calculation: The Next Fifty Years in Computing,
Springer-Verlag, New York, 1997
4] Hermans, B., Desperately Seeking: Helping Hands and Human Touch, Zeist, The Netherlands,
May 1998 (http://www.hermans.org/agents2/)
[5] Norman, D.A., The Psychology of Everyday Things, New York: Basic Books, 1988.
[6] Rijken, Dick, The Future is a Direction, Not a Place, Netherlands Design Institute, Sandberg
Institute, the Netherlands, 1994.
[7] Weiser, M., Seely Brown, J., The Coming Age of Calm Technology", Xerox PARC October 5,
1996, http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/acmfuture2endnote.htm
Alexandru Tugui, Ph. D. is senior lecturer, faculty of Economy and Business Administration, at
Al. I. Cuza , University of Iasi, Romania. He is the author and co-author of 25 books and more
than 70 journal articles. His career has focused on expert systems, multimedia systems, and
management informatics resources.
Source: Ubiquity, Volume 5, Issue 4, March 16 - March 23, 2004
References
[1] Weiser, M., The Computer for the 21st Century, Scientific American Ubicomp paper,
September 1991, (http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/SciAmDraft3.html)
[2] Weiser, M., Seely Brown, J., Designing Calm Technology, Xerox PARC, December 21, 1995,
(http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/calmtech/calmtech.htm)
[3] Denning, J.P., Metcalfe, M.R., Beyond Calculation: The Next Fifty Years in Computing,
Springer-Verlag, New York, 1997
4] Hermans, B., Desperately Seeking: Helping Hands and Human Touch, Zeist, The Netherlands,
May 1998 (http://www.hermans.org/agents2/)
[5] Norman, D.A., The Psychology of Everyday Things, New York: Basic Books, 1988.
[6] Rijken, Dick, The Future is a Direction, Not a Place, Netherlands Design Institute, Sandberg
Institute, the Netherlands, 1994.
[7] Weiser, M., Seely Brown, J., The Coming Age of Calm Technology", Xerox PARC October 5,
1996, http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/acmfuture2endnote.htm
... By analysing traces of use in urban environments, we identify familiar patterns of use that serve as design tools for indicating interactive places and objects with shared social value [18,19]. To create unobtrusive interfaces and avoid additional information overflow [4,20], we propose to seamlessly integrate them into the existing conditions of the target environment similar to these traces of use. ...
... • The need to integrate more calm and unobtrusive technology to reduce information overflow [4,20]. ...
Conference Paper
Traces of use in public environments show the behaviour patterns of the masses. Taking advantage of this quality, we want to use such traces as design tool to indicate pos-sible interactions in e.g. newly built areas while keeping a natural and calm environment. Due to current lacking knowledge about such traces, this work aims at understand-ing the perception of traces of use in public places. There-fore we collected a total of 182 pictures of traces of use in urban environments. A focus group discussed and classified a preselected set of pictures. In an online picture viewing survey, 18 different pictures were reviewed for pattern iden-tification (N= 32-52). Overlaps were visualized in heatmaps. We contribute an analysis of which public traces of use are easy to recognize with great agreement and which are not.
... Subsequently, this concept was taken over and analysed by specialists in the field, especially as a consequence of the extended use of multimedia technologies and of the Internet, and is based on the idea that computers should disappear into the "background" of our architectural space and easily switch between the centre and the periphery of our attention much like ambient displays. [4] The idea promoted by Weiser was taken over and developed by many researchers, government agencies and companies. In this context, we can distinguish the European Community's Disappearing Computer initiative at the end of the 90's and the beginning of the 2000's, that funded a large number of research projects to investigate how the information technology could be diffused into everyday objects and settings and to see how this could lead to new ways of supporting and enhancing people's lives that went above and beyond what was possible using desktop machines. ...
... An important role in this regard can be played by the wide-spread development and implementation of the concept of Internet of Things, considered to be the next generation of the Internet applications, where surrounding objects can communicate, send and receive messages in a manner close to the way human beings behave. 4. Invisibility. ...
