The internet of things, increases the role of physical objects as social objects enormously, because it adds heaps of context that can serve relationships. Physical objects always have been social objects, but only in their immediate physical context. A social object is an enabler for human interaction and to form relationships around. Human networks grow, interact, change, take on meaning, through social objects. They can be the (temporary) subject of a conversation, relationships and group forming, and transactions.

Some ‘internetted’ things in our household: Nabaztag, Chumby, Arduino board, Tikitag RFID reader.

Making physical objects internet-aware creates a slew of possible new uses for it as social objects.
Think of aspects like:

Where has the object been, where is it now, where is it going?
Who has owned this object, who owns it now?
Where can you get it, how much is it?
What do people think about it?
Who is near the object now?
Who has handled the object?
What does it notice in its environment?
What can this object be connected to, part of?
What is it currently connected to or part of?
What parts does this object consist of?
What materials is it made of, what other uses have these materials?
What does it take to produce it, what are alternatives?
How can I reuse this object, where do I dispose of it?
Can you create/copy this object yourself?
What uses does this object have, what uses have people come up with?
Where can I use it?
How does it work?
Who designed or manufactured it, what else did they design or manufacture?
What are its physical attributes?
Is this object useful today, will I need it? (think connecting your umbrella to the weather forecast for today)
Why did the object change hands?
How does it relate to other objects?
What other objects did it interact with and where?
What other objects did it come in contact and where?
What does the object look/feel like, in different settings, colors etc?
What does the object look/feel like when used in different ways?
What other stuff do people that use this object use?

And if you add more sensors or actuators to a product (object hacks so to speak), the list grows accordingly.
My explorations into FabLab and transient technology are meant as experimenting around this internet of things.

3 reactions on “Internet of Things and Social Objects

  1. Hi Bryan,
    excellent question. I think there are lots of possibilities. Some of which are closer to realization than others perhaps. But a few minutes yielded this list:
    Manipulating tagged blocks that translate into a 3d animation/model on a computer.
    Having objects correlate (what plant belongs to what other plants, which objects belong in the same category)
    Have lego blocks contain their own building instructions
    Programmable robots like Lego Mindstorms
    Mobile treasurehunts
    Make history lessons tangible in a city, by augmenting buildings with info
    Bring ambient devices into the class room that give out info (weather, digital photoframes, news headlines being read aloud)
    Bring ambient devices into the class room that monitor certain things (temperature, air quality, etc.) and that can be used in lessons
    Physical 3d models of buildings/things that have a computer 3d equivalent in a virtual world
    Bring the kids into FabLabs to create those objects themselves
    All of which can be shared with other learning groups through the internet, and learning experiences can be connected to each other.

  2. Fine answer, Ton. It seems like possibilities arrange themselves on several levels:
    1. Devices for playback, interaction (first type of ambient devices, “lego blocks contain their own building instructions, Programmable robots like Lego Mindstorms”).
    2. Devices with analogues online (“tagged blocks that translate into a 3d animation/model on a computer”, webkinz).
    3. Augmented reality (“Mobile treasurehunts”).

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