The Magic is In Your Head

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On January 8 I took part in an event at Watershed in Bristol around the Stories of Change project, along with Mandy Rose,  Director of the Digital Cultures Research Centre, UWE Bristol and Joe Smith from the Open University.  It was a fun evening. These are the notes I pulled together before the talk, but what I said was not what’s written here. I’ll post audio when I get it…

The Magic is In Your Head

A good story, well told, is the nearest thing to magic we know.

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Shifting the Platform

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PLATFORM  shift+ is an artistic network created to meet the new challenges of producing theatre for young people in the digital age, recognising the urgent need to engage with digital technology at a time when many young people move naturally between real and virtual worlds.

The network will  develop 40 theatre productions based on newly developed plays/concepts in order to connect theatre makers directly with young people in an artistic dialogue, with an activity programmed to encourage transnational exchanges of artists and their works.

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral

hotel

The hotel…

On November 21 I talked to the first meeting of the network partners, in a hotel in Winchester, England.  This is what I wrote beforehand, pilfered from several different documents, notes and scraps of hard drive. It isn’t what I said, but it may be of interest.

The World is Not Digital

We are not living in a digital world.

We are not heading toward a ‘digital future’, whatever the current shorthand may be.

The physical world will not vanish, we will not be sublimed into the machines to live, Tron-like, under the control of the Master Control Program.

We remain meat, the product of chemistry. We remain embodied minds and always will.

There will be no singularity and no interfacing with consciousness.

But that doesn’t mean that the digital doesn’t matter. We now live in a liminal space world where physical experience, analogue culture and digital technologies co-exist, an Age of Electronics, not an Age of Bits.

In this new age we here in the privileged West with easy access to computers and smartphones and connectivity will develop a digital culture, just as the early scholars with access to printers and codices and postal systems created a print culture.

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The Information Age Gallery: our Chartres Cathedral

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Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral

The Information Age Gallery at the Science Museum is not simply a museum gallery. It is a powerful testament to the world we have created through our growing understanding of what information is and how it can be communicated. By bringing together hundreds of concrete objects it demonstrates the power that comes from applying an understanding of information technology to the development of those same technologies; by arranging them in a particular way it brings clarity to the story of information and speaks to us all.

2LO

2LO

It is a cathedral, a secular temple built to honour what we have wrought through our grasp of science, mathematics and technic, and the team at the Science Museum are its architects and its priestly caste.

It does not profess to be an oracle. It does not attempt to predict a future, but like Delphi it can be read as a set of signs that we may interpret if we wish. In its overlapping narratives we see not one view of the past but many, and while the line of successful innovation is clear – and must be clear in such a setting – the paths not taken and the insights that proved to be unworkable are also expressed, from Baird’s electromechanical television to Minitel, via the telegraph, the VCR and the PDA.

For some of us it is a very personal story. My intellectual history, my career and my life are on display here. I owned several of the artefacts here, and I’ve used a surprisingly large number of them since school – right back to the mirror galvanometer and the Wheatstone bridge. I live in the space they define, a fully-fledged inhabitant of the Information Age. But the