Guest post for Orange: The Future of the Internet is Calm

The Future of the Internet is Calm

As people become more and more overwhelmed by technology, they’ll find it negatively impacts their life, getting in the way of doing great things. This is a losing proposition for the companies that employ them. As Xerox PARC researcher Mark Weiser pointed out in 1993, “we can’t design the world the same way we would for a desktop”. Twenty-two years later, we’re still focused on building technology that’s complex and code heavy, with heavy applications struggling to work on connected smartphones, despite minimal battery life and consumer attention.

This is why the insights of Weiser and Brown around calm technology, nearly two decades old, are important for us to revive and renew for our era. Calm technology aims at reducing complexity for Internet-connected devices, and compressing information into the periphery. And having dedicated the last few years of my career on the technology of place, I believe tech’s next great challenge is designing a future for calm technology.

Read the rest of the post: The Future of the Internet is Calm.

Insights are more valuable than data

Very few companies reach the “billion dollar” status. Not valued at billion dollars, but those that actually make a billion dollars. What were the billion dollar companies of the past? Desktop publishing, AutoDesk, Esri (ArcMap or ArcGIS Desktop in particular). What do all of these companies have in common? They take power tools and make them accessible to mere mortals. Photoshop allows anyone to make graphics. Esri software allows non-coders with have datasets to make meaning from it (spatial analysis).

For a while, Twitter allowed anyone to take a piece of hardware and turn it into a feed. Twitter could have been a billion dollar company that stitched together the Internet of Things, but it became a social service instead. The next billion dollar company could help people make meaning of their own data without code.

Many people care about their data, but they don’t want to see raw data – they want to see meaning. Meaning comes from paying attention to correlations and edge cases. Insights, not archives. The general public doesn’t want to have to be a programmer to be able to use a product or service. People want perspective, not anxiety.


    • When it is noisy in your house (above X decibels), you feel stressed.
    • The lack of sunlight in your home is triggering depressive behavior.
    • You haven’t left your house in 3 days, so according to your settings and permissions, we contacted a number of your pre-set trusted friends.
    • You had a great day yesterday – here’s why – you at at 11:30a, 5p and went to bed at 8pm. If you go to bed at the same time tonight, you won’t have the 3-5pm slump you usually have.
    • Guess what? You won’t need to drink caffeine if you get 8.5 hours of sleep at night.
    • Your bedroom’s light level gives you better sleep when it’s darker.
    • If you use Lavender oil or spray when you go to sleep, you don’t wake up in the middle of the night at 5a, like you usually do
    • Eating food after 7pm causes you to gain 5 lbs.
    • Using your phone after 9pm causes 2 hours of insomnia
    • Roller skating once a week makes you far more productive

These are pieces of information that involve calm technologies talking to each other, unobtrusively, and data being determined behind the scenes.

sleep-cycle-and-sleep-quality-amber-case It’s hard to get someone to sign up for a service that simply archives their data, but give people access to meaning and it’s an entirely different story. Right now it’s really difficult to make meaning out of data in a low-friction way. The concept of cybernetic feedback loops is not new. We saw it in the 1940’s. If we make technologies that enable kind, supportive feedback loops, people will be able to take their own lives back into their hands. Computers are no longer tools for the general public. I’m interested in seeing how feedback loops could act people to act more positively, instead of negatively.

What do you want from your technology? Send a response to @caseorganic and it will appear below.

Come to Random Hacks of Kindness! Portland, OR – Dec. 2-4, 2011

Random Hacks of Kindness Hackathon in Portland, Oregon!

What is Random Hacks of Kindness?

Random Hacks of Kindness is a simultaneous global hackathon which addresses issues of disaster and humanitarian response. Local subject matter experts are brought in to guide the developers in relevant issues and to further the use of developed tools after the event.

Registration Deadline:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Register Here to Attend! (Free)


Friday, December 2, 2011 – Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hackathon Location:

Collective Agency
322 NW Sixth Ave, Suite 200, Portland

What’s a hackathon?

