Рубрики
Без рубрики

The End of Cyberspace

For those who aren’t familiar with how these resource-sharing services typically work, check out our story about the technology behind Zipcar. In a nutshell, there are little car lots (or in the case of B-Cycle, a company that will soon deploy shared bikes in Chicago, bike stations) located all over a city that are locked when not in use. A user can make a reservation online for a car or bike and then pick it up at the designated time.

There is no human interaction required: once the mode of transportation is reserved, the user identifies him or herself to the car or bike either by RFID (Zipcar) or PIN at the cycle station (B-Cycle), which then unlocks the car/bike. When the user is done, he or she returns the vehicle to the same lot so that others can make use of the car. For B-Cycle, users can return bikes to any B-Cycle station, not necessarily the one they rented from.

The SoBi system follows a similar path, but the technology is a bit more advanced than that of services like B-Cycle…. For one, there are no cycle stations: SoBi bikes are parked all over the city (starting in New York City) at regular old bike racks. This means that bikes could, in fact, be anywhere at any given time, and not just at a designated station that could be blocks away. You can pick up any bike that’s not already reserved, and drop it off anywhere without having to hunt down a drop-off station….

Like a Zipcar, each SoBi bike is equipped with its own «lockbox» that communicates wirelessly with the SoBi servers via GPS and a cellular receiver (an H-24 module from Motorola, Rzepecki told Ars). When you make a reservation online or via smartphone, you see a map of all the bikes in the area based on their GPS data and are given the option to unlock a specific bike when you click on it….

Since the lockbox contains a GPS module, a cell chip, and a lock that works with a PIN pad, there has to be some way to power it. The SoBi team is still working out the kinks in power consumption, but plans to power the devices with a hub dynamo on the bike’s rear wheel. The lockbox is essentially powered by your pedaling—no charging stations required.

Рубрики
Без рубрики

The End of Cyberspace

Andy Clark argues:

[W]e seem to be entering an age in which cognitive prosthetics (which have always been around in one form or another) are displaying a kind of Cambrian explosion of new and potent forms. As the forms proliferate, and some become more entrenched, we might do well to pause and reflect on their nature and status. At the very least, minds like ours are the products not of neural processing alone but of the complex and iterated interplay between brains, bodies, and the many designer environments in which we increasingly live and work.

Ann Blair suggests, not so fast:

[We assume] that modern technology is creating a problem that our culture and even our brains are ill equipped to handle. We stand on the brink of a future that no one can ever have experienced before.

But is it really so novel? Human history is a long process of accumulating information, especially once writing made it possible to record texts and preserve them beyond the capacity of our memories. And if we look closely, we can find a striking parallel to our own time: what Western Europe experienced in the wake of Gutenberg’s invention of printing in the 15th century, when thousands upon thousands of books began flooding the market, generating millions of copies for sale. The literate classes experienced exactly the kind of overload we feel today — suddenly, there were far more books than any single person could master, and no end in sight.

Рубрики
Без рубрики

The End of Cyberspace

This is going on in Johannesburg:

Hundreds of [traffic] lights have been damaged by thieves targeting the machines’ sim cards, which are then used to make mobile phone calls worth millions of South African rand.

More than two-thirds of 600 hi-tech lights have been affected over the past two months, according to the Johannesburg Roads Agency, causing traffic jams, accidents and frustration for motorists.

The traffic lights use sim cards, modem and use GPRS to send and receive information, a system intended to save time and manpower by alerting the road agency’s head office when any lights malfunction. According to Thulani Makhubela, a spokesman for the agency, the robberies have been «systematic and co-ordinated», possibly by a syndicate. An internal investigation has now been launched.

«They know which signals to target,» Makhubela added. «They clearly have information.»

Wow. Real world, meet ubicomp!

Рубрики
Без рубрики

The End of Cyberspace

Goodbye, virtual world. Hello, new world.

« Amazing: stealing SIM cards from smart traffic lights | Main

This is just a note to confirm the obvious: for the next several months I’m working exclusively on my next book, Taming the Digital Monkey: From Perpetual Distraction to Contemplative Computing (forthcoming with the fabulous Little, Brown & Company), and so will not be posting about futures-related things.

I will, though, be writing about the book on my contemplative computing blog, which like this blog I use as a kind of open commonplace notebook.

Working on other projects

This is just a note to confirm the obvious: for the next several months I’m working exclusively on my next book, Taming the Digital Monkey: From Perpetual Distraction to Contemplative Computing (forthcoming with the fabulous Little, Brown & Company), and so will not be posting about futures-related things.

I will, though, be writing about the book on my contemplative computing blog, which like this blog I use as a kind of open commonplace notebook.

  • About the end of cyberspace

    Cyberspace is a «metaphor we live by,» born two decades ago at the intersection of computers, networks, ideas, and experience. It has reflected our experiences with information technology, and also shaped the way we think about new technologies and the challenges they present. It had been a vivid and useful metaphor for decades; but in a rapidly-emerging world of mobile, always-on information devices (and eventually cybernetic implants, prosthetics, and swarm intelligence), the rules that define the relationship between information, places, and daily life are going to be rewritten. As the Internet becomes more pervasive— as it moves off desktops and screen and becomes embedded in things, spaces, and minds— cyberspace will disappear.

