Family Inchoate – version 03-28-3008

Family Inchoate:
Coterminous Kinship in Emergent Game Worlds

Prepared by Mark Outhwaite | March 2008.

Affective Computing. This is a branch of artificial intelligence concerned with the design and evaluation of systems and devices which can identify, interpret and respond to the display of human emotion. Family Inchoate is principally concerned with the future of affective computing, but other concepts may be included in its rubric as well. Several of the Beal Institute projects I was involved in were efforts to define future market opportunities based on current trends in technology and human behaviour. By envisioning product, services and systems that were the byproduct of the convergence of subtly related technologies, the institute intended to create intellectual properties that would allow companies who acted on them to gain precompetitive advantage. The process by which these intellectual properties were generated was formalized under the rubric of Strategic Creativity. Consistent with my past engagement with the Strategic Creative process, the Family Inchoate concept is my independent effort to envision the future of affective computing through the convergence of several technological and behavioural trends. The four main trends it is primarily concerned with are Augmented Reality, Locative Media, Simulation Worlds and Memory Devices. Before providing definitions for these terms, I will introduce the concept of convergence, as it will help the reader to understand the creative process involved in envisioning the future product, service and system opportunities related to these hardware and software technologies.

We begin by defining convergence, which is mainly concerned with how technologies develop as a result of the context in which they’re used. When technologies are applied in an unexpected way, they can induce changes in the ways other technologies are used. The notebook computer may be considered as the convergence of several individually unrelated technologies. If it has installed on it a word processor, API (application programming interface) and spreadsheet manager, it may be considered a workstation. Most notebooks perform triple duties however. In addition to software used in performing work, they may now include outsized hard drives for the storage of music and movie libraries. Skype enables the notebook to be used in lieu of a long-distance phone plan. A significant proportion of the purchase price may be attributed to a premium video card which allows the notebook to handle the graphical content of computer games. The point is that once an ‘umbrella’ technology is popularized, the demand for its key sub-systems rises correspondingly. The number of competitors producing the various sub-systems that contribute to the composition of the notebook computer ensure that the cost of its sub-systems should drop. The savings are eventually passed on to the consumer, who becomes the owner of a highly versatile, feature-saturated device. Pressure is then exerted on OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to improve the performance of sub-systems. This is apparent in the competition between chip manufacturers to invent more powerful microprocessors and memory devices. Through this process we can see an invention move from research labs into the open market, where the uses envisioned for the technology aren’t necessarily predetermined, but are more likely to emerge through the context of use. Family Inchoate is my effort to imagine how the convergence of several computing sub-systems will be shaped through the encounters people have with them¬. I feel that their context of use will be the most influential factor shaping the future of these media technologies. The certainty that computing technologies of the future will be unimaginably powerful is an insight of dubious value, but only if we choose to remain uncertain about the possible uses people will devise for them. For this latter task, Strategic Creativity assists in determining the behavioural aspects attending to the human use of technology. It is useful in determining the criteria of desire for evaluating and assigning meaning to capabilities created through new technology.

The several trends I’ve been following are related to this form of convergence. In the most unembellished phrasing, I’ve been investigating the future convergence of several separate media and entertainment technologies. If I were to be a bit more oblique, as writers and designers with futurist leanings often are, I would suggest these computing trends have and will continue to irrevocably alter human culture. This is an admittedly wide-ranging influence to have been borne of a machine, but consider the automobile in this regard. The automobile has no doubt influenced human culture, but its influences will be seen as reversible once oil reserves are depleted. Computers won’t go away as easily. They may even serve to assuage some of the errors and dependencies wrought by the implementation of autonomous mobility. If it is possible for computers to have altered the way that human beings relate to each other and organize themselves, it wouldn’t be stretching it to suggest that computers will eventually alter human neurophysiology. If the impact of computers is such that they can and will continue to alter human neurophysiology, then it should be apparent in the future that they have most certainly altered human behaviour and culture. If it is true that computers field the power to induce changes in human behaviour, then it follows that they ought to be designed to afford some capacitance for human emotional experiences also.

Throughout all of these changes and augmentations, I believe that investigating these effects in an anticipatory capacity is crucial. If computers have the potential to influence human behaviour, designers and technologists have a responsibility to ensure that if this shaping of human behaviour and experience is to be allowed to occur, then it should be a life-affirming influence. We need to be able to imagine the future product, service and system opportunities in computing not as a generation of merely adequate designs on shaping the mind. Rather, we must imagine them literally as tools used in improving the human condition. They clearly possess a form of physicality with which the human body is coupled, and it would be foolish not to assign to this coupling the significance it deserves. If up until now they have been extensions of the mind, we must imagine them as more. We must see computers in our collective future as extensions of the mind, body and soul.

