Greenfield graduated from New York University in 1989, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Studies. In 1995, he enlisted in the United States Army's reserve component Special Operations Command as a Psychological Operations specialist, holding MOS 37F and eventually achieving the grade of Sergeant.
After leaving the Army, Greenfield took up work in the then-nascent field of information architecture for the World Wide Web, holding a succession of positions culminating in employment at the Tokyo office of Razorfish, where he was head of information architecture.
In the 2006 and 2007 academic years, with Kevin Slavin of New York design practice area/code, he co-taught a class at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program called Urban Computing. In the following academic year this class was renamed Urban Experience in the Network Age and Greenfield taught it alone.
From 2008 to 2010 he was Nokia's head of design direction for user interface and services, residing in Helsinki throughout the assignment. In 2010 he returned to New York City and founded an urban-systems design practice called Urbanscale, which specialises in "design for networked cities and citizens." In September 2013, Greenfield was awarded the inaugural Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities at the LSE Cities center of the London School of Economics, and relocated to London.
Greenfield had earlier proposed an "open-source constitution for post-national states" called the Minimal Compact, although he appears to have done little work on this project in recent years. He is also credited with having coined the word "moblog" to describe the practice of publishing to the World Wide Web from mobile devices, and having organised a conference devoted to discussing this practice in Tokyo in mid-2003.
Greenfield is best known for his 2006 book Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing (ISBN 0-321-38401-6), which has been called "groundbreaking" by Bruce Sterling: "One puts it down with a strange conviction that web-designers have transcended geekdom and achieved Zen soulfulness."
In 2007, Greenfield co-authored the pamphlet Urban Computing and its Discontents (ISBN 978-0-9800994-0-9), which was an overview of informatics for urban environments, and in 2013 released "Against the smart city," (ISBN 978-0-9824383-1-2). He is in the process of writing his second book, the forthcoming "The City Is Here For You To Use: Urban form and experience in the age of ubiquitous computing.", of which "Against the smart city" is the first part.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Adam Greenfield.|
- "Urban Computing and its Discontents", a freely downloadable pamphlet co-authored with Mark Shepard
- "Connected Things & Civic Responsibilities," a June 2011 speech at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Cambridge, MA
- "Another city is possible: The 'smart city' from above and below," a December 2012 speech at the Urban Age conference in London, UK