In my recent #attentioneconomy primer, I included a long selection from 's novel The Caraytids, which describes a community called the Acquis that organizes entirely by monitoring attention through the use of an immersive augmented reality headset called the "sensorweb". The whole novel is wonderful, but the discussion of attention camps is particularly insightful. Despite the excitement about these glasses I've seen and heard very little to suggest that people understand how they will ultimately be used. To that end, I'm quoting an extended but important passage below.
When they had docked at Mljet in their slow-boat refugee barges, they'd been given their spex and their ID tags. As proper high-tech pioneers, they soon found themselves humbly chopping the weeds in the bold Adriatic sun.
The women did this because of the architecture of participation. They worked like furies.
As the camp women scoured the hills, their spex on their kerchiefed heads, their tools in their newly blistered hands, the spex recorded whatever they saw, and exactly how they went about their work. Their labor was direct and simple: basically, they were gardening. Middle-aged women had always tended to excel at gardening.
The sensorweb identified and labeled every plant the women saw through their spex. So, day by day, and weed by weed, these women were learning botany. The system coaxed them, flashing imagery on the insides of their spex. Anyone who wore camp spex and paid close attention would become an expert.
The world before their eyeballs brimmed over with helpful tags and hot spots and footnotes.
As the women labored, glory mounted over their heads. The camp users who learned fastest and worked hardest achieved the most glory. "Glory" was the primary Acquis virtue.
Glory never seemed like a compelling reason to work hard-not when you simply heard about the concept. But when you saw glory, with your own two eyes, the invisible world made so visible, glory every day, glory a fact as inescapable as sunlight, glory as a glow that grew and waned and loomed in front of your face-then you understood.
Glory was the source of communion. Glory was the spirit of the corps. Glory was a reason to be.
Camp people badly needed reasons to be. Before being rescued by the Acquis, they'd been desolated. These city women, like many city women, had no children and no surviving parents. They'd been uprooted by massive disasters, fleeing the dark planetary harvest of droughts, fires, floods, epidemics, failed states, and economic collapse.
These women, blown across the Earth as human flotsam, were becoming pioneers here. They did well at adapting to circumstance-because they were women. Refugee women-women anywhere, any place on Earth-had few illusions about what it meant to be flotsam.
Vera herself had been a camp refugee for a while. She knew very well how that felt and what that meant. The most basic lesson of refugee life was that it felt bad. Refugee life was a bad life.
With friends and options and meaningful work, camp life improved. Then camp life somewhat resembled actual life. With time and more structure and some consequential opportunities, refugee life was an actual life. Whenever strangers became neighbors, whenever they found commonalities, communities arose. Where there were communities, there were reasons to live.
Camp user statistics proved that women were particularly good at founding social networks inside camps. Women made life more real. Men stuck inside camps had a much harder time fending off their despair. Men felt dishonored, deprived of all sense and meaning, when culture collapsed.
Refugee men trapped in camp thought in bitter terms of escape and vengeance. "Fight or flight." Women in a camp would search for female allies, for any means and methods to manage the day. "Tend and befriend."
So: In a proper modern camp like this one, the social software was designed to exploit those realities.
First, the women had to be protected from desperate male violence until a community emerged. The women were grouped and trained with hand tools.
The second wave of camp acculturation was designed for the men. It involved danger, difficulty, raw challenge, respect, and honor, in a bitter competition over power tools. It acted on men like a tonic.
Like any other commons-based peer-production method, an Acquis attention camp improved steadily with human usage. Exploiting the spex, the attention camp tracked every tiny movement of the user's eyeballs. It nudged its everyware between the users and the world they perceived.
Comparing the movements of one user's eyeballs to the eyeballs of a thousand other users, the system learned individual aptitudes.
A user who was good with an ax would likely be good with a water saw. A user quick to learn about plants could quickly learn about soil chemistry and hydrology. Or toxicity. Or meteorology. Or engineering. Or any set of structured knowledge that the sensorweb flung before the user's eyes.
The attention camp had already recorded a billion things that had caught the attention of thousands of people. It preserved and displayed the many trails that human beings had cut through its fields of data. The camp was a search engine, a live-in tutoring machine. It was entirely and utterly personal, full of democratically trampled roads to human redemption. By design, it was light, swift, glorious, brilliant.
More from Sterling:
Google Books: http://bit.ly/LJ9ypI
Reboot 2009 lecture: http://video.reboot.dk/video/486788/bruce-sterling-reboot-11
The Attention Economy Primer: http://digitalinterface.blogspot.com/2012/06/attention-economy-primer.html
Deen Abiola originally shared this post:
I am skeptical the glasses will have as many sensors as Sony claims but if true then I can finally form a gradient to use to optimize diet, exercise, sleep and nutrient intake for optimal brain function. Also I bet you could probably build a pretty effective biometric fingerprint using that data.
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