Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Thursday.8pm. August 14.2003

DECONversation / Maurice Benayoun and Steve Mann, moderated by Derrick de Kerckhove

Looks interesting. Someone go so we can heckle. ;-)

Steve Mann

Brainwave Building Blog

Deconism Gallery/Arts Complex was designed as a blog --- something we call "buildinglog" (which, like cyborglog, abbreviates to "glog").

We've all seen smart buildings, smart lightswitches, smart toilets, and intelligent user interfaces, but what happens when you have "smart people"? What happens when you wire up the "intelligence" onto people?

2003 August 14th and 15th we explore what happens when the intelligent building meets intelligent occupants.

The August 14th event will be an intellectual discussion about the relationship between cyborglogs and buildinglogs. Three panelists (Maurice Benayoun, Pierre Levy, Steve Mann), moderated by the Director of the Marshall McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, will enter an immersive multimedia space (a brainwave bath) while discussing the implications of thepost-cyborg age.

The August 15th event will be an actual collective (de)consciousness where the occupant-cyborgs interact with the building, to create an audiovisual experience from their brainwaves, as part of a brainwave (de)concert performed by jazz musicians Bryden Baird, James Fung, Dave Gouveia, Sandy Mamane, and Corey Manders.

I've been thinking a lot about my addiction to social software, business models and what this is all about. Frank has a great quote from Douglas Adams about small, green pieces of paper which is a really good place to start.

"Small, Green Pieces of Paper"

Douglas Adams
From the radio script for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this, at a distance of roughly ninety million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet, whose ape descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. This planet has, or had, a problem, which was this. Most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small, green pieces of paper, which is odd, because on the whole, it wasn't the small, green pieces of paper which were unhappy. And so the problem remained, and lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake coming down from the trees in the first place, and some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no-one should ever have left the oceans. And then one day, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl, sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realised what it was that had been going wrong all this time and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no-one would have to get nalied to anything. Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone, the Earth was unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass and so the idea was lost forever.
This obviously has a lot to do with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
  1. Safety/security: out of danger
  2. Belonginess and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted
  3. Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition
When people are struggling to survive and be safe they don't have much time to worry about #2 and #3. Now that part of the world is relatively safe and well fed, we're stuck trying to figure out #2 and #3. Listening to CDs, watching TV and playing video games helps you forget that no one loves you and that you have no self-esteem, but doesn't address the basic problems. I have a sense that blogging can help your self-esteem, help you find more people like yourself and increase your sense of belonging. Services like meetup can take this to the real world. I really think that we have the opportunity to address some of the basic problems in the human condition through the development of social software. I'm sure there is a business model in here somewhere, but I'm fascinated by the idea of technology helping people build self-esteem and communities. I know that we've had tools for awhile now and online communities are not a new thing, but I think the barrier to entry continues to decline and the tools keep getting better. I'm also quite interested in how this relates to mobile phones. hmm...

I was talking to Halley today about being cool. American's think they're pretty cool, but the Japanese are getting pretty cool these days too.

At the Japan dinner that I MC'ed this year, Tony Kobayashi, the former head of the Association of Corporate Executives talked about the Foreign Affairs article on Japan's Gross National Cool. Maybe Japan's coolness can save it. This was also the topic of the CNN interview that I did which should air any day now on CNN International when they find a boring day to fill. ;-p

Foreign Affairs
Japan’s Gross National Cool

Japan is reinventing superpower—again. Instead of collapsing beneath its widely reported political and economic misfortunes, Japan’s global cultural influence has quietly grown. From pop music to consumer electronics, architecture to fashion, and animation to cuisine, Japan looks more like a cultural superpower today than it did in the 1980s, when it was an economic one. But can Japan build on its mastery of medium to project an equally powerful national message?

We're having a contest to create a 2-minute moving image that describes Creative Commons' mission. First prize is a G5 Mac. More info on the CC blog.

Ever since I started IRC, I've noticed that I'm reading much less email, getting a lot less structured work done, but having a much better sense of what's going on in our "space" and able to tie a bunch of pieces together that weren't tied together before. I think some people mistake this type of contextual multi-tasking as some form of ADD. I think I'm switching from M-time to P-time. Edward Hall in Beyond Culture describes the difference between P-time and M-time.

Edward Hall
Monochronic time (M-time) and polychronic time (P-time) represent two variant solutions to the use of both time and space as organizing frames for activities. Space is included because the two systems (time and space) are funtionally interrelated. M-time emphasises schedules, segmentation and promptness. P-time systems are characterized by several things happening at once. [...] Americans overseas are psychologically stressed in many ways when confronted by P-time systems such as those in Latin America and the Middle East. [...] In a different context, the same patterns apply within governmental bureaucracies of Mediterranean countries: A cabinet officer, for instance, may have a large reception area outside his private office. There are almost always small groups waiting in this area, and these groups are visited by government officials, who move around the room conferring with each. Much of their business is transacted in public instead of having a series of private meetings in an inner office. [...] By scheduling, we compartmentalize; this makes it possible to concentrate on one thing at a time, but it also denies us context.
This is the experience I'm having. Blogs and supporting services like technorati and trackbacks make the publishing of blogs more and more like a conversation where one has to respond to blog posts in hours. For me, responding to blog posts directed at me is more important than email. What IRC and Chat have done is accelerated this even more but has added the ability to see the state of my various friends. Sleeping, waking up, in a meeting, on the phone. When I'm excited about something, I can quickly round up folks in IRC or find people who are available to process in real-time, what used to be scheduled and slower. I can talk to people while an idea is still fresh in my mind and jump from brainstorm to brainstorm. Also, this real-time element allows much richer emotional context. Hanging out on IRC exchanging simple state information like waking up and going to bed creates some sort of "we've hung out together" link between the participants. If you're having emotional issues, it's comforting to have the real time exchange of chat vs. the write and wait anxiety of email or blogging. IRC does have its emotionally tense moments, but I think the supportive elements outweight the grief.

Partially as an experiment, I've changed my mode of behavior. I rarely prioritize email. I sit on IRC and chat with my Vonage IP phone next to my computer. I wake up at 2 am. (Partially due to jet lag) I keep one eye on IRC while I go through RSS feeds. I check out new people who drop into IRC. I chat individually with interesting people and phone them as the discussion or the relationship develops. If I think someone would add value to a discussion, I track them down and drag them over to IRC or sometimes I am summoned to IRC (by Jeannie) when they need me there. I find that this P-time method allows me to have a much richer high context thought process involving more people. The problem is, it's hard to then get anything structured done. ;-)

I don't think, however, that this is totally without value as some people may think. I think the trick will be to balance structured time for execution with P-time to create context. IRC has been around a long time, but I am feeling more and more that the combination of IRC and other social software enhances greatly its value and is worth revisiting as a core component of our communication process.