The New Innovation Space: “Tangilisation”

For the past ten years I’ve been hearing about how we need to drop the “e-” off of all things we’ve turned into “e”: e-learning, e-research, e-science, e-books, e-notebooks, e-profiles, e-worlds, e-atoms, e-email, e-etc.  Up until last week the idea of removing the “e-” was merely theoretical soap-boxing, however I’m pleased to say that as of last week I can confidently say that the way we perceive all thing both “-e” (virtual) and “non -e” (physical) is going to now change…

25 Feb 2010, London, University of London, Developer Conference.  The dev8D event  had many successes, however all of those amazing achievement are a distant second to the technological and ideological innovation of the achievements that “digital to physical” devices such as the Arduino, RepRap and Homemade Scientific Instrumentation presented as the way forward for innovation across all subject disciplines.

We all know the process of turning physical  items into virtual stuff (digitisation), however the process of turning those virtual items back into physical items is yet to be coined (let alone our ability to understand the by-products that will catalyse from this un-named process):

It is this process of taking virtual “e-things” and increasing their value by re-animating them as physical things that is *the new innovation space*.  Some other suggestions I got for naming this process (after a quick shout out on twitter) include: “‘physicalisation’, ‘concretisation’, ‘blurring’, ‘warming’, ‘reamplify’, ‘reproduction’, ‘re-printing’, ‘out-putting’, ‘modulating’, ‘valveify’, ‘regression’, ‘repapered’, ‘material rendering’ and (my favorite, coined by Star Trek’s Scotty via @onothimagen) ‘materialisation’”.  However, for this post I’ve decided to go with “tangilisation” (“tangization” in American) as I would like to imply that the process is not retrograde (or the same) but a positive feedback loop that adds to the physical item beyond its original state (+1) and potentially even enhances it to create something more value than the original physical item.

Examples of “tangilisation” at dev8D include @benosteen’s e-book as a til roll / register receipt.  An innovation for the physical space that enables you to carry it around in your pocket and rip off the section you have read and throw away or use for scrap note paper.  Also Ben’s printed twitter receipts, which have been a great prop to carry around in the office and let people pick out a receipt randomly.  The QR codes he has added push towards the hybrid physical/virtual space these tangilised  things occupy.

@davetaz’s iPhone App Light, which has all kinds of innovative implications for taking the virtual data available on the Web about home environmentalism and then enhancing it at home.   We are only a small step away from being able to compare power consumption in each home to embrace the competitive spirit of humans in favour of green business models; let alone the power saving techniques we could then share that might just have the ability to save this dying planet.

Gary Bulmer’s Arduino workshop was without a doubt one of the big successes of the event as it gave developers the ability to tangilise their code into physical devices via the Arduino circuit.  This simple innovation can not be expressed loud enough for literally putting the power of machines back in the hands of developers.   Code processed via the Arduino can literally mean that developers can do the heavy lifting via the keystrokes of their computers.

@ianibbotson’s homemade weather machine at local school’s also has incredible innovative potential for those young (and old) citizen scientists.  A return to the glory days of science where anyone who wants to conduct an experiment can do so in the same lab as those of  Newton, Darwin and Edison, their home garage or shed.   The scientific process, their local homemade tools and the willingness to share your inventions with the world was once all that was needed.  Why not a homemade electron miscroscope, a homemade EKG/ECG machine, a homemade collodiscope, let alone telescopes and microscopes that can plug and play via the USB port your laptop with open formats to share with all!  The ability by the wisdom of crowds to start achieving even greater national and global experiments is an innovation that will happen, e.g. will school children start to predict the weather as good as their professional counterparts?

Of course there is the RepRap machine which is where the real ideological potential of tangilisation comes into play: the ability to print up your own plastic parts bespoke to your use and then to recycle those same pieces to create new pieces!  An entire ecosystem of production is inherent in this single machine.  Little to say I’ll be building one these soon and hopefully hosting a small barcamp to get others to build them.

Personally for me, the best example of tangilisation was @benosteen’s printed blog that demonstrates the principle of  how value can be brought back to things by making them physical once again: Ben not only printed his blog but then printed the additional comments on the facing page of the printed blog post with space for further comments to be written in as well.  One can imagine the next step of re-digitising the hand written comments back into the digital blog and so forth and so on (watch this space: Ben and I have been having some ideas around self-digitising books!).

What truly excites me about all of these experiments is that they demonstrate the  positive feedback loop of tangilisation: suddenly we are no long concerned with if a thing should be physical or digital but rather how we can enhance that thing by bringing it back and forth between the physical and virtual spaces to take advantage of those two existences (to note: I need to write another post on why the processes of digitisation and tangilisation could well be the competitive monetisations models that both capitalistic and socialistic models have been waiting for!).

So watch this space, and more importantly start noticing all the tangilisation ready and waiting to happen in your life!

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~ by dfflanders on March 4, 2010.

6 Responses to “The New Innovation Space: “Tangilisation””

  1. There’s a whole other angle into this around music… notated music is encoded music, the actual music is a physical artifact… will keep thinking

  2. RepRap does not (yet) offer the complete “production ecosystem” of which you speak, a point that I put to Adrian Bowyer while we watched the machine making a coathook. Ever since I heard about this machine I’ve been both thrilled at its potential to save the world, but also concerned that, without the home recycling plant plugin necessary to make its source ingredient from existing plastic, a proliferation of RepRaps into people’s homes could merely result in an increased demand for virgin plastic to feed them, and may even increase the amount of waste going into landfill. I was partly reassured that fine minds are at work on this problem, but there remain difficult issues to tackle (apparently, if I understood him correctly, the toughest problem is getting the print head to work reliably from shredded pellets of plastic rather than a neat extruded tube). I’ll be following this story with interest, but at the moment I *won’t* be encouraging people to make these things willy-nilly. If someone can demonstrate a real need, that owning a RepRap will enable them to make parts that they would otherwise have bought from a manufacturer and thus aren’t pointlessly going to just manufacture more stuff, fair enough, otherwise I’d rather people hold off until the full lifecycle is in place.

  3. Ben, the RepRap project is in its infancy. One of its great assets is the relatively low cost of the machine. RepRap isn’t claimed as the complete solution, but rather a seed system. If people build RepRaps, some of the builders and users will innovate on the machine or the process (there’s a lot of that going on already), and the machine and process will morph over time. The greater number who build them, the more innovation is likely, and the faster we’ll move to a sustainable system. Someone will figure out a way to use bits of plastic milk bottles, for instance, to reliably feed a RepRap. I’m not very concerned about people demonstrating a “need” for RepRap; I’d rather see people demonstrate a real desire to innovate. The “needy” may be a nice, socially acceptable target, but I’d rather see RepRaps built in great number by people who have enough interest to innovate, whether or not they actually “need” the machine or its products. A “full lifecycle” system will likely come out of a large group of builders faster than it would come out of small group of “needy” builders.

  4. hello
    i’m so pleased that i found this article. that comment was so insightful. thanks again i added the rss on this article.
    are you going to post similar posts?

    • Hi James, we are currently working on building a 3d printer to see what we can achieve. My blog here is dedicated to looking at open innovation, especially where a walled garden can be opened up to accelerate innovation, hence the title. I post usually month a month.

  5. I put to Adrian Bowyer while we watched the machine making a coathook. Ever since I heard about this machine I’ve been both thrilled at its potential to save the world, but also concerned that, without the home recycling plant plugin necessary to make its source ingredient from existing plastic, a proliferation of RepRaps into people’s homes could merely result in an increased demand for virgin plastic to feed them, and may even increase the amount of waste going into landfill.

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