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Spime = neologism related to the "Internet of Things"

Source: http://www.smartmobs.com/archive/2006/03/17/its_about_sp.html


From the Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spime

"Spime is a neologism for a currently-theoretical object that can be tracked through space and time throughout the lifetime of the object. The name “spime" for this concept was coined by Bruce Sterling, in various speeches and writings on the subject.


""The future will see a new kind of object — we have the primitive forms of them now in our pockets and briefcases: user-alterable, baroquely multi-featured, and programmable — that will be sustainable, enhanceable, and uniquely identifiable. Sterling coins the term “spime” for them, these future manufactured objects with informational support so extensive and rich that they are regarded as material instantiations of an immaterial system. Spimes are designed on screens, fabricated by digital means, and precisely tracked through space and time. They are made of substances that can be folded back into the production stream of future spimes, challenging all of us to become involved in their production. Spimes are coming, says Sterling. We will need these objects in order to live; we won’t be able to surrender their advantages without awful consequences." (http://www.experientia.com/blog/shaping-things-by-bruce-sterling/)



Sterling sees spimes as coming through the convergence of six emerging technologies, related to both the manufacturing process for consumer goods, and through identification and location technologies. These six facets of spimes are:

1. Small, inexpensive means of remotely and uniquely identifying objects over short ranges; in other words, radio-frequency identification.

2. A mechanism to precisely locate something on Earth, such as a global-positioning system.

3. A way to mine large amounts of data for things that match some given criteria, like internet search engines.

4. Tools to virtually construct nearly any kind of object; computer-aided design.

5. Ways to rapidly prototype virtual objects into real ones. Sophisticated, automated fabrication of a specification for an object, through “three-dimensional printers."

6. “Cradle-to-cradle" life-spans for objects. Cheap, effective recycling." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spime)


Bruce Sterling:

"The most important thing to know about Spimes is that they are precisely located in space and time. They have histories. They are recorded, tracked, inventoried, and always associated with a story.

Spimes have identities, they are protagonists of a documented process.

They are searchable, like Google. You can think of Spimes as being auto-Googling objects.

So what would it be like to encounter a spime in your future real life? How if you know if you stumbled over one in the street? Scott Klinker, a teacher at the Cranbrook design school, envisions it as something like this:

Scenario: You buy a Spime with a credit card. Your account info is embedded in the transaction, including a special email address set up for your Spimes. After the purchase, a link is sent to you with customer support, relevant product data, history of ownership, geographies, manufacturing origins, ingredients, recipes for customization, and bluebook value. The spime is able to update its data in your database (via radio-frequency ID), to inform you of required service calls, with appropriate links to service centers. This removes guesswork and streamlines recycling.

Today, most consumers know little or nothing about their possessions. They might know the brand, because brand awareness has been forced on them for years, at great expense, by massive product advertising. A Spime, by contrast, is an object that can link to and swiftly reveal most everything about itself. It might as well do this, since Google is perfectly capable of telling you everything anyway.

Managing that becomes a competitive advantage for spime makers. A true Spime is going to get ahead of the curve by bringing you inside the tent of the designers and developers and engineers, and the sales and marketing people." (http://www.boingboing.net/images/blobjects.htm)


Bruce Sterling on why spimes are necessary for the survival of the planet

"The people who make Spimes want you to do as much of the work for them as possible. They can data-mine your uses of the spime, and use that to improve their Spime and gain market share. This would have been called "customer relations management," in an earlier era, but in a Spime world, it's more intimate. It's collaborative, and better understood as something like open-source manufacturing. It's all about excellence. Passion. Integrity. Cross-disciplinary action. And volunteerism.

When you shop for Amazon, you're already adding value to everything you look at on an Amazon screen. You don't get paid for it, but your shopping is unpaid work for them. Imagine this blown to huge proportions and attached to all your physical possessions. Whenever you use a spime, you're rubbing up against everybody else who has that same kind of spime. A spime is a users group first, and a physical object second.

I know that this sounds insanely complex, because it is. The reason this is necessary is a simple one. The reason is the passage of time. Entropy requires no maintenance. Artifacts, Machines, Products, Gizmos, they all die. The material objects that we human beings use and make, they wear out, get consumed, and get thrown away. Unfortunately, this process is reaching limits and is doing us serious harm. We're getting permeated by trash.

We are filling the atmosphere, and the seas, and the surface of the planet, and our own bodies, with our industrial emissions and our dead junk. In a world with 6.3 billion people, trending toward 10 billion, there is no "Away" left in which we can throw our dead objects. Our material culture is not sustainable. Its resources are not renewable. We cannot turn our entire planet's crust into obsolete objects. We need to locate valuable objects that are dead, and fold them back into the product stream. In order to do this, we need to know where they are, and what happened to them. We need to document the life cycles of objects. We need to know where to take them when they are defunct.

In practice, this is going to mean tagging and historicizing everything. Once we tag many things, we will find that there is no good place to stop tagging.

In the future, an object's life begins on a graphics screen. It is born digital. Its design specs accompany it throughout its life. It is inseparable from that original digital blueprint, which rules the material world. This object is going to tell you -- if you ask -- everything that an expert would tell you about it. Because it WANTS you to become an expert." (http://www.boingboing.net/images/blobjects.htm)

More Information

  1. Downloadable designs at Treehugger, sponsored by Absolut, http://www.treehugger.com/absolut/
  2. See also Blogjects; Physical Bookmarking; Gizmo ; Blobject
  3. To Read: Shaping Things. By Bruce Sterling

Recommended videos:

  1. Bruce Sterling on the Internet of Things and Spimes
  2. http://www.toshare.it/spime/ , wonderful animated video