Feral Technologies: An ethnographic account of the future


Date Thursday June 3rd 2010
Time 4:00-5:00pm
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium, PARC

PARC Forum

What do rabbits, camels and cane toads all have in common? And why might this be relevant to the future of new technologies. In this talk, I want to explore the ways in which new technologies are following the path of feral Australian pests – in particular, I am interested in the unexpected and unscheduled transformations that have occurred in the last decade. In 1998, an estimated 68% of the world’s internet users were Americans. A decade later that number had shrunk to less than 20%.  The complexion of the web – its users, their desires, their languages, points of entry and experiences – has subtly and not so subtly changed over that period. All these new online participants bring with them potentially different conceptual models of information, knowledge and knowledge systems with profound consequences for the ideological basis of the net. These new participants also operate within different regulatory and legislative regimes which will bring markedly different ideas about how to shape what happens online. And in this same time period, the number and kind of digital devices in peoples’ lives has grown and changed. Devices have proliferated with ensembles and debris collecting in the bottom of backpacks, on the dashboards of dusty trucks and in drawers, cabinets, and baskets.  I want to explore these feral technology proliferations, in the ways in which they have defied conventional wisdom and acceptable boundaries, and, most importantly, the ways in which they have transformed themselves into new objects and experiences.


Born and raised in Australia, today Dr. Genevieve Bell is the Director of the User Experience Group within Intel Corporation’s Digital Home Group in Portland, Oregon. She is the driving force behind Intel’s emerging consumer-centred product focus. Gathering a team of anthropologists, interaction designers and human factors engineers to transform consumer-centric product innovation, she has fundamentally changed how Intel envisions, plans and develops its platforms. Her team is responsible for setting research directions, conducting global comparative qualitative and quantitative research, leading new product strategy and definition, and championing consumer-centric innovation and thinking in Intel’s Consumer Electronics business and across all of Intel’s platforms.

Dr. Bell has a Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University, and a new book forthcoming from MIT Press. She was recently recognized by Fast Company magazine as one of the 100 most innovative people in business.

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