Week 2: Utopias & Dystopias pt 2 – Bleecker reading


I have more thinking to do about Bleecker.  I’m not convinced by his argument and will try to post tomorrow about why but in the meantime I wanted to get some notes up for you.  I hope I have represented his paper correctly.


NOTES  – Bleecker, J. (2006). A manifesto for networked objects — Cohabiting with pigeons, arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things.

Internet of Things is the Internet moving out of the virtual and into the physical world as objects become networked and provide metrics.  e.g. trackers such as Fitbits record data on wearer activity and sleep. This data might go straight into a medical record.

Already designers are using the outputs from networked objects (e.g. the GPS tracking on mobile phones) in design mashups with other data sets.

Bleecker sees an extension of having objects provide passive data e.g. how much fuel your car used per km over the past year.

He even looks beyond proactive instances where the data is used to interact with the person in a simple way e.g. the object tracking your blood sugar and reminding you to eat.

His vision for the Internet of Things is of “socially meaningful exchanges” between objects and human agents. Objects have something “semantically weight to say and will therefore be building culture together with humans.

He calls the objects in this vision ‘Blogjects’ because their communication will have agency. Part of this agency arises from scale – the way that the data recording objects are networked together over distance and time to produce important insights at a macro level.

He writes:

”Just like the motivation of the “alpha” blogger, the character of the motivated Blogject is to make, disseminate and enhance meaning, to draw attention and to be assertive. Like the alpha blogger, the Blogject enters into conversations that yield consequences. Its not at all interesting to have my car “blog” routine things such as the routes I’ve driven, its time-average fuel consumption, or the street address of a restaurant I’ve just passed that has a menu that would appeal to my palette basedon previous restaurant experiences. It is much more consequential, and much more assertive of a first-class participant in the network of social discourse for flocks of vehicles to provide macro-scale insights into how much fuel is consumed hourly on Interstate 405 in the Los Angeles basin, or how many tons of pollutants are ex-hausted into the atmosphere every hour.” (pp15-16)

Humans will communicate with the objects so they will acquire status – Bleecker describes them as ‘first-class citizens’ “contributing to networks of social exchange and discourse” (p2). He gives the example of The Pigeon that Blogs – a flock of pigeons (not quite objects) have been fitted with GPS that tracks where they fly when, environmental sensors measuring air quality and telematics that allow them to wirelessly communicate on the Internet. Bleecker claims that the pigeon has gone from pest to “a participant in life and death discussions” about the state of the environment.

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