What first attracted me to the Beal Institute was their collective vision of the future of information technologies. Since my first encounter, I’ve been most interested in the humanization of computing technologies. To this end, I’ve been exploring this notion of ‘humanization’ by entertaining the possibility that there will occur in the future the convergence of several emerging technologies. I believe that this eventual convergence will change the way that we use computing technologies, and I believe that the change will be most apparent in the recordings that individuals produce of their lived experiences. The future is an elusive creature however. We know that it’s coming, but we’re not totally sure of what to expect. Even for specialists in the field, predicting the future is an intractable endeavor. Recent discoveries made by IBM researchers indicate that the near-future of computing will involve nano-scale devices¬. By manipulating the magnetic properties of single atoms, and by using single molecules as switching elements in the performance of logic operations, it is likely that the supercomputers of today will decrease in size and cost to the point that they’re use is commonplace. Piece all of these developments together and we’re looking at developing a market for unthinkably powerful computers. They will be small, and it is assumed that they will use very little power. What cannot be assumed is what people will desire to do with them. Even for IBM researchers, the future context of use remains a unknown, so it seems silly to make any attempts at speculation;

“Put yourself in the situation of people in the ‘70s, where they had a roomful of computing equipment that could basically do what you can do nowadays on your cell phone… They would have given you some really stupid answers.”

Andreas Heinrich, IBM Researcher with IBM Almaden
Research Center. [1]

Knowing the future of cyberspace and the monetization opportunities that may eventually arise therein involves creative mentation that may be difficult for some. One productive means of reasoning about the various aspects of this problem space involves the recruitment of one’s imagination. Family Inchoate encompasses exactly this activity. I’ve attempted to discuss the future of Affective Computing by assuming that it’s already a reality. I then work my way backwards and identify in my research the historical precedents that have enabled its transition from the laboratory to marketplace.

Much of content of this project is drawn from observations of recent technologies to have emerged in the areas of focus. Another component is the connections I’ve interpolated between them so as to assign meanings that may not appear at first glance obvious. In this way I have analyzed new developments in technology and culture in order to imagine where they may be leading us. This process involves me trying to imagine myself as a future narrator. This involves explaining the various contingencies that have given rise to the future in which this fictive narrator is situated. This mental activity is also known as abductive reasoning: I choose a hypothesis that would best explain the relevant evidence. In the case of my efforts to envision one possible future of affective computing and media technologies, I assume the existence of some technology or device in particular and work my way backwards to identify its predecessors. I select and identify in my writing the most portentous technology platforms and knowledge of today from which future affective computing systems may be implemented.

Most critically I’ve sought to imagine how the various ways in which lived experiences are held onto (audiovisual recordings, blogs,) may be been shaped by the evolution of Augmented Reality, Locative Media, Simulation Worlds and Terabyte Memory Devices. A selection of mature media technologies currently used by people to hold onto lived experience include photography, video and photo blogs. I’ve tried to envision how video games and virtual worlds might co-opt such mature technologies and extend them. This is where the project title is derived from. It gestures towards an emerging context for the use of media technologies by families (however one chooses to define them) that isn’t yet fully formed or developed.

Central to this project is the idea that in the near future, we will observe the most commonplace means of navigating cyberspace migrating beyond stationary computing devices. Active experimentation with such mobile Internet devices has been undertaken by University of Toronto computer scientist and cyborg Steve Mann. Futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil has also intimated the close proximity of pervasive virtual reality, and predicts a term of as little as twenty years before use of this technology becomes widespread. William Gibson’s is one of a number of science fiction novelists whose work has consistently established the basic potentiality of such developments, as if fictive utterance itself precipitates the new. These developments implore HCI designers to explore the notion that if cyberspace is able to evert, (i.e. cyberspace is turned ‘inside out’ via the development of a truly mobile graphical interface) it will provide opportunities to human-computer interaction designers to create new kinds of affective mediated experiences. I believe that by using certain social and emotional attractors of simulation-based game worlds, it may provide for practitioners in the field a useful ethnographic tool for shaping the future social evolution of these still inchoate media. Through deeper sensitization to the ways in which the agents and environments of simulation are already used to fulfill emotional desires, practitioners in the field would have at their disposal a useful ethnographic tool for shaping the future social evolution of Augmented Reality, Locative Media, Simulation Worlds and Memory Devices.

The various media constructs of an everted cyberspace may possess some of the properties of contemporary ludic artifacts, (in the sense that most games are designed to elicit spontaneous and undirected playfulness,) but I will suggest that they will be more like a cross-generational, trans-reality ‘heirloom’ simulation world. I will suggest that there will emerge potentialities for such media constructs to impart a positive influence on the human regard for others, for nature and for living things. Such games will also be implicitly capable of fielding ‘heavy content’, because their design will be grounded in the supposition that human computer interaction can and should respond to human emotional needs. This position is supported the Affective Media Co., a Scotland-based engineering laboratory who claim that “any technology enhanced with emotion recognition would have a wealth of previously unavailable knowledge in which to react and respond to users more naturally and effectively.” [2] Technology that is inherently better able to react and respond to users more naturally and effectively is also technology that will provide improved capacitance for the empathic ‘spark’ of human relational ability¬– perhaps what’s good for human beings in conjunction with computers may carry over to human beings in conjunction with one another.

