The emerging phenomenon known as the Internet of Things refers to the technical and cultural shift anticipated as society moves towards a ubiquitous form of computing that facilitates the connection of everyday objects and devices to all kinds of networks. The Internet of Things creates a link between concrete objects and abstract data, producing a hybrid of physical and electronic spaces, which enables communication and interaction between people and things, and things themselves. However the Internet of Things, resulting through the convergence of identification and location technologies, is at risk of simply becoming a platform whose primary benefit is to offer improved indexing and tracking of manufactured consumer goods from cradle to grave; through manufacturer to distributor, to potentially every single person who comes in to contact with it following its purchase.
Through the combination of digital art practice and theory relating to Human Geography and Actor-Network Theory, the author aims to re-contextualise the Internet of Things, arguing how objects endowed with informational shadows could create a new layer of complex relationships that were previously not visible in our networks. This in turn could allow us to rethink our understanding of the structure and agency of a network, by examining the pattern of interactions represented by how people to people, people to things, and things themselves are connected to one another. Networking objects means we could possibly gain new insights into how we make places, how we organize space and society, how we interact with each other in places and across space and time, and how we make sense of others and ourselves in our locality, region, and world. The Internet of Things may well provide a possible framework that not only allows human agents, but also object agents to play constructive as well as destructive and transformative roles in the social production of space.
- Duncan Shingleton is a digital artist and EPSRC PhD candidate at ESALA, Edinburgh College of Art. As part of TOTeM and fields, he is currently conducting research into the ‘Internet of Things’, a term which refers to the technical and cultural shift that is anticipated as society moves towards a ubiquitous form of computing in which every device is ‘on’, and in some way connected to the internet.
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