Blogject Presentation at Reboot

Nicolas and I gave our presentation yesterday at Reboot on Blogjects. It was a lot of fun to think about how to deliver our early thinking and insights and capture the substance of the concept, and deliver some of the design thoughts developed at the workshops, and think of the ways these things tie into the many other ideas circulating around related to the participation of material objects within the network.

Nicolas has a very comprehensive post about the lead up to the talk. I won’t duplicate any of that here, he’s done a great job.

Here’s a copy of the presentation, mostly images and text, no notes.

Two insights that I’m thinking about.

1. In a way there’s some characteristic that seems to resonate with the Blogject design concepts and that’s the way they embody social practice. So the “flickr camera” tries to capture the ways in which the media sharing practices that Flickr seems to encourage become part of the designed object when we’re thinking about networked objects. That’s great, I think, in that the emphasis on the intersection of social practices and digital networks yields more than bland designed scenarios.

2. Establishing linkages between material and digital representations. This theme came up while Nicolas and I were working through some notes and became part of the presentation, although the precise thinking about how to articulate this is still really gooey. I mean, I think there’s something that’s particular about the Blogject concept that means these linkages aren’t the “plain old” way in which material becomes digitized — I think there needs to be a richer set of semantics around that that is about more than simply indexing the world of objects, and definitely not this business of material items translated into shape and form that gets fetishized in virtual worlds (a la 2nd Life or some Google Map mash-ups..more on that later.)

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TripSense – Quick Notes

TripSense. I first wrote a little bit about this about six months ago. My car insurer asked if I would plug this data recording module into the special data port on my car — that port that the mechanic plugs into when your Check Engine light comes on.

These are some quick notes based on an experiment on myself and some notes that were developed during the reboot8 conference and presentation that Nicola and I gave.

What is TripSense? It gives me my data. Weak signal for near-future Blogjects.

More than the consequence of fossil fuel consumption as seen in the correspondence between gallons and dollars.

Need to see the consequence in other terms pounds of exhausted particulates, where they are likely to go?

How many pounds, based on my driving behavior, will be exhausted by the collective of all cars along my route, based on how much fossil fuel i’ve poured into my car?

The relationship between our individual activities and their role/participation in the world s important to register — we need to know about the imbricated, intermingled cloud of consequence our activities impart upon ourselves and others.

“Objects that blog”/Blogjects are not about self-autonomous activated, robots in the wild that are there to vacuum our rooms and tell us how well they did, or give us GPS tracks about where thigns in the world are. Blogjects, in their most effective, most life-affirming mode, help us “hack” our world into a more sustainable, habitable environment in which life is precious, difference is a good thing and no consequence is inevitable. The most affirmative aspect of the “hack” is the ability to change the way things are and remix the way things will be.

There is no quick fix. This isn’t a matter of patching the world’s operating systems and seamlessly averting a global system crash. It _is_ about finding ways in which the digital networks, the participation of alternative and multivalent sources of insight, data and representations of the world can provide a renewed perspective on our activated participation in the world.

So, the Blogject is not merely a materialized instrumentality – an object that is merely disseminating measures of its activities. Blogjects are cohabitants in the world because they offer life-or-death decision points. They reflect their activities in ways that make our ears perk up.

They do so not as an engineering hack – this isn’t about the most clever use of the latest sensor technologies, or nanotech or any such. This isn’t engineering just “’cause.” In the world of DIY hacking practices, we make use of whatever is cheap, accessible, robust and easy to work with. Legibility of practice is of paramount concern. This can’t _only_ be an elite exercise, only accessible to a few people, or a specialized technical practice. This isn’t about securing a large grant and having to spend it or loose it. We need to find a way to divert the traditional practices of making things cause we can, or cause there’s a lot of grant money to spend toward a practice that is focused on the goal of averting any of a number of catastrophes immediately. Forget 5 year grant/research cycles. I’m talking about 9 month, 18 month projects.

We need to hack conventional social, business and political practices that leave no room for more habitable futures.

