The paper is both a reflection on the current situation with the IoT, Internet of Things,
and an attempt to imagine its possible developments in the future, and the role that
(responsible) design can play in it.
More specifically, I am trying to apply an axiological, based on the studies values,
analysis of the developments of the IoT, on pragmatic and discursive levels. I use
the framework of ‘Spiral Dynamics’, and a theoretical model it is based on, proposed
by Clare Graves and his followers, as guiding tools.
Referring to the Spiral Dynamics, I argue that the designers of the IoT-related products
and services have a unique opportunity to facilitate the development of more integral
value systems, as opposed to the re-enforcement of the existing, increasingly
confrontational appropriation of the IoT technologies by the dominant value systems
of modern societies.
As a way of illustration, I also present a ‘serious game’ we developed and played
during the inaugural conference of the European Council of the Internet of Things
in Brussels. The game, code-named “Internet of Dragons”, both illustrated the existing
lack of understanding between the representatives of the different ‘value memes’,
and also provided a number of interesting insights about possible design solutions,
more dialogical (and playful) ‘gateways’ that would endorse and facilitate the creation
of the new, more integral and humanistic Internet of Things.
The article is a somewhat lighter version of the paper I earlier submitted to one of
the academic journals. In addition to adding some background information about Spiral
Dynamics, and I also deliberately made its style less formal and more visual (as well as
striped some the academic attributes, such as the references and sources.) In its current
form it is more polemical than academic, and I hope that it will result in a more active
dialogue and discussions about the axiological dimensions of the IoT developments,
currently neglected, I believe.
I would appreciate receiving comments, suggestions and feedback related to the issues
discussed in the paper, and would in general welcome the debates about the role of
‘transformational design’ in the context of IoT, and beyond.
Internet of Dragons > Internet of Things
In December 2009 Summ( )n was invited to participate in the inaugural conference of the
European Council of the Internet of Things, held in the iMal Center of Digital Culture in
Brussels, Belgium. By then the newly established Council united about fifty individual
members, both theoreticians and practitioners of the new emerging area, “the Internet of
The first part of the conference was dedicated to ‘experience exchanges’, with the cases
and presentations about already implemented projects – which were surprisingly few. The
challenges, though, were many: one of the most common issues mentioned by the
presenters, for example, was the lack of funding for research and exploratory projects.
Privacy concerns, allegedly expressed by both the public and the governments alike, had
been also mentioned often.
The second part of the day was devoted to "the future." Divided into smaller groups, the
participants discussed the possible areas of application for the IoT – business, education,
health care – and the benefits that IoT could bring about. These groups were skillfully filling
colorful post-it-notes with the ideas and suggestions, making the “clustering”, and
constructing the “road maps”.
Ours was the only group that did something else.
We suggested to our participants (about 15 in total) to play a game; the real one, with the
dragons and stuff. Instead of the ‘seriously discussions’ of the possible avenues that the
Internet of Things may take in Europe, we asked people to imagine a magical land (The
Dragonland) inhabited by various funny races – the Elves, the Dwarves, and the Trolls –
who live according to their laws and habits (that might seem a bit strange to us, people).
And of course, the dragons: the Dragonland was expectedly populated by the dragons of
various kinship – the golden, red, black and green ones. Each species possessed certain
magical properties, which were either a ‘threat’ and or a ‘benefit’ for a particular race. The
‘dragons’ were prominently present in the space we had for our workshop: more than a
hundred of beautiful colorful paper origami dragons filled the room.
The participants joined the ‘local tribes’ that live in this magical land, and at first learned
their habits, rules and ways of living. The Elves, for example, cherished beauty, harmony
and justice of the world, and their main purpose was to enhance these qualities through
constructive and collaborative efforts. For the Gnomes, material wealth was the most
important thing and they would work very hard to multiply it further (ideally, to infinity).
The Trolls, on the other side, were innovative (while often reckless) pranksters, who would
challenge any order and authority, sometimes just out of fun; oh yes, fun was very
important to the trolls!
