Our urge to share everything – photos, food, video games scores – is blurring the line between reality and digital life. Looking at the human history of sharing experiences, it’s highly likely that this line will totally disappear in the near future.
Old nature meets next nature as a pair of lions prepare for their day amidst morning traffic, while human bystanders snap photos and upload them to Facebook. As cities and suburbs infringe on lion habitat, these carnivores are increasingly becoming synanthropes – animals that, welcome or not, live in association with human habitations. Image via Naij.
Ever imagined that your gaming addiction might help cure cancer? A new generation of computer games have been introduced that deal with citizen science. Citizen science games like Phylo, Foldit and Galaxy Zoo are called serious games, since they carry a serious goal: Providing scientific knowledge through play. This can help with research in topics from life-threatening diseases to decoding ancient manuscripts.
After Google Glasses, the electronic ring and the self-driving car, Google just presented this new surprising product in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest Interactive conference. The “talking” sneakers, designed by Google in collaboration with the artist Zach Lieberman and the collective YesYesNo, act like a training coach. Fitted with a whole package of electronic devices like a speed detector, pressure sensors in the soles, a gyroscope, a tiny screen and speakers, the shoes also contain a Bluetooth connection. Therefore, they can provide the runner with information and advice about their activity. Like a real coach, they can also motivate or reprehend you if necessary.
The information is then shown on the tiny screen, which is quite inconvenient for those who aren’t able to look only at their feet while running. But Google has thought about everything: the Bluetooth connection also sends the data to a smartphone app and automatically publishes messages on the user’s Google account, so that anybody can check if you’re taking a sneaky break during your jog. This might be worse than an actual coach!
From Future Sciences.
Even though the world wide web has steadily penetrated each aspect of our life since its inception at CERN, it seems that today we still refer to digital technology as existing in a world other than our own. Instead we inhabit the seperate realms of ‘digital’ and ‘real’. Although we focus on bringing down the barriers between these worlds, it may be they’ve already totally merged, without us even noticing. Has the digital fabric of technology inextricably integrated with our lives, or might we still be able to live without it?
Last year, Paul Miller, a tech blogger at The Verge, asked himself a similar question. He disconnected himself from the internet, kicking off a year of ‘offline’ existence. A year of unbridled potential, away from the ‘unnatural’ internet. Miller set to discover what the internet had done to him, by studying it from a distance. He would try to understand the ways in which internet was corrupting us, and enable us to fight back against its influence.
Cameras that can record information that is invisible to the human eye: it may be not only a visionary idea. A new scanning technique permits us to obtain 3D images and detect wavelengths that our visual system is not able to see, far beyond those digital cameras are currently capable of.
Maybe the Taiwanese artist Shuchun Hsiao was inspired by a cold winter day to reinvent the common birdhouse in the shape of the Google Maps icon. The designer understood the importance and the omnipresence of Google Maps in our society and created the Google Birdhouse Project, a modern way to accommodate birds in urban spaces.
The iconic symbol references the “surfing” of flying birds to find their arrival point, just like Google Maps does for humans. As Shuchun Hsiao explains: “Birds have the most real experience of Google Maps. Birds can fly through the city, through streets. A birdhouse becomes their destination”.
Eye-catching, but not intrusive, these niches are also interesting urban decorations. The micro in the macro, the abstract becoming material, the virtual in the real: the result of the Google Birdhouse is bewildering and strong. Perhaps something dealing with Twitter would have been more predictable.
When Édouard Le Roy, Vladimir Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin started to describe in the 1920s how the “noosphere”, the sphere of the human mind, grows into the geosphere and the biosphere, they were already talking about something very real. Yet until today we continue to talk as if our global systems for communicating and exchanging thoughts are somehow immaterial and other-wordly. Today’s “clouds”, in which our data are kept safe, create the metaphor that information turns ethereal once it is stored. Yet the opposite is true. With a multitude of cables, electromagnetic interventions and very material computers, the noosphere is a geological reality of increasing volume and it is increasingly a part of Anthropocene nature. This is what Anthropo-scene #2, on the Indonesian island of Bali, shows: A new species of vine-like plant which could be aptly called Liana noospherica by a new, yet-to-come breed of naturalists that give the new entities of the noosphere scientific names.
This is the second in the Anthropo-scene series. For the first post, click here.