Blogject Presentation at Reboot 8

At noon, Julian (aka "bleecks") and I gave our talk at Reboot 8. The title was "Networked objects and the new renaissance of things" in which we elaborated on the blogject concept (describing its main characteristics such as geospatial traces, history and agency) and of course highlighted what is stake and why this would be important. Here is the teaser:

The Internet of Things is the underpinnings for a new kind of digital, networked ecology in which objects become collaborators in helping us shape our individual social practices towards the goal of creating a more livable, habitable and sustainable world. "Blogjects" — or objects that blog — captures the potential of networked Things to inform us, create visualizations, represent to us aspects of our world that were previously illegible or only accessible by specialist. In the era of Blogjects, knowing how even our routine social practices reflect upon our tenancy can have radical potential for impactful, worldly change. Nowadays, the duality between social beings and instrumental inert objects is suspicious. In this epoch, a renaissance in which imbroglios of networks, sensors and social beings are knit together, everyone and everything must cooperate to mitigate against world-wide catastrophic system failure.

Slides can be found here (pdf, 4.5Mb), but it's mostly pictures and no text.

So, maybe there needs to be more room is to explain why this blogject concept is important (and why we're running this workshop serie about that). Here are few reasons we discussed (these are notes discussed by Julian and I in the plane):

We're now moving from Web 2.0 to the so-called Internet of Things (some would talk about the "web of things"). And if Web 2.0 was a place where social beings can aspire to 1st class citizenry, what happens in digitally networked world in which objects can also participate in the creation of meaning? Should they be passive, pure instrumentalities, as objects have been sense Descartes? Or should we consider ways to integrate them to help us make meaning, and meaning beyond just that dictated by conventional, rational business efficiency practices? We should definitely care about networked objects because of the possibilities for a potentially richer mechanism for knitting together human & non-human social networks in impactful, world-changing ways.

In addition, this related to a multidisciplinary trend: Objects and context matter for human activities: cognition (Situated Cognition, Distributed Cognition, Vygotsky), Sociology (Latour's ANT: objects are actors), ubiquitous computing (desktop > "smart" objects): it's about human and social agency, computation also lays in Artifacts.

Moreover, information brought by blogjects can be meant to raise awareness about some phenomenon we should be concerned of: what happen when a society get an accurate mirror of its own activities and production (Anne would wonder about why do we always have to raise awareness about bad or missing phenomenon). It also brings more transparency in human practices which may eventually leads to a "renaissance" of public concerns about human activities?

This would then impact industrial design and marketing: production reshaped by a tremendous new amount of information related to the usage of the objects produced: fed back into marketing+production. There's going to be tough issues to think about (privacy, control on data). The question is then "How an object that has the capactiy to report on itself modifies communication/relationships between companies and individuals?" since blogjects could be seen as communication channels between customers and companies. How do you/we design to accomodate two often times antagonistic practices? How would people design objects that customers can keep trusting about: if something can blog about you, your are concerned by who is reading that? who has access to that RSS feed and what goes into it? Therefore, ethical concerns are very important to take into account.

(more to come)

Why do I blog this? It was a very good exercice for us to do that, right after the second workshop; and lots of relevant people were there to comment on that. We tried to show there's an increasing concern about Things and stuff and possible connections for instance with Ulla-Maaria Mutanen's Thinglink or Bruce Sterling's spimes.