All the three teams then received an invitation from the High Commission of the
Dragonland to participate in a newly announced tender, aimed at designing and
constructing the best possible Internet of Dragons.
To win the competition, the teams had to construct their models of the Internet of Dragons,
using various magical materials (e.g., woolen threads, paper, clay, glue and so forth). The
resources were limited and distributed unevenly among the teams, who in turn were able to
trade and swap these items, using in-game currency.
The first few minutes went in coping with some bewilderment and skepticism ("Are we
seriously going to play with these origami dragons?") Soon, however, all the participants
were actively playing their roles, and with increasing enthusiasm began to build their own
"Internet of Dragons". They were taming different dragons by tying the threads to them and
branding them with their "racial markers". They claimed new territories by surrounding
them with their growing webs, inventing new rules and procedures to conquest the lands
and gain more ‘magical resources’.
Along the way they were also explaining their actions and commenting on the actions of
the opponents, generating the detailed (and witty) stories about the past, present and future
of this magical country.
Two hours later, the entire room was turned into one huge multi-colored installation. But it
wasn’t just a pile of threads and scraps of paper; it was a complex, dramatic 3D narrative,
telling about the glorious victories, lost wars, formed and broken alliances, gained
treasures, but also betrayals and treasons, and the plans of revenge.
For example, the Elves, following their system of values, have built a beautiful, symmetrical,
temple-like network, which would unite all the dragons into one mega-family, and would
also bring countless benefits to all the races inhabiting the Dragonland. A small issue is that
their installation was very big, and very stretched, and therefore very fragile and vulnerable.
That was timely spotted by the Trolls – by the way, the only group who had in their hands a
sophisticated technology called "scissors." The elven version of Internet of Dragons crashed
at the very moment of the project presentation to the High Commission! What a shame!
But also what a heated debate that this unhappy development has caused! At first, the
teams almost went into a brawl, but then a more meaningful conversation evolved, about
different criteria of ‘beauty’, and ‘safety’, and ‘robustness, and yes, of ‘meaningfulness’
of the Internet of Things Dragons, too.
It was quite a surprise for many participants to witness how different were their models of
the Internet of Dragons. But even more surprising was to discover and to experience this
wall of misunderstanding of each other that was quickly emerging out of nowhere. As soon
as the teams referred to ‘their’ values as the guiding principle behind their "versions of the
future", the other teams reacted with a mixture of indifference and hostility. The Elves, for
example, were not able to understand why the Trolls did not appreciate the "beauty" and
"harmony" of their installations, while the Trolls were unable to see anything in it except
“bombastic and pompous cathedrals" and "totalitarian megalomania" (these are the quotes).
These discussions and reflections could easily last longer than the game itself; to rescue to
the conference agenda, we had to end these debates at some point, by awarding the
winners (happened to be the Trolls) with great Belgian chocolate (the 'losers' got it too,
though in a lesser quantity).
Rob van Kranenburg in a thicket of the Internet of Dragons
It was a very simple ‘serious game’, not even a full-scale one, but a demo version specially
designed for the conference. But even this simple version have puzzled many participants
and made them think (some admitted later, "for the first time") about complex relationships
between apparently a purely technological project and the systems of values with which
this technology has been designed and developed.
Not only different sets of values resulted in the construction of strikingly different models,
but they also amplified the gapes in communication and collaboration, that in turn resulted
in even bigger differences and more intensive collisions.
This workshop may serve as yet another evidence supporting more active use of interactive
and playful formats during conferences (as opposed to ‘serious’ post-it plastering). But more
importantly, it illustrates a very important dimension of the emerging phenomenon of the
Internet of Things, which I would like to elaborate in the next chapters, namely its
anthropological, and more specifically, axiological character (from Greek ἀξίᾱ, axia, "value,
To guide my exercise, I would like to employ one of the well-known theories,
or frameworks, called Spiral Dynamics.
