kit blake on Tue, 2 Jun 1998 07:24:32 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> global \: dist life

Distributed Life
[on vacation]
Life gets more mobile. The net is fulfilling its predicted function as
software provider/distributor. People don't need a laptop, as there are
connected computers everywhere - at the festival, at your friendīs place,
in the cafe. With basic knowledge, any of these terminals can be used, to
check your mail, communicate, research, or plan the next leg of the
journey. Even Berlin's high end department store, the KaDeWe, has a

Email is free these days, via ad driven storage sites, their pages
generated on user request. In the Web's commercial construction, text has
no value. Unless it's somehow personal, everybody ignores text, so it's
useless as a brand message conduit. Thus email - pure text - might as well
be free. They can serve visuals with it. Image is valuable. Image provides
a chance at attention [Goldhaber], and attention is the currency of the
network age.

The power of image on the net is directly measurable. Porno sites have
figured out microtransactions, the Holy Grail of net.commerce. Quite
simple, really, all they have to do is count. How much is an image display
worth? Maybe one hundredth of a cent. Maybe a tenth. Cookies have become
crumb counters. Thus you find free porno sites, where the owner states
"Please visit my sponsors, they make this site possible." Already making
fractions by the ad displays, passing a user thru to a sponsor, fostering a
click - attention - is worth a lot more, and these attention units are
eagerly tracked and reimbursed by destination sites. The system works,
because they pay for precisely what they get. Clicks and hits add up to
cold hard cash. Or soft liquid credit.

Transactions are moving to an abstract sphere. There's something about
e-cash that makes it separate. Even though you know that, say, a phone card
costs so much, once it's electronic, cash is something else. It's been
removed from the physical world. For example:
A few days back I was in Osnabrueck. It was 11:30 at night, and two friends
and I were trying to find a hotel. The city was busy with a festival, so we
thought the smart idea was to call hotels until we found a vacancy. We all
had mobile phones, but we went to check a telephone book in a booth. Anna
looked up hotels, then pulled out her mobile. Max interrupted, "Save your
bill, here's a phone card" "OK, thanks." But it  wasn't a card phone. She
grabbed her mobile, and made the call.  Afterwards, I said, "You know, we
all have coins in our pockets." We looked at each other, and laughed.

Somehow, feeding coins into a metal machine doesn't seem like a
communication method these days. Communication is paid for in units of time
- of attention - and stamped metal discs are for more mundane things, like
something to drink.

At lunch in Berlin, somebody asked, "Do you think working on a computer is
dangerous?" It certainly won't be. Computers are going to disappear, fold
into the fabric of life. As in the Xerox Parc concept of Ubiquitous
Computing. After all, a computer is just a chip. And a chip can be - will
be - in anything controllable. Display can have any number of forms. So it
might be that when you have a message, in whatever medium, it shows up by
multiple means. A blinking icon on the microwave, an indicator on the TV, a
beep from the bodyware. Yesterday I sent an email from my mobile phone.
It's not exactly a keyboard, but all I wanted to say was "Thanks".
(Well, there was an ulterior motive. This friend of mine needs a mobile,
and doesn't - yet - admit it.) He has one of the most distributed lives I
know of.

It's really an issue of convenience. Make something that saves people time
- giving them more opportunity to focus their attention - and it'll be a
success. People want to customize their lives. I want to be able to make a
call, now, without having to relocate my body. But I don't want to be
interrupted, so you get my voice mail. I'll be notified instantly. And I'll
retrieve the message, when it's convenient.
As do you.
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