Blogjects: Small Clarification

Once, my mentor and dissertation advisor Donna Haraway mentioned in a conversation that she wished she could better police the way her writings were taken up. I only vaguely understood what she meant at the time.

I want to make a small clarification and re-emphasis on the Blogject trope. It’s fun coming across various insights and remarks on the Blogject concept in all corners of the network, and a whole variety of conversations have developed, all of them encouraging.

I would add to these as a clarification that my wanting to think about Blogjects as something new (and please forgive my devising a bungling idiom) is a political move best described thusly: “we” (inhabitants herein of the planet) need new things to cope with (insert your epic worldly challenge here) in a new way because the old ways are not working. If you can’t find anything “technically” new with the idea of objects blogging, then please think that perhaps we need a new way to think about how we do things, and starting with a commitment to call something new, even if you’re, like..thinking — “Heck, how new could it be? I mean, there aren’t any high-financed start-ups making new sensors or academic journals publishing fresh insights from far-flung research patents or anything. What new? What’re you talking about?”

Therein lies the motivation for making new things to attempt to devise new thinking and new solutions for oldish problems that need fresh ideas and approaches. It’s not that I or anyone else has come up with new instrumentalities, or cornered some new business opportunity with a first-to-market coup.

That said, I believe firmly that there is, empirically, something new about objects nowadays in that they can potentially (so long as we don’t dismiss the ways they can help us create more habitable worlds) co-inhabit this fascinating and promising digitally networked world of social exchange that is taking place on the Internet. That social exchange is dramatically new (cf. Benkler and Jenkins), and heavy with opportunity for refashioning the world.

Example: We have never had a world in which an $18.90 sensor (in single units) coupled to an existing two-way datastream (eg General Motor’s OnStar(tm) system or, as I’m doing, a simple GSM network data transfer and a Nokia phone) can disseminate at a real-time rate (once every 30 secs or better) the content of gasoline or diesel emissions from a vehicle — and publish that in real-time to the entirety of the networked world. Aggregates of such modestly priced blogging objects would give a telling representation of how much such previously illegible and (sometimes) invisible emissions occur. That _potential_ for a simple Blogject is new. This Blogject has no Artificial Intelligence — that’s not what Blogjects are about. But, in the Latourian sense, Blogjects are social beings in that they (can) participate in conversations that matter, substantively. In this simple conversation, providing insight into something we really need to be more aware of, directly, not abstractly.

Blogjects are “only” sources of information if that is all we want from them. Websites were only sources of information once, too, until they because conversational (in a Weinberger/Searls/Locke sort of way way) and changed the way we engage in social discourse, and even had measurable, substantial effect in 1st life politics and further. We know this for a fact. The social web changed things measurably. Can objects, also participating in the same register of discourse, do likewise, and perhaps have impactful effect?

Why would we not try to make it so?

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