Students Who Know More About It Than I Do (part 17)

Last year your classmate Jess Hemerly worked on a project at Institute for the Future called “Blended Reality.” Here is a small part of it:

” We are creating a new kind of reality, one in which physical and digital environments, media, and interactions are woven together throughout our daily lives. In this world, the virtual and the physical are seamlessly integrated. Cyberspace is not a destination; rather, it is a layer tightly integrated into the world around us.

Technology enables this transformation but, as is always the case, when we invent new technologies, they in turn re-invent us. In the realm of blended reality, the technologies and tools that we are creating change a fundamental part of our existence: the lenses through which we view and interact with the world. We are literally beginning to see and feel the world through a new set of eyes and ears—things that were previously invisible become visible, and we see the familiar in a new way. ”

…and this is from a section on blogjects. I will have a comment after.

Chapter 6

Sentient World: Giving Presence to the Non-Human Things Around Us

Sensors, programming tools, and geo-locative technology are enabling living and non-living things around us to communicate through the common human protocols we use to communicate with each other. A growing group of hackers, developers, and artists are building products and systems that allow end users to give the objects personalities by assigning them voices and accents or by tailoring a list of messages the object can send to fit the desired personality of an object.

Animals, plants, and things are blogging, using Twitter, and even mapping their movements via Google Earth and Google Maps. Some early terms have emerged to describe these networked things, both living and non-living: blogjects (things that blog) tweetjects (things that tweet), and the broader concept of the “Internet of things”—the idea that things around us are connected through the Internet through the same social web we have come to know.

While some of the current applications seem novel, many have practical implications for real-world interaction. Within this experimental world of communicative and present objects, we’ve identified a few key emerging practices.

Engaging the Environment: Choose Your Things With Purpose

The objects and non-human living things in the world around us have a lot to say about our world but no way to communicate… until now. Sensors and GPS connected to blogging and microblogging applications are allowing us to engage with things in our environment by giving them access to our own social tools. But since not everything can be easily networked (yet), experimenters have to figure out what to start with. The first step is to decide which non-human phenomena and processes we want to better understand. Then we have to decide which objects would best help us do that—which things we want to tell their stories—and engage them, whether by equipping them with sensors and translating that data into blog posts or using Google Maps API to mashup GPS data with a map.

In 2006, Beatrice da Costa’s Pigeon Blog project involved four separate releases of 16 pigeons equipped with GPS-enabled air pollution.[i] The sensors transmitted the carbon monoxide data through an online blogging/mapping tool that subsequently appeared on the web. The information gathered by each bird can be viewed by clicking on that bird’s name. The pigeons blogged and mapped the information as they flew. Another animal mapping project comes from Eugene Popatov at Bryn Athyn College in Pennsylvania. Using mail-to-map forwarding, GPS data transmitted from William the deer’s collar maps his location every five minutes on a Google Map.[ii] In both of these cases, the only human intervention is the initial arming of the animals with collars (or in the case of the deer, finding new subjects when the batteries in the GPS collar die). The animals are essentially blogging and mapping on their own.

Quote: “There’s lots of really relevant things happening all around us that are easy to dislocate yourself from, especially on the natural scale.” — Kati London


One Response to “Students Who Know More About It Than I Do (part 17)”

  1. Quentin Hardy says:

    The drivers may start as researchers choice, but as Anderson shows about books and our panelists talked about in games, the capitalist process will be a major determinant of what gets developed.

    Glusko, I’m told, says that all data sets have an inherent bias. That’s a necessary epistemological reality, I suppose. So also do the things we choose to follow and respond to.

    Another thing this drives home to me, which provides an interesting contrast to what Solnit wrote about the effect of speed on consciousness: We are, to a fantastic degree, shifting our concepts of the many and the particular – what and who we may be connected to, what can be related and seen as an interaction, how large a set might be addressed, and what its greatest and smallest boundries might be.