the next big plateau

Now that I've had the second revision of iPhone software for a month and an iPhone 3G for two weeks, I've had time to live in the promised land of locative media. Applications on my iPhone allow me to annotate the area I'm in and read notes by other users, to locate my friends, to see what Flickr images were taken in the area, what restaurants, gas stations, or whatever are nearby, or look up the area I'm in on Wikipedia.

So finally this sort of technology is here in easy-to-use form on a mass-market handheld product. In anticipation of this being the "next big thing," it seems, there has been a rush toward locative media, mobile Internet platforms, and ubiquitous computing. First the dot.com boom, then Web 2.0, now the mobile, locative net.

But having this stuff in my hand is deeply anticlimatic. Retrieving information tied to a location is turning out not to have much of an impact on my perception of it. Maybe in a few years, when the amount of geotagged data out there is huge (I dream of chow.com being geotagged) and aggregatable (right now information is divided up between different information providers—Yelp, Flickr, Wikipedia, etc.—and searches need to be made repeatedly) things will be different, but I doubt it. Walter Benjamin's old dream of being able to see a place's history superimposed upon it seems to have come too late.

I apologize for the disagreement or depression the next statement will induce in developers (and architects), but my sense is that now, of all times in recent history, developing new technologies is a backwards move. Our ability do retrieve infromation is all but ubiquitous now. The real developments are going to be in the way that society changes—in terms of finance, sexuality, politics, urbanism and so on—and these kind of transformations are going to be bottom-up. The horoscope for savvy developers, then, is to carefully tune what you're already doing, but find ways to tread water. We've had a tremendous technological run. The next few years are going to be a plateau. If I'm correct that we have yet to see the economy tank, then it might be a decade of this.

With that in mind, it's time to begin scratching out the outline for the Network Culture book in what remains of the summer. I hope that much of that can be done on the blog, but time will tell.

 

Comments

apologies for a request for

apologies for a request for clarification, Kazys: is there a negation missing from this sentence, or is the "but" supposed to be a "not"?

"The horoscope for savvy developers, then, is to carefully tune what you're already doing, but find ways to tread water. "

thanks!

Maybe it should be an "and"

Maybe it should be an "and" instead. In other words, forget chasing the killer app, work on perfecting what is already out there. Tread water while you analyze the changes in society.

 

The way this is formulated,

The way this is formulated, one might be led to believe we could so neatly separate technology from society. Wouldn't think you'd want to flirt with the techno-determinism that way... didn't Rheingold claim (way back) in 2002 that the "killer apps" of "tomorrows" mobile infocom industry wouldn't be hardware devices or software applications but *social practices*?

That location-based services are now being mainlined to the masses by the likes of Apple using Skyhook (itself built on PlaceLab's open-source WPS model) simply increases the "technicity" of these services – their potential to enact change – not their "transduction", or how people perform this potential (Dodge and Kitchen). So if the experience is anticlimactic... maybe it has less to do with the "technology" and more with how you are using them?

How we use and abuse these services will have as much to do with how "society" changes and in turn, what new technologies develop in relation to new techno-social situations.

Hardly a plateau, a theater of the absurd, perhaps, but certainly no time to tread water ;-)

I don't think that's at odds

I don't think that's at odds with what I said at all, Mark. Apologies if I was being unclear. On the other hand, of late I've been seeing a kind of last rush toward the next killer app (be it in things locative or architectural). I have a hunch that we're not going to see such a thing coming anytime soon, that we're entering into a period of some stasis and stability, at least overtly. As I suggested, I think for developers the time is going to be a bit slower than the might expect on the other hand I think this is a crutial time for analysis. Off-blog we've both discussed the immense lack of understanding about the present day out there. That's something that we seem to have abandoned wholesale in the academy and in culture. So what I'm suggesting is that if you want to stay in the corporate world, ditch the 80-hour work week, ditch the idea that boom three is coming, take it easy and as you do so, recharge. Maybe it will, but I very much doubt it (famous last words of the historian reading the near future!).

In so many ways it seems to me that our intellectual culture has thoroughly exhausted itself. Let's take a look at what's going on out there, a cold, hard look. I'm not necessarily advocating that people go to the academy, there are other ways of trying to make sense of the world—from non-fiction and even fiction writing to photography to exhibitions to film and on and on. Above all, I should be clear, work that involves experimentation at the very deepest level—not so much developing new platforms but rather developing new visions of the world—is urgently needed. Hence our own decison at AUDC to look very closely at what's going on out there.