Information Shadows


I found this presentation on information shadows by Mike Kuniavsky via Daniel’s site. Given my interest in Symbolic Systems, it really hit a sweet spot. Here’s a short abstract:

My presentation, called Information Shadows: How ubiquitous computing serializes everyday things (1.2MB PDF) is my attempt at showing how ubiquitous computing technology is, in essence, turning whole classes of everyday objects into serials, or services, by creating pervasive digital access to the objects’ metainformation, their information shadows. In the process, I talk about blenders, timeshares, Cuddle Chimps, City Carshare, and Exactitudes. I think it’s a fun talk, and I’m really happy to have had the opportunity to articulate these ideas in this forum.


Around the 3rd section I lost the flow of the argument, so I wrote out this precis to try to help me keep the ideas straight. If, after seeing the original, you want to see an attempt at condensing the material read on.

Precis of “Information Shadows” by Mike Kuniavsky

  1. There would is full of many things.

  2. These things can have unique identifiers associated with them ( ISBN, UPC, ASIN )

  3. Fait Accompli: Ubiquitous computing

  4. Combining 2 and 3 creates the framework for the information shadow: the sum totality of all mentions of the tokens associated with the unique identifier.

  5. Application to example: GPS / Taxi.

A unique taxi exists. At any moment, like a subatomic particle, it has a probability field of reputation about it. Some attributes or tokens are more primary than others ( is at Connecticut and 16th St., is occupied, etc. ). Other attributes, can enter the object’s attendant cloud ( or shadow ) quickly thanks to Ubicomp: Twitter Joe says: Taxi 4413 smells like kim-chee. Blogger Jane says: “Taxi 4413 can get from city light to SoMa in under 4 minutes during rush hour - w00t”. A nasally insensitive guy in a hurry will find that Taxi 4413 is generally seen in vicinity of bus terminal…

  1. As taxonomic lubricity advances ( Semantic Web, Semantic crawlers, etc. ) more data can be mined more quickly without Ubicomp-enabled humans. Taxi 4413’s license plate appears in flickr, ( proposed ) gathers comments and thumbs up/ downs and the radius of the cloud contains more and more information.

  2. Taken to the final yard, the shadow becomes more important than the artifact to which it purports to hang ( major shades of Baudrillard here ).

  3. Similarly, people realize their interest in the originative artifact is dwindling and / or interest in possessing the artifact is dwindling for green / hate lugging boxes around as i move a lot / space / incidental cost / etc. reasons. Forerunner cases demonstrated with City Car Share / Zip Car / German Bikes etc.

  4. Objects with information shadows can be made dotted-line objects:

  5. Requirement: Rapid replication technology of Artifacts: CPU’s, Bikes, Cars, Purses, Digital printing, Paper Printing is necessary ( heavy Baudrillard here, but not mentioned in preso )

  6. Requirement: Information clouds

1. Ubiquitous computing 
            ( data store access / location / entitlement )

2. Artifact ( instance ) tagging
  1. An object’s utility is described, meaningfully by its shadow

  2. Particular object’s utility is commodity: Wine is not, hammers are

  3. In time the charm of having a particular object ( hammer ) is outweighed by the negatives ( Huge CD collection is nice, but all CD’s accessible over a fast network makes moving easier cf. car: fuel, insurance; chainsaw: relative disuse, danger of kids finding it )

  4. The import comes to be captured in the meta cloud, the information shadow, the Platonic form. Was: “I need a hammer” is now “I need a thing that is good at banging nails in that won’t give me calluses and won’t let me hurt myself that I can have at my apartment in today”… it just happens that the most likely instantiation of the artifact that meets that need is a hammer ( or, perhaps someday Hammer 2.0 ).

Object lesson: Serials ( journals ) are this way. Do you really want that shelf-buckling collection of Nat. Geo’s or would you settle for all of it on DVD, or an ad hoc monthly access fee?

QUESTIONS: What are the virtues of the shadow wrangler?

  1. Well, he understands this presentation, obviously :)

  2. What are the economics of the movement of artifact to dotted-line object ( Business Thesis :) )

  3. Can technology be used to accelerate adoption of objects as d-l objects?

  4. When the clouds can be mutated between one another we move to a first-level-indirection marketplace. Having a standardized language there would allow interchanges between the d-l object.

  5. Isn’t a d-l object essentially the platonic form of the object? It’s all possible instances of the object, it’s the source of the object-ness of that object?