Ambient Technology

This oft-neglected blog might appear to be solely about ARG marketing/gaming and digital art, but this thing I’ve labeled as “nonlinear” since 2001 is finding a new presence thanks to Twitter,, etc. And this thing is getting a new name; I’ve been calling it Ambient Technology.

I do credit Twitter for getting us all talking about this. The first good description of this compelling ambient was Christopher St. John’s post Trains, Twitter and MUDs:

Twitter provides a sort of continual background feeling of connectedness, even if the surface messages are often trivial…the act of reading can become unconscious. You just sort of “hear” the messages in the background instead of attending to them in the way you’d read a blog posting or even an IM.

Looking at Twitter from the outside, I can see how it seems strange to care about the minutia of other people’s lives. But it’s exactly the stuff you’d get if you worked in the same office with those people. The constant background hum of all sorts of information, from who’s pregnant to who’s on a business trip to Portland to who’s broken the build…if you’ve made the decision to have a geographically distributed set of friends, it seems like a very practical solution.

I had already grabbed the term (textual) ambient from Matt Webb just a short while prior, but CKS put just the right amount of narrative around the concept.

{Since then, I have been a huge Twitter advocate, convincing two different clients to use it, and having almost childlike joy when finding someone-I-really-respect-but-don’t-get-as-much-IRL-time- as-I’d-like-with has jumped on the tweeting bandwagon. (Never mind the almost dirty-sounding slang that has come out of Twitter culture.)}

So today this thread appears before me, thanks to boboroshi’s post discussing the extant problem of multiple social sites/graphs.

{A popular subject, one a couple of local friends are working on, and one that those of us at The HopeShow experience every day with the number of sites we visit every day–and we’re slacking!}

So I am introduced to Leisa Reichelt’s and her excellent presentation on Ambient Intimacy at the Future of Web Apps, and her excellent post on Ambient Intimacy.

Through that I am introduced to the word phatic and the idea of phatic communication, a linguistic structure first developed by Roman Jakobson.

I also discover how much thought the people have put into the idea of ambient technologies. They use the word osmotic, which I also like.

The other term I’ve used is Low Threshold Technology. I use it interchangeably with Ambient Technology based on context.

This is a research blog and as such I don’t have much to add to this conversation…yet.

{I have been commissioned to write articles for an unusual publication in another country, and I am going to work this stuff into those pieces and either point to them or republish them on one of my various locations on the web. I’m sure I will have more tidbits and will probably choose to post them here (I have been toying with re-centralizing my web publishing, a cycle I seem to go through twice a decade).}

In the meantime the take home is this: If you are in the business of stealing my attention (which most of us are in some form or fashion), you can do as much of that as you like, given each theft is very small. The shortening of our collective attention span is not a bad thing, simply because it is not a matter of shortening our attention span. It is a matter of freeing more of our attention for what is important and/but allowing as much of what is important through without using up too much of our attention.

(Ah yes I do have much more to say in this area. It has everything to do with media and business, which is my passion and my bread and butter. But…later.)

links tagged attention, links tagged twitter

advised by the aforementioned CKS)



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