Saturday, 17 October 2009

I've moved!

Hey everyone, sorry I've been quiet for so long. Work has been very busy and I've also decided to move over to Wordpress. You can now find me here:

Please stay in touch!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Wearable technology and extra sensory media

UEL's SMARTLAB hosted a Show and Tell evening on Friday exploring a range of artist-created sensory performance based technologies encouraging creativity and new ways of interacting.

The evening was kicked off by Sara Diamond, formerly of the Banff Centre and now President of the Ontario College of Art.  Sara discussed her wearable creations containing sensors reacting to touch and movement by lighting up or changing shape.

She has also created clothing responding to bio-feedback that assists flirting by sending physical signals to one's object of affection and Company Keeper a fetching outfit providing emotional responses and support in the form of words and music. 

MIT Europe's Elena Corchero showed beautiful items such as parasols and broaches containing solar panels acting as lights when they are used at home in the evening. Her work combines traditional craft skills such as embroidery with the latest smart materials.

Also worth noting was Camille Baker's Mindtouch mobile media performance utilising supercharged sensory costumes which will be featured in an upcoming BBC programme.

If this is the future of fashion, then fashion is set to become much more interesting than it has ever been. Check out Smartlab's website to find out about upcoming events - well worth the journey to the campus based near City Airport. 

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Us Now

Kudos to up and coming filmmaker Ivo Gormley for creating Us Now, a thought provoking documentary about the social and commercial transformations catalysed by internet technologies.

Screened to sold-out crowd Wednesday evening at the Barbican by the LIDF, the film highlights popular online services like Couchsurfing and Mumsnet which Gormley suggests, indicate the potential for greater grass roots participation in public institutions and government
. These businesses in their different ways both demonstrate the efficacy of peer-to-peer networking and collaboration around common goals and interests ( and parenting respectively).

A who's who of the internet intelligensia - including Clay Shirky and Don Tapscott - support Ivo's thesis with lots of talk of potential. Labour politician Ed Milliband interviewed for the film seems less sure. Good thing then that the successfully fan-managed community-owned Ebbsfleet Football Club is heralded as a model for future government. It is highly evocative case study- if only we could get people to be as passionate about government as many are about football.

In contrast, the post-film panel suggested a recent participatory US government trial run by highlighted potential pitfalls of participatory democracy; the legalisation of marijuana dominated online discussions about desired legislative changes and consequently was slated for it.

My view is we need to think about how on and offline activites can work in harmony whilst being clever and committed to finding new ways to get people interested in politics. An example of participatory budgeting in Morecombe Bay presented in the film (drawn from a methodology from Brazil) seems promising, however this excercise took place offline in the form of a public meeting. Links with citizenship education should also be explored.

So how do we get governments to seriously consider these new approaches? Does it take, as I suggested on the panel, a crisis? The Kent town of Wye mobilised over a threat to their countryside via the internet-enabled Save Wye campaign led by two former journalists. Kent Council now has a social innovation lab.

Although the film raises more questions than it answers, it is a great conversation starter especially for the digital generation about the future of politics as well as a reminder to people like me about why I got involved in the first place.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Last Will: Trick or Treat

Last Will from Hide and Seek on Vimeo.

Experiencing the the Last Will on Hallowe'en was a real treat. Unfortunately my schedule didn't allow to me write about it at the time, but it is never too late to spread the word about something this unique. 

Last Will cleverly blurs the boundaries between immersive theatre and computer gaming enabling you and a friend to share a unique and challenging experience. My friend and I were invited to participate in an exclusive preview designed to help test and refine the system as the game evolves. On October 31st, at the allocated time, we attended  Butterworth Rosenberg Solicitors (at Cordy House in East London) to discover the story behind the last will and testament of Thomas Madigan, an old man, whose extraordinary life experiences were revealed as we solved a range of challenges. 

While one of us played in the physical world, the other played using a desk top computer. If successful the virtual player helps the real world player progress through the game, but both have to work together to solve the challenges. The twist is that players cannot communicate directly conveying the sense of a magical, even mystical experience, that subtly echoes the storyline.  

This genre-defying protoype aka as a Multiplatform Immersive Theatre Experience (MITE) was created by the talented Punch Drunk crew, Alex Fleetwood of Hide & Seek (known for its annual pervasive gaming festival and monthy Sandpit events in London and Brighton), Interactive design collective Seeper, and HP Labs.