Article
Full-text available
Information and communication technologies met a culminant evolution even since they appeared, with major achievements that became established in various fields of activity. Currently, one can notice an increased tendency to upgrade from classic computers to other types of equipment, much smaller in size, able to perform similar functions, such as PDA's or mobile phones. Also, the expansion of wireless communication technologies allows the access to Internet and to users' permanent interconnection. Therefore, a normal desire of human beings is developed, that of using miniaturized equipment, with no less performance, capable to ensure access to various information sources and to support communication. This tendency will result in the transition towards a new evolution stage of the IT&C, known as the calm technologies era. This study is intended to seize the main stages, characteristics and conditions that the technological evolution should pursuit and fulfil in order to ensure the success of calm technologies and, at the same time, to optimize users' economic and social life.
... The answer is obviously affirmative, since man adjusts to the environment and to " well-being " . As long as using these technologies generates a profit, regardless of its form and at a convenient price, humanity will very quickly adjust to technological novelties [13, 14]. ...
... This stage will have as its center of attention information exploitation in order to reach the desired level of intelligence for a certain entity. This will be the period when the concept of bio-techno-system is generalized, that is hybrid systems between biological systems and technical systems, by means of computer science [14]. ...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper, we intend to point out some specific aspects of the information society, together with the four waves of the information technology. Since the progress of the human society is impossible to stop in a future globally information-based society, the following question came to us naturally: "What is after that?". Our answer is direct and concise and involves the intelligence of the future systems and the possibilities of successfully linking these technologies to the biological systems and not only.
... But the most important thing that should help employees to overcome the negative aspects of using ICT in their daily workplace learning processes is to build a strong confidence in the helping nature of ICT, without being stressed and overwhelmed. As recommended in [31], the socalled calm side of ICT must be exploited. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In academia and mass media, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is largely and commonly seen as a main facilitator of learning processes. As ICT eases access to information and knowledge, independent of geographic area and field of interest, and contributes significantly to the development of various human skills and competencies, its influence in lifelong learning is mainly recognized as a positive one. On the other side of the story, digitalization comes with some challenges, exerted both at the individuals' and communities' level. Modern classes with digital screens, with laptops for the teachers or tablets for each student, which aim to improve the learning process or make it more attractive, are becoming more and more common. This leads to the fact that the traditional way of learning is rapidly replaced by the new technology approaches. Students speak less, they type more; they don't remember things, they have their browser where they can find all the needed answers or solutions. In this spirit, this paper reviews the effect of digitalization on human thinking, trying to elucidate the ways in which trends like big data, information overload, and fake news are affecting humans' intellect, understanding capacity, attention span, active presence in learning communities and magnifying cognitive biases like exposure problem, backfire effect, strawman fallacy etc. After the in-depth literature review on the topic, some suggested solutions for educators and providers of e-learning software are formulated, as a consistent adaptation of attitudes, teaching materials, ways of providing information and software functionalities is necessary in order to transform the so-called "dark" effects of ICT in brighter ones.
... This empowerment is benefic for the system adaptation as it involves user's domainspecific expertise in defining relevant adaptive behavior (e.g., override actions, correct decisions). Furthermore, the previous scenarios demonstrate the importance of the calmness property [2]. A calm system can be defined as a system which is able to switch between the periphery and the center of intention of the user. ...
Article
Context-aware applications must manage a continuous stream of context according to dedicated business logic. Research was limited on proposing frameworks and platforms that have predefined behavior toward applications. This thesis attempts to extend background works by proposing new concepts serving as foundation for a flexible approach for building context-aware applications. The thesis examines the state of the art of context-aware computing, then adopts well-established software design principles and a functional decomposition for designing a reference model for context management enabling seamless integration of context-awareness into applications. Also, the thesis studies the use of context in common applications and proposes a context-centric modeling approach which allows the creation of a graph-based representation where entities are connected to each other through links representing context. Furthermore, the context graph decouples the presentation and the semantics of context, leaving each application to manage the appropriate semantic for their context data. Case studies are conducted for the evaluation of the proposed system in terms of its support for the creation of applications enhanced with context-awareness. A simulation study is performed to analyze the performance properties of the proposed system. The result of this thesis is the introduction of a novel approach for supporting the creation of context-aware applications that supports the integration of context-awareness to existing applications. It empowers developers as well as users to participate in the creation process, thereby reducing usability issues
... Since then, CT has become a buzzword, and it has led to the creation of a number of different and even contradictory ideas about whether computers should help people relax (Tugui, 2004), should excite people (Rogers, 2006) or should disappear entirely from our conscious perception (Streitz & Nixon, 2005). Some have proposed hiding input devices in apparently unrelated objects (Ishii & Ullmer, 1997), and others have proposed doing the same for output (Beale, 2007). ...
