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Post #3159

Instruments of Politeness

We weren’t at SxSW, but some of our friends were – and via their twitter-exhaust this report by David Sherwin of FrogDesign from a talk by Intel’s Genevieve Bell popped up on our radar.

In her panel yesterday at South by Southwest, Genevieve Bell posed the following question: “What might we really want from our devices?” In her field research as a cultural anthropologist and Intel Fellow, she surfaced themes that might be familiar to those striving to create the next generation of interconnected devices. Adaptable, anticipatory, predictive: tick the box. However, what happens when our devices are sensitive, respectful, devout, and perhaps a bit secretive? Smart devices are “more than being context aware,” Bell said. “It’s being aware of consequences of context.”

Here’s a lovely quote from Genevieve:

“[Today's devices] blurt out the absolute truth as they know it. A smart device [in the future] might know when NOT to blurt out the truth.”

This in turn, reminded me of a lovely project that Steffen Fiedler did back in 2009 during a brief I helped run at the RCA Design Interactions course as part T-Mobile’s ongoing e-Etiquette project, called “Instruments of Politeness“.

These are the titular instruments – marvellous contraptions!

They’re a set of machines to fool context-aware devices and services – to enable you to tell little white lies with sensors.

For instance, cranking the handle of the machine above simulates something like a pattern of ‘walking’ in the accelerometer data of the phone, so if you told someone you were out running errands (when in fact you were lazing on the sofa) your data-trail wouldn’t catch you out…

Before this:

After this:

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