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reboot 8 day one

reboot 8 is awfully fun, insightful, brilliant and engaging. There’s so much here that is being discussed that I’m rationing pages in my little portable notebook. Notebook? Yeah, because some of th emost exciting conversations happen f2f out on the front lawn of this amazing space where the weather has been accommodating.

But, the speaker sessions are great, too. It’s not lunch yet, but I have a few thoughts related to Matt Webb and Ulla-Maaria Mutanen’s talks.

Matt Webb

Matt did a bit on new ways of using our human sense modalities as metaphorical design elements for our browsing activities. He went through each of our senses — the normal five — and described them in terms of individual meaning. It wasn’t a totalizing kind of thing — like, our sense of sight becomes the window on the screen or anything like that. It was a well-thought consideration that took sense modalities as a framework for design.

As he went through each of the sense he also had slides of hand sketches that gradually assembled into the components of a new kind of web browser.

My favorite part of this were the use of browser side elements so that you get various kinds of networked proprioception — we see things around the web page, topics related to it, various overviews, ranks of links in/out, commentary, etc. I’m not sure where all of this goes in terms of changing browsing practices to make us more enabled inhabitants of digitally networked worlds, but the idea of thinking about what peripheral vision is, or touch, or smell as, for instance, what’s on another side of a web page or what’s nearby to a web page. Sight — things are closer or further away in some fashion, and I can see what other people are looking at. Hearing provides some kind of translation to rhythm sensing. Touch is about the surface and isn’t a kind of look-ahead or early-warning framework.


Ulla-Maaria’s talk was great — each time I hear her I get a deeper appreciation about her project and how it provides important elements of a renaissance for empowered makers/crafters/tinkerers. The strong point I came with thinking thorugh how Things/Objects that contain some sort representation of themselves can describe not only how they can be disassembled, but also how they were made and how they can be hacked, in a DIY way. For instance, knowing enough about my devices to be able to figure out how they were made, and how I can re-make and re-fashion them in various ways. More than just adding glimmer to my computer, or changing the background — I want to know how I can reconfigure things into other things. I don’t think it’s too far out, in principle. There are so many digital projects out there, for instance — student projects, hacker projects, etc. — how can they provide enough context, rules, manuals and instructions to reveal how they make the things they make so that others can follow along? And then create communities of interest around these things to create micro-ecosystems or micro-markets around the kinds of social practice these things establish.

Mark Hurst

Bit Literacy: A New Strategy for Productivity in Your Bit-drenched Life

Managing my overflowing email inbox — techniques for living with too much information. I had a gradually growing exception to the talk. It had a built-in conceit about “information overload”, which I think has a poorly considered undercurrent that is the information we receive is too much. There are too many flows, inputs, uploads, feeds, etc. I don’t believe in this partly because it assumes that there is a tranquility underneath “too” much. I think it’s fairly easy to argue that tranquility is not directly related to quantity of bits, which was the basis of the presentation. That bits have “psychic weight”, and less psychic weight or fewer bits are better.

Too much email? Doc Searles was called upon to tell us how many emails he has in his inbox — whatever. 1600, let’s say. That kind of social status indicator drives me about as nuts. Can we please, please stop that? It’s about as useful as letting people know what your level is in World of Warcraft. Enough.

MarthaStewart 2.0? Bleech..

There was a discussion of managing email — fully in control of my bits — by clearing all of my email everyday. What about email as a history of activities, participations, social linkages? Clearing my email inbox? Are you kidding me? That’s like wiping my hard disk clean everyday. What’s wrong with my email box as a journal database of sorts — what I did when?

The “philosophy of bit literacy” includes a requirement that we widdle down the inbox. Don’t buy it. Is it just that there are too many messages stacked up in a window? Is it just that we’re trying to get through new mail? Why is there this requirement?

Never mind that email seems to be going the way of snail mail as more digital kids / millenials employ a whole variety of social communication practices that are a mash-up of IM, SMS, social networking sites, presence awareness distortion fields like Flickr, and — gasp! — massively multiplayer game worlds like WoW and 2nd Life.

I’m squirming for the Q&A. Or maybe I’m just hungry again.

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