Collaboration allows us to work with the new material

Richard Topgaard is a media strategist and developer at Malmö University’s research center for collaborative media, Medea. The text is taken from our publication “Internet of Things”, about how the media industries can benefit from a network of connected things.

We media producers, programmers, scientists and ordinary users have new material to work with called the Internet of Things. This material is at the boundary between digital and analog, virtual and physical, and between private and public.

People have been talking about the Internet of Things as a technical infrastructure for a long time, but it’s getting to be time to think about the values we can create using this infrastructure.

This new material is often created without us having to make an effort. It’s already easy to create and have access to data about how you move about the city without manually entering data in a spreadsheet. Open application programming interfaces allow you to create services and products based on publicly available data.

Applications for the material

There are already many examples of applications based on the new material: apps that automatically send reimbursement claims when your train is delayed, art installations that illustrate how to translate the number of bicycles passing by into dollars, gasoline or carbon dioxide; washing machines that start when the electricity price is lowest, a home that talks to you through social media channels or a car that automatically makes an appointment at the garage when it’s time for an oil change.

From the examples above, we can conclude that we have a long way to go when it comes to developing applications that are actually useful for people. The material we have to work with is complex in nature and I believe that in the future the ability to work across traditional industry boundaries will be invaluable.

What happens, for example, if we let authors and poets work with interaction designers and publishers to create digital poetry?

The result may be I Am Poem, a poetry machine that draws its material from the millions of tweets that people, bots and sensors are churning out every day. I Am Poem took shape partly on a website, but also as a hacked label printer and a lever that could “control the speed of the internet”.

Printed stream from Pär Thörns poem “I am”. 

If we allow many skills to work together, I think we will look back in ten years and wonder why we thought the Internet of Things was so difficult to understand.

If we start focusing on human needs and what these needs look like in different types of environments—public spaces, at home, at a concert or on public transportation—then we will be able to create services and products that not only help us with daily chores, but also make us laugh and cry.