Whilst somewhat clunky at times, the experience transcended any bugs that will no doubt be ironed out by its next iteration. The contributing partners are to be commended for creating a new and exciting form of participatory entertainment with tremendous potential to engage audiences.  

Sunday, 19 October 2008

More on ARGS

New Media Age recently cautioned against blindly following the ARG trend. Fair point although it is worth pointing out that McDonald's sponsored The Lost Ring, created by Jane McGonigal, engaged more than 2.5 million people from 100 different countries. Not a bad achievement for an emerging genre.

Jane McGonigal's newest gaming initiative, developed with the Institute for the Future, a not-for-profit think tank based in Palo Alto, California, Superstruct sounds fascinating. This massively multiplayer game is designed to forecast the future. Although the game has begun, it is still not too late to join in the fun. Many many non-profits are embracing the approach including The Red Cross with Traces of Hope communicating the plight of Ungandan refugees.

For those interested in learning more about the power of games including ARGs, check out Playful - London Game Design event this week. It features a range of speakers including Don Ho of Six to Start, makers of The Shadow War for Puffin and Toby Barnes of Pixel Lab who is organising the event.

Saturday, 20 September 2008


i-design08 brought together a unique group of speakers (including yours truly) from wide ranging backgrounds including design, technology, anthropology, media, advertising and branding to explore the theme of meaningful interaction and the future of interactive design.

This eclectic mix led to rich conversations raising a number of issues including the need for greater collaboration between the disciplines and the opportunity for designers to move up/along the value chain in terms developing and implementing their own products/IP.

The best examples of this potential were presented by Brendan Dawes, of Magnetic North, creator of the acclaimed Mixa (pictured above) and Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, CEO of technology and design consultancy Tinker it!, who showcased some of her team's innovative work using Arduino.

Timo Veikkola of The Future Laboratory also gave an inspiring talk about digital and other trends including womenomics, ambient intelligence, emotion technology and the body as an interface.

Altogether an interesting day. Will write more later about the "Where's the money?" panel I participated in.

Friday, 5 September 2008

From Audio Tours to iPhones at Tate Modern

Spent an enjoyable day with innovative museum folks taking their institutions into the 21st century with the help of handheld and mobile devices at this Tate Modern Symposium. Heard all about best of breed multimedia tours from the Louvre to Momo as well as a host of other large and small UK and US galleries and museums.

Whilst much of the most ground breaking work was designed for the ipod touch/iphone, everyone agreed applications should ideally be device neutral. Knowing the myriad issues relating to interoperability, this may take some time to resolve. Specialist supplier Antenna Audio have tackled this issue by creating their own device thus saving the cash-sensitive sector frequent upgrading costs until these issues are sorted out.

Jane Burton, Creative Director of Tate Media, helpfully questioned what we mean by 'tour' and has developed a number of resource effective ways to create and distribute digital content both for real and virtual gallery visitors expanding and enriching the tour definition and experience. For example, in addition to ambitious gallery-wide tours, Burton has proposed and implemented simple (and cheap) video podcasts, known as Tate Shots, that can be watched online or downloaded to a handheld player.

Also of interest are Tate's research findings indicating multi-media tours not only enhance the user experience, but increase visitor satisfaction and significantly extend museum reach when also distributed online. Online distribution can include third party sites like itunes/iTunesU and YouTube. Burton shared a funny story about a Mark Wallinger video posted on YouTube which generated a significant amount of negative commentary and resulted in some satirical remixes. Hardley surprising that taking the gallery out of the gallery is not for the fainthearted.

Undoubtedly the most exciting conversation came towards the end of the day with talk about the next generation tours. Here Koven J. Smith of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York created a vision for a new approach to curation driven by the imaginative harnessing of user experiences and user generated content. "Why not give real-time feedback to all gallery goers about the day's most popular paintings, best room to visit if you are hungover or feeling blue...", he proposed.

The organisers have set up a wiki where they are posting the conference materials and ongoing contributions. I highly recommend checking out their illustrated mind maps covering conference themes which they created in the previous day's workshop.

Why was I there? Having recently proposed a multimedia tour for a client, I thought what better place to gain cross sector learning experiences and I was not disappointed. In addition, I am now in a position to share a multitude of opportunities with my colleagues who work on the sponsorship team.