This project has also been a critique of what comes in between the social animal that human beings are, and the artificial capacitors designed to amplify and reinstantiate in virtual media our embodied affective and relational capacities. Prescient designers active in digital interactive domains ought to interrogate these mediums, to better understand what is happening to the human animal, emotionally, psychologically and physiologically, when his or her attention and investiture of identity are anthropomorphically projected into the screen, and away from the ‘windows into the soul.’
| Keywords |
Internet of Things, Affective Computing, HCI, Locative, Memory, Simulation, Familial, Relational Artifacts, Simulation.
Part 1 – Definitions

| Kinship |

Kinship is defined as “the sharing of characteristics or origins.” Beyond its being an organizational attribute of families (hereditary kinship,) a more generalized interpretation of kinship includes non-hereditary human social collectives as well. The import of kinship into this text concerns the ways in which kinship is first experienced, and later on shaped in human memory. One social capability enabled through the invention of media technology has been the recording of the human experience of kinship via recorded media artifacts. One can imagine that by knowing the psychological and sensorial vectors through which media can be designed to elicit a desireable emotional response, it will be possible to apply such knowledge as a design heuristic. Piotr Winkielman’s study entitled Prototypes are attractive because they are easy on the mind alludes to one such vector [3]. A heuristic as such would be useful to the general practice of invention of affective media and computing technologies. The discrete nature of these emotional and sensorial vectors remains an open research question, though such entities as MIT’s Affective Computing group are making inroads in the current understanding of human emotion and perception as they relate to values-centric models of human-computer interaction.

The future viability of HCI design will therefore require on the part of its practitioners an anticipatory understanding of the performative, experiential and emotional attributes of engagement that will increasingly shape people’s experience with and perception of technologies designed with the intent of simplifying life in a world of rising complexity (Buxton, 2007. [4]) Even more worrisome than the volume of work required in overcoming this impending challenge is deference to the unrequited optimism that ‘smart’ technology will conveniently provide solutions to the very problems it will be implicated in the creation of. We have also to resist ‘strategies’ through which we might fall into the trap of divesting our natural intelligence of its true agency and creative potential.

| Coterminous |

"Having the same boundaries or extent is space, time, or meaning."

| Emergent Game Worlds |

A simulation is the sub-type of game genre, and includes such game artifacts as The Sims, Sim City, Viva Pinata, and (the not yet released) Spore.

Emergence relates to simulation, in that it is a processual attribute of the simulation genre. Simulation-based game worlds are programmed to expressly facilitate emergent behaviours. That emergence is now a sought-after property of digital game worlds indicates that some audiences are receptive to the idea of systems-level engagement with emergent complexity in the digital games medium. A simulation game world is designed for emergence, if and when its populants, physics and pleroma* (* i.e. all digitally-instantiated processes, transactions, objects, and environments constituting the simulation) elicit the emergence of higher-order behaviours that cannot be derived from nor reduced to the properties which inhere in its lower-order constituents. In the Master’s thesis he presented to Georgia Institute of Technology entitled Miniature Gardens & Magic Crayons: Games, Spaces and Worlds, Chaim Gingold draws parallels between the ecosystem of a garden and that as simulated within certain genres of the digital games medium;

“Gardens are dynamic living systems, full of secrets, autonomous agents, transformation, and emergent behaviours. A garden has an inner life all its own. It is a world which goes on without you. Pre-digital games require human agency to animate them, but digital games are animated with the breath of computation, so garden is a tidy metaphor for self-animating systems. Not only are they dynamic, but gardens are reactive to human touch in a variety of ways, just like computers.” [5]

Throughout his thesis, Gingold directs the reader’s attention to the emotional attractors typically elicited by simulation games. Once a sense of completeness has been established, such worlds are able to run on their own without the user needing disclosure as to the nature of the background operations which infuse the experience with a sense of authenticity. Everything that exists in the world may be used, whilst the absence of anything else needn’t detract from the experience. Gingold observes that anything that one might encounter is only present because it is useful. Insofar as the human interactant is concerned, the properties of emergence shaping the affective experience of simulation games are immanent to the experience. These properties one encounters in such games as The Sims are consistent with the human expectation that “miniature people” should be as inherently interesting a feature as one might expect to encounter in an inherently relational experience. Gingold also indicates that individuals involved in the feedback loops circumscribed by such systems are apt to involve themselves on an emotional level in the build-out and cultivation of the characters, environments and the narratives comprising the represented world;

“The Sims, like a dollhouse, affords a mental mapping between the player’s understanding of the real world and the microworld. It is straight-forward to think about dolls or sims as people with needs and emotions like hunger, tiredness or loneliness… playing and manipulating a simulated city leads to an understanding of the built environment as a dynamic entity.” [6]

The potential confluence of virtual bodies, emergent game worlds and interactive media thusly evince promising resonances for shaping the future of media, when focused through the lens of Priscilla Li’s Socialpedia concept.

