Why Pigeons that Blog Matter, or: The Internet of Things is not an Internet of Arphids

Ever since this “blogjects” topic has started circulating, I’ve been asked lots of things, but two questions have come to the fore. First, why would objects want to just blog? Second, why would I care if objects “blog”?

“What does this all mean? Whereas once the pigeon was an urban varmint whose value as a participant in the larger social collective was practically nil or worse, the Pigeon that Blogs now attains first-class citizen status. Their importance quickly shifts from common nuisance and a disgusting menace, to a participant in life and death discussions about the state of the micro-local environment. Pigeons that blog and tell us about the quality of the air we breath are the Web 2.0 progeny of the Canary in the Coal Mine.

I’ve been working on an essay that addresses these questions as part of a report that Nicolas and I are preparing as a result of the Blogject Workshop we held at Lift06. The basic idea is based on enlarging the assumptions about the Internet of Things beyond just a world of Arphid usage. The import of the Internet of Things is much larger and the stakes much higher, particularly for occupants of the physical world such as us reading this — that “us” is humans. (Google bots reading this already have anticipated the worldly change that is occurring as the Internet pervades and leaks into physical space and becomes ubiquitous.)

In the longer essay, I have an explanation as to why I’ve been using “Blogject” instead of Bruce Sterling‘s Spime. The short answer is that Blogjects are kin to Spimes in a fashion, but I’m also leaving it to Bruce to shape this Spime concept in his current writing project. I can grok “Spimeyâ€? things, and register Bruce’s technology fiction. As an engineer, I can make Blogjects now because the semantics are immediately legible to me — objects, that blog. Tonight, I can go into my laboratory and begin to experiment with what a world might be like in which I co-occupy space with objects that blog. To make Spimey things — well, I will have to wait for Bruce’s technology fiction to reveal itself in the form of his forthcoming treatment, something I eagerly await. I read Bruce’s Shaping Things as a field guide to the technology fiction I imagine he is presently writing about. Out of that field guide I up with a tiny nugget of insight: if there’s one thing Spimes will do, they will most certainly “blog.â€?

Because I’ve been slacking on blogging and needed something to publish, I thought I would put up the working abstract for the time being.

The Internet of Things has evolved into a nascent conceptual framework for understanding how physical objects, once networked and imbued with informatic capabilities, will occupy space and occupy themselves in a world in which things were once quite passive. This paper describes the Internet of Things as more than a world of RFID tags and networked sensors. Once “Things� are connected to the Internet, they can only but become enrolled as active, worldly participants by knitting together, facilitating and contributing to networks of social exchange and discourse, and rearranging the rules of occupancy and patterns of mobility within the physical world. “Things� in the pervasive Internet, will become first-class citizens with which we will interact and communicate. Things will have to be taken into account as they assume the role of socially relevant actors and strong-willed agents that create social capital and reconfigure the ways in which we live within and move about physical space.
To distinguish the instrumental character of “things� connected to the Internet from “things� participating within the Internet of social networks, I use the neologism “Blogject� — ‘objects that blog.’

Bruce Sterling. Shaping things. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2005.
Donna J. Haraway. The companion species manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness. Prickly Paradigm, University Presses Marketing, Chicago, Ill., 2003.
Bruno Latour. We have never been modern. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1993.

tag cloud:
spimes, spime, things, thing, lift06, ubiquitous computing, design, object, objects, species evolution, rfid, arphid, arphids, pervasive networks, blogject workshop, near-field communication, nfc

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