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.

jbleecker's blog

Ubicomp 2006 — Call for Demos

The Ubicomp conference’s Demonstrations Program offers an excellent way to showcase tangible results of ubiquitous computing research and development to over 500 attendees from academia and industry. A successful demo communicates ideas and concepts in a powerful way that a regular presentation cannot. We invite you to contribute your vision of the ubicomp experience to the Demonstrations Program at the UbiComp 2006 conference. We particularly encourage demonstrations that include participation by conference attendees and provoke discussion about issues within the field of ubiquitous computing.

We seek proposals for demonstrations of ubiquitous computing technologies across the full milieu of everyday life: office, home, street, park, train, automobile, bedroom, bathroom, work, play, desktop, handheld, worn, public, private, community, individual, shared, and personal. We welcome a wide range of submission from scenarios involving innovative solutions of focused tasks as well as playful pursuits.

Ubicomp 2006 runs from September 17-21, 2006 and is hosted at UC Irvine in Irvine, CA.

Abstract Page limit: 2 pages (ACM SIGCHI conference publications format)

Submission Deadline: June 16, 2006
Acceptance Notification: July 14, 2006
Final Version Due: August 4, 2006

More information

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Submitted by jbleecker on May 16, 2006 - 10:42pm

netpublics: some reactions

Some remarks on Friday and Saturday's "Networked Publics" conference.

From Michael Naimark's Blog

While I’ve always been a dedicated advocate of constructionism and of cyberspace, I left the NetPublics symposium fearing that if Karl Rove had attended, he’d conclude that America’s best and brightest were obsessed with living in fantasy worlds of elves and orcs, and ornamenting the urban landscape with colored LEDs. And I fear he’d be quite happy.

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From Will Carter's Blog

attended the netpublics conference at the annenberg center the past friday and saturday, largely out of curiosity about one of the DIY panels on friday, and because I wanted to see the locative / place / space panel on saturday.

The DIY panels on Friday (that I attended) were mostly about the standard self-publishing type stuff that I’m pretty familar with, although it’s always good having smart people like Sean Bonner and Joi Ito discussing it, even if their points seem sort of run of the mill for alpha web geeks.

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Submitted by jbleecker on May 2, 2006 - 3:00am

Mobile manga beats out hard copy for lazy literati

Mobile manga beats out hard copy for lazy literati:

manga.gif Japan remains the world's undisputed manga monarch, but the way Japanese are enjoying cartoons is undergoing a fundamental change, according to Sunday Mainichi.

"Though manga readership has been declining here for over a decade, Japanese comics are more popular overseas than ever before.

Among the main reasons given for the decline in domestic manga readership has been the proliferation of the Internet and mobile phones.

... NTT solmare has carved a tidy niche for itself after merging the competing interests and its "Comic Site" has become the biggest mobile phone site dedicated to manga in Japan.

"We've passed 10 million downloads since starting the service in August 2004," a spokesman for the Osaka-based mobile phone company tells Sunday Mainichi. "We get about 2 million to 3 million downloads a month."


Submitted by jbleecker on April 20, 2006 - 7:09am

Clusters that Circulate Culture — Filling Out the Ecosystem Metaphors?

After the Yochai Benkler talk at the Annenberg Center for Communication I was thinking about different architectures, idioms and metaphors to describe the circulation of culture that was not hierarchical and not an architecture that predisposed one to ethically challenging responses, like..big business shapes culture and defiance doesn't work (resistance is futile, we'll all probably end up wearing Gap and we may as well get used to it..)

For what should be fairly obvious reasons, that sort of top-down architecture doesn't work very well for either explicating how culture circulates, or as importantly (these are the deep stakes) creating sustainable/habitable near-future imaginaries. That is, giving one (culture agents) a set of tools, resources, language, idioms, material instruments, means to make things, a decent HowTo guide and some FAQs - all of what one needs to imagine the world being otherwise and having the gumption and motivation to muster that world into existence. Although the bottom-up architecture/argument/explication is more empowering in that it gives a voice to individual culture agents/hustlers of culture, it does not adequately read or make legible the heavy duty power dynamics in the hierarchy.

Thinking about, now, clusters/clouds, not hierarchies, of cultural production/circulation. Clouds of non-commercial production, some commercial production, and vectors by which these clusters/clouds circulate meaning, drift apart, gather bits from encounters and bumps, through their own motility (sorry how that'll change..) dissipate, lie in wait, evaporate and re-circulate in revived (retro'd) form.

Mimi, Yochai Benkler, Kazys and Adrienne and all the others at the dinner table deserve credit for discussing this.

