The promising, exciting news around the Internet of Things cannot possibly be the “cool” factor of having my toothbrush connected to the network so that the Proctor & Gamble people knew when I was low on toothpaste. Design agents were always smarter than that. What if our RSS aggregators could tune into feeds from Amazonian forest and the daily clear-cut blog? Or critter cam video blogs that show us how really nasty seal bulls can be to their pups when they’re not playing their circus act at Sea World. And video blogs from schools of dolphins and whales that will make it increasingly difficult to ignore the plumes of toxins in the oceans and the slaughter of their kin by whalers and felonious fishing fleets.
This manifesto isn’t about predicting the future. This is a design imperative. I’m not saying this will happen — that birds and dogs and chairs and shoes will begin blogging and take over the world. I’m saying that design agents should think hard about the opportunities for creating more lively engagements with Things, enrolling them into the thick, contested and messy imbroglios of trans-species dialogue that lead to more habitable worlds. Let the Pigeons help us speak on the environment. Let Poultry get us to think seriously about a world where the H5N1 virus takes charge. Let Automobiles have a say about their fossil fuel consumption habits.