The binding effect of digital and physical worlds

“Ultimately I view Google as a way to augment your brain with the knowledge of the world. Right now you go into your computer and type a phrase, but you can imagine that it could be easier in the future, that you can have just devices you talk into, or you can have computers that pay attention to what’s going on around them” #

On the surface this binding effect may appear to be a simple and obvious evolution of technology we know and understand already, but the broader impact of the change feels bigger than the sum of its parts: #

  1. First, there are, of course, the devices themselves, the point of contact. This is what we use to physically engage. The change we’re going through right now may not feel as different as the step we took from TV to PC, but you can imagine the step from PC to mobile device may feel even more dramatic in a few years…particularly as tiny sensors become like dust around us everywhere all the time.
  2. Then we can see innovations in the interfaces sitting on top of those devices. New OSes, browsers and apps – a whole software movement is accelerating via the unique capabilities of the devices and our relationships with them. The ones we see and use are the human to machine experiences, but there are also many automated machine-to-machine interfaces that we don’t even know are happening.
  3. The information flow as it extends into this new space has a different feel to it, a different utility, a different role in our lives. Much like TV started as radio programs on camera, many early mobile experiences are web sites on small browsers. That is changing fast as the mobile pure plays catch their stride. The digital incumbents have a long journey ahead of them still, but they are no longer sleepwalking into it and will surely get there soon.
  4. Lastly, the shape of the information itself is becoming increasingly atomized. It seems obvious how information is changing when you consider the more recent proliferation of microblogging and data journalism, but most people don’t realize the depth of knowledge forming beneath the surface. We’re probably not as conscious as we should be about the way different platforms extract knowledge about each of us from looking at the data exhaust we leave when we move around the network.
So, the ‘stack’, if you want to call it that, doesn’t feel totally foreign if you were paying attention during the first wave or two of network activity, but that’s only because it’s so early still. #

“Fridges, buses and buildings will be able to share data and adapt to suit our needs. In fact, Cisco estimates that the number of “things” connected to the internet has already surpassed the number of people on earth.” #

And one more approach to defining the broader trend comes from Tom Coates.  He developed a really nice visual way to describe some what’s happening in his presentation Everything the Network Touches: #

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“it’s not exactly 60 Minutes. So what? This is one way citizen journalism looks. At its best, it asks questions we all want asked, unearths questions we didn’t know we wanted asked, asks them more forthrightly than most American journalists dare, and gets better — more honest — answers than we hear from the mainstream media.” #

In a much more extreme case, the government of Iceland is being externalized through a collaborative rewrite of their constitution: #

“A group of 25 citizens presented a draft of the constitution to Iceland’s parliament. The group, which is made up of ordinary residents, compiled the document online with the help of hundreds of others. The constitution council posted the first draft in April on its website and then let citizens comment via a Facebook Page. The council members are also active on Twitter, post videos of themselves on YouTube and put pictures on Flickr.” #

It’s wonderful to see how important people’s voices have become to the fabric of the network. #

3 thoughts on “The binding effect of digital and physical worlds

  1. Jamie

    Very interesting post (I haven’t watched the embeds yet, but have bookmarked for later).

    One thing that seems to be missing in all this though, is some sort of articulation of the economic network that will evolve to support the technological changes you write about. Without some vision what how a global/local economic system looks like as ubiquitous technology binds us closer together, I can’t help thinking that we’re only considering half of the picture.

  2. Matt McAlister Post author

    Spot on, Jamie, though I think the burgeoning economic network is often a subset of the broader network conditions. The externalisation of transactions, for example, is another area affected by the way the digital and physical worlds are binding.

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