The next time someone asks you for your cellphone number, you may want to think twice about giving it. The cellphone number is more than just a bunch of digits. It is increasingly used as a link to private information maintained by all sorts of companies. My talk seeks to explore the transformation of, for example, the telephone from, arguably, a communication/entertainment device to a device of identitification and verification, and investigate how this is related to the technological, social and economic logic underlying the design as a connective platform, provided by a commercial telecom operator and game developers/industries, and connectively used by the likes of Google and Facebook. By drawing on histories of ‘old’ media when they were new, I seek to question how much of the future is embedded in our past, connecting the structure of today’s conceptualization of the device-as-a-platform and our personal life to the role of design in its current commodity form.
Shenja van der Graaf (PhD, London School of Economics and Political Science) is an Associate Professor and Executive Director of the ‘Smart Cities’ unit at imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). Her research focuses on the social, economic and policy issues arising from innovations in digital media and communications, the integration of new technologies in firms, cities and communities, ‘cultures of expertise’, the structure of software/code markets, and, the mediation of social and economic life.