on the shore of the ultimate sea

Spimes and the evolution of the Missed Connection

sophie blackall

Spime. Spimey spimey spime.

Spime is a portmanteau of ‘space’ and ‘time’ coined by Bruce Sterling, who envisions a world full of spimes. It’s fun to say, and important to think about. A scenario just crossed my mind that might help.

A spime, as he defines it, is a “location-aware, environment-aware, self-logging, self-documenting, uniquely identified object that flings off data about itself and its environment in great quantities.”

We’re seeing stuff that’s spimier every day. Your smart phone is a pretty good example. While I was looking at Sophie Blackall’s fun illustrations of Craigslist Missed Connections it seemed like a pretty interesting way to think about spimes.

Thousands of people have potential Missed Connections every day in big cities. (Essentially, if you’re not clear on how the Craigslist section works, say the cute dude walking his dog makes eyes at you, and you reciprocate; if one of you gets up the guts and wants to make contact you post about the encounter on the board.)

But, the problem with Missed Connections is they require a great deal of persistence. One would imagine an earnest (yet shy) person would check the board regularly, thinking about the girl in the laundromat showing off her underwear in a flirty way or the neighbor whose groceries you helped pick up after her bag tore might have really felt there was something more, and posted. God! We really had something for that second.

Or you yourself would post after every small interaction that’s a piece of love in a often desultory metropolis (‘Hey, coffee guy, I really appreciate your daily affirmations and good humor’). So, you follow every trail and leave bread crumbs of your own and you’re bound to find a soul mate eventually. But, you’re likely to end up with an earnest, shy, person who’s kind of like yourself. And opposites attract.

Spimes can make it better.

Say you’re out carousing, or riding the subway to work, and your phone is logging place and time information, and you’ve signed up to be part of the Craigslist Missed Connections database and are volunteering (fairly anonymously, if you want) your location and when you’re passing by various nodes. Say the commuter pal who you always see and occasionally share eyes with is too. And she/he looks at that day’s timeline, and remembers the encounter, and puts a little pushpin into it. Guess what? Since your route and when you passed through it is logged too, you get a notification. Someone who trod the same path shared an experience with a stranger. Was it with you? It’s a hell of a lot likelier than the currently haphazard method, and I bet you could find a psychologist who would argue it’d make a healthier match than two neurotic romantics refreshing the Missed Connections section every hour.

There are already things that use the iPhone’s GPS to do things like this; most notably Grindr, an app that helps gay men find cruising buddies based on location, allows chats and suggests places to tryst.

Aside from being a little more, well, romantic, adding the time element allows you utilize the core of the Missed Connection, that it’s already happened, and was a shared experience, and treat that first encounter like a notable moment where two lives cross.

So how do we do it? Who will try?

Written by Nick

November 1st, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Technology

2 Responses to 'Spimes and the evolution of the Missed Connection'

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  1. Here’s another good example in the form of a thesis project called SNIF (Social Networking in Fur): http://noah.cx/snif/

    Noah Brier

    2 Nov 09 at 15:40

  2. Despite the noah in the domain, I had nothing to do with it, just ran across it a few years ago and it’s stuck in my head.

    Noah Brier

    2 Nov 09 at 15:40

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