Where have I been? My new project: citizenme

So, after setting out to post on this blog at least every month I admit that I’ve been a little distracted over the summer. But it’s with good reason.

I’ve spent the last 6 months or so working up plans for my next start up project, citizenme.


Ownership of our digital identity – our ‘right to own our self’ is a huge and growing issue as our persona becomes connected, reflected and refracted through our use of mobiles, social networks and, soon, connected sensors and wearable devices. Harvesting, aggregating and selling of our collected identities has quickly become a multi-billion dollar business, all without our visibility, consent or control.

For me, this is the biggest issue that needs fixing for the Internet in the next few years. I’ve been tracking the area with a view to investing since selling my last start-up at the end of 2010 and so far no one has really set out to properly tackle the issue.  I have the skills, knowledge and resources. So it’s now become my next project.

We’re in Alpha development at the moment and if you’d like to be kept up to date with developments please do sign up for email updates at www.citizenme.com and follow us on twitter.

cheers StJ

Decoupling Art From The Artisan

Our era of human digitization (homo-digitalis?) is rapidly changing the way we do many things which we might ordinarily view as being unchanging.  An example is the way that we create tangible “objects of art”.


For most of our history, Art (Latin for “craft”) has implicitly required a degree of physical skill and dexterity at the end of a creative process. An example of the process might be:

  • Perceiving and interpreting the world around us – as it was, as it is and as it could be
  • Conceiving a “thing” to be created in our minds eye
  • Choosing a medium – oils, watercolours, wood, stone, silver, glass
  • Crafting with hands and tools (chisel, spray-can, paintbrush, toothbrush etc) – i.e. Using learned and gifted artisanal skills to make the conceptual become tangible.

Note: this classification obviously has no academic root, I’ve just created it to illustrate a point. If you have any knowledge of art theory please don’t cringe!

By necessity, early “art” required manual dexterity and was artisan.  Whether creating a painting of a buffalo or pharaoh; or crafting a shell necklace or china vase; or engraving a copper Idol or brass armor.

Photography, started muddling this process. Pin hole cameras enabled sketch portrait artists to better mirror ‘reality” by tracing the outline of a sitting subject.


Camera obscura Tischapparat 1769 kl

Chemical photography took this further with “fixed” silver replacing oil-on-a-brush to create a facsimile of the projected image. In the process the camera became both a tool for  conceiving as well as a tool to craft the “art” from the medium. The completed work, the permanent image, still required artisan skill to finish it, with hands-on exposing, developing, editing and cropping of the completed image.  Skilled manual manipulation of chemicals and photographic paper being the physical medium of creation.

Self portait darkroom1

Next, with digital photography, images are displayed on a digital screen on the camera as soon as they’re taken. They’re then edited in digital format and can be transported electronically to any digital printer in the world before becoming tangible, if we ever need them to be that is (how many gigabytes of holiday snaps have you already accumulated?).

Perhaps more profound is the impact that these new artistic tools have on our perception of the world – which then feeds and influences our creativity.  We now carry digital camera everywhere we go – giving us a pictorial record of our lives, which would have been unimaginable just ten years ago. In the last few years, Social Media has now brought us everyone else’s lives in pictures (although maybe only the best ones).

None of this is to say that the creative process is diminished, far from it. Simply that our hands-on relationship with the media is now about manipulation of pixels using clicks and touch screens. Perception, conception and creation is now digital and the mucky bit – working with atoms and molecules – is becoming mechanised.  This is a broad theme of the digital era (who hand rivets car bodies anymore?) and it’s an ongoing process.

Beyond photography, 3D printing now lets us “outsource” the artesanal process of creating 3D objects.


A couple of days ago my 8 year old daughter asked me to download 123D Sculpt. It’s an iPad app and it, along with a sister app called 123D Creature (above), enable digital “sculpting” and painting of a 3D shape. Once created, the digital shape can be 3D printed and mailed to you (what happened to modeling clay!?).

Of course, this doesn’t replace existing artistic media, at least not immediately, but it’s a fantastic example of how our lives are changing in steady, almost unnoticeable, increments.  As we become increasingly entangled with our digital devices, our current reliance on keyboards and mice to manually manipulate pixels to “create” may soon seem quaintly artesanal (don’t be surprised to see a brief hipster revival of “keyboard creative” cool in 20 years or so).

Finally, removing the “artisan” element also makes it far easier for most of us to make the leap from the conception of an idea to creating a tangible “thing” that can be shared, perceived and hopefully understood by others. Purists might see this as a dumbing down of art but it can also be argued that these advances actually make the creative process far more accessible and egalitarian.  As the rest of the world becomes connected this decade, making ideas easier to share must surely be a good thing?


