Kuniavsky’s “Information Shadows”

Information shadows enable users to access information about their products and experience them in very different ways than could have been imaginable before the Internet. Today, products mean so much more to people and impact their product/customer experiences in new ways. With built-in ubicomp, customers experience products that have a much wider network of associations. Products can now be tailored to reveal previously nested information about them (their information shadows) that influence the meanings attached to identifiable objects and influences customer decision making processes. Products, themselves, become carriers of their own metadata when identification technologies are integrated in their making; information shadows are now highly accessible and affordable.

What links objects to metadata are what Tom Coates coined in 2004 “Point-at things” to mean: uniquely identifiable objects that allow, so to speak, pointing at information about it, possible (“item-level tracking and identification technologies”, such as: RFIDs, barcodes, etc.). According to Kuniavsky, the line between product and service design are now blurred by new technologies as they have shown to have enhanced User Experiences. Technology can make extend-able data objects could point-at by way of layering multiple data-sets about an object and relevant related web content that could help “users make sense of information.”

While going through this reading I somehow could not stop thinking about Frigyes Karinthy’s theory of six degrees of separation, which describes the network existing between any two strangers at any remote distance from one another being connected by six degrees (or six people). In a sense, Information Shadows also may represent six degrees of separation existing within the cross-layering of metadata of any given object, beginning with an object and extending outside of itself as it points-at other seemingly related data and ending in a loop back to where the object lives. This may describe objects as having connections to people and organizations, things (products) and non-things (services). Every entity would hold the potential of being connected to any and every entity outside of itself. This, to me, resonates well with what Kuniavsky seems to suggest when he writes that “The service possibilities of information shadows are enormous.” This enormity defines the scope and significance of user experiences.