  • This blog is about what happens next. It’s about the end of cyberspace, but more important, about what new possibilities will emerge as new technologies, interfaces, use practices, games, legal theory, regulation, and culture adjust— and eventually dissolve— the boundaries between the virtual and physical worlds.

  • Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is an historian of science and futurist.

    ping Pang

  • Part of the Corante Innovation Hub.

Рубрики
Без рубрики

The End of Cyberspace

Recently I’ve been using a couple tools a lot, for reasons that are worth noting (worth it to me, anyway). Increasingly, I find my choice of technologies depends on fairly small and specific things, keyed more to the way I’m able to use them than to functional specs.

The first is WriteRoom. I’ve had it for a while, but I’ve now made it my default basic text editor. The interesting thing about WriteRoom is that it revives an old interface for a new purpose: it turns it into a tool for focusing an author’s attention. This is writing without distraction, the Web site promises.

Walk into WriteRoom, and watch your distractions fade away. Now it’s just you and your text. WriteRoom is a place where your mind clears and your work gets done. When your writing is complete, exit WriteRoom and re-enter the busy world with your work in hand.

With so much e-mail and information pouring in, the digital life we lead can sure be a blur. If you’ve found it getting harder to focus on the words you want to write, if you’ve forgotten how great it feels to really write distraction-free, then let WriteRoom help you rediscover your muse.

Of course I find the spatial metaphor interesting.

But what I find I really like about it is that it’s particularly well-suited for writing late at night. I have these regular bouts where I’m up until 2 or 3 at night writing— periods when I can really get a lot done, or have those conceptual or organizational breakthroughs that every writer finds really satisfying. Most of the time I’m not writing something that requires elaborate formatting or layout, so I can use a simpler writing tool. But when I’m in bed, the lights are out, and I’m trying to work without keeping my wife up, the amber lettering on a black screen seems especially fitting. The amber and black screen are gentler on the eyes. They focus attention on the words at a time when I don’t have much energy, but have some of my best ideas.

The other tool I’m using a lot these days is Skype. Of course, I have lots of ways to talk to people— two cell phones (one used mainly for text messaging), but I’m finding Skype really good for work-related calls, for a couple reasons.

First, I just bought a headset, which has made it possible to walk around while talking. Before I had it, I had to lean over the computer and yell into the microphone (wherever it is on my computer), which is not a superior communications experience. With the headset, on the other hand, the sound quality is excellent, and I can get up and move about. Much better.

Further, when I’m working, I’m never at my desk— I don’t even have a desk— but I’m always at my computer. (When I’m not working I’m also often at my computer.) Since I actually lost my office phone a long time ago, it’s a lot easier to do calls through Skype.

Finally, the combination of talking and texting makes it possible to share notes with the person you’re talking to, pass URLs back and forth, etc. Since I generally have to send a follow-up e-mail after any phone conversation, having the ability to write those notes in real-time is really useful. And since Skype can save text threads, you can use it as an archive of previous conversations. That’s really useful for things like weekly conference calls, which I’m now doing with some Oxford students I’m advising on a project.

Рубрики
Без рубрики

The End of Cyberspace

I know I’m highly susceptible to suggestion from my friends, but when Anthony raved about Write Room, I was skeptical. It looked to me like the computer equivalent of a 1950s retro diner: a loving recreation of an historical artifact that we shouldn’t miss.

But I must say, I’m hooked. Maybe it’s just the Hawthorne Effect, or the appeal of new devices; but I doubt it.

Basically, Write Room is a really simple writing interface. What it does is take whatever you’re writing (so long as it’s not Microsoft Word— it doesn’t work with Word), and put it in green text in a black window (that’s the default anyway). Essentially, it’s a piece of software that’s a mode: call it IBM CRT display, ca. 1969. The only thing missing is the sound of each key clicking like an angry cicada.

But strangely, it works. The light text on black background is easier on the eyes, at least for a while, and might even be a bit calming. And there’s something about all the menus, other open windows, etc. being invisible that helps one concentrate, at least a little.

The thing I really love about it, though, is the assumption that the way to achieve a Zen-like simplicity is to invoke an older kind of human-computer interaction. Write Room makes your computer screen look like something from the 1968 Engelbart demo— or maybe a little earlier. To a generation of computer users who’ve grown up with color screens, ever-fancier transitions, cliipies, etc., this is simplicity. Or at least it’s an interface that signifies simplicity, which works out to the same thing.

Of course, the other interesting thing is the spatial metaphor in the name. Write Room? Why a room? The idea, of course, is that you using the program is supposed to be like shutting yourself in some meditative room, where you’re free from distractions and able to contemplate the Eternal Verities (or something). But there’s nothing remotely spatial about it: it’s as flat an interface as you cold imagine, and the transition into it isn’t fancy at all; it’s just a quick switch. For all it’s amazing simplicity, the choice of the word «room» suggests just how powerful spatial metaphor remain in our thinking about computers and human-computer interaction.

Technorati Tags: end of cyberspace, interface, writing