Julian Bleecker who is a research fellow at the Annenberg Centre for Communication in LA, has written a very interesting paper “A Manifesto for Networked Objects” on the concept of what he, rather unfortunately calls, “blogjects”. But let’s not get picky about atrocious neologisms – the fact is this guy has been reading his Bruce Sterling and, in a truly fabulous way, has applied the sci-fi to today’s real technology. Julian is talking about networked objects or things – objects, things, or items, which can report on their surroundings, their location and the state of the environment. A pigeon, for example, carrying a small unit that uses GPS to identify its position and carries some sensors which detect the quality of the air it’s flying through. Imagine a flock of these birds moving around sending information back via the internet in trackable data form. As Julian brilliantly puts it, they would be the internet equivalent of the caged canary down the mine.
Suddenly, it’s not just pre-pubescent girls blogging about their boyfriend troubles, or uber-geeks massaging their egos online (present company excluded of course – no geek – no ego), but objects in the real world acting together to provide datastreams in real time that can actually produce action and help the world. Hence his World 2.0 reference.
Cars equipped with GPS and pollution detectors could relay back the state of air-quality on a freeway – if it gets too polluted maybe the access roads get closed – or the toll gates charge a higher access fee.
In a refugee camp where rape and torture occur publicly and frequently, if enough people could be armed with low cost mobile devices with digital cameras that could stream video information in real time from any location – fear of being identified and recognised could significantly reduce such incidents. Big Brother in reverse, empowering people rather than terrorising them.
Stunning thinking – now we need to find the ways of putting this stuff in place rapidly…