A hackathon is a gathering of technically skilled individuals focusing on collaborative efforts to address a challenge, issue, or goal. They usually run from several hours to weeks, and can include rigid structure or organic emergence.

What makes RHoK special?

Geeks Without Bounds brings a year’s worth of experience in facilitating unconferences and hackathons to these events, as well as heavy involvement in the Volunteer Technology Community (VTC). We set expectations and limitations in regards to what responders will be able to learn on short notice under stress and what networks and power situations are like.

The hackathon will take place in the Collective Agency on NW Sixth Ave. in Old Town Portland. There’s TONS of stuff to do in the area. Maps, travel, and hotel info to come soon.

Can’t make it to RHOK?

Try the Geoloqi Open Data Hackathon on Nov 17-19th! Or, even better, come to both!

Questions? Comments?

Contact @willowbl00 on Twitter, and don’t forget to register!

A Short Interview with Tiffany Shlain on Connected: A Film About Love, Death and Technology

I recently had the opportunity to interview Webby Awards co-founder Tiffany Shlain on her new award-winning feature documentary “Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology”.

She discussed a number of interesting things, which I recorded. The interview is posted below in audio form. The audio was recorded from Skype, so I apologize for the quality of the connection and recording, but I hope you will enjoy her interesting thoughts.
[audio: /wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Connected-Interview-Full.mp3]
Here’s a little bit about the film:


Connected - A Film About Love, Death and TechnologyHave you ever faked a restroom trip to check your email? Slept with your laptop? Or become so overwhelmed that you just unplugged from it all? In this funny, eye-opening, and inspiring film, directed Tiffany Shlain takes audiences on an exhilarating rollercoaster ride to discover what it means to be connected in the 21st century. From founding The Webby Awards to being a passionate advocate for The National Day of Unplugging, Shlain’s love/hate relationship with technology serves as the springboard for a thrilling exploration of modern life…and our interconnected future. Equal parts documentary and memoir, the film unfolds during a year in which technology and science literally become a matter of life and death for the director. As Shlain’s father battles brain cancer and she confronts a high-risk pregnancy, her very understanding of connection is challenged. Using a brilliant mix of animation, archival footage, and home movies, Shlain reveals the surprising ties that link us not only to the people we love but also to the world at large. A personal film with universal relevance, Connected explores how, after centuries of declaring our independence, it may be time for us to declare our interdependence instead.


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About Tiffany Shlain

Tiffany Shlain is a filmmaker, artist, founder of The Webby Awards, co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences and a Henry Crown Fellow of The Aspen Institute. Tiffany’s work with film, technology and activism has received 44 awards and distinctions and her last four films have premiered at Sundance. Her films include “Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Happiness,” about reproductive rights in America and “The Tribe,” an exploration of American Jewish identity through the history of the Barbie doll, “Yelp: With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl,” about our addiction to technology and the importance of “unplugging”, and her new award-winning feature documentary, “Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology.” A celebrated thinker and speaker, she delivered a keynote at Cannes MIPdoc in France, has advised Secretary of State Clinton, is on the advisory board of M.I.T.’s Geospatial Lab and presented the 2010 campus-wide Commencement Address at UCBerkeley.

This Week: Guest Posting for Wired Magazine’s Change Accelerators Blog

Greetings! I’m taking a break from my usual blogging routine (and by routine I mean a post every month or so) to write a post every day this week for Wired Magazine’s Change Accelerators blog. It’s a practice round leading up to the release of A Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropology.

Let me know if you like the posts and I hope you enjoy tuning in! Several have already been posted. Their titles are below:

Wired Magazine Posts

Monday: Why Do Makeshift Solutions Persist?

Tuesday: Does Your Tech Make You Feel Superhuman?

Wednesday: How Social Networking Is Extending Our Nervous System

Thursday: Your Brain is Full of Junk: Here’s Why

Friday: Calm Computing

Full Archive of Wired Magazine Guest Posts

Looking for more?

More about each of these subjects will be released in the release of A Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropology! It’s slated to be released in October, though probably around the end of the month.