A taxonomy of "coded domestic objects":
In Software, Objects and Home Space, Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin (Environment and Planning A) examine the relationship between objects and software in detail. They describe how ubiquitous computing - through the embedding of sensors and computation in objects - is transforming daily artifacts, giving them new capacities. To do so, they came up with an interesting taxonomy of "coded domestic objects":
"Coded objects can be subdivided into two broad classes based on their relational capacities. First, there are unitary objects that rely on code to function but do not record their work in the world. Second, there are objects that have an ‘awareness’ of themselves and their relations with the world and which, by default, automatically record aspects of those relations in logs that are stored and re-used in the future (that we call logjects [an object that monitors and records in some fashion its own use]). (...) In broad terms unitary coded objects can be divided into those that function independently of their surroundings and those that are equipped with some kind of sensors that enable the object to react meaningfully to particular variables in their immediate environment. (...) We can identify two main classes of logject: impermeable and permeable. Impermeable logjects consist of relatively self-contained units such as a MP3 player, a PDA or satnav. Such devices trace and track their usage by default, recording this data as an embedded history; are programmable in terms of configurable settings and creating lists (e.g. play lists of songs, diary entries and route itineraries); perform operations in automated, automatic and autonomous ways; and engender socially meaningful acts such as entertaining, remember an important meeting and helping not to get lost. (...) Permeable logjects do not function without continuous access to other technologies and networks. In particular, because they need the constant two-way of data exchanges, they are reliant on access to a distributed communication network to perform their primary function. Such logjects track, trace and record their usage locally but because of memory issues, the necessity of service monitoring/billing, and in some cases a user’s ability to erase or reprogram such objects, their full histories are also recorded externally to its immediate material form"
And about how these coded objects make "home differently":
"the everyday use of coded objects reshapes the spatiality of the home by altering how domestic tasks are undertaken (and not always more conveniently for all), introducing new tasks and sometimes greater complexity, and embedding the home in diverse, extended networks of consumption and governmentality. (...) the transition into the fully software-enabled home is a slow process. Most homes contain a mix of non-coded and coded technologies. (...) a useful parallel can be drawn between the coding of homes and the initial development of domestic electricity. At first, there were no electrical appliances and whole classes of electrical tools had to be invented. Over an extended period of time existing technologies were converted to electricity (e.g. gas lights to electric lights, open hearth to electric cooker, washtub to washing machine, etc.). Today, the extent to which electricity powers almost everything of significance in our homes is largely unnoticed in a Western context (except in a power cut). "
Why do I blog this? The taxonomy of objects is relevant as it shows the sort of "current design space", mapping the different possibilities depending on the coded behavior. Moreover, the thing I like with these authors is that their reading of ubicomp is definitely more about the "messily arranged here-and-now" and less about the "supposed smart home of the future". Surely some material to reflect on in current writings with Julian, especially about the relationships between technologies and spatial bevahior/materialities.