Book review, Richard Coyne, “The Tuning of Place: Sociable Spaces and Pervasive Digital Media” MIT Press (2010)

On: September 20, 2010
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About olga paraskevopoulou
After receiving my MSc in Political Communication and New Technologies from the University of Athens (UoA), I re-enrolled in the MA in New Media and Culture at the University of Amsterdam (2010-2011). While studying at the University of Athens my research focused on the use of communication technologies and the emergence of hybrid communication environments. More precisely, i reviewed location-based systems and i was interested in their ability to alter and enrich the perception of space and to provoke social interactions. In 2009, I completed my Master’s dissertation on the theme of “Locative media and Artistic Interventions”. I was also involved in the research activities and projects undertaken by the New Technologies Laboratory and worked for 2 years in the e-MobiLArt project that was funded by the EU and was coordinated by the UoA( While at the University of Amsterdam i focused more on the mobile device, the mobile industry and software as service. My thesis: Life 'On The Move' - Where Are We Heading? The Mobile Phone, Mobile Ecosystem and Innovation In Services, attempted to provide an overview of the evolving ecosystem and speculate of the future of mobile engineering as well as, to reflect on ways to nurture a free-spirited mobile culture. I am currently residing in Amsterdam and working voluntarily for Appsterdam. @olmageddon


In his fourth book, “The Tunign of Place: Sociable Spaces and Pervasive Digital Media”, Richard Coyne provides a fundamentally different perspective  for examining the new technological advancements and the way they are appropriated by humans and are integrated into the everyday life and the social realm. Rather than reviewing these technologies as part of a wide and complex communication system and network, or  trying to offer a taxonomy of recent projects in order to gain insight into the way these are developed and introduced, he chooses to express his ideas through a powerful metaphor.

In order to define the “tuning”  metaphor  he borrows concepts and theoretical tools stemming from biology, philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, communication  theory, design and music. References to the research work of early and contemporary scholars coming from these diverse disciplines is prominent throughout his book as he believes that their differences can reveal as much as their similarities and sympathies.  For   the further examination of pervasive technologies and their materiality in space he always turns to interaction design and contemporary architectural urbanism.

Coyne’s  book addresses to developers, designers, users, and to anyone interested in an understanding of how technology “tunes” people’s relationship with place and with other people.  His concept of tuning presents a framework for discussing how ubiquitous devices abet adjustments in human interactions and also how these technological interventions serve as means of understanding, reassessing and redesigning space.

He explores the character of the medium in terms of small increments and changes and translates the human experiences and practices in terms of intervention, calibration, wedges, habits, rhythm, tags, taps, tactics, thresholds, aggregation, noise, and interference. The way his book is structured, represents his belief that the examination of those ordinary  and practical aspects of pervasive devices may reveal socially and spatially interesting characteristics of the technology’s design and context of reference.

What is very interesting in Coyne’s book and in my opinion distinguishes it from other books that attempt to theorize pervasive technologies, is that he calls for the engagement with the technologies under study. When tuning is thought as a design process, within this process we all become designers, improvisers, collaborators and calibrators. In order to support this statement Coyne draws the reader’s attention to the everyday, to the unremarkable, to the unfamiliar,  to the materiality of the technologies and to the detail, as means to enable the creative process of tuning in daily living and to promote innovative interaction design.

Richard Coyne is a Professor of Architectural Computing in the University of Edinburgh. He is author of several books on the implications of information technology and design with MIT Press and Routledge.

Book details:

The tuning of place: sociable spaces and digital media. (2010)

ISBN 978-0-262-01391-8

The MIT Press

Cambridge, Massachusetts

London, England

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