As the future of computing has been moving “beyond the desktop”, there has been a wide broadening of perspectives in the areas of Computer Science and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) beyond the technological realm, along with a heightened emphasis on the human-centeredness of these endeavours. Ubiquitous computing (ubicomp) is a foundational project of this movement and was presented from the outset as an approach that differed from other contemporaneous computational projects in its explicit focus on the human and social interactions, rather than on the technical, instrumental aspects of technology design.
Reacting to such proclamations of human-centeredness and resisting the naturalisation of ubicomp’s claims, this chapter calls for a shift of critical focus. Instead of assuming the futures and the relations that these technologies project and then considering the consequences for the subjects involved, it adopts a material-semiotic approach that focuses on the kinds of relations, ontologies and agencies that are assumed to be desirable, or deemed to be expendable, in these technological worlds. Specifically, this chapter focuses on ubicomp’s vision to return us to a past and more natural world. It investigates the ways that ubiquitous computing figures nature, the machine and the human through specific discursive and material practices and traces the relational entanglements of these figures having as a guide the question: What is the nature of the “nature” that ubiquitous computing invokes, imagines and performs?