From paper dragons to Spiral Dynamics
I would like to use the Spiral Dynamics approach to both highlight and to explore the
relationships and interdependencies between the current (and potential) developments of
the IoT, on one side, and the systems of human values present in our current cultures, on
the other. But before that I need to make a couple of disclaimers.
First, I don’t claim this is the best model to do so, or the only one; there are many other
ways to illustrate my points, with the use of various other approaches. The Spiral Dynamics
became better and wider known lately through numerous publications and initiatives:
it even became ‘fashionable’, and as such can be a good starting point for this exercise.
There is another side of this popularity, too. At present it is not possible to speak about one
single, unified "theory of" or "approach to" Spiral Dynamics; rather, it has evolved over time
into a large set of frameworks, methods, and heuristics to think about human and cultural
evolution. No researcher or practitioner could claim the ‘right’ version of this approach
(and neither do I). Instead I openly admit that my take on this approach is very
opportunistic, I borrow many principles and ideas from this Spiral Dynamics but freely mix
them with other concepts too.
Because of that, a short introduction into Spiral Dynamics is necessary, even if to illustrate
my particular take on this approach (but I would highly recommend to read both
the original sources and at least some of the contemporary interpretations, to shape your
own views about this model).
Clare Graves himself called his theory ECLET, Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence
Theory. The central postulate of his approach is an understanding of human nature as
a dynamic, evolving system of practices and beliefs that are dependence on the "contexts",
both physical and socio-cultural (which also includes technological dimensions).
Graves also identified a number of distinctive levels of such existence in the course of
human history, which are characterized by specific, unique sets of values, or vMemes (from
value Memes). These sets of values are understood in his approach as the foundations of the
holistic systems of beliefs about the world, or the worldviews.
At any given moment these worldviews mediate all other activities and practices of people,
and in many ways shape the people themselves. The evolution of these vMemes is
presented in a form of unfolding spiral (the spiral model was developed by Don Beck and
Chris Cowan, the followers of Clare Graves, hence the popular nickname of this approach
today, Spiral Dynamics, or SD).
According to Graves, the very first vMeme of humans was Beige (all vMemes in this theory
have their color labels). The primary mode of being at this level is a brutal struggle for
survival, to satisfy the most basic vital needs - food, safe shelter, and procreation.
Technologies are very rudimentary, and human body is still the main "means of labor." Yet
we can already talk about culture, manifested in traditions, myths, but also in various
societal practices and rituals.
In its pure form this vMeme is hardly present toady (the exceptions are the primitive tribes
still living in some remote areas of the sub-Saharan Africa or Amazonia). But as recently as
in the 19 century this was a quite widespread form of living for many people populating
vast territories of the Earth. And it’s not all in the past, too: this vMeme may (and does)
resurface on the territories deprived from more modern civilizational infrastructures and
institutions for a prolonged period of time (e.g., long-term wars or conflicts, large-scale
When presenting every vMeme, I will try to also illustrate it with a few pictures and well as
with its ‘visual symbol’; in this case, the lack if it. Beige world is a world of a structure-less
(and often purpose-less) nomadic journey, from somewhere, to some other ‘where’, driven
only by the goal of preserving its own existence.
Gradually, however, the evolution of the Beige vMeme results in the development of more
advanced technologies - both physical and social – that in turn allows for the new value
order to emerge. Color-coded as Purple, this vMeme is already governing a more complex
socio-technological organization that creates a very particular type of person.
People here already posses significant amount of knowledge about both physical and
cultural domains, although this knowledge is still scarce, and exists in form of dogmatic
rituals and practices. The society of Ancient Egypt could be a good example of such Purple
Societal norms and traditions are taken here for granted, they are rarely (if ever) criticized,
and the main goal of this world is to maintain the existing order of things, the status quo, by
all possible means. The only form of development that is understood and accepted in such
societies is a cyclical one, that is, the process that essentially leaves the main elements
intact. The Circle can be also a symbol of this world.
