Workshops Notes

 The Disappearing Computer

This is the meeting on Monday September 2, 2002 in Block 3 (14:30 - 16:00) at the Volkshuis.

This is bare text, more material you can find here:

Disappearing Acts.

Reason for this talk: not immediate action, but neede is a vision on these issues from a non-profit perspective.

We are in a proces of witnessing a move from using mixed media (radio, sms, billboard, television) to create user experiences to designing inclusive experiences by mediatizing the environment.

This is recognized in and fuelled by the latest i3 call The disappearing computer, launched by Future and Emerging Technologies, the European Commission's IST Programme. The European Network for Intelligent Information Interfaceswas created in 1996 in order "to take a human-centred approach to the exploration of new, visionary interactive systems for people in their everyday activities."

The Disappearing Computer is a vision of the future

"in which our everyday world of objects and places become 'infused' and 'augmented' with information processing. In this vision, computing, information processing, and computers disappear into the background, (italics mine) and take on the role more similar to that of electricity (italics mine) today - an invisible, pervasive medium distributed on or real world."

So what will happen when the computer disappears?

When the computer disappears the environment becomes the interface.

So what happens to me in/and my environment?

It becomes : hybrid: a mix of analogue and digital data processes. It becomes: in between:

In a mediated environment it no longer is clear what is being mediated, and what mediates. Such environments - your kitchen, living-room, our shopping malls, streets of old villages, websites, schools, p2p networks, are new beginnings as they reformulate our sense of ourselves in places in spaces in time.

As new beginnings they begin new media.

These new media look extremely familiar. It can be - for example - any Sony audiovisual piece of apparatus that you bought in Japan after 2000. Sony "will put an Internet address into all of its electronic devices to enable them to communicate with each another." How? Through Airboard using "the Internet's addressing scheme". to allow its audio-visual products to talk and exchange data with one another. So your Walkman, has its very own IP address.

Environments are becoming smart and smarter.

Beeld Superbowl, Visiotronics nu Identix, face recognition software. Our cameras were quite dumb, now they are databasedriven.

Where to start?

We might as well start by taking a vacation. This might be noticed, however, by database processes even before you take your flight (the decision to go/no go is still yours..for now):

"Federal aviation authorities and technology companies will soon begin testing a vast air security screening system designed to instantly pull together every passenger's travel history and living arrangements, plus a wealth of other personal and demographic information.

The government's plan is to establish a computer network linking every reservation system in the United States to private and government databases. The network would use data-mining and predictive software to profile passenger activity and intuit obscure clues about potential threats, even before (Italics mine) the scheduled day of flight."

Note the extremities to which the designers will go to script serendipity into their profiling strategy: data-mining and predictive software and intuit obscure clues.

This level of extremity is only reached in the latest craze of data gathering through sensorial agents: smart dust:

"Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a complete sensor-based communication system that can be integrated into a tiny package. Using MEMS, or micro-electro-mechanical system technology, the battery-powered sensor nodes can independently assess movement or environment, then relay that information between nodes to a sensor board. The sensor nodes, or motes, can be dropped from an airplane and used to track troop movements."

Who is browsed in such a datacloud?

You might want to cough and breath in, breath in smart dust particles up your nose, and hopefully they will all be chucked out, when you finally sneeze.

Still, we have decided to take that vacation and at the airport our luggage is tagged. Airline baggage tracking equipment is made either by Philips Semiconductors EindhovenSCS, San Diego, CA, Texas Instruments, Dallas.

The system operates through radio frequency tags. Why?

Because they have dropped below the penny cost:

"Manufacturers hoping to recoup some of the billions lost every year to theft, counterfeit, and depleted stocks have been closely watching a technology that promises to track the locations of individual products, from perfume bottles to car parts, in real time. At the heart of this scenario is a little device called a "radio frequency identification tag"a silicon chip that boots up and transmits a signal when exposed to the energy field of a nearby reader. "

Naturally, in this scheme there is an ultimate goal:

"The ultimate goal is to put a radio tag on virtually every manufactured item, each tracked by a network of millions of readers in factories, trucks, warehouses and homes, transforming huge supply chains into intelligent, self-managing entities. Dick Cantwell, vice president of global business management at Gillette says that the devices for reading the tags are "going to be a ubiquitous part of construction, whether you're building stores or homes....We see this as a tremendous opportunity and we intend to make full use of the technology as it becomes available."

And what is this like?

Steve Halliday, vice president of technology at AIM, a trade association for manufacturers of tagging technology, says, "If I talk to companies and ask them if they want to replace the bar code with these tags, the answer can't be anything but yes. It's like giving them the opportunity to rule the world."

It's like giving them the opportunity to rule the world.

One slight drawback though:

"The range of a tag seldom exceeds five meters, nor can the tags be read through walls or other thick barriers. What's more, Electronic Product
Codes identify objects, not people."


What people?

In which environment?

In hybrid environments there are no more people, no more surroundings, no more props.

Just tags. And sensors. And ambient technology that tries to disguise itself as harmless by using the terms electricity and background. What is electricity but blackboxed technology to its extreme: on/off?

Who's hands are on that switch that does now lite up the world indeed, able as it is to switch off, switch on our very beings.

At the moment these disappearing acts are beyond open sourcing moneywise. We either find the money or we find ways in. If we don't it might be Steve Halliday's hand creeping towards that switcher.

Dus negatief beeld van electricity.

