Things and Everyware

It’s winter, the tele is full of sport, why not read something. Here are two good places to start with.

First off, I just found this speech given by Bruce Sterling at Emerging Technology 2006 back in March. Its at the The Viridian Design Movement: Viridian Note 00459. What’s viridian? well according to WIkipedia it’s green.

Bruce is talking about stuff and “The internet of things”. That’s “Stuff” as in real things that you can walk up and kick. Or at least you will be able to in about 30 years if his guess is right. It’s an interesting read and it begins like this…

Thanks for that kind introduction, Cory Doctorow. Hi, I’m Bruce Sterling. I write novels. Last time I was at an O’Reilly gig, I delivered a screed about open-source software.

One of the things I said in that speech was that, some day, open-source people were going to become political dissidents. Yeah, I meant real dissidents, man, very 1989 style, very Eastern European… That speech was some years ago, of course… Today I’m actually living in Eastern Europe. I’m living in Belgrade and trying to get some novel-writing done in between fits of blogging… Just as I was leaving Belgrade to come here, Richard Stallman arrived in town. Yeah, it’s Stallman, rms, Dr. GNU, he’s there to rattle the skeletons in the closets of the outlaw state…

not much about things there but it gets better.

And for choice number two, in Bruce’s speech he talks about Adam Greenfield’s book Everyware (some sample chapters are available for download). In an interview at AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Greenfield explained Everyware thus…

“Everyware” is information processing that has been removed from the context of the personal computer and distributed everywhere in the built environment. The qualities of information sensing, information processing and output, for example, have been taken from a box that we address in a one-by-one, one-to-one relationship, and have been, instead, embedded in the objects and services of everyday life. That includes things such as architectural space, ordinary everyday objects, clothing, street furniture, vehicles, you name it—all gathering information, sensing information, processing, responding and feeding them back out into the world.

And over at A List Apart they are publishing some extracts as well, here is a sample…

Everyware is an attempt to describe the form computing will take in the next few years. Specifically, it’s about a vision of processing power so distributed throughout the environment that computers per se effectively disappear. It’s about the enormous consequences this disappearance has for the kinds of tasks computers are applied to, for the way we use them, and for what we understand them to be.

Although aspects of this vision have been called a variety of names—ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing, physical computing, tangible media, and so on—I think of each as a facet of one coherent paradigm of interaction that I call everyware.

In everyware, all the information we now look to our phones or Web browsers to provide becomes accessible from just about anywhere, at any time, and is delivered in a manner appropriate to our location and context.

In everyware, the garment, the room and the street become sites of processing and mediation. Household objects from shower stalls to coffee pots are reimagined as places where facts about the world can be gathered, considered, and acted upon. And all the familiar rituals of daily life, things as fundamental as the way we wake up in the morning, get to work, or shop for our groceries, are remade as an intricate dance of information about ourselves, the state of the external world, and the options available to us at any given moment.

In all of these scenarios, there are powerful informatics underlying the apparent simplicity of the experience, but they never breach the surface of awareness: things Just Work. Rather than being filtered through the clumsy arcana of applications and files and sites, interactions with everyware feel natural, spontaneous, human. Ordinary people finally get to benefit from the full power of information technology, without having to absorb the esoteric bodies of knowledge on which it depends. And the sensation of use—even while managing an unceasing and torrential flow of data—is one of calm, of relaxed mastery.

This, anyway, is the promise.

Between Sterling and Greenfield this should keep me going for a while.
Happy reading.

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