As the virtual and the physical converge more and more, and eventually become indistinguishable, our basic human experience is changing. The internet is on the brink of making the transition from virtual space to the physical world; indeed, it’s a transition that is already underway, as we increasingly have the ability to be online wherever we are, all the time, in real time, and in many different types of contexts, and these will all be known and processed by online and mobile services.
This ability to be online is not limited to computers and mobile phones. The digitisation of our physical space also includes RFID systems, sensors, alert systems, cameras, GPS, etc. While many people are still coming to understand the ways in which personal technologies can revolutionise our lives, designers are already exploring the possibilities of a “web of things”. The challenge for designers in a new phase in digital/physical confluence is to create a range of trusted tools that use paradigms that are relevant for people and not computers.
So what does a world in which all objects are connected to the internet actually mean? The benefits for industry are perhaps the most evident ones – the modern just-in-time philosophy could be powerfully enabled by our greater ability to track stock, market flows, buying habits. But beyond more automated, efficient systems, where is the value for our basic everyday human experience? And how can we make sure that this experience is enhanced through a framework that uses human-centred data to facilitate our existence, while ensuring privacy and trust?
At Experientia, we’ve been exploring the themes of trust, value and identity that lie at the heart of such technological advances. While the issues of privacy, security, usability, human/computer interaction and ways to store large amounts of data are all important design considerations, there are also more emotional, less tangible issues to investigate. One example is storage and retrieval: we can capture, warehouse and retrieve almost endless amounts of information generated through movements and tasks throughout our day, but it is perhaps more relevant to ask ourselves, do we really want to? Instead of exploring ways to enhance our computer storage space, the human side of the issue might involve asking ourselves how we can create relevance in the visualisation of information, facilitating human qualities and values, such as memory, precious information, or the convenient forgetting of unwanted or unpleasant reminders.
Keeping control and power in the hands of people; the human qualities of valuing and treasuring important information, and forgetting those things that are irrelevant; the tactile expression that bridges the distance of remote communication; the intuitive nature of interacting with gestures; the emotional aspects of moods, surprises, attraction, serendipity: the conversation around human identity, control, balance and behaviours is only just starting.