From September 2005 to June 2006 a team of thirteen scholars at the The University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication explored how new and maturing networking technologies are transforming the way in which we interact with content, media sources, other individuals and groups, and the world that surrounds us.
This site documents the process and the results.
Google gets the New Year off right... According to the Wall Street Journal, Google plans to sell content from CBS and the NBA. What will Edward Whitacre say about that? May you live in interesting times... An ancient Chinese curse (ok, not really, but still).
The first few days of February I'll be at Lift, a content on the near future of technology, people and communication. Nicolas Nova and others have organized this conference, together with a workshop on Blogjects — a not particularly clever neologism I came up with for objects that blog. This topic ties into the idea of proximity-based interaction and usage scenarios for mobile contexts, the main theme of the NetMagnet research project I'm working on through the Netpublics seminar. An informed speculation I have is that the future of content creation and dissemination won't just come from people. It will also come from the social world of objects — things that have histories and experiences. A different kind of witness upon the world, and a witness to events that are of interest to the other blogging species — people. Micro local content is one area in which this may be of practical concern. Just this afternoon I had a nice long meeting with Elizabeth Osder at Yahoo Media in Santa Monica. We discussed many things, including how to reward local communities for disseminating news about local sports events. I mean..really local sports events — the little league team scores, for instance. Now, this fits into a larger conversation about the news content ecology, but just taking this particular problem in hand in the context of the Blogject: why don't scoreboards blog?. Sure, it's not a question deserving any measure of brilliance for the asking, but it suggests a (super simple) example of the Blogject. Why are blogging objects interesting? The idea bubbled up as I was reading Bruce Sterling's "Shaping Things". The [w:Spime] — the "thing" in the world that knows itself and is able to tell things around it about itself. RFID is the Paleostine era for Spimes. Blogjects are Spimes that are fluent and legible, so that anyone can read them. Blogjects are meant for humans to read, in human code, not encrypted Arphid data. Blogjects are the prototype framework to experiment, DIY style, with what Spimes can become. The current, upgraded brain of the Aibo blogs, for instance. The motivation here is not just to create objects that blog, as we now understand blogging. But to use the framework of the complete blog social formation as one in which objects participate — first-class — in the entire multipath culture circulation network. That means syndication, layering meaning on content, trackback, etc. There are several Blogject prototype projects on the front burner. One is a Sakura riff called flavonoid, turned around into a U.S. idiolect, focusing on the present day craze with Pedometers. Another is a way to turn device logs into material that's legible to humans. I've already gone on and on about FlightAware, but there are other idioms — for instance, Motion Based, a community-based mobile social software framework that slurps up device track logs and translates them into fitness goals and regimens.
My argument against a headlong embrace of wireless as a solution to the last mile problem is that there has always been a dialectic between wireless and wired (e.g. optical telegraph vs. wire telegraph, telephone vs. radio, coaxial cable vs. microwave, satellite vs. fiber). In most of these cases, the flexibility of wireless solutions has been counteracted by the greater bandwidth of wired solutions. So even though wireless seems like a way of giving the Internet to those who live in poor, under-served areas and even though it holds the potential of setting us free of the grips of network pipes, I have maintained that faster connections will be the envy of those on wireless. A recent online discussion tackles this issue. Om Malik suggests that the next generation of broadband will do little for the user experience, but he warns that slow upload speeds are an issue. But make sure you read the comments and the online discussion that follows. My take is here
I've posted some news at my research blog about how the US government is using the highly centralized nature of world telecommunications for eavesdropping. Read more here.
I wrote up some reading notes on my research blog on the topic of co-location and the Familiar Strangers theme, brought to the future Mobile Social Software world from Stanley Milgram's work in 1967.
Familiar Strangers is a recurring theme in the mobile designed experience world, particularly since Goodman and Paulos' Familiar Strangers project. It's also topical for a more tragic reason. In 1964 Kitty Genovese was murdered in the middle of a busy apartment courtyard in Queens, New York City. Many people were "witness" to the event — overhearing it — yet did absolutely nothing.
This is the other side to the promise latent within the Familiar Strangers concept: even though we may be amongst lots of familiar strangers, we may not want to become involved in each others' lives. We may have familiarity with the strangers we see, but what are the design implications for that phenomenon in the age of social software? How much do we really want to involve ourselves in the lives of familiar strangers? What are the social practices in which a networked public can comfortably engage through the networks created by mobile, networked terminals? Dating? Sharing? F2F exchanges? Finding someone who speaks your language when in a foreign country?
Jill Walker and Noah Wardrip-Fruin are editing a new edition of Ted Nelson's Computer Lib/Dream Machines. They asked me to write a little essay for the "Stuff You May Run Into" section near the back of the Computer Lib side. The book came out before my time, but the lore about it was still in the air when I started nibbling on the edges of geekdom in the early nineties. So it was fun to get invited to this project. Luckily Scott had held on to his first edition so I could see the book in its original glory. The new edition should be a run update with lots of folks contributing pieces to augment and update Ted's manifesto. My contribution is appended here.
For the 2005 Ubiquitous Computing conference I helped run a workshop on Pervasive Image Capture and Sharing and I put in a position paper on "Intimate Visual Co-Presence." After our discussions of locative media, I realized that it is an example of mapping relations between personal and spatial relations.
Basically, it is a riff on some of the earlier work I did with Daisuke on technosocial situations like "ambient virtual co-presence" that were being supported by ongoing, lightweight text message exchange. With the advent of camphones, photos have entered this stream of exchange. Christian Licoppe has been talking about similar dynamics in terms of "connected presence." The idea of ongoing lightweight connection is a common refrain in mobile society research, but the addition of visual information adds an interesting twist.
Slashdot carries another story of interest today, particularly for Locative Media and hacktivist types: the Treo 650 has been hacked to run Linux. The project team is optimistic that phone functionality can be made to work under Linux. This could be an intriguing turn for the platform that most netPublics fellows use for their mobile telephony. With the upcoming launch of the Treo 700, Treos will be capable of running Palm, Windows Mobile, and Linux. Sounds like it's only a matter of time before technologies like VoIP become available. Over and over cell carriers have proven unwilling to let customers hack their platforms. Looks like they're going to have some trouble on their hands.
The phrases "France Telecom" and "a telco that really gets it" are seldom found in close proximity. So this interview of Norman Lewis, the Director of Technology Research for France Telecom by O'Reilly's Bruce Stewart is worth noting.
The regulator's visible hand is clearly giving France Telecom plenty of incentives to 'get it' quickly, through brutal unbundling rules: FT's competitors can get access to local loops for 10euros/month. This largely explains the current explosion of French broadband.
The broader question is whether that model can sustain network investment in the long run, which, in the US, is what is pushing carriers to try for new revenue models.
Over at Slashdot, Clay Shirky blogs a boston.com article on how the telecos are lobbying the feds to allow them to create a two-tiered system for Internet delivery, in which they will be able to deliver their products faster than those of their competitors, thereby allowing them to derive revenue from their content. Back to the discussion we had a while ago over here. Is this the end of the free Internet or the end of the telcos?