Rheingold is a widely publicised techno-oracle of our age, having made his mark with his earlier works and ideas on virtual reality. If you’re already familiar with the potential of mobile technology, then this book may disappoint a little, especially if one is looking for something very prescient from the mind of Rheingold. In fact, his book is more about observations, full of vignettes from many encounters with both users and creators of mobile phone technology. The emphasis is on the social arrangements that are facilitated by mobile technology and he offers some useful takes on the influence of cultural context, a refreshing change from a US-centric view that one might otherwise expect.
Rheingold revisits the submersion aspects of VR by digging deeper into the progress made in wearable computing and the greater possibilities that wireless connectivity now offers. The segues from current technology and social practises to what is plausibly possible in the future are quite believable, the reflection and experience of Rheingold appears to restrain how far he is willing to speculate. Augmented reality is discussed. This appears highly conceivable and Rheingold helps us to understand its new powers thanks to location-finding technologies combined with ubiquitous wireless access.
In the current climate of doomsayers for wide-area wireless (e.g. 3G), this book is worth reading as it reclaims some of the lost ground and puts it back in the camp of the believers, those for whom true ubiquity is an article of faith. By emphasising on the social shaping powers of mobile technology, Rheingold is reinforcing the virtuous circle between ubiquity and utility, although, not wishing to over hype the benefits, Rheingold bravely pricks our sanitised view of technology by cautioning us about some of the negative consequences of pervasive (Invasive) technology.
For a more detailed and immediate analysis of next generation mobile services,