Somewhere between the corporate tectonics and the bottom-up circulation/production of culture 2.0 is likely a more heterogenous geometry containing clouds that vector the dynamics of culture between and amongst all those (pretty much everyone who is a social being) who fab their social lives. Clusters of culture rather than hierarchies. Business practices are only one form of social practice, and no one practice can possibly determine another with such authority and certainty that either the bottom-up or the top-down hierarchical architecture holds up to strenuous argument.

Originally blogged at research/techkwondo

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Submitted by jbleecker on March 27, 2006 - 7:32pm

Notes on Saskia Sassen. 3G mobiles 'change social habits' + Creative Destruction

This article was lurking in a Smart Filter in NetNewsWire.

3G mobiles 'change social habits':

Widespread use of 3G mobile phones may change the way people interact and increase creativity, a study suggests.

Okay — only one point I want to touch on here and that's the money angle of the study. Usage was heavy because 3G services were offered for free to the study participants. That's fine.

Here's my semi-related non sequitur — two days ago, while in San Jose at GDC, I had to call someone from Nokia, who had an overseas number. They were in the US, probably within 50 meters of me, but my Sprint phone wouldn't call them without turning on international dialing. Fine. 20 minutes on hold, I finally got to the guy who was going to click a box in some back-office CSR application. Click it once. He didn't need to click it once a month. But, regardless, it was going to cost me $5 a month to have the privilege of dialing a number. A recurring charge, no matter whether I made calls or not. That on top of whatever premium Sprint extracted from me for the call. (I can't even call it "overseas" — the guy was nearby. And even if he was in a place that required crossing large bodies of water — what difference does that make today? I mean..really?) I thanked the guy and hung up, screwed my face in muddled disgust, and set out to find a friend who'd loan me their mobile. But then it hit me — Skype! I got on the WiFi there at the convention hall, plugged in my earphones and made the call.

It cost me about 17 cents.

Why do I blog this? Two things.

1. How much do economics inform change in social practice?.

2. Creative destruction — an expression Saskia Sassen deployed during this afternoon's talk, may be in effect here, in hindsight. As a model for evolutions of changed in material instrumentalities — technical instrumentalities — Skype may be in the process of compelling conventional mobile media communications networks to revamp their business practices. Is that what creative destruction means? It also makes me think of the way protocols/architectures/softwares such as BitTorrent are engaged in a form of "creative destruction", possibly. BitTorrent makes worldly change — BitTorrent is a change agent. The software, the protocol, what it is able to effect and how it eludes the grasp of existing ways of doing things — of doing business, of distributing content, all that.

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Submitted by jbleecker on March 24, 2006 - 2:53am

Report from the Blogject Workshop at LIFT06

Nicolas and I have finished our Next Iteration on the Blogject project — our workshop report from Lift06..Read, Ponder, Complain and Disseminate.

On February 1st, a day before the LIFT06 conference, a workshop about ‘Blogjects and the new ecology of things’ was held in Geneva. The purpose of this event was to discuss usage scenarios of Blogjects, the design issues they raises as well as their significance in various contexts. The description of the scenarios helped us refining what would be the Blogjects features and capabilities.

This report (.pdf, 18.6Mb) summarizes all the topic we discussed by presenting the main characteristics of Blogjects and four potential scenarios elaborated by the groups formed during the workshop.

As the Internet pervades more physical space and more social space it is likely that objects in the world will become able to connect to the network and participate in the web by disseminating and receiving data communications. As “things” participate within the Internet and once the Internet soaks through physical, geographic space a differentiated kind of Internet may arise. The Internet of Things sets up a different set of relations to social practice (we will be “in” a pervasive network) and a different set of relations to space (the Internet will be co-occupied by both social beings and things.) This shift generates new possibilities for integrating networked things into the Internet. This workshop addresses this shift by considering its characteristics in relation to an existing, prevalent set of practices and technologies currently in existence variously referred to as “the social web” and “Web 2.0.” We then proceeded into four groups to conduct design scenarios in order to further explicate our understanding of a world in which things are connected, networked participants within a pervasive, wireless, mobile Internet. We conclude that there is a significant opportunity for designing compelling usage scenarios for such a near-future Internet of Things world and recommend a follow on, intensive, multi-day workshop/retreat to continue contributing to this important topic.

Feel free to spread it, make any comment, reblog it!

