the Internet of Object Oriented Ontology Things
this is my fumbling misinterpretation of, mashup of, two ideas past their peak on the hype curve, trending toward the well of despair, it – the mashup – is a response to Bruce Sterling’s request for help in conceiving what has come to be known as Casa Jasmina, an apartment/laboratory for domesticating the Internet of Things
set in Turin, Italy, and in collaboration with Arduino, the residence/AiR immediately struck me as a place to investigate the Internet of Italian Things. I immediately feel unqualified to have an opinion about the IoIT (which should be typeset with the second I as a capital in italics, or in Bodoni, or in a typeface by Aldo Novarese, so as to distinguish it from other constructions of the acronym IT)
Several years before Sterling’s call for visions my graduate students had run a thought experiment called My Networked Toilet. (I’ll have to check the exact title, my memory suffering from temporal distance.) (update, My Smart Toilet https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Mk3hiCcaItGmasvxR2EkePB9J0wZQKv8x2L13poLH2A/edit?usp=sharing ) I lacked in imagination for where to disseminate their lab report. Later, someone else with the imagination I had lacked created a bit of absurdist theater about sensored toilets, for the participants of CHI in Toronto, that covered ground similar to that which my graduate students had covered. Their (the CHI researchers’) design fiction/hoax functioned admirably in sparking conversation and provoking critical attention and garnering attention broadly. (a revised draft of this essay will give proper credit to those researchers.) (update: Quantified Toilets for CHI 2014, http://quantifiedtoilets.com/index.html ) We were looking at the Internet of Mundane Things or the Internet of Scatological Things. every body poops. not everybody likes to think about poo. We quickly realized, and they (CHI folks) reaffirmed, that we would need to design an API for My Networked Toilet to give access to the embedded sensor array, so that service providers in the extant and future network could access the data streams and process them in unforeseeable ways. We were designing in a most abstract way the shape and contours of a possibility space. we were designing with parameters that included the imaginable – that which we could foresee – and the unimagineable – that which we could not. we had fully embraced that the street would find its own usage for the Internet of Things.
We also discovered (empirically observed, no claims to being the first to so observe) the need to dance along the fine edge between openness and privacy. We found this at the overlap of the Quantified Self with the political and economic consequences of Open Data and with Real Name policies. so there is a tension (soft) or a conflict (hard) between the Internet of Open Data Things and the Internet of Private Things.
given that we were looking at toilets we could playfully think about an Internet of Privvy Things that addresses questions about fine-grained permission/trust groups as part of its core User Interface (UI) research questions. I don’t think this is a solved problem set. I don’t think that CHI is adequate to the tasks that. investigate this problem set. I think that Digital Humanists and Ethicists – and possibly Digital Theologists – are necessary to inform and critically engage with the UI questions posed by an Internet of Privvy Things. extant and historical examples bolster my argument for the inadequacy of CHI in this regard. witness the history of blinking VCR clocks (will need to see if VTR interfaces solved this, making manageable and knowable what had been un-). witness the purposefully obfuscatory permissioning and EULA language of stacks like Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, and Google, which give the appearance of control to the end users while granting themselves permission to collect, track, and sell data. we know that technology is not neutral thanks to critical engagements of the past. we know that technologies express the interests and value systems of their developers. we know that User Experience design (UX) doesn’t really center the user’s interests but rather the interests of those who commissioned the UX designer.
an Internet of Righteous Things might center on human needs in a Maslovian worldview, supporting and nurturing our need for shelter, safety, and health. it would not necessarily do so in a sustainable manner unless we purposefully include such in our definition of righteousness. an Internet of Viridian Things, or an Internet of Spime Things might do so while calling on us to be mindful of the fact that we are choosing to behave sustainably.
an Internet of Anthroposcene Things would come right out and critique our very ability to purposefully and mindfully act in sustainable ways. it would call for a more radical de-centering of humanity from a decision chain. it would call for – invoke – an Internet of Artificially Intelligent Things that have anthro-centric sustainability baked into the decision tree. we could then truly be watched over by machines of/with loving grace. an Internet of Inclusive Artificially Intelligent Things could ensure that our definition of our biome would extend to include all of the micro- and macro- biomes necessary to ensure biodiversity as an imperative precondition to our continued survival on this planet. it may also call into being an Internet of Asimovian Things because we would effectively be living within the robot. so not only would a kill-decision need to be left out, but a Hippocratic – do no harm – value would have to be baked in. Asimov’s three laws would have to be re-imagined in a (please pardon the expression) pro-life fashion, still decentering humans, but in the interest of saving humans. (algorithmic trading of speculative human futures)
it would be logical to imagine another flavor of de-centering in a post-anthropocene vision. what of an Internet of Cat Things? what would the Felixocene look like?
and what if we, despite our best efforts at creating an Anti-SkyNet, should disappear from the earth? will an Internet of Cockroach Things succeed us? and what will it look like?
an Internet of Animate Things versus an Internet of Inanimate Things? Object Oriented Ontologies and Speculative Realism (this will be wrong because my reading has been superficial, and so I work in the grand tradition of designers misunderstanding philosophy and trying to productively create work through that misunderstanding. )
all which leads me to thing about the Sofa, the couch, in Casa Jasmina. I can’t not think of this sofa. in an Object Oriented Ontology, I try to imagine, what does a sofa want? what does an Italian sofa want? what does an Alessi sofa want? and is it fundamentally different than what an Ikea sofa wants? and are these different than what a sofa made in North Carolina by Bassett, Henredon, or Broyhill would want? Herman Miller in Michigan? what if, post singularity, we weren’t the chosen ontology? (it might be easier to imagine an Internet of Lazy Boy Things for me because of my specific cultural contexts. to help Casa Jasmina it might be necessary for a range of these speculations. what if we were a convenient species instrumentalized to help the evolutionary agenda of a sofa ontology?
[this post was edited on 2015-11-27 to clean up some syntax. to do: the penultimate paragraph needs another draft]