Whereas a virtual body may embolden one’s self-investiture of alternative or idealized/hybridized identities by allowing the individual at the terminal to assume attributes of phantasm far beyond the staid social contracts to which many others would be (and are) happily accustomed, emergent game worlds envelop such bodily extensions within the finite environs (recalling that their designers strive for ‘completeness’) of worlds that bear a close resemblance to our own. For the latter, their depiction of the forces analogous to those mythologized in stories of creation provide insights into systems behaviour and the nature of complexity that a print, photo, or video artifact doesn’t elicit as fully. As artifacts created within the largely positivist cultures of contemporary technoscience, they also permit the existence of errors– for the culture by which such software constructs are enacted doesn’t assume the existence of a ‘correct’ procedure to effect the generation of such worlds. Fitness (i.e. that a systems works as it was intended to) is the only criteria necessary in evaluating whether or not a game world will prove a valuable cultural and computational artifact. The putative ‘perfection’ of creation occurring therein isn’t assumed, and an emergent game world allows its designers and participants to act as adjudicators, to introduce to them such things as they please so as to determine for themselves whether or not they are indeed ‘good.’

As artifacts whose evolutionary motive may lie in iteratively reforming and re-envisioning the ways in which emotions may be conveyed and affiliative behaviours communicated to others using constructed media, virtual bodies and simulation worlds are worthy of further investigation along the lines of how accurately a facsimile may reproduce in the human nervous system responses identical to those registered during an encounter between an individual and the ‘original’ (i.e. lifeform, person, personality or behavioural “tropism”) from which the facsimile was derived. Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris [7] explores such territories in its conflation of the authentic human with a reasonable facsimile of the same. The film adaptation of Lem’s novel, whilst not conveying the whole of the novel’s onerous philosophical payload, does call into question whether an anthropocentric definition of ‘the human’ to which the authenticity of lived experience is attributable is even necessary to the human pursuit of peace and contentment, if provided there were discovered a form of engineering whereby alternatives to living an ‘authentic’ existence proved sufficiently advantageous that human beings might opt to accommodate into their respective realities some forms of lived experience that are provably unreal. This conflation is confronted in the story by Dr. Chris Kelvin, a psychologist sent to investigate a distressed crew orbiting a seemingly sentient ocean world bearing the name of the novel’s title.

It is hypothesized by the mission’s science personnel that the Solaris world is capable of rendering living beings, one of whom Kelvin repeatedly encounters in the flesh and blood reconstruction of his recently deceased wife. Wanting not to believe that the animate being in his presence is nothing more than a facsimile of the original woman who had committed suicide back on Earth, (his having had sexual intercourse with “it” on several occasions may have also pathologized his incredulity) he falls into psychosis, eventually remaining behind on the space station orbiting Solaris even as it begins taking on mass exponentially (so that the station’s orbital trajectory transitions into an event horizon.) His final act is in effect one of suicide, so that he can remain behind in the presence of the facsimile. Despite having died, the viewer observes Kelvin as having returned to Earth apparently alive. Confronted once more with the facsimile, Kelvin asks her if he is alive, to which she provides the film’s ontological overture saying only that “we don’t have to think like that any more.” The effect on Kelvin of the simulation whose seeming existence is sustained within a field of Higg’s bosons suggests to the viewer that the affective substance of the human experience is the only force of nature worth focusing on. It is all that can be said to exist for a dying animal that longs most of all for a place or adjacent other to whom to belong.

In both Solaris and the imaginal worlds [8] of contemporary fictive simulation it is possible to see the forerunners of Family Inchoate emerging through populist media having philosophical underpinnings deeper that what appears beyond the screenic surface. It is suggested as a possible use for external memory and mobile bandwidth that could eventually become a vessel for recording of some limited aspects of human social life, when the arc of lived experience subtends converging vectors of technology and behaviour. The convergence of simulation worlds and life recording is an interesting potentiality, if only for simulation’s latent potential to project through its computed biota a seeming vitality that an interactant might invest with meaning beyond that assigned to it by its designer. The motions that all living things must go through, even if encountered only as facsimiles of the same processes actualized in nature, seem that they could provide the target through which there may be expressed in time a preponderance of human affiliative behaviours. Through greater sensitivity to the perceptual interchangability of a facsimile and the biota to which its (computationally-instantiated) structure and organization are attributable, it may be possible to strike a parsimonious balance between verisimilitude and perceptual trickery in the design of media tools and products which aim to facilitate the enhancement of organic memory through systems of device-mediated reminiscence or recall. To this end, it may be possible to develop a system of media interfaces which provide to embodied memory (that which does not strongly rely on electronic cognitive prostheses) only those cues that it requires to establish and support human affiliative behaviours. By designing situated computing devices to broadcast their experiental content most of all via the visual, haptic and olfactory channels through which human beings are evolutionarily adapted to experience affective reward (feeling good) for attention paid, we might feel better as a result of computing’s having migrated beyond the desktop.