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Submitted by jbleecker on March 15, 2006 - 8:05pm

The divide that separates people from their online lives

The divide that separates people from their online lives:

This BBC article quotes Dr Jo Twist,a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK,as saying "once the net was ubiquitous like power and water,it had the potential to be "transformative".The divide that separates people from their online lives will utterly disappear. Instead of leaving behind all those net-based friends and activities when you walk out of your front door,you will be able to take them with you.The buddies you have on instant message networks,friends and family on e-mail, your eBay auctions, your avatars in online games, the TV shows you have stored on disk, your digital pictures, your blog - everything will be just a click away.It could also kick off entirely new ways of living, working and playing.For instance, restaurant reviews could be geographically tagged so as soon as you approach a cafe or coffee shop, the views of recent diners could scroll up on your handheld gadget.Alternative reality games could also become popular.These use actors in real world locations to play out the ultimate interactive experience.Key to the transformation,said Dr Twist,would be mobile devices that can use wi-fi.These handsets are only just starting to appear but will likely cram a huge amount of functions into one gadget.Dr Twist believes the move could start to close the digital divide".Further,"when chips,sensors,and wireless devices mesh together, there may be some unintended consequences," said Dr Twist."We have to make sure we think about those, and think about what other exclusions might be brought about by those developments, too."

Wi-fi set to re-wire social rules

Why do I blog this? I don't agree to the knee-jerk assertions about everything changing (the authors use the politic "transformative" instead of the usual exuberant adjectives), and this business about restaurant reviews pushed to devices is positively irritating to think about which probably means it could start a consumerist insurgency were it to actually happen. But, I have been working on a paper — recently accepted to the WWW2006 - MobEA IV workshop that says "we are in the midst of a mobile revolution" so maybe I have something to contribute to the transformation/revolution that will mitigate such an insurgency.

Submitted by jbleecker on March 15, 2006 - 8:00pm

A Manifesto for Networked Objects — Cohabiting with Pigeons, Arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things

One of my pieces of "output" from the workshop on Blogjects/Networked Things that Nicolas and I put together is the document contained herein. (BTW, we're very close to having our more formal workshop "write-up" completed.) It started out as some scribblings on what I learned from the workshop, seeing the groups' projects, and so forth. It then grew into more of a polemic as I recognized what were some consequential stakes — why things would matter, or help, if Things were networked? Why would I want a world such as that? And how would I design interactions for such a world?

I didn't want to lay low and play the engineer who might just geek out on the technology behind networked Things (I do.) I didn't want to lay low and play the social scientists and just geek out on theorizing or studying how engineers make and how social beings interact in a world of networked Things (I do that, too). I wanted to start by creating a near-future kind of technology fiction about one particular set of design goals for a world in which networks pervades space and social practice and in which networks are co-occupied by slightly differentiated social beings — us and Things.

What would I want from such a pervasively networked world? A better bead on what the state of that world is that is impactful. Hence, my stumbling about trying to describe a world of networked Things that aren't only around to help track packages, but are around to help create a world-wide accessible register various real-time "feeds" of macro and micro states of the social and ecological environment.

This is not complete and the translation of my ideas to a progression of articulate words sometimes feels like someone who slips on the ice for about 20 minutes and refuses to give up the struggle and just fall down to save themselves the mounting embarassment.

Why Things Matter

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Submitted by jbleecker on February 28, 2006 - 6:42pm

Super Heros become Super Common - One remark from conversations with Yochai Benkler

I found myself in the advantageous position of having both Yochai Benkler and Mimi Ito at the same supper table. I puzzled over what was the one question I would want them both to answer — something that went beyond framing particular practices of cultural production and its meaning. So, I asked them both — what is your future imaginary world? Based on what you know, your stakes, your opinions — your research — what would you aspire to create as a more habitable, sustainable world?

Benkler gave a number of examples during his talk about how the network and some common super heros effected worldly change. While he was giving these examples, I quickly thought about a decision I had made in the morning about what shirt to wear. One option was my Daniel Ellsberg t-shirt. The other was a short sleeve buttoned number. I opted for the buttoned shirt, but the Ellsberg option lingered. I thought about what it took to be an agent of change during the regime of "old media." The agent of change, or one of them, was superhuman in their will, commitment and daring-do — it was the Whistle Blower. (As a matter of fact, that Daniel Ellsberg t-shirt was from a series of t-shirts that the artist / designer Raegan Kelly had done exclusively dedicated to Whistle Blowers.) What an effort and what stakes to be a super hero / change agent of that scale. How many of us could conceive of striving against "the Pentagon" (and everything else that systemically supports that institution) so as to publish some documents spirited out of the RAND Institute.

Today, Ellsberg would just blog the Pentagon Papers. Open source, neutral networks would allow that. Even if the Cease & Desist letters came in, once it got out — one would be hard pressed to even find a way to expunge the documents from today's P2P networks.

