An Internet of Old Things

Chris Speed reflects upon the temporal characteristics of the emerging phenomenon known as the 'Internet of Things'.


This seminar reflects upon the temporal characteristics of the emerging phenomenon known as the 'Internet of Things'. As objects become individually tagged with unique identities through the addition of small electronic chips or barcodes, their history is recorded and made available to others across a network.The advent of this ever-growing catalogue of histories means that every object will be 'in touch' with its current and previous owner at all times and suggests that while we as owners might like to 'forget' about an object, we will never truly be detached from them. However the author suggests that there exists a social and cultural inertia that is tied to a teleological perception of time and that the weight of this is hampering opportunities for the Internet of Things to embrace old things. The paper uses a series of cultural coordinates including the TOTeM/Tales of Things and Walking Through Time research projects that explore relationships with personal and social histories to explore a more creative approach to understanding the past. The seminar uses the research projects to explore the potential for digital technology to network the past and develop an 'Internet of Old Things'.

Chris' bio

Chris Speed is Chair of Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. He has a BA in Alternative Practice (Brighton Polytechnic, 1992), a Masters in Design (Goldsmiths 1999), and a PhD from Plymouth University (‘A Social Dimension to Digital Architectural Practice’, 2007).

His research revolves around ideas of the Network Society, Digital Art and Technology, and The Internet of Things Digital Culture. Chris has sustained a critical enquiry into how network technology can engage with the fields of art, design and social experience through a variety of international digital art exhibitions, funded research projects, books journals and conferences. At present Chris is working on funded projects that engage with the flow of food across cities, an internet of cars, turning printers into clocks and a persistent argument that chickens are actually robots. Chris is a co-organiser and compere for the Edinburgh events and is co-editor of the journal Ubiquity.

Chris was PI for the TOTeM project investigating social memory within the ‘Internet of Things’ funded by the Digital Economy (£1.4m) and the related Research in the Wild grant: Internet of Second Hand Things; PI for the JISC funded iPhone app Walking Through Time that overlays contemporary Google maps with historical maps; PI for Community Web2.0: creative control through hacking, a £40K feasibility study that explores parallels between virtual society (Internet) and actual society (communities); Co-I to the Sixth Sense Transport RCUK funded Energy project (£900k) which explores the implications for the next generation of mobile computing for dynamic personalised travel planning. He is also PI for the Travel Behaviours network funded by the RCUK Energy theme (£140k) and Co-I to both the EPSRC Creating trust through digital traceability project (Hull) and Learning Energy Systems project (Edinburgh).

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