Great BruceSterling talk about product design. Essential read : ... ... and read the book : ShapingThings

ReadWith : InformationShadows

: Thanks to BillSeitz for the link. CategoryCopyrightRisk

The truth about a blobject is that is a physical object that has suffered a remake through computer graphics. It was designed on a screen with a graphics program. A blobject is what a standard 20th century industrial product, a consumer item, looks like after your crowd has beaten it into shape with a mouse.


Context : DesignStuff

A historical typology of products

Up to the present day, during previous history, we humans have had. and made, four different classes of possible objects. These classes of objects are called, in order of their historical appearance, Artifacts, Machines, Products, and Gizmos.

The lines between Artifacts, Machines, Products and Gizmos aren't mechanical. They're historical. The differences between them are found in the material cultures they make possible. The kind of society they produce, and the kind of human being that is necessary to make them and use them.

  • Artifacts are made and used by hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers.
  • Machines are made and used by customers. in an industrial society.
  • Products are made and used by consumers, in a military-industrial complex.
  • While Gizmos are made and used by end-users, in whatever today is == a "New World Disorder," a "Terrorism-Entertainment Complex," our own brief interregnum.

: Blobjects tend to be a subset of the class of Gizmos. Not all blobjects are Gizmos, but most gizmos have insane amounts of functionality in them, and they are designed on computers.

(See also : TechnologicalDeterminism / OnHistoricism)

On Gizmos and their socio-economic role

If you're the kind of guy or gal who attends SIGGRAPH, then you are best described as an end-user of Gizmos. You're not here just to shop, to buy stuff in styrofoam blocks. You come here to participate in your industry. Your parents were consumers, back in the 1960s. But you are here to add value and advance the state of the art, so you are some kind of participant. Not a consumer. An end-user. An end-user is the historically evolved version of a consumer. (Compare Consumtariat )


On what comes next

... the next stage is coming on fast.

The next stage is an object that does not exist yet. It needs a noun, so that we can think about it. We can call it a "Spime," which is a neologism for an imaginary object that is still speculative. A Spime also has a kind of person who makes it and uses it, and that kind of person is somebody called a "Wrangler." At the moment, you are end-using Gizmos. My thesis here, my prophesy to you, is that, pretty soon, you will be wrangling Spimes.

  • The most important thing to know about Spimes is that they are precisely located in space and time. They have histories. They are recorded, tracked, inventoried, and always associated with a story.*

Spimes have identities, they are protagonists of a documented process.

Compare : BlogJects, RFID, AddressableThings

And as they are AddressableThings ... A spime is a users group first, and a physical object second.

See also : BillSeitz:z2004-06-30-HughTrain

Spimes vs Branding

  • Today, most consumers know little or nothing about their possessions. They might know the brand, because brand awareness has been forced on them for years, at great expense, by massive product advertising. A Spime, by contrast, is an object that can link to and swiftly reveal most everything about itself. It might as well do this, since Google is perfectly capable of telling you everything anyway.*

Managing that becomes a competitive advantage for spime makers. A true Spime is going to get ahead of the curve by bringing you inside the tent of the designers and developers and engineers, and the sales and marketing people.

See also : OnPlatforms

On SpimeWranglers

A true Spime creates spime wranglers ... Wranglers are the class of people willing to hassle with Spimes.

And it is a hassle. An enormous hassle. But its a fruitful hassle.

This is beyond NetoCrats and CuratedConsumption. We're talking about people who tend the relations between your smart, historical objects and you. There's a definitely TheAgeOfAccess dimension to this. You rent this service. Although it's also going to create and be managed by amateur communities (TheAgeOfAmateurs) Think of all those people inventing objects for TheSims etc.

Ecological Fallout

Sterling hopes the "process" here is going to makes us value Spimes longer term. Less disposable society, ecological cost? But I suspect maintainence eats up a lot of energy. Those SpimeWranglers will want to consume too.

See also : LongNow

Spimes internalize industry and become process

That is the reality that already underlies all manufactured objects. An event like SIGGRAPH will tell you those things already, only in slow motion. A Spime is today's entire industrial process, made explicit. That is the whole shebang, explicitly tied to the object itself. A Spime is an object that ate and internalized the previous industrial order.


The upshot is that the object's nature has become transparent. It is an opened object.

In a world with this kind of object, you care little about the object per se; that physical object is just a material billboard for tomorrow's vast, digital, interactive, postindustrial support system. This is where people like you, your evolved successors, rule the earth. This is a world where the Web has ceased to be a varnish on barbarism, and where the world is now varnish all the way down.

Yep, TheAgeOfAccess again. And NoLogo because he still has a view of Spimes wanting to suck you into their world. In fact isn't this Baudrilliard's seduction? (


  • This is not a vision of utopia. This is a historical thesis. Like all previous history it is fraught with titanic struggle. We are facing a future world infested with digital programmability. A world where our structures and possessions include, as a matter of course, locaters, timers, identities, histories, origins, and destinations: sensing, logic, actuation, and displays. Loops within loops. Cycles within cycles.*

Introduces all usual surveillance issues, AlwaysOnPanopticon etc.

But possibility to see environmental / health effects

It's painful. But we need to understand that our bloodstreams are our dumping grounds. So are our lungs and our livers. If we could visualize that, if we knew and could prove what had gone wrong inside of ourselves, if we could put a digital medical imaging screen on our bellies, our lungs and our livers, and make those invisible problems visible, then everything would become different. If that knowledge was attached to every object in our possession, the objects that were killing us would vanish quickly.

Best quote

Networking is another word for not-working. But boy, we sure have to do a lot of it.

Ouch! – PhilJones

Hmmm.... ok it's a cute quote, but really ... how can someone so 'into' futurology be down on the importance of talking? Isn't networking just talking with people who you may not normally make the effort to talk to but who are likely to be interested to talk with you ?? The future is all about talking ... and there's huge value in good networking.

... maybe he's fixated on a work ethic that says real work can't be enjoyable :( ... tragic.



At one point it sounds like Spimes will be individuals and the eco-upside is that we will take care of and mend them, rather than dispose of them because they'll have a history and (personality). But

  • a) we're only going to have cognitive capacity for a certain number of such individualized objects. (See also DunbarNumber) Beyond this were going to still depersonalize and dispose of objects.
  • b) just because things are individuals doesn't mean we'll value them as such. We're pretty good at depersonalizing and chucking out people who have all the history and individuality we can imagine, if it suits us. (See also OnServants)

Contrast :

See also :

  • OnApple (because the discussion on Apple's iTunes as platform strategy because Gizmoization will destroy the iPod)
  • LifeHacks - well connect to Graham's RealityHacks
  • BillSeitz:ProductsAreConversations (ExperienceEconomy)