Positief: modes of action:

From power to influence to resonance

What does this data do?:

  1. "A next-generationconfigurable circuit architecture is being proposed by a group of designers at startup Cell Matrix Corp.
    The architecture goes beyond basic FPGAs by building arrays of "cells" rather than simply reconfigurable gates. Each cell has a small amount of logic and local memory and communicates with its nearest neighbor.
    The novel aspect of the approach is the ability of cells to modify the operation of their neighbors during run-time.
    That has allowed Cell Matrix engineers to define an entire circuit by initially configuring two or three cells on the boundary of an array and then allowing the cells to program their neighbors. The process resembles software bootstrapping in conventional computers, but it leads to a hardwired circuit."
  2. "The assembly shall be considered constituted when at least 20 neighbors are present. All who live in the neighborhood may participate with voice and vote," reads a woman, aided by a brand-new megaphone, on a street corner where more than a hundred residents have gathered.
    "The executive committee shall meet 15 minutes prior to the assembly to draft the agenda with the proposals provided by the neighbors," she says, handing the word - and the megaphone - over to the "moderator". It is clarified repeatedly that "here, no one is in charge, we are going to take turns."
    One of the proposals made during the assembly was to set aside 15 minutes each week on a neighborhood radio program to provide updates about the movement. The proposal was readily accepted.
    But when the moderate announced that a television news program has sent a reporter and a camera operator, thereaction is one of absolute rejection, with the neighbors shouting for the media representatives to leave.
    The reporter is from a program whose host has supported the government's economic reforms in the past few years and who now is seen as inciting protest with a right-wing discourse.
    The neighbors make it clear they do not want anyone to use them to advance a cause they do not agree with.
    In fact, in the assemblies and in mass e-mails, Argentines are calling not only for the removal of the career politicians and entrenched union leaders, but also for the rejection of the privatized entities entrusted with public services and of the news media which, they say, are not accurately portraying the population's suffering.
    "I am very surprised because there are people participating who otherwise never left their homes. My 70-year-old neighbor had never taken part in anything, but now she has such an extremist stance that it is truly astonishing," said Palermo neighborhood assembly participant Fernndez.
    She said one of the slogans repeated in her neighborhood is "the politicians must go because they do not understand a thing." Fernndez explained that this reflects the sentiment that political leaders no longer comprehend, nor can they express, the citizenry's problems because they are too far removed from that reality.
    What this data does is making very clear that our categories that once were sufficient, derscriptive and productive: power as a concept, influence as a concept has been outwitted by a process we might call: resonance. Ideas resonate. Action is no longer directed from above, under, it is in between. In between the spaces :
    Each cell has a small amount of logic and local memory and communicates with its nearest neighbor.
    Each person has a small amount of logic and local memory and communicates with its nearest neighbor.
  3. In Mobile Vulgus Christian Nold reveals the "potential force a crowd of people hold when they act as a cohesive whole."
    Music is not dangerous, its the people. Music can be as loud as you like, ok you get blast effects but they cant be worse than explosions, and buildings are designed to withstand explosions. No, its the actual effect that people would be able to cause.
    By standing still an average person weighing around 65 kilograms exerts a force of 650 newtons straight down onto the floor. Once mobilised into jumping with both feet that force is multiplied almost seven times. If fifty people jump simultaneously, this force produces 23 tonnes of pressure which is the same weight as thirty-three cars stacked one on top of the other. With every drum beat, these tonnes of pressure piledrive into the ground at the resonant frequency. Seeing, hearing or feeling even the slightest response from the structure initiates a feedback loop between the building and its occupants which increases the feeling of communal action. The amount of force required to cause a full structural collapse is between ten to one hundred timesgreater than that needed to see the first surface cracking. These warning signs are sufficient for our purposes since they force the authorities to close down the structure. Used in this way the tactic should pose no danger to anyone.
    Used in this way the tactic should pose no danger to anyone. But we have learned, we have learned along the way.

In terms of ecology:


Sustainability:not only whose? But of what?


The Flow of Natural industrial human AND digital/technological processes.

Overload and supersenses:


Boosting our senses is naturally beneficial in terms of correcting major or minor handicaps (from which most of us suffer in certain situations) but it becomes more dubious when peo- ple can use new aids to learn too much about each other. For example, if someone were to use their supersense to establish the condition of my health, feelings and/or other personal matters. "

"New communication senses will be needed in the future to enable people to absorb the enormous mass of information with which they are confronted," says Martin Rantzer, head of research at Ericsson in Linkping, Sweden, in his report entitled "All senses communication." The basic premise of "All senses communi- cation" is that as a result of rapid technical de- velopment we surround ourselves with insophisticated and complex devices and services. And this trend seems to be accel- erating. Our ability to use technology, however, is not developing at the same rate. We do not see and hear better, understand more quickly, and our motor functions and reaction times have not improved very much over the past one hundred years.
The user interfaces we use today to transmit information to our brains threaten to create a real bottleneck for new broadband services. Broadband for our phones is not enough, we also need it for our brains. Today's mobile users normally use only one sense - hearing. Mobile broadband and video-phones will soon enable us to see the person we are talking to as well as that person's surround- ings. The vision is that we will eventually be able to use all our senses, and truly experience at a distance the same things as the other person. There is a clear trend in our society toward an increased focus on experience, and our senses are the key to all real or virtual experiences. "But it is not simply a matter of using sight, smell and touch at a distance. Even more, this vision aims to improve ourinteraction with technology. We believe that the way in which people com- municate via technology will become increasinglylike ordinary human communication," says Martin Rantzer.
"Adding voice and gestures to interfaces may make them more intuitive, as well as pro- viding more nuances than we can achieve with a mouse-click." We must make use of new communication senses. Apart from sight, hearing and touch, these will include senses that people have nev- er had before - for example, radar vision and heat vision using infrared cameras. Technology can transform our own senses into "super- senses."

  Top     Workshop Notes menu     PGA Europe menu