Why Things Matter Write-up

Julian Bleeker’s paper on Why Things Matter is “a manifesto for networked objects {due to a] cohabiting with pigeons, Arphids and Aibos in the Internet of things” (Bleeker 1). The thesis of the paper is that non-humans interact and communicate as well as humans do on the Internet. He calls this “Blogjet” which basically means, “objects that blog” (Bleeker 2). His uses examples of things around today to prove that he “[could] go into his laboratory and begin to experiment with what a world might be like in which [he co-occupies] space with objects and [blogs]” (Bleeker 3). He states the three characteristics of Blogjets which include: “[tracking and tracing] where they are and where they’ve [been,]… have…histories of their encounters and [experiences, and]…have some form of agency – they can foment action and participate; they have an assertive voice within the social web” (Bleeker 6).

He states that “[history] is the remnants of experiences a Blogjets acquire” (Bleeker 7). In more detail, he clarified that rather than the history is indexical (like many objects have today) and it’s history is stored in an external source, and “things” carries its history with them.

First he begins writing about Bruce Sterling’s word “Spime”. A Spime is “[a] noun for things that are searchable, track their location, usage histories and discourse with the other things around them” (Bleeker 2). He explains that if the Spime were real, it would most definitely be a Blogjet. He then goes onto explain that Blogjets do not just explain facts online but they begin and continue conversations. They continue the conversations just like human bloggers do. They continue to have important and meaningful conversations (Bleeker 2-3). Spime also have the three characteristics of Blogjets.

He continues to prove his thesis by giving examples of the Blogjet. For example, he talks about the Pigeon that Blogs. This piece is a group of pigeons that have equipment on their backs that send data to the Internet wirelessly. This data includes, GPS to where they have been flying and environmental sensor that accounts air toxins and pollutants. He explains “their importance quickly shifts from common nuisance and a disgusting menace, to a participant in life and death discussions about the state of the micro-local environment” (Bleeker 4-5). As stated in the thesis, the Pigeons are now blogging online and giving important data to the human participants. One can now understand the importance of this and how it could evolve into the Blogjet. The Pigeon that Blogs has two out of the three characters of a Blogjet. The only one it does not have is that it does not have some form of agency. The Pigeons have no voice within the social web.

His next example is the “How Stuff is Made” website. It “[embeds] event histories that we would want our Things to contain, such as manufacturing processes, labor conditions, environmental consequences and so on” (Bleeker 8). This example only pertains to one section of the Blogjet which is that it “[has]…histories of their encounters and [experiences]” (Bleeker 6). It doesn’t even have a complete history as the website only explains the beginnings of the objects journey in the real world. This could possibility be the start but it is not a concrete example of the use of the Blogjet.

Bleeker’s next model is an instrument called iSee made in the Institute for Applied Autonomy. He states “iSee contains a [do it yourself] database of surveillance cameras in the supremely pedestrian New York City and some route fining software not unlike that used by Google Maps, and plots routes so as to avoid the maximum amount of exposure to cameras” (Bleeker 11).He tries to convince the reader that Blogjet will do this by “[altering] patterns of movement and occupancy within space” (Bleeker 12). He explains the significance by stating that instead of people, the Blogjet can use cameras to create safe environments. For example he talks about a Kundi Cam where was “placed in a refugee came where rape and murder are routine” (Bleeker 12). If a version of the Blogjet camera was in place, it would “[have] a visible indicator showing how many tens of thousands of people around the world [were] watching at any given movement” (Bleeker 12). One might question the understanding of point of this section. One understands the importance of this type of equipment but it does not include all three characteristics of a Blogjet. There is tracking and tracing and the recording device has histories of the encounters it would have with humans but the camera itself does not have any agency.

His next examples were “critter cams that disseminate a real time video stream from a Kapok tree in the Amazonian rain forest [and] an RSS feed and podcast from a school of migrating whiles showing all kinds of meaningful environmental data” (Bleeker 13). Both examples have tracking and tracing and histories but are again lacking any sort of agency. These types of projects cannot think and make their own decisions such as humans can. They are merely machines following the actions that were programmed by a human.

He states that “until now, “objects” and “things” have been conspicuously absent from this sphere of making culture” (Bleeker 10). Yet Bleecker has not given a concrete example of the three important things (tracking and tracing, histories, and agency) that are critical to create a Blogjet. These examples create a conclusion that he could not “go into [his] laboratory and begin to experiment with what a world might be like in which [he] co-occupy space with objects that blog” (Bleeker 3). Their needs to be a lot more research and evidence before one would believe that an object could truly blog as a human can.

Bleeker, Julian. “Why Things Matter: A Menifesto for Networked Objects – Cohabiting with Pigeons, Arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things.” Sterling, Bruce. Shaping things. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005.

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