Certain kinds of simulation-based game worlds such as Will Wright’s The Sims series and Spore evince also the importance of designed form. Whereas the ontological priority of the video games medium is assigned to the audio, visual and haptic cues provided for via the display and control surfaces, the simulated sense of being one might experience in an everted cyberspace might be gleaned at the overlapping of perimeters of Situated Technologies [9], Socialpedia [10] and relational artifacts [11]. In a situated technology environment, that a person possesses a ‘dualistic’ communications presence will be ubiquitous, and ‘duality’ will be a less prominent feature of everted cyberspace than the cultural meanings assigned to medium’s imaginal content. Will Wright’s perspicacious sensitivity to what human beings desire to accomplish within these media environments is a better gauge for what’s to come. For Wright, the future of simulation is to enable users to generate their own unique experiental media;

"I really want to take the player out of the role of Luke Skywalker, the protagonist, and put them more into the role George Lucas, and make them the creator of these worlds, basically extract the entire world from their imagination." [12]

We have only to look at the contemporary urban landscape for indicators that human values will continue to be communicated through imaginal presences. Socialpedia and relational artifacts might provide to this ubiquity the means of introducing into it the alembic agent of human imagination, so as to humanize the emotionally inert androidism of an Internet inhabited merely by things. These surrogate media artifacts should if anything be made to act like den mothers, lovingly imploring the more timid among us out of the screen frozen warmth which typifies the cloistered darkness of social computing’s current heyday, and nuzzling us ever so gently to move about in the non-battery operated world of direct eye contact, close personal proximity and conviviality. Agents of technology intensification must avoid losing sight of the importance of designing within the evanescence of an information and telecommunications medium privileging invisibility/ubiquity, a surfactant modality, so that these media and sensing technologies are tangible and forthcoming in the disclosure of their presence. Its advocates should thusly be providing for more than the affordances of audio, visual and haptic display. The phase of HCI necessary to establishing a continuum of interaction implicitly soft to the touch will be the one that is most able to depict or mediate feelings of closeness, tenderness and love. Technologies of display through which we may be capable of speaking to one another’s softer faculties could emerge via the development of presence (the perceptual illusion of non-mediation) [13], non-myelinated tactile C-afferents feedback systems [14], and synchronous scent recording-transmission [15]. We might describe such an affective computing future via an analogy used recently by an American neuroscientist in an effort to describe the human vision system, stating that the only practicable means of emulating human vision would involve an extremely high-resolution camera coupled to a supercomputer. And so it may be that an everted cyberspace will itself become window onto one of the several channels of sensory information, the cohesive experience of which together generates our mediated reality. Thusly, an environment in which affective computing communes with our more tender, private and expressive of selves will literally require the computed simulation of some or all of what we can see, feel, and smell in the world. In short, computing at the horizon of the sensorial epithelium. [16] [17]

Simulation worlds are annexing their very own autonomous sector concurrent with more widely received media cultures, though far enough below the radar that the literally evolving artifacts of simulation don’t yet appear as anything more than a new sub-set of virtual world genre. Simulation worlds are considered by some research psychologists to be social environments whose psychological verities and conventions of behaviour are in some ways analogous to those of the real world [18]. Extrapolating from the idea that the experience of sociality to be gained in simulation worlds is as real to human beings as that which may be experienced in the lifeworld, we may speculate that their emergent components may eventually yield in future a substrate for a deeper or more robust experience of human affiliation, one which is in the very least an extension of the conditioning that is already provably extant within us. The manner in which technology users tend to migrate towards adjacent systems of networked memory, identity and interaction (i.e. IBM seeking to implement a standardized virtual worlds avatar) would seem to indicate also that simulation worlds will export into situated technology environments a range of social, narratological and imaginal impetuses, so that an everted cyberspace will act as the platial and processual substrate where more and more of the apparent outlay of the mediated world will persist.

That human beings create images and make manifest language, to leave after themselves a trace and to communicate a condition over distance and time is perhaps indicative of an underlying evolutionary motive. If it holds true that there has been evolved in humankind a desire to be ‘heard’, the following textual output (i.e. conceptual ‘territories’ for which the Family Inchoate concept may provide a map) is gesturing towards a heuristic. The social and economic value which inheres in this conceptual framework lay in designating the set of autocatalytic technologies, languages and modes of expression that might evolve in tandem with the hardware and software components of the situated technology environment.
| Coterminous Kinship in Emergent Game Worlds |

That if despite being mediated, the recordings of experiences attributed to ‘kinship’ could encompass the same extents in space, time and meaning as the non-mediated, bodily-possessed accounts of it preserved in living memory, perhaps the composite properties of games designed for ‘affective computing’ (the latter concept developed prinicpally by Rob Tow, et al, Interval Research Corp. circa 1993) could be directed to capturing, warts and all, the ‘ineluctable truth’ of what we are, and what we have done, and what we would not allow ourselves to fail to do for each other.
Part 2 – The Relationship between Recording Media
and Episodic Memory

