Smart objects and the coming convergence of the digital and the physical as the Third Book of Nature

Our friend Kim Veltman has written a very interesting conference presentation on the new convergence between the digital and the physical world. I find such an approach interesting because it goes beyond the onesided attention to a independent “Internet of Things”, or the business-oriented approach of Bruce Sterling’s Spimes, which assumes an unchanged copyright regime instead of open design.

I’ve posted the source information below.

Kim Veltman:

“The Medieaval period developed the idea of a twofold Book of Nature: a literal book (Bible) and a metaphorical book. On the surface, the World Wide Web is pointing to a new Summa of knowledge. Enormous projects are underway, which foresee scanning the full texts of over 60 million books within the next fifteen years and to create a World Digital Library. Our story is about further dimensions.

At least four developments have begun in parallel and are beginning to converge.

First there is scanning, capturing and mapping.

Second, there is a wave of reconstructing the world, whereby scholars are reconstructing historical buildings, complexes and even whole cities in various interpretations.

Third, there are dramatic developments in technologies for recognizing images.

Fourth, there are dramatic developments with respect to embedding objects in the natural word.

To date the applications of these four trends have largely been for surveillance, law enforcement and security. But they can equally be applied in the world of knowledge. When we do so, then the physical world and man-made worlds, which were traditionally worlds to be recorded, can become recording worlds.

In these new worlds, there will be two kinds of smart objects:

a) physical objects with embedded information and

b) digital surrogates in the sense of Industry Foundation Classes, which include various technical specifications as part of their embedded knowledge. In future, such smart design modules need to be imbued with historical and cultural dimensions, reflecting how an object changed both temporally and spatially. If all the world’s a sensor, then both the worlds of the past in memory institutions as well as the man-made world and physical worlds around us can serve as combined sources for future design, inspirations and creativity.

The World Wide Web (W3) today focuses on a closed world of born-digital materials. The convergence of capturing, reconstructing, recognition and embedding means that the W3 needs to go beyond its network into the physical and man-made worlds. In future, it needs also to become a system linking various worlds: metaphysical, mental, physical, man-made and social worlds, a Worlds Wide Web (or W5 that tends towards Wn). Technologies for more information are ultimately the easy part. Technologies for more knowledge and especially more viewpoints on that knowledge, technologies which promote wisdom, inspiration and creativity are the true challenge.”

Source: Kim H. Veltman. Opening Keynote: “The New Book of Nature“, eARCOM 07. Sistemi informativi per l’Architettura Convegno Internazionale, Con il Patrocinio di UNESCO. Ministero dei Beni Culturali, CIPA, Regione Marche, Ancona-Portonovo Hotel La Fonte, 17-18-19 Maggio 2007.

2 Comments Smart objects and the coming convergence of the digital and the physical as the Third Book of Nature

  1. AvatarPaul Salamone

    Another great post. I wonder where this fits in with the “object-oriented philosophy” of contemporary metaphysician Graham Harman?

    A quote:

    Even as the philosophy of language and its supposedly reactionary opponents both declare victory, the arena of the world is jam-packed with diverse objects, their forces unleashed and mostly unloved. Red billiard ball smacks green billiard ball. Snowflakes glitter in the light that cruelly annihilates them; damaged submarines rust along the ocean floor. As flour emerges from mills and blocks of limestone are compressed by earthquakes, gigantic mushrooms spread in the Michigan forest. While human philosophers bludgeon each other over the very possibility of “access” to the world, sharks bludgeon tuna fish, and icebergs smash into coastlines.

  2. Avatarjames

    Sure the W3C will expand, but it’s probably already overloaded with its present remit. Fully agree that there are plenty of huge projects rolling out that address what Kim is talking about. Of course all this data will get reframed however you want it. @Michel, i’m sure Sterling would be open to your views on copyright law in regard to spimes. Also sure he’s written sci-fi accounts that cover cultural-historico layering with spimey assist:)

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