Subject: Viridian Note 00122: Viridian Commentary

Key concepts
pervasive computing, neologisms, comments from readers of Viridian List

Attention Conservation Notice: It's a continuation of Note 00118, where lots of people were making up words for stuff that doesn't exist yet. Over 1,700 words.

Viridian Individual Projects:

A new Viridian Individual Project by:^^^^^^^^^^^* (Mitch Porter) Mitch Porter remarks:
"My Viridian gene-splicing art project has run into problems thanks to local biotech politics. A residents' group has been opposing the construction of a large new bioscience facility. The management of the lab where I've been doing this don't want the world to think that anything but science happens in their lab, which is why they're not named on my webpage. I'd hoped to have the first microbial canvases done well before the Manifesto release, but I'm now scouting about for another lab."

(((Viridian Note 00113, "Pervasive Computing," suggested:)))

"The twentieth century didn't have this kind of device at all. It's unheard of. It's crying out for a brand new name. In fact the whole pervasive computing field is calling out for a new terminology, because none of the terms we have are working properly. (...) We need a new 21st century word."

(((In Note 00118, we were offered the words: actor, agent, alert, artificer, awareware, butler, coadunation, creature, delegate, diplomat, domestic, disney, emissary, employee, enchanted, envoy, executor, functionary, gestalt, go-between, hive, lackey, magic, menial, operative, overmind, pimp-computing, polite, puppet, servant, symbiont, undermind, and wary. But this does not at all exhaust our ingenuity!)))

From:^* (Dan Taylor)

As regards pervasive computing. A number of years ago, the sad reality of us all being shackled to, or perhaps more correctly monitored by, ubiquitous computing technology caused me to think about these issues in some depth.

I came to the conclusion that the underlying technology could best be described by the disturbing verb: "indwell" (the spirit within). This nebulous terminology is consistent with the "cloud" we use to describe the Internet's pervasiveness. I registered the domain on Feb. 2, 1997.

I note that "the spirit within" which is co-existing with the traditional world is not necessarily a good or bad thing. I warn people that "schizophrenic" or "bi-polar" are not positive terms, but "multitasking" is.

From:^^^^^^^^^^* (Eric deRiel)

Whatever terms get coined will need to be compressible to two syllable abbreviations, unless the future is so dramatically faster-paced that even two becomes one too many.

This abbreviation will likely be based on the most successful of the previous generation of polysyllabic buzzwords usedby the technocratsia ("Cat-5", "modem", "hi- fi", "amp", "TV").

Ultimately, pop slang terms will arise independently of the tech terms ("boom box", "tube", etc).

So "coadunation" is your best bet so far. After making the rounds in the trade rags, it can be shortened to "coad", like "coaxial cable" to "coax" (before it just became "cable"). As in, "Looks like a problem with your coad, I can get someone out there in ten minutes to have a look at it", leaving people with half a clue marveling at the calculated vagueness of the assertion.

Beyond that: "banded", as in "on the bandwidth", but also implying membership in a group;

"wired", which has in its time meant "electrified", "connected to the telephone network", and "connected to the 'Net", and will no doubt come to mean much more than that before it's used up;

"coded", as with bar code strips on your store's inventory, possibly leading to the malapropism "coaded".

From:^^^* (Warren Apel)

"Lucid technology." It's got a nice ring to it, it has connotations of intelligibility without its own intelligence. Plus it has the double meaning of transparency, which is exactly what this is about. You also have the verb form, elucidate, which has that built- in "e-" prefix that Venture Capitalists pay big money for.

Another nice word, hard to spell but neat sounding, is "transpicuous." Coupled into the phrase "transpicuous technology" and you have a fairly new, unused phrase without its own connotations. It's got that alliterative double-T, and each word starts with a plosive and ends on a syllibant, which just sounds good.

Then with the opposite of transparent, you have "manifest technology" which literally means apparent, obvious, proving, etc. Plus it makes you think of "manifest destiny," so it's as if you are preordained to purchase it.

And my favorite is likely to be the most obvious one: "Viridian Technology." All the components of this technology (talking teapots, wired trees, etc) embody the Viridian design elements you set out from the start. Why not stick with the term? It's a great word, the only connotation it starts out with is environmental, plus we give it new connotation through the Viridian Movement. The downside there is dilution of the original term.