The examples that Benkler gave of common super heros effecting worldly change came across as almost routine examples. Someone in a condo complex somewhere stumbles across some emails from some guy at some corrupt government contractor trying to screw over the American public. We chuckled at the fumblings of institutions that sought to suppress Diebold's voting machine software and other similar "old regime" attempts at squelching the will of common, everyday super heros. It's all routine, it's just how things happen. The Ellsberg's of tomorrow — the digital kids? — they'll just register a domain name and set up a blog. They won't even have to muster the ACLU lawyers out of bed.

My own stakes and aspirations are that all of this networked publics "stuff" (to quote Mimi!), will hopefully lead to a world in which individuals (digital kids) grow up with the sense that they are full enrolled, first-class participants in the polity and that they have a to-the-bones, intuitive sense that they can effect worldly change with some ideas, an articulate voice, and an $8.95 domain name.

netpublics: participation + change

This is far more than simple civics 101 from the 1980s. This would be the sense that "I can make things happen and change the way things are. I can be a common super hero and, in fact, there are an enormous number of super heros in the world who right wrong and suppress evil, greed and wrong-doing.

Why do I blog this? It's the stakes: creating a world in which we (or the digital kids) have a sense of participation and a conviction that change is possible, and that individuals with ideas and aspirations for creating more habitable and sustainable worlds, can be common super heros — agents of change, without the kinds of burdens we normally associate with being a super lawyers fees and the threat of having your family's life destroyed.

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Submitted by jbleecker on February 24, 2006 - 9:09pm

Space, Place and Things — New Rules of Tenancy _within_ the Internet of Things

I've been thinking about the relationship between space and networked things as I write this report with Nicolas Nova for our workshop on objects that blog and I've realized (without too much surprise) that that workshop and my thinking about "place" and networked publics are pulling together, particularly in the context of the Internet of Things.

When the place group presented its thinking on the role of place in the context of networked publics, I felt that it was important to consider how a world in which Things will alter the patterns of usage, movement and mobility with space. (I'll capitalize for now to distinguish between networked Internet of Things things and non-networked things, and so as to be succinct I'll do an end-run around Heidegger, Kant and Latour, but not for long Anne!) And I'll call the differentiated kind of movement and rules of occupancy within this different kind of place, motility, so as to emphasize what I think is a safe speculation: a world in which Things that co-occupy physical space are known (by the other occupants of that space) or assumed to have the ability to disseminate, record, and perhaps even put in context what happens in that space and circulate such within the network will change the patterns of use, the kinds of social practice that obtain, and the imaginary about that space. This kind of space and the rules of tenancy are different from space in which such "blogging" characteristics are not assumed about things.

The easiest analogy is to think about how patterns of usage and the "rules of tenancy" for occupying space are altered when that space contains surveillance technologies. (By rules, I mean both the unwritten as well as the more formalized in terms of law, as well as social policy.) The work of the R&D collective The Institute for Applied Autonomy is one of the better examples of really bringing to the fore the way surveillance technologies changes the way we think about, move through, and generally occupy space. Their project iSee takes DIY plotted locations of urban surveillance and, using Google Map-like techniques (way before Google Map-like techniques were formalized), creates new pedestrian paths so as to avoid as much surveillance exposure for those wishing to stay uncharted.

This to me is a great, perhaps even canonical example of the ways in which place, mobility, together with the capacity of networks is impacted. There is something more than just surveillance upon hapless occupants of physical space. In this example, there seems to be an important relationship as well between the Internet and mapping practices as well. The example is a very early one, in Internet years and Internet practices (pre-Google Maps, as I mentioned, and there really is no networked Thing, strictly speaking), but it anticipates in my mind a confluence of networks, Things and differentiated social practice as a result of blending these together.

I am speculating here that the introduction of the "Thing" that is networked in such a way as to circulate within both physical space and networked space will changes the ways in which we occupy space, deserves closer attention by the community of folks working on explicating as well as making this new kind of networked place.

So, what does it all mean? It means that the Internet of Things is less about RFID tags everywhere and more about a different kind of architecture, where boundaries and paths are shaped also by networked Things.

And what are the stakes? Assuming we care about changes in the rules of tenancy of place and are concerned about this kind of architecture, we may want to explicate these new rules so we can think through ways to create more habitable space.

Why do I blog this? Because I am trying to create what I think is an important connect-the-dots game between Internet of Things euphoria, Internet of Things dystopia and a pragmatic set of "design patterns" so that this stuff becomes legible to the "doers" — those who create the worlds in which we will be tenants (most likely the designers, engineers, policy and standards body folks and so on who are the architects and machinists of these worlds.)

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Submitted by jbleecker on February 22, 2006 - 5:31pm