Saturday, April 24, 2010

Internet of Objects vs. Internet of Things vs. Web of Things vs. Things on the Web vs. Real World Web vs. Whole World Web

Some people find the naming of things to be incidental, uninteresting or even irrelevant, but from a sociological perspective the struggle to find the "right" name is critical to understanding people's interests, concerns and claims over domains of knowledge and practice. (For example, to declare the name of something an issue that needs correction, or as a problem to be solved, can be seen as the first step in what Michel Callon and Bruno Latour have called a sociology of translation--the successful result of which comprises an actor-network.) And I have a particular research interest in Pervasive Computing, the "Internet of Things" and/or the "Web of Things" as contested domains of knowledge and practice, so I was really interested in a conversation I followed on Twitter this morning.

Now, it's actually pretty hard to sequentially represent a Twitter conversation between several people so the transcription below only approximates how it unfolded in real-time. Plus, there were participants whose Twitter accounts are not public, and so not included here. But the perceived issues of the debate are what's most interesting to me, along with who or what drops out of conversation.

tomcoates: Trying with @bobbiejohnson to think of a better phrase than 'internet of objects' for pervasively networked, web of data aware devices...

jennielees: @tomcoates i prefer 'the internet of things', or if you're oreilly-oriented, 'web cubed'..

tomcoates: @jennielees The problem with the 'Internet of Things' is that I think it triggers a whole bunch of weird assumptions. It doesn't quite fit.

kevinmarks: @tomcoates I take it you don't like @bruces's 'spime' then?

tomcoates: @kevinmarks I'm not anti-spime as a useful descriptive term, although that's not completely what we're talking about here.

tomcoates: @kevinmarks Spime—as I understand it—is more of an object that can be tracked through space and time, rather than as a two-way transport.

jackschofield: @tomcoates It's already known as the Web of Things! (@bobbiejohnson, er, who? ;-)

tomcoates: @jackschofield Yeah, I don't really buy that one either. It implies a web between things, not a relationship between things and the web.

tomcoates: @jackschofield Honestly, I'd prefer Things on the Web, although that's also semi-confusing, I accept.

tomcoates: Suddenly struck by the phrase "Real World Web" as a semi-reasonable phrase to describe the shift towards connected devices and environments

jackschofield: @tomcoates If you want to rename everything that could have a better name, you'll be busy for decades, and it won't make the world better.

tomcoates: @jackschofield I'm 100% with you - I'm not greatly in favour of having long, drawn-out semantic arguments about the names of things.

tomcoates: @jackschofield Generally much more important to get on with the process of building stuff.

tomcoates: @jackschofield But certain ideas just don't kick off if their naming is wrong or you can galvanise a community by renaming it.

tomcoates: @jackschofield The three obvious (positive) examples that leap to mind are the coining of 'social software', 'web 2.0' and 'ajax

jackschofield: @tomcoates True, though the actual meaning of Web 2.0 is arguable, and ajax's meaning is not obvious or recognised by most users...

jackschofield: @tomcoates What do the French, the Germans, the Japanese, the Chinese etc call Web of Things? One of those might suggest a better word...

egoodman: @tomcoates Maybe Whole World Web? The claim that some worlds are "realer" than others always bothers me. Life online is pretty damn real.

tomcoates: @egoodman I know exactly what you mean, but I think the danger is that you have to spell out what's different about the term.

tomcoates: @egoodman Whole World Web can be read really easily as the same as World Wide Web - both *could* refer to the physical world...

tomcoates: @egoodman That's the bit I'm trying to get to - how do you have a phrase that captures (1) the full range of meaning (2) is self-explanatory

tomcoates: @egoodman I think web of objects or things is nasty though - sounds like a separate distinct web from the web of pages or data...

egoodman: @tomcoates Agreed to all. Although in the beginning, World Wide Web was also a mysterious term.

egoodman: @tomcoates Mixed r=eality web? Hybrid web? ... now I'm just spiralling down, aren't I.

tomcoates: @tigoe I would go further and say the "Internet of Things" term has never been useful. Generally, though, I agree with you.

tomcoates: @tigoe My problem with The Internet of Things is that it feels separate and analogous to the Internet, when there's no distinction.

tomcoates: @tigoe What we need is a term that points towards the extrusion of the data-rich network into objects, while acknowledging the wider whole.

tomcoates: @tigoe For me, the interesting thing is not the 'things' but the way the network pushes its way into / through them.

tomcoates: @tigoe I think that's why I like the Real World Web pitch - because it points to that extension of the web. A new phase of The Internet.
Any thoughts?


Blogger daniel harvey said...

Human/Object/Web? Echoes things like hci, suggests a use pattern, brings US into the discussion in a way the existing terms don't.

Blogger owalt said...



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