From^^^^^^^^^^^***** (Richard Puchalsky)

I suggest the neologism "ubik." All the connotations of the Philip K. Dick novel "UBIK" seem to apply to this technology.

From:*** (John Zero)

"How about 'connected'? Connected chairs, connected cement, connected umbrellas. Seems to sound descriptive, but innocuous.

But even better, a word that is already in use: "bot".

Existing 'bots' are semi-independent programs which prowl the sewer mains of the Internet, dredging for links and pretending to be users on IRC. Applied to the 'aware' objects we're talking about, the word has that newfangled, half-slang feeling, and it also puts the described object in its place. A lot of the other proposed words (smart, alert, wary) suggest too much autonomy for a simple household appliance. Not true of bot toasters, bot flatware, bot socks, bot TV. Bot cars. Everyone can use those bots, y'know. "My bots are good, and ECHELON's bots are way, way bad."

"'Bot' could become one of those unclassifiable parts of techno-speech. "Here, let me bot that to you." "Leave me a bot message." "It's okay, the TV can bot that format, too." "Let's bot the game console with the coffemaker."

From:* (David Whitlock)

How about "itty-bits?" Or "itty-bytes." Or "swarm-processing."

From:* (James Boyle)

I favour "mundanes" (for fridges that call Safeway), "transcendents" for programs that know more about Turing and Chinese boxes than you do, and "seculars" for the fleshy envelopes of desire and distraction, like myself.

From:* (James Green)

"Embedded Technology", drawn from an analogy with the electric motor. When first developed, motors were obvious, too expensive to produce, too big to hide. But now motors are taken for granted. They're everywhere.

From:^** (Greg Langille)

Although pervasive computing sounds cool, the applications you posit for it appear to be all based on monitoring. It seems to me that this can be achieved much more easily and cheaply using non-invasive devices == networked cameras or scanners of various types. Just stick one in every room (or car) you want to monitor.

This would allow the system to answer questions like "whose shoes are in the house" without tagging every object on the planet. Plus, it's easier to upgrade. Installing "Windows Pervasive" (tm) patches on my toaster is not my idea of an improvement, but I might buy a system that tells me my toast appears to be burning.

Of course, you have to worry about pattern recognition, expert systems, network security, and powering everything via solar, but that's all stuff that's working already, to some degree. (((bruces remarks: I can almost believe in a pervasive tag inside a toaster. But a smart monitor that knows that a plastic Braun toaster and a chrome Dualit toaster are both "toasters" is smart enough to own the house and run for elective office.)))

From:^^^^^^^^^*****? (Jon Lasser)

They're tings. Not "things" but "tings", short for that tingle of electricity which runs through them.

They're an extension of our electronic/cultural sensory system, and when you feel something at the edge of perception, that's a tingle: the hair standing up on the back of your neck.

From:^^* (Gene Cavanaugh)

How about that catchy and much admired word, "factotum." Definition: 1. a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities, and 2. a general servant. "Factotum" sums it up in one word.

From:**** (Nancy Sterling)

You want a name for electronic things that are stupid, but respond? How about "galvanic?" "My galvanic chair threw Grandma across the room." "The galvanic ribbons styled her hair in three minutes." "The gun was loaded with galvanic bullets and refused to fire."

From:^^^* (Joel Garreau)

Could the problem be that we're searching the wrong language? All these quarreling snarling yapping yet closely connected and even tribal entities, in toto, are obviously a "mishpocheh" (pronounced, roughly, mish-PE- chah.) The following definition is from "The Joys of Yiddish." MISHPOCHEH : 1.] Family, including relatives far, near, remote and numerous. 2] Ancestors, lineage.

From:* (Gord Sellar)

What we need for the transitional period is a set of TWO terms, one that looks forward and one that looks back. It's not merely that my shoes are "endowed," you see, so much as that your shoes are "inert." "MY GOD, man, get yourself some REAL shoes, like these here Gershenfelders."

In the long run, the term for the NEW technology will see less use. On the other side of the watershed, it's the old stuff that will have to be designated as "different." "Still using INERT gear? You've missed the boat, kiddo."

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