It’s important to note that every new emerging vMeme (in this case, Purple) does not
replace or cancel the previous one (Beige), but rather builds on top of it. The necessity to
satisfy the vital needs (and related values that first govern this process) does not disappear,
but has been transformed into a new system of beliefs, and then in the new activities,
practices, and institutions. For example, eating, which was a direct physiological need at
the Beige level, becomes a more complex cultural practice, mediated by the different tools
and rules at the Purple level.
A person in the Purple world has higher degree of autonomy and self-determination,
compared to the Beige one (where the modern concept of subjectivity is, perhaps, not
developed yet, and where the people mostly define themselves via kinship and tribal
belonging). However, the person in the Purple world perceived himself as a part of a
complex social order (for example, as a member of certain cast, with the role pre-defined
from the birth and never challenged or changed). A pharaoh in the Ancient Egypt did not
become the pharaoh because of his personal qualities; this status had been given to him by
The situation is changing with the emergence of new value system, the Red vMeme. Its
system of values can be described as the first "individualistic", and in some sense can serve
as a prototype to the modern concept of "I", the Ego, own personality. This is the era of
"heroes", that values personal achievements, and allows for personal trajectory through the
social ladder (preferably upward). Ancient Greece at the times of Alexander the Great could
be a good example of this vMeme (and he himself, as exemplar of such individual hero). As
in the previous case, the Red vMeme does not really destroy the previous Purple one, but
builds on top, and transforms it at the same time.
It is an interesting moment in history, when the various "colors", various value systems are
beginning to co-exist, and in several senses: first, different societies that held different value
systems simultaneously exist on the Earth. But the values also start co-existing within one
given society, carried by the different social groups (although in the latter case every
vMeme is fighting for its dominance, and this co-existence is often equal to con-flicting, co-
fighting). Needless to say, it’s a very masculine vMeme, often based on physical dominance
and brutal force. It’s a world of expansion and transgression, which often becomes
aggression; its symbol is a pointing arrow (that not coincidentally also looks like a sword.)
In principle, the Red vMeme is unstoppable; it encourages competition, and tends to bring
the strongest and the smartest heroes on the top – to be replaced by even smarter and
stronger ones later, ad infinitum. Alexander the Great is a good example, as I said, but this
vMeme is very alive even today, in some societies and sub-cultures more than in the others,
but it’s far from being a historical artifact.
The only thing that can counterbalance the plain power is another power… of knowledge -
but only if it is not-subjective, verifiable knowledge, the knowledge that works. Here comes
the Blue vMeme, the value system of scientists. This is my point of disagreement with many
other interpreters of Spiral Dynamics, that Blue vMeme refers only to dogmatic (often
religious or quasi-religious) thinking, combined with the absolutist forms of government. I
believe that the Blue vMeme emerged as a reaction to a complete voluntarism of the Red
vMeme, as a form of collective knowledge production capable to set the limits to the
dictatorial claims of the ‘heroes’.
Blue vMeme is the worldview of the scientists and engineers, who explore and discover the
objective ‘laws of nature’, not subordinated to any subjective will. This is the world that
values efficient, measurable, knowledge-driven solutions; it is a self-critical and therefore
dynamic world, always ready to challenge its own assumptions. At the same time, it is also
inherently rigid world, since it accepts only one type of rationality, and only one direction
of progress; for scientists, nothing is more important and more valuable than the truth, true
knowledge, and the quickly become hostile to anything (and anyone) who is not sharing
The values of Blue vMeme are fundamental to our civilization today, especially if we talk
about its Western wing; they have been also the reasons behind our prosperity and
wellbeing, and as such embedded into majority of our social institutions and practices.
But as we know, it’s not always enough to know right fact, someone has to start making the
right things: goods, products, service. The vMeme that quickly emerges on the shoulders of
the Blue vMeme is the Orange one. This is the world of pro$it-making, of personal wealth,
and of material success as the main goals, both on personal and societal levels. It’s not so
important how much or how well you know, what is important is how much you earn
based on this knowledge. Orange world is very entrepreneurial, it's the work of commerce
and manufacturing; risk-taking is very important, but better calculated one.
