Contemplating designing user interaction with information from and about a spime

The Internet of Things keeps coming back to my attention. A vision of a world where designed objects have extended well beyond their physicality. Where the information being produced by the object (or spime) is as primary as the object itself. Things that are aware of themselves in context, communicating with services around them. John Seely Brown gave an early hint at a begriming of the Internet of Things when he wrote about concepts at Xerox – mentioning remote interactive communication (RIC)

“is an expert system inside the copier that monitors the information technology controlling the machine and, using some artificial-intelligence techniques, predicts when the machine will next break down. Once RIC predicts a breakdown will occur, it automatically places a call to a branch office and downloads its prediction, along with its reasoning. A computer at the branch office does some further analysis and schedules a repair person to visit the site before the expected time of failure. … the ultimate conclusion of this technological transformation is the disappearance of the copier as a stand-alone device.”

Research That Reinvents the Corporation, Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management, 1991 Harvard Business School, Boston, MA

What I find particularly fascinating from the Internet of Things idea is the notion of the materials constituting an object being valued for more than their brief moment of being part of that object. Instead seeing the material as being in a stream of use and application. The idea of “all the uses for my dell keyboard” at various levels of disrepair, and then when it is only good for parts, what are those parts good for? What else I might want to use the buttons for (and how to detach them without damaging them) or where they can be sold. Or where to send them for recycling.

I keep imagining this information being organized through some (RDF?) ontology, with the abstract object as a primary organizing node for this information. Instructional videos (a al John Udell’s ideas of using video to communicate material that is hard to convey in explicit text) linked to various points in the life cycle of an object.

How would a multiple branching chain of possible life paths for an object be represented in a way that makes sense to users? And when is the sum of parts the central entity vs. the parts themselves becoming primary objects of interest? Questions abound in this space.