Article
Full-text available
The use of haptics as a complement to verbal and visual communication across digital media is becoming well understood. Good arguments have also been made for the adoption of this modality for the communication of emotive, affective information. This article proposes an additional purpose for the consideration of the haptic community: the possibility of storing individually recognizable touch. In this manner, the comforting touch of a loved one could be recorded for access at a distance from the original event, whether that distance is in space or time. This is not the familiar attempt to re-create perfectly the tactile impression of a generic human action such as a hug or a hand clasp. Furthermore, this is far from the attempts to mechanically re-create sexual intimacy. Rather the article proposes the preservation of just enough information about a pattern of touch to make it preattentively recognizable as a “ghost touch” from a loved one who is, temporarily or permanently, beyond one’s reach. The article proposes that current technology should already make it possible to record and replay a single pattern of movement or a series of interrelated movements—where the technology triggers reactions from the user as they would be triggered by their loved one. It is time to consider focusing this developing technology on the purely emotional, entirely human desire to be touched again by a remembered love.
Article
Full-text available
Abstract: Nature is very simple and efficient in everything she makes, and is extremely obvious. We humans like to simulate in an extremely complicated manner what exists quite simply in nature, and what we succeed in simulating falls in the category of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence has limits of scope, but they fade away when compared with the performances of natural intelligence. In this study, we undertake to outline some limits of artificial intelligence compared to natural intelligence and some clear-cut differences that exist between the two. Keywords: intelligence, limits, artificial, robots, digit, law of entropy, ABAC.
Article
Full-text available
The massive investments made in information technology and communication development have been beneficial for all the world’s economies. All the economic and social processes now rely on computers as their support/intermediary. The technological miniaturization and steady performance increase has resulted into the abandonment of classical technologies in educational field and the extensive use of information technologies. The focus of this paper is to insists on the contribution that the new educational technologies may have on deculturalization minimization and on the former’s turning into calm technologies.
Article
Full-text available
This paper examines new para-journalism forms such as micro-blogging as “awareness systems” that provide journalists with more complex ways of understanding and reporting on the subtleties of public communication. Traditional journalism defines fact as information and quotes from official sources, which have been identified as forming the vast majority of news and information content. This model of news is in flux, however, as new social media technologies such as Twitter facilitate the instant, online dissemination of short fragments of information from a variety of official and unofficial sources. This paper draws from computer science literature to suggest that these broad, asynchronous, lightweight and always-on systems are enabling citizens to maintain a mental model of news and events around them, giving rise to awareness systems that the paper describes as ambient journalism. The emergence of ambient journalism brought about by the use of these new digital delivery systems and evolving communications protocols raises significant research questions for journalism scholars and professionals. This research offers an initial exploration of the impact of awareness systems on journalism norms and practices. It suggests that one of the future directions for journalism may be to develop approaches and systems that help the public negotiate and regulate the flow of awareness information, facilitating the collection and transmission of news.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Weiser and Brown predicted the era of Ubiquitous Computing but what they called the most profound change has been almost completely abandoned, overlooked or misrepresented. Designing calm technology requires a deeper understanding of how we multi-task, but it has the potential to becalm human computer interaction; decreasing stress, and mitigating human error as a cause of accidents. I. SUMMARY In 1995, Mark Weiser and John Seeley Brown said that computers would enter society in 3 stages. The Mainframe Era was followed by the Personal Computer Era. They predicted that the internet and distributed computing would lead to an era of Ubiquitous Computing. Some say that it has, but what we now call UC is not what Weiser and Brown described. It is true that each person now uses many computers, instead of the other way around, but they did not just define UC by the human:computer ratio. "The most potentially interesting, challenging and profound change implied by the ubiquitous computing era is a focus on calm." Calm Technology is based on the