Photo credits: flikrhivemind.net, photographyincontextblog.com, dipity.com, http://www.sodahead.com, edrybczynskiphotos.com

The Rise of Mobility : And The Disappearing Mobile Phone (Part 2)

The Era Of Inter-Connectivity Arrives

(This post follows on from The Rise Of Mobility – Part 1)

In 2012 we’re firmly in the era of Digital Inter-Connectivity. With devices now interconnecting with each other, either locally (e.g. bluetooth speakers streaming spotify from a phone or apple TV interacting with an iPad) or synchronised through the cloud (e.g. the wordpress apps that I use for this blog synchronising in real-time across two mobiles, an iPad and my desktop).

In addition, much digital functionality that was previously purchased stand-alone, in separate devices, is converging in a single mobile device (note: at least for now, see my next post). Where many people would once carry around a plethora of devices (a phone, a camera, a Satellite Navigation system,  a Walkman music player, a portable games console, a PDA etc) most of us now carry just one.  Our Smartphone.

The original 1999 chart is below and blogged about here:

An updated chart for 2012, including the rise of the mobile device, now looks something like this ( the original 1999 powerpoint updated):

Compared to the 1999 map,connected functionality in 2012 has gravitated towards the (mobile) center.

This convergence and inter-connectivity, has roughly coincided with the rise of web 2.0 and social media. As connectivity has become always on and always with us, so our digital personas have become always available and always present, turbo charging the social aspects of the web. I’m looking forward to covering this more in future posts.

As I’ve noted previouslyconnectivity is generally proliferating. Going forward, yet more devices will become internet connected as our lives continue the shift to the digitally connected. For example, the latest pocket cameras incorporate mobile Operating Systems and WiFi connectivity. Games consoles are becoming internet connected content terminals.

As miniturisation continues, more diverse functions will become mobile connected. For example, in what was once a highly specialist sector, the healthcare industry is seeing functionality such as medical scanning and monitoring become internet connected and enabled for the masses. Many of these functions are starting to become mHealth attributes of consumer mobile devices encouraging a cultural trend toward “DIY health”. Not surprisingly, companies focusing on solutions with the “m” prefix, such as mHealth, mGovernment, mCommerce and mEducation are in hot technology start-up areas – especially given the huge numbers of people worldwide who are about to be connected for the first time – which leads us to the next item.

Next? Smart Mobility for the Global Masses

This phase of inter-connectivity will finally bring ubiquitous availability of affordable internet enabled mobile devices to pretty much everyone.  By the end of this decade, 80%-90% of the worlds adult population will become connected to the internet via mobile devices.

In 2008 & 2009 the first Google Android OS handsets appeared, hailing the start of the mass global adoption of these converged mobile devices. The Android OS has been specifically developed to drive mass adoption. As it’s an Open Source and free-license Operating System, manufacturers can drive down prices to deliver truly affordable Smart Mobile Devices for US$20 or less.

Update: The chart below from Business Intelligence shows how rapidly smartphone adoption is accelerating between 2011 and 2012 alone. Look at Brazil and China, both going from almost zero smart Phones in 2011 to 14% and 33% respectively in 2012.

With “dumb” Mobile Phones already in the hands of six Billion people (as at the end of 2011) – and with cheap smart phones on the way – it’s easy to see that by the end of this decade the vast majority of the worlds population will become mobile internet connected.

Unlike the people who first became connected back in the 1990’s, the “newly connected” will start their digital lives mobile (in the center of the map). Mobile connectivity will then be augmented by additional connectivity as they gradually acquire and/or interact with other connected devices.

This the polar opposite of the PC centric adoption pattern for the “initially connected” in more developed countries – and is likely to exacerbate misconceptions that many internet companies have regarding the rise of mobile.

For me, an issue of our time is that this global digital connection of the masses can have a profoundly positive impact on our development as individuals and as a global society.  Hopefully we can realise this potential.  

Global access to knowledge will certainly radically change access to opportunities for billions of people.  There are also many challenges, not least the fact that there are innate incentives for elements of the internet to start to commoditise and commercialise the identities of all of its users (that includes you and me). This is a concept that governments, internet governance bodies and human rights groups are only now starting to grapple with.  

I’ll cover some of these issues in more detail in upcoming posts.

Next up: intra-connectivity and the coming disappearance of the mobile phone (yes seriously!).