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OCLC number
Viseu, Ana Araujo Barros.
Augmented bodies :the visions and realities of wearable computers.
Ph. D. -- University of Toronto, 2005
Ottawa :Library and Archives Canada = Bibliothè€que et Archives Canada,[2006]
3 microfiches
Includes bibliographical references.
Wearable computers are currently being developed to augment human physical and cognitive abilities. Taking this assertion as a starting point this dissertation critically examines the multiple conflicted meanings of wearable augmentations. Drawing on science and technology studies approaches, in particular actor-network theory, this thesis explores the mutual shaping of wearable technology and user, from the visionary discourses of developers to the conflicted experience of implementation on the ground. This thesis strives to reconnect research on R&D and implementation that are traditionally disconnected in technology studies. As such the empirical project has two parts. Based on interviews with representatives from research and development companies, "developers", in the four main areas of wearable computing (leisure, health, security and work) it analyzes the visions and assumptions, solutions and problems that underlie and compose the field of wearables. The second part draws on ethnographic research to present the story of the implementation of wearable computers for field technicians, "users", at a major telecommunications company. Through the identification and analysis of key notions such as agency, mobility, and embodiment this study found a consequential gap between the visions of developers (and also telecomm managers) and the realities of users. Developers imagine the human body as a network of digital information into which their "smart" proactive technologies can be seamlessly plugged. However, for developers, wearable computers are only agents to the extent that they empower the human actor: they augment the human body without transforming it. The users I studied, in contrast, resist the deployment of wearable computers because they sense a deep transformation of the character of their jobs and identities. While for developers wearable augmentations mean empowerment, users recognize the disempowerment deriving from the sharing of the decision making process with the wearable artefact. This dissertation suggests that the use of wearables results in the creation of a new entity, the "augmented technician", a sociotechnical network with its own identity and responsibilities, as well as a modified, radically relational agency. It concludes with a discussion of the politics of this new hybrid entity that illuminates the ways in which notions of agency and hybridity are central to the project of designing and understanding wearable technologies.
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