Like the Red vMeme, Orange world values personal individual achievements, however,
it measures them not by the ranks and awards, but by the amount of cash on bank
accounts. Greed is good here, and personal enrichment is an ultimate goal. At the moment,
Orange vMeme is the dominant value systems in the majority of the societies on the planet.
It penetrates all forms of activities and practices in all developed economies, and massively
impacts all major sides of human civilization.
The benefits this value system has created are innumerous; basically, all the major modern
forms of human civilization on Earth are the result of the interplay of these two last
vMemes, Blue and Orange. But besides the benefits, this combo has also brought many
new troubles to this very Earth.
Or so is believed by the latest vMeme identified Graves, the Green one. Its color semantics
is pretty self-explanatory – these are indeed the values the environmentalists and ecological
activists who blame the "omnipotent capitalism" and “omnipresent consumerism” in all the
troubles on Earth (sic!): from global warming, to pollution and depletion of vital resources,
to the growing threats to various forms of life living on the planet. Another side of blaming
is more social and ethical one, since the current economic and political system is accused
by the Greens as inherently unjust and anti-human. Instead, this worldview calls for less
individualistic and more socially responsible way of living, where collective, public
interests prevail over plain "commercial advantage."
The Green vMeme is the youngest one, and it evolves and grows (in struggles with the
Orange one, that is) at this very moment. It is quite prominent in the majority of the
developed countries, but not so much present yet in the rest of the world.
When I say that certain vMeme is ‘present’, or that there is a conflict with other vMeme, it
does not mean that we can simply calculate how many ‘green’ or ‘orange’ people are in
any given society. Value systems manifest themselves in different ways, being it legal rules
or social practices, ideological narratives or forms of behaviors. We, people, also become
constructed in a more complex manner; a part of me can be ‘green’, yet other part ‘red’,
and yet in a certain context I can behave according to the completely ‘orange’ values.
Spiral Dynamics and the Internet of Things
How could Spiral Dynamics help us in understanding possible developments of the Internet
Part of the answer is of course in another question, namely, what is the Internet of Things
itself. There have been many versions of the answer to this question, and the number of
definitions seems to be only increasing with time. The most common denominator of the
various definitions of the IoT could be presented as “many things connected to each other”
and therefore capable to communicate, to “talk”. The IoT is sometimes also called
To be part of the IoT world, these ‘things’ thus should posses a) capacity to communicate
and b) capacity to sense their environment, in a broader sense of the word ‘sensing’. The
IoT often also assumes c) a capacity of the whole systems to ‘think’, i.e., to intelligently
process the data it gathers, and therefore d) data storage capabilities.
Of course, there exist more elaborate definitions, but the majority of them understands and
presents the IoT as a predominantly technological phenomenon. Just look at the images
above, for instance: this is a screen of the Google Image Search’s top page with the pictures
that people currently most often associate with the IoT.
Quite symbolically, there are no people in these pictures (if not to count the simple cartoon
figures). Not only these images contain no real people who would actually ‘use’ the
Internet of Things, but they are also missing any depictions of anything related to the
different human values, such as our aspirations, dreams, or fears.
As every other complex technological undertaking, the Internet of Things is not (and can
not be) independent of the human value systems – not only of those who would eventually
use it in their lives, but also those who now envisions it, who designs and creates it, who
promotes it (or who speaks against it).
Examples of the IoT projects/publications clustered around different vMemes
A closer look at almost every project or case of the IoT allows to clearly see a certain value
system behind them. This is also true for many texts related to the IoT, whether these are
research papers, policy documents or popular articles (see the chart above where I placed
only the titles of the papers, but even they are pretty indicative – we can clearly see how
they cluster around certain vMemes). Yet there has been surprisingly very little said and
written about this important axiological, or value-related and value-mediated dimension of
the IoT so far.
