The resonance of spimes

In 2004, Bruce Sterling coined the term “spime” for an object which tracked its own history and its own interactions with the world (using, for example, technologies such as RFID and GPS).  In Sterling’s words, spimes

“are precisely located in space and time. They have histories. They are recorded, tracked, inventoried, and always associated with a story. 
Spimes have identities, they are protagonists of a documented process.”

Spime wranglers are people willing to invest time and effort in managing the meta-data and narratives of their spimes. The always-interesting Russell Davies has been exploring the consequences of this idea for designers of commercial products.

Several thoughts have occured to me:
As with all new technologies, the future is unevenly distributed, and there have been spime wranglers for some artefacts for a very long time — for instance, for early industrial manufacturing technologies (eg, the 1785 Boulton and Watt steam engine (a diagram of which is above), in use for 102 years, and then immediately shipped by an alert wrangler to a museum in Australia in 1888) and for Stradivarius violins.  The service log books of motor vehicles, legally required in most western countries, are a pre-computer version of the metadata and narrative which a spime and its wranglers can generate.
Secondly, spime wranglers, like lead-users, become co-designers and co-marketers of the product, because they help to vest the product with meaning-in-the-world.   Grant McCracken has written on the trend to greater democratization of meaning-creation in marketing.  (Note: I’ll try to find a specific post of Grant’s on this topic.)
Finally, it strikes me that the best way to conceive of the narrative and metadata generated and collated by a spime and, working with it, by the spime’s wranglers is through Rupert Sheldrake’s powerful (and sadly neglected) idea of morphic fields.   I hope to explore this idea, and its implications for quantitative marketing, in a future post.

Putting the "Tea" in IT


One of the key ideas in the marketing of high-tech products is due to Eric von Hippel of the MIT Sloan School, the idea that lead users often anticipate applications of new technologies before the market as a whole, and even before inventors and suppliers. This is because [tag]lead users[/tag] have pressing or important problems for which they seek solutions, and turn to whatever technologies they can find to respond to their problems.
A good example is shown by the history of Information Technology. The company which pioneered business applications of the new computer technology in the early 1950s was not a computer hardware manufacturer nor even an electronic engineering firm, but a lead user, Lyons Tea Shops, a nationwide British chain of tea-and-cake shops. [tag]Lyons[/tag] specified, designed, built, deployed and operated their own computers, under the name of Leo (Lyons Electronic Office). Lyons, through [tag]Leo[/tag], was also the first to conceive and deploy many of the business applications which we now take for granted, such as automated payroll systems and logistics management systems. One of the leaders in that effort, David Caminer, has recently died at the age of 92. LEO was later part of ICL, itself later purchased by Fujitsu.
This post is intended to honour David Caminer, as a pioneer of [tag]automated business decision-making[/tag].

Putting the "Tea" in IT


One of the key ideas in the marketing of high-tech products is due to Eric von Hippel of the MIT Sloan School, the idea that lead users often anticipate applications of new technologies before the market as a whole, and even before inventors and suppliers. This is because lead users have pressing or important problems for which they seek solutions, and turn to whatever technologies they can find to respond to their problems.
A good example is shown by the history of Information Technology. The company which pioneered business applications of the new computer technology in the early 1950s was not a computer hardware manufacturer nor even an electronic engineering firm, but a lead user, Lyons Tea Shops, a nationwide British chain of tea-and-cake shops.  Lyons specified, designed, built, deployed and operated their own computers, under the name of Leo (Lyons Electronic Office). Lyons, through Leo, was also the first to conceive and deploy many of the business applications which we now take for granted, such as automated payroll systems and logistics management systems. One of the leaders in that effort, David Caminer, has recently died at the age of 92. LEO was later part of ICL, itself later purchased by Fujitsu.
This post is intended to honour David Caminer, as a pioneer of automated business decision-making.