I haven't had a chance to read Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling yet, but I am eager to, and I did order it for a library. I think Bruce has lots of valuable insight in regards to "ubiquitious computing" and design. Maybe it's due in part to his lack of training in computer science and designing -- the on-the-outside-looking-in thing has actually been valuable to him and to us, his readers. Or maybe he's just lucky.
I listen to his lectures when I can find them online, and I've read a few of his books. I have no idea what the man is like in person (never met him), but he certainly carries a rather striking air of cool confidence in his mediated persona and throughout his "visible" personomy. I came across Shentou's recent post over at Livejournal while looking for spime talk, and I don't think his dis on Bruce Sterling is warranted; is Sterling overly "impressed with himself"? I don't know, but I do know that personal disses take us away from debating the content of a message.
I don't hear very many people talking about the kinds of things B.S. talks about, especially in regards to all the Viridian stuff. William Katavolos, maybe. And an organic farmer I worked for in Mississippi. Maybe that Negroponte, with his tough little wind-up laptops for Africa. Very few folks seem ready to think and write and talk about some of the system overhauls that Bruce is willing to employ in his Viridian Manifesto. Furthermore, he's actually putting the ideas into practice. "Real is the new virtual."