One could argue that the IoT in this sense is not much different from any other technology;
every human technology has been appropriated by its users according to their own value
system. When used, the technology usually reaffirms and sometimes amplifies and
enhances the value system of its users.
An interesting question if technology can also change, transforms our values? There are
schools of thoughts within a newly emerging ‘ethics of technology’ discipline that argue
that technology itself does possess a certain ethical commitment, or even a command,
capable to transform the ethical profile of its users. The majority of the thinkers and
practitioners, however, tend to think that potential transformative impact of technology is
not embedded in the technology per se, but emerges through its applications designed and
developed by individuals and agencies within a particular social context.
Take, for instance, the internet (not the IoT yet, but our ‘usual’ internet); its evolution
provides an interesting and fresh case of such value-driven appropriation of technology.
The internet was coined as a predominantly R&D-driven technological innovation (we
broadly attribute it to the Blue vMeme in Spiral Dynamics), with clearly military purposes
(Red vMeme). It was then appropriated by the Orange vMeme in form of the World Wide
Web (aimed at enhancing the existing industrial and commercial practices, increasing their
efficiency and productivity, and reducing costs). Later, however, the internet was re-
appropriated by the emerging Green vMeme, which boosted the formation of the Social
Web, and in turn allowed the formation of new global societal and human practices. This
latter development became possible also because of the wider spread and availability of
design and development tools to create new forms of Social Web.
Currently the internet (and specifically it WWW/ Social forms) does allow its simultaneous
use by the multiple value systems, a fairly unique case of technological appropriation.
There is room for everybody on the web, as they say, where no one knows you are a dog.
It seems that in its current form the web consists of multiple parallel digital universes, each
governed by its own value systems.
Will it be the case with the Internet of Things too? Will the IoT allow such multi-valued
parallel co-existence of the different vMemes as the ‘normal’ internet apparently does? Or
will it become a new battleground, where different vMemes will be combating with each
other in the efforts to define the ultimate winner, the ‘owner’ of the main dominant value
governing the Internet of Things?
Or perhaps there is a third way? I argue that the Internet of Things has a chance to become
an impactful socio-technological, even anthropological project, capable to demonstrate,
and to endorse this third way: neither a war, nor a set of the parallel universes, but a
platform potentially transforming our social practices, our cultural environments, and - as a
consequence – us ourselves.
Integral vMemes of Spiral Dynamics
But to make my point, I need to return for a moment to the Spiral Dynamics, and complete
the story about two other emerging vMemes, detected by Graves and his followers.
Graves argued that our modern world is strikingly different from the previous stages of
human evolution, because it increasingly allows for co-existence of the diverse value
systems, both on the (global) societal level, and on the level of individual. Daily life of any
modern megapolis is a constant collision of multiple value systems, expressed through
different lifestyles, activities of various agencies, and even in aesthetics. Over time we
developed the ways and procedures to negotiate the encounters between these different
systems, and avoid their conflicts (at least the deadly ones) with each other. Of course, the
situation is far from ideal now (in fact, it’s very far from such one in most parts of the world,
where deadly clashes of different value systems occur on a daily base). But at least we see
some examples of a relatively peaceful co-existence of multiple value systems in
That situation resulted, according to Graces, in the emergence of new types of value
systems; he called them integral, meaning that they are not in opposition or antagonism to
any of the previous vMemes, but rather incorporate them into one, more complex dynamic
value (meta)system. As I wrote earlier, many of us living in modern societies these days
resemble walking cocktails of different values and beliefs, that manifest themselves
differently in different situations.
The first of these integral value systems was labeled Yellow vMeme - although I would
personally prefer the name Octarine vMeme, referring to the Terry Pratchet’s famous color
“Octarine is said to be the color of magic, as it is apparent in the crackling and shimmering
of light. The additional "eighth color," in a spectrum of black, blue, green, yellow, purple,
orange, and red, octarine has been also likened to a fluorescent greenish-yellow purple, a
combination impossible to perceive with normal human eyes.”