The vastly ramified computer networks that a great deal of the contemporary social communication in the developed world are migrating towards are invested with the promise of new technologies that strike at the heart of what it means to be human. Whereas the quantum leap beyond smoke signals and messengers was bodied forth in the telegraph, the potential (explored with notable distinction by William Gibson in his novel Spook Country [19]) of situated technologies providing a host environment for simulated agents rendered in augmented reality is the phase transition between William Gibson’s vision of an everted cyberspace and Ray Kurweil’s concept of a pervasive parallel simulated reality [20]. Were some of these technologies to evolve in tandem with human-values centric Information and Communications Technology, Family Inchoate suggests how affective HCI (Human-computer interaction that appeals to human emotional needs) may be accorded the same significance in contemporary culture as Kodak, as the applied outcomes of its heuristics could provide the media technologies instrumental in capturing and communicating to future generations the most significant moments for which there is an expressed desire of individuals that they be shared, and their lessons paid forward.

The evolution of affective HCI through which means families are able to pass on recordings of significant moments removes the rendition of memory from the fixed materiality of photographic images and audiovisual recordings, and instead implicates the rendition of extended familial memory in vastly ramified computer networks which link happenstance to platial circumstance.

Even as this familial information loses one body (materiality, i.e. photos, visual and aural recordings) it gains another, as emerging mobile technologies portend an era of digital media haemorrhaging out of screenic and auditory interfaces into the world at large, imbuing spaces of human habitation with an unseen layer of familial 'trace.'

The places where families live their lives (geographical regions,
cites and neighbourhoods) would thereby be invested with ‘platial’ memory, and the habitats where our decendents live would be invested with digital provenance that testifies as faithfully to our having been alive as any of the more perishable media that came prior to the age of computing and digitization.

The various forms of human-centric data (Internet Transfer Protocol, Radio, Video, Film, Video Games, Print, Genomics, Proteomics, Human Languages) that have become more relevant and important to day-to-day human experience will only become more powerfully transformative of human culture. Because they intersect and draw into correspondence human consciousness and nature (as per Chaim Gingold’s suggestion that one’s stewardship for a garden’s biota is analogous to the player’s concern for the ‘wellbeing’ of simulated humans,) they will essentially assist us in our efforts to make sense of what's happening here, and perhaps provide us with some insight if not into why we're alive, then at least into why it's important to accord living things (but not the registry of presence they impart through recording and transmission media comporting their traces into digital records/facsimiles) a level of reverence that is both unconditional and unbounded. We should desire that these technologies assign privilege to the necessity of remaining mindful of the contingencies linking embodiment to a sense of self-worth and esteem for others, and only interfacing with the situated technology environment in the pursuit of exercising one’s faculties for tenderness and familiarity. Computing at the horizon of the sensorial epithelium should only be used to stimulate our collective capacities to experience affect. When making a close approach to largely unexplored territories which necessitate the coupling of our most intimate selves with technology, due caution must be exercised so as to avoid putting into the world some quanity of media in excess of what is required to locate for oneself a sense of safety, comfort and belonging.
Part 3 – Emerging technologies of nano-scale, molecular electronics and microprocessing, terabyte memory storage and simulation.

The roll-out of products, services and systems intended as being uniformly ‘interoperable’ is a necessary prerequisite to ensuring that an Internet of Things is in the very least comprehensible, approachable and useful. Interoperability shouldn’t be considered as being inclusive only of issues related to software running on an embedded microprocessor.

Prioritizing human needs above all else in design activities that will body forth into the world an Internet of Things designates the challenge that will arise for design practitioners, usability experts, scientists, artists and engineers active in the near-term fields of product, interaction and experience design. Family Inchoate is concerned with those aspects of recorded media technology, whether concerning acts of creation, use, accumulation or divestment, that enable individuals to preserve via recorded media artifacts some image, sound, scent or feeling that induces a powerful sense of nostalgia, melancholy, shared purpose or joy. It is this sense concerned with the future of affective computing technologies, and whether they may be truly helpful in the mental performance of finding oneself released to follow one’s own recall of the arc of causally related events –the mental territories– in which are fielded the implacable meanderings of memory. It has been anticipated by such groups as Knowledge Media Design Institute that there will emerge in the coming decades a need to assist aging populations in their day-to-day activities– via the development of electronic cognitive prostheses. [21] For everything and very nearly everyone else, our experience over a compressed period of mobile computing intensification has proven to be a somewhat more mixed bag of enriched experience, utilitarian benefit and social annoyance. Were it that the technologies that have propagated as a result of mobile telephony and computing had been properly planned for in terms of their emotional quality-of-life outcomes, we might ask whether their designers would have done anything differently, provided that what they know now could have informed what they created years ago.