two ways that humans process information. Trying to focus on more than one thing at once is stressful, but humans can take in much more information if it is presented peripherally; in a way that allows the individual to judge whether or not to give it more attention. Basic physiology and neuroanatomy show that we naturally examine things closely while at the same time using other senses to keep track of subtle changes in our environment, warning us when the peripheral becomes important. What's more, the process of plucking things from the periphery, examining them and then deciding how to re-sort them is a comforting activity. It makes us feel at home and in control. Ubiquitous Computing is everywhere now (if you'll pardon the pun) but Calm Technology has been all but abandoned because it is harder to design and implement than traditional multi-media interaction. So, instead of deliberate calm, we have constant text message alerts, ring tones and email pop-ups demanding the immediate attention of everyone within earshot. Imagine instead that your cell phone would subtly let you know who is trying to reach you without pulling your attention away from the task at hand. It could be as gentle as the sound of familiar footsteps drawing close or the semi-transparent hint of a familiar smile on your touchscreen. Hardware and software are now more than good enough, and rich multimedia can be customized, stored, accessed and processed quickly and cheaply. It is time for Human Computer Interaction based on rich and textured interfaces; interaction that is less like dealing with a series of screaming emergencies fighting for our attention, and more like taking a walk in the woods. It is time for Calm Technology.
Article
A lot has been written about the Internet and where it is leading. We will say only a little. The Internet is deeply influencing the business and practice of technology. Millions of new people and their information have become interconnected. Late at night, around 6am while falling asleep after twenty hours at the keyboard, the sensitive technologist can sometimes hear those 35 million web pages, 300 thousand hosts, and 90 million users shouting "pay attention to me!" The important waves of technological change are those that fundamentally alter the place of technology in our lives. What matters is not technology itself, but its relationship to us.
Chapter
Bits flowing through the wires of a computer network are ordinarily invisible. But a radically new tool shows those bits through motion, sound, and even touch. It communicates both light and heavy network traffic. Its output is so beautifully integrated with human information processing that one does not even need to be looking at it or near it to take advantage of its peripheral clues. It takes no space on your existing computer screen, and in fact does not use or contain a computer at all. It uses no software, only a few dollars in hardware, and can be shared by many people at the same time. It is called the "Dangling String". Created by artist Natalie Jeremijenko, the "Dangling String" is an 8 foot piece of plastic spaghetti that hangs from a small electric motor mounted in the ceiling. The motor is electrically connected to a nearby Ethernet cable, so that each bit of information that goes past causes a tiny twitch of the motor. A very busy network causes a madly whirling string with a characteristic noise; a quiet network causes only a small twitch every few seconds. Placed in an unused corner of a hallway, the long string is visible and audible from many offices without being obtrusive. It is fun and useful. The Dangling String meets a key challenge in technology design for the next decade: how to create calm technology. We have struggled for some time to understand the design of calm technology, and our thoughts are still incomplete and perhaps even a bit confused. Nonetheless, we believe that calm technology may be the most important design problem of the twenty-first century, and it is time to begin the dialogue.
Article
We are living in a time of increasing information overload. Many solutions have been or are being drawn up to tackle this problem. However, today's most prominent solutions - such as Information Push and Search Engines - do not seem to be able to fully handle the problem. In this paper we will look at a number of solutions which may help us deal with information overload in the online marketplace. These solutions include "agency", agent-like applications, improvements in the information chain and - most importantly - information brokering. Some of these solutions require changes in the whole groundwork underlying the online marketplace; they are about whole new ways of interfacing with the online marketplace as well as the full employment of possibly intelligent software agents.
Book
Reissued as The Design of Everyday Things in 1990. Author's website : http://www.jnd.org
The Computer for the 21st Century, Scientific American Ubicomp paper
  • M Weiser
Weiser, M., The Computer for the 21st Century, Scientific American Ubicomp paper, September 1991, (http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/SciAmDraft3.html)
The Future is a Direction, Not a Place
  • Dick Rijken
Rijken, Dick, The Future is a Direction, Not a Place, Netherlands Design Institute, Sandberg Institute, the Netherlands, 1994.