People with Yellow value systems are multiple, hybrid personalities; they see the ‘value’ of
different value systems, and manifest them in their behavior depending on the context.
They are flexible, adaptable, integral personalities - you can be a "great scholar" and
"successful businessman", "strong authoritarian personality", but also "a fighter for social
justice". Can you be an "atheist" and "religious person" at the same time? This type of
personality is very difficult to imagine, and it’s even more difficult to accept their existence
for the representatives of earlier, more antagonistic value systems.
Yet these people start appearing, although they are still relatively rare. They operate in
turbulent, complex and chaotic mediums, but by coping with these multiple uncertainties
and ambiguities, they also develop their new cognitive and personal characteristics. They
are the same and ever different at the same time; I would chose fractal to illustrate this
Graves also suggested, rather hypothetically, the emergence of yet another integral vMeme,
Turquoise, which for the sake of simplicity can be described as a community of the Yellow
(super)men. These are also people capable to integrate multiple value systems, but
compared to the pervious more individualistic Yellow vMeme, these are people who
perceive themselves and the world as one holistic entity, and therefore act accordingly.
Similar to the Yellow vMeme, the Turquoise one is still very rare and its appearances are
very fragile, but they still could highlight interesting future possibilities.
IoT and (Possible) Axiological Transformation: Dreams, Dramas, and Design
Spiral Dynamics therefore provides a thought-provoking interpretative framework to think
about both current and the future developments of the Internet of Things. If we understand
IoT not as a merely technological phenomenon, but as a socio-technological project, the
question that arises is whether it will support the existing status quo and will be
competitively appropriated and used by different vMemes, or it will be able play a more
transformative role and facilitate the transition to more integral value systems (the situation I
would refer as a ‘dream’).
The key difference between IoT and its predecessor, the internet and lately the WWW, is
that the latter created a regime of possible non-intrusive (to the extent, of course) co-
existence of different value systems. Sometimes there is a feeling that human practices on
the web create a set of parallel universes – consider, for instance, a corporate intranet vis-à-
vis an open social media or a community of open source developers. These realms are
guided by different rules, pursue different goals and even speak in their own sub-languages.
However, the IoT will unlikely enjoy the same situation, since it will have to unfold in an
environment (physical and institutional) that has been dominated by certain value systems,
and where this ‘value hierarchy’ is already pre-arranged. Modern cities in general, and their
specific domains of activities (e.g., working, shopping, leisure spaces etc.) already operate
on a base of certain fairly stable compositions of vMemes, and will appropriate new
This situation was manifested quite vividly during our games with the dragons. Initially all
the teams, driven by their value sets, constructed their versions of the IoD (Internet of
Dragons). Soon, however, they had to compete for various in-game resources – including
space, and consequently the ‘dragons’ they all were trying to control.
Such competition reflects the existing situation in ‘real life’ too, when various agencies and
communities argue with each other in an attempt to gain a dominant position, both in terms
of resources, communication, and general ideology of the IoT (the state that I could refer as
current ‘drama’). If to play ‘realistic’ scenario, we can foresee increasingly heated debates
and discussions in the beginning that soon will be ended because of the victory of a
dominant Orange vMeme of the developed economies (and consequent marginalization of
This situation, I believe, presents quite a unique opportunity – yet also a steep challenge -
for design. Design (understood here broadly, of course, as a set of creative practices) can
engage in constructing series of ‘integrative’ tools, both the spaces and practices that would
enable more dialogue between different vMemes.
In our case it was the very space of the game, playfulness of the actions of all the
participants that allowed a new forms of interactions to emerge. Despite clearly different
values that guided the creation of their individual models, the cheerful, amicable
discussions that emerged eventually moved many participants towards more holistic,
integral models. We clearly saw the efforts to construct something new, something that
would lie ‘in between’.
The exact design of such ‘transformative’ practices and tools is a subject of additional
exploration, of course, and as a conclusion I would like to invite the readers to share their
ideas and proposals about such ‘integral IoT’.