NASIG 2008: Information Shadows – Ubiquitous Computing Serializes Everyday Things

Presenter: Mike Kuniavsky

Thinks about how technology and people interact with each other, and how the technological side can be made more interesting or better for the user.

Ubiquitous computing was coined to describe computers that are woven into every day life to the extent that they are indistinguishable from it. The power of technology should not be limited to viewing the world through its limited frame.

When something is cheap, you can have more than one, and with specific and varied uses. This is also a way of thinking of computer and networking technology. When processors were expensive, they had to serve multiple uses. Now that processing power is cheap, we have a wide array of products with different functions which all use these inexpensive processors.

When machine read-able code is meshed with human interface devices such as mobile phones, we are able to deliver even more information than what can be put on the packaging. Metadata can be attached to anything!

When Amazon expanded ISBN to ASINs, it allowed anyone to point to the “handle” for any object sold by Amazon. We can now grab that handle and toss it around as we wish.

For Kuniavsky, a serial is an agreement between a consumer and a publisher who provides a particular type of information in the form of a soft-cover book that arrives regularly in the mail. The paper manifestation of the agreement is one way it is fulfilled, but it’s not the only way.

A time-share condo is like a journal. The form and usage period is fixed, and the occupants are variable. (In this case, it’s as though the time-share condo is subscribed to you.) You own the possibility of an object with some rights to it forever. A vacation club changes the dynamic to owning the right to request a class of things that changes in a way that is predictably different.

Until recently, the logistics of sharing objects has been complex, unless the people involved were highly motivated. Ubiquitous computing gives us the ability to track, trade, and share objects in a way we never could before. Bag Borrow or Steal is a designer bag sharing site. It’s sort of like Netflix for the fashion-obsessed purse fiends.

The trackable metadata of physical objects that allow them to be converted to subscriptions. Technology enables these relationships to be embedded and automated. We are shifting from the ownership of objects to access to them.

Technologists often leave out the information management aspects when talking about the wonders of technology. Librarians and information managers understand how to deal with the digital representations of physical objects. We need to think about how our can work apply to the serialization of everyday objects.

The world needs shadow wranglers.