/ 2009 - Imaginary spimes

2009 - A short dialog with Bruce Sterling

Publié le 28 juin 2009 | Tags: internet des objets, internet of things, spime

Yann Le Guennec: You wrote in your blog: « Spimes are speculative, they do not yet exist. They’re a visionary design concept. They’re still well beyond our technical ability to create. They may even be impossible to create. The idea and description of “spimes” will likely sound hopelessly outdated well before spimes become practical. I hope that’s clear » (1)

This is from my point of view the most important thing about spimes, their intrinsic speculative and conceptual nature. Thanks to this fundamental characteristic, they are powerfull motors for imagination, art and design, and especially in a pedagogic context. That’s why we used the term coined by Bruce Sterling for our workshop in Second Life ,and that’s why i also use this term, reinforced and redundant in a way, in my ‘imaginary spimes‘ , these are images, pictures seen as projects, made for imagination, system thinking and design. They are not things, but visions about things and the Internet of things.

From this point of view, it’s a mistake to think about spimes only as objects or services in a networked environment, spimes are open doors to such an environment, which does not and can not exist yet, by definition. They are mental meta-things for the Internet of things. As i already mentioned, forgetting this dimension is thinking about spimes as today’s DIY (which is not a bad thing) while not thinking about future and infinite potentials. Forgetting this dimension is like blinding ourselves.

Bruce Sterling: Well, a spime is indeed speculative, because no real objects have the six qualities I describe for spimes. Spimes have to be virtually designed, they have to have a unique identity, they have to be fabricated, they have to be tracked, searched, and recycled at the end of their use, and they have to leave metadata behind. Otherwise they’re not true spimes.

I don’t know of any real-world objects that have done that yet. Nicolas Nova once came rather close by folding a dinosaur out of paper, labelling it, and recycling it. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nnova/193927093/

YLG : ok, so spimes are not intrinsicly speculative and concepts for design fiction activities, they really are objects following a set of rules, right ?

i think that spimes should remain conceptual in order to be able to act directly in imagination and in ‘the ability to design fictions’, am i wrong?

BS : Well, they’re certainly speculative, but if they were intrinsically speculative, then they’d be physically impossible, like, say, a perpetual motion machine.

Nobody’s built one yet, but I wouldn’t have written nonfiction about them if I thought they were impossible in principle.

In principle, they are possible.

YLG : yes, they are *possible* , i agree. And some things like these will exist surely soon.

But don’t you think that when they really exist, they are not really spimes anymore? When they exist, they get another name, like for example thechair.n.2.4 or my-tableZ.V2,… they are real things, not spimes anymore, with all the power the concept can bring in the field of undiscovered possibilities. I think spime should keep something of the future in itself, and it can do it only as a concept, not as a real thing. I think it’s the 7th rule for a spime. What do you think about this last (possible) rule ?

BS: I agree that if spimes really existed no one would use the old-fashioned word « spime » any more. But that’s just a semantic distinction, it doesn’t mean that spimes are by definition not « real. » Spimes can be objects that are usually metadata and occasionally physical objects, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for a fantasy, because it isn’t.

The seventh aspect of spimes is the metadata they generate.

YLG: yes, I do not consider spime is a fantasy, but an operative concept. This concept can generate realities, instances of real spimes, and these instances will, as you noticed, probably not be called spimes. That’s why i think ’spimes’ are more powerfull in the field of ideas than in the field of things.

(1) Spime Watch: Building Bacteria in Second Life / By Bruce Sterling / March 26, 2008 http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2008/03/spime-watch-bui/