The most essential business value that may be established herein positions simplicity and understandability above all other affordances that may attend to the future development of affective media/computing technologies. A surfiet of low cost memory, processing power and bandwith has been predicted. [22] The provision of the entirety of the computing power available in the world at present, etched/constructed on the wafer of single microprocessor may indeed be the reality a few decades from now. Commodification of this once-expensive piece of core hardware has thusly necessitated a reapproach of the function that microprocessor technology serves in society, in human organizations, cultural groups, and families. We need to imagine the future world we should desire to inhabit, where communications and memory prostheses prove socially relevant and emotionally-enriching. This surfeit of processing power and memory will only prove valuable if it assists in fielding the creative potentialities of human intelligence, imagination and curiosity. To entertain anything else is to invite into a coupling with those most intimate aspects of ourselves– our privacy, peace, serenity, and autonomy– a genus of technologies that overshadow the creative potentialities of human intelligence, imagination and curiousity in spite of its being already so well developed in many of us. The business challenge lay in nothing less than ‘fixing’ the future– and our rightful place in the future histories that may eventually be written documenting our collective role as profligate change-makers in creating it– without our first doing irreparable damage to our most intimate selves in the scarily transformative decades to follow. Family Inchoate is about our being able to effloresce into more able, empathic and aware human beings, whose abilities aren’t supplanted in a florid rush to create merely ‘alternative’ habitats for human bodies and the volumes of information incidental to their being.

[1] IBM discoveries add promise for nano-computing
Article by Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters, Appearing in The Globe and Mail. August 31, 2007.

[2] Affective Media Co.

“We are an emotion engineering laboratory dedicated to making technology more emotionally engaging and responsive, and inherently more naturally usable.”

[3] Prototypes are attractive because they are easy on the mind
Piotr Winkielman, University of California, San Diego. Jamin Halberstadt, University of Otago. Tedra Fazendeiro, University of Denver. Steve Catty, University of Otago. p. 3 – p. 5.

“People tend to prefer highly prototypical stimuli– a phenomenon referred to as the “beauty-in-averageness” effect. A common explanation proposes that prototypicality signals mate value. Here we present three experiments testing whether prototypicality preferences results from more general mechanisms– fluent processing of prototypes and preference for fluent stimuli… In both experiments, prototypicality was a predictor of both fluency (categorization speed) and attractiveness… using a psychophysiological technique of facial electromyography, confirmed that viewing of abstract prototypes elicits quick postive affective reactions… research also suggests that fluent processing elicits positive reactions. Thus, manipulations that enhance fluency… yield more favorable judgments (Winkielman et al., 2003.) Greater fluency might also elevate mood… Presumably, these positive reactions occur because fluency indicates error-free processing and successful recognition of a stimulus.”

[4] Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design. Bill Buxton, Published 2007, Morgan Kaufmann. p.10

Buxton discusses in the preface to his book the impending challenge of smart technology, suggesting that the difficulties that people are already apt to experience with programming as quotidian a technology as the VCR will grow; “The old chestnut problem of the flashing “12:00” on the VCR is going to look like child’s play compared to what is coming.” The issue of usability will only grow in importance as consumer technologies increasingly exhibit ‘featuritis’ – an overburden of superfluous device functionality.

[5] Miniature Gardens & Magic Crayons: Games, Spaces, & Worlds. Created by Chaim Gingold, (In Partial Fulfillment of the Degree Masters of Science in Information, Design and Technology) School of Literature, Culture and Communication.
Georgia Institute of Technology, © Chaim Gingold, 2003.
p. 20.


[6] IBID p. 26

[7] Solaris Stanislaw Lem. Harvest Books, 2002 edition.

[8] Imaginal Psychology is concerned with beliefs systems as markers of human organism's evolutionary past, and that humans inhabit images and representations as a mode of cognition.

[9] Architecture and Situated Technologies Pamphlet 1
Urban Computing and its Discontents.
Adam Greenfield and Mark Shepherd.
Published by the Architectural League of New York, © 2007.

“Recent research has focused on how “situational” parameters inform the design of a wide range of mobile, embedded, wearable, networked, distributed, and location-aware devices. Incorporating an awareness of cultural context, accrued social meanings, and the temporality of spatial experience, Situated Technologies privilege the local, context-specific, and spatially contingent dimensions of their use.”

[10] ‘Socialpedia’ refers to a speculative essay describing a situated technology environment wherein the actions and deeds of one person are ‘preserved’ in an annotatable, sentient database for future access by others whose curiosity leads them towards querying the causal influences
by which their circumstances came about.

Created by Priscilla Li, Beal Centre for Strategic Creativity, 2006.

[11] Relational Artifacts/Children/Elders: The Complexities of CyberCompanions
Paper written by Sherry Turkle.
Toward the Social Mechanisms of Android Science: A COGSCI 2005 Workshop. July 25-26, 2005. p 62-73.

