Luiss Engaged Research Podcast n.3

Smart objects in daily life: Tackling the rise of new life forms in a semiotic perspective

di Paolo Peverini

Abstract:

Our everyday life is increasingly permeated with digital objects thatcarry out smart and complex functions. The latest (but certainly not final) advancement of smart digital applications–is to be identified the creation of afield, at once conceptual and material, of things denominatedsmart objects (henceforth SOs). This technological evolution is so pervasive that it is referred toassmartification. Smart objects have some distinctive features including in particular varying degrees of agency, autonomy and authority. There is no doubt that the SO category is extremely broad, various and intrinsically fuzzy, it is evident that the phenomenon is by no means easy to define: which objects arereallysmartand which are not? But above all: what do wemeanin semio-linguistic, and not psychological nor merely phenomenological terms, when weat tribute the qualifier smart to an artifact? What is clear is that a new, or at least different (and controversial) relationship is developing between objects andsubjects, or rather between human beings and objects inhabiting the spaces of social action: that is, a new system of objects, to cite Baudrillard (1968), or a new “society of objects”(see Landowski and Marrone 2002). In this paper we will focus on a type of smart physical device designed to interact with its users inthe domestic sphere, assisting them in a variety of tasks–such as forexample Amazon Echo, capable of connecting to Alexa, an intelligent personal assistant based on machine learning, or the more recent Google Assistant.

“Smart objects in daily life: Tackling the rise of new life forms in a semiotic perspective”, by Paolo Peverini (with Riccardo Finocchi, Antonio Perri). (2020). Semiotica 236-237. doi:10.1515/sem-2019-0020

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