Motility and The Internet of Things

Read the short essay A Certain Sense of Place: Mobile Communication and Local Orientation by Jochim R. Hoflich.

Hoflich and his colleagues observed patterns of mobile phone use in the Piazza Matteotti in Udine, Italy. They note the ways that gesture, orientation and proximity to, variously, people or architectural features (the fountain, entrance/exits) in the space of the Piazza are used and occupied in ways that indicate privacy (occupied with a call), engagment in socializing and movement with purpose (finding clear areas to negotiate traveling across the Piazza.)

This paper looks at the domain of the mobile telephone and its use in city squares. Squares belong to the interface of people’s whereabouts: they are public spaces in which people come together..These are places where, in contrast with other people signal approachability on principle. Yet this occurs within normed boundaries insofar as the square is a scene in which distance between the actors is indicated with the help of looks and words; they demonstrate a polite availability to others, within the borders of anonymity marked by each person..But what happens when the mobile telephone appears in the square? How does it fit in with the social events of the square? Is it considerate of the square (of its social life)? And conversely: how does the social life of the square change?

Why do I blog this? We might wonder the same thing as The Internet of Things adds an additional interaction syntax to the mix. What happens when “things” are activated, absorbed, retrieved and their semantic contents moved about, shifted, altered, deleted by our movements in proximity to them?

I’ve been wondering about this and have started describing this kind of movement and the associated proximity-based interaction as “[w:motility].” It’s a term from biology, and it’s use there captures the agency of social beings moving about, communicating and electronically interacting, changing the flows, activites and semantics of the embedded electronic world — the Internet of Things.

[wikilike_img src=|align=thumb tcenter|caption=Ecosystem of Things: Mobile Game Sketch|url=|width=500]

This is a sketch of that kind of motility. Lately I’ve begun working on some visualizations through a bit of a bastardization of Processing. Pop open the visualization, or follow this link if your browser prefers not to open pop-ups.