The third installment: From destination to integration

Digital is expanding yet again, from the first editorial version, to a second social version and now the third installment; integration.

Some arguments:

1. Integration is not merely about offering services where people are, it’s about implementing connected technology within our everyday objects, or designing new objects based on the new opportunities and additional meaning introduced by technology.

    Which gives that this could introduce a completely new generation of needs and behaviors: In the words of Donald Norman;

    “Need is created by technology, not the other way around.” Link.

2. With integration we are not only moving from destination sites to aggregate sites, from horizontals to verticals. We are moving from screens to objects, from input devices to sensors and from keyboarded instruments to everyday life.

Jesko Stoetzer’s RFID Sleeve prototype for the Betacup project is a good example. Showing how digital technology, using no screens, no keyboards, just an electronic augmentation and a redesign of an existing object, the cup sleeve. Can improve the coffee experience for enthusiasts, create new business opportunities and increase product sustainability.

3. Microsoft put it carefully in its Europe Logs on Report in April 2009:

    “The use of Internet on PC’s will decrease from 95% today to only 50% the next five years.”pdf

But Microsoft was only talking about our connected lives moving from PC’s to mobile, gaming platforms or “connected TV-boxes”. They where not looking into the emerging opportunities from smart objects, SPIMEs or coffee sleeves.

The Europe Logs on report were looking at machines. But the days when only machines were connected to the Internet is already in the past.

There is an important distinction to make in order to arrive at the conclusion that we are moving into a new Internet era, and that is the one between the machine and the object. What Russel Davies, in his talk “Printing the Internet out and squirting it into things” at the Lift Conference calls the device and the object.

Devices are machines where the structure of the object itself affords no utility, but there is a screen and a circuit board in there offering us a range of opportunities. And object is different, it already has an immediate utility, but technology ads a new layer of meaning.

    “Devices fool us because they look like objects and do all this stuff, and we are kind of hypnotized by their ability to do all this stuff. Where as when you see an ornament in the shop you know exactly what it is and what it is for. And you don’t except more of it. I think some of the delights that some of these can contain is when it looks like a simple object but contains meaning that you weren’t excepting.” – Russel Davies.

Watch live streaming video from liftconference at livestream.com

4. Machines are hubs. Take the mobile phone as an example; it should be (and hopefully will be) connecting people to their objects, not filled with an application for each one (object).

Appvertising and applications belong to machines, and are just scratching the surface of connected technology, it is by and far only the answer to the following question: “What do people want access to all the time?”

Integration as a term is not about access, it’s about turning everyday objects into identities, which enables them to organize, create structure and through feedback add a new layer to spaces in our everyday life.

Bill Moggridge mentions in his book Designing Interactions, that there are not only three (spatial) dimensions to an interface, but also a fourth one; time. We are now building a fifth dimension; the digital identity of the physical object.

The digital life of physical objects is what Kevin Slavin discusses in his talk This Platform Called Everyday Life at the PSFK Conference in New York. This quote where he references a video of a cat molesting a Webkinz:

    “This cat is completely unaware of the most important thing about this particular stuffed animal. Which is that it has a whole other life online. This is a Webkinz stuffed animal. And this cat has no idea. It thinks it’s actually engaging with the thing, and in fact it has a whole parallell life thats going on, that this cat can’t touch. And I want to make it clear, that this is where we are heading, towards a world in which entities have this physical presence as well as this digital presence.”
Conclusion:
The important shift with integration is not that we put technology into things (devices), but that everyday objects with an existing physicality and purpose, get a new dimension and additional meaning: A digital identity.

With these identities comes data, responsiveness, organization and connection.

The next generation is all about connecting our stuff, offering new layers of meaning to our objects, our situations and the world at large.

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One Comment

  1. July 3
    Reply

    Interesting perspective. There’s no doubt that certain physical forms of communicating have been or will be transformed by ‘digital’. Likewise most individual’s have a digital identity no matter if they want one or not.

    Whether this marks a shift in perception to a fourth or fifth dimension I doubt it.

    Fundamentally digital is a measured way of interacting with goods and services. The paradigm has moved away from Company X telling the consumer to buy, to a situation where Company X has to listen to why the consumer is buying a brand.

    In that respect how the consumer interacts with a digital brand has changed.

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