Sheldon Renan

Why Everything Wants to be Connected { and what that means for makers }

Website: Netness Lectures Notes

“Things are becoming more connected every day – connecting faster and in more ways than anybody realizes,” says Sheldon Renan. Renan’s Law states that “The more things are connected, the better things work… the smarter things are… the safer things are… and the more opportunity you have to succeed.” Conversely, emphasizes Renan, "If you limit connectivity, you decrease opportunity. You decrease safety".

Renan’s “New Laws of Netness” explain how connectivity has begun to change in three ways as it becomes increasingly ubiquitous.

• Networks are converging towards becoming fabrics and fields. Access will increasingly be through more ubiquitous connectivity fields.

• Multi-threaded communications fabrics which connect users with both redundant and complimentary services are defining a new degree of connectivity — which Renan characterizes as entangled. Users are virtually “always on” and always connected. presence is continuous. User attention, perceived time and perceived distance are becoming elastic.

• Two separate worlds – the world of atoms and the world of bits – are becoming one. What we have begun to call “augmented reality” will be the new, converged normal.

We are, in fact, headed for a post-network age – in which everything must be connectable. It is urgent that we get better at making everything work together. This will be a requirement for surviving and succeeding as we face accelerating climate change and diminishing resources.

Science has made it clear that connecting and collaborating are basic strategies for all forms of matter, whether living or not. Recent research, however, suggests that our species is uniquely talented at connecting and collaborating. The New Laws of Netness provide a greater understanding of how we need to connect — as well as giving makers powerful new tools for improving products and services. 

Sheldon Renan was alerted to the growing importance of connectivity in the early 90s while working on special projects at Xerox PARC. Previously Renan had founded The Pacific Film Archive at U.C. Berkeley while writing the first history of experimental media. This led to producing interactive videodiscs and creating immersive interactive media spaces for theme parks and technology events. Currently Renan is writing a new book on the future of connectivity.