“My working hypothesis: even the simplest encounters with an object that simulates social interaction provides a window onto the psychology of the encounters between people and relational artifacts, here defined as artifacts that have inner “states of mind” and where encounters with the artifacts are enriched through understanding these inner states.”

See also: Turkle, Sherry. Love, by Any Other Name: Can You Love a Machine? Can the Machine Return That Love? in the 21st Century, These Are Valid Questions.

Article adapted from a presentation given by the author at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in April of 2001, made available through paid subscription from

[12] Will Wright, excerpt from a keynote talk given at SXSW 2007.

[13] Prescence and Television: The Role of Screen Size
Matthew Lombard, Robert D. Reich, Maria Elizabeth Grabe, Cheryl Campanella Bracken, Theresa Bolmarcich Ditton.
Human Communication Research, Vol. 26 No. 1, Jan 2000 75-98
© 2000 International Communication Association

“Throughout most of human history this kind of media experience, one that seems to be not mediated, was unavailable, even unimaginable. But recently virtual reality, simulation rides, advanced film formats, video conferencing, and other emerging technologies have been created expressly to provide users with this illusion of nonmediation… scholars and researchers are exploring the characteristics of the form and content of these new media… identified formally as a sense of “presence.”

[14] Unmyelinated tactile afferents signal touch and project to insular cortex
H. Olausson, Y. Lamarre, H. Backlund, C. Morin, B.G. Wallin, G. Stark, S. Ekholm, I. Strigo, K. Worsley, A.B. Vallbo and M.C. Bushnell. nature neuroscience, volume 5 no. 9, September 2002. Published online: 29 July 2002, doi:10.1038/nn896
© 2002 Nature Publishing Group

“There is a dual tactile innervation of the human hairy skin: in addition to fast-conducting myelinated afferent fibers, there is a system of slow-conducting unmyelinated (C) afferents that respond to light touch. In a unique patient lacking large myelinated afferents, we found that activation of C tactile (CT) afferents produced a faint sensation of pleasant touch. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis during CT stimulation showed activation of the insular region, but not of somatosensory areas S1 and S2. These findings indentify CT as a system for limbic touch that may underlie emotional, hormonal and affiliative responses to caress-like, skin-to-skin contact between individuals.”

[15] Planning your next vacation, with dollars and scents
Article by Ann McIlroy, The Globe and Mail, February 26, 2008.

“Carleton University cybercartographer has developed multimedia maps and atlases that use sound, music, photos and artwork to convey information about places.”


[16] Computing on the Human Platform
Delta Scan: The Future of Science and Technology 2005.

“Personal electronic products can communicate with each other and with external networks using human skin as a medium. The convergence of electronic implants, wearables, and personal area networks (both wireless and 'wired' using the skin as a medium) could coincide with a shift from therapeutic body modification for disabilities to personal augmentation for healthy individuals.”


[17] The term ‘sensorial epithelium’ refers to a term suggested by Sady Ducros, an associate researcher with the Beal Institute for Strategic Creativity to account for the physiological bases of perception. It refers to the envelope of sensory organs and faculties which mediate between human and/or animal perception and the external environment. Energies in the environment activate sensory organs which are coupled with the human nervous system. In this way, all of what surrounds us acts upon our bodies and minds to produce the gestalt visualization of sensation, presence and self-awareness.

[18] Get a (Second) Life, Studying Behaviour in a Virtual World
Article by Jillian Sherwin, The Observer Magazinie,
Association for Psychological Science.

“Because the interaction in Second Life appears to closely parallel real-life (or would that be First Life?) human interaction, it is an ideal MMORG for psychological scientists. Researchers are discovering ways to use Second Life to study human interaction on an entirely new level.”


[19] Spook Country, A Novel by William Gibson
Putnam Books, 2007.

[20] Kurzweil sees a future in games
Article by Blaine Kyllo, The Globe and Mail. March 3, 2007.

“By 2010, Kurzweil said, computers will begin to disappear. “They will disappear into our clothing and bodies,” he explained. Big screens will be replaced with personal monitors built into eyeglasses and even contact lenses. He expects “full-immersion” games early in the next decade which will take place in true virtual reality.”


[21] Ontario College of Art and Design President’s speaker series:
Dr. Ron Baecker Lecture: Towards the design of electronic cognitive prostheses. March 5, 2008.

In this lecture, Dr. Baecker discussed how technological systems can function as cognitive prostheses. Already cell phone and PDA software help users manage and access addresses, phone numbers, and appointments. Such technologies are currently limited by rigid functionality. The stated goal of his research project is to envision, design, prototype, engineer and evaluate a more powerful and flexible generation of such devices.


[22] Terabyte Thumb Drives Made Possible by Nanotech Memory
Article by Alexis Madrigal, Wired Magazine, October 26, 2007.

“Michael Kozicki, director of Arizona State's Center for Applied Nanoionics, has developed a new type of computer memory that he claims is cheaper and more energy-efficient than current technology… a low-cost, low-power computer memory that could put terabyte-sized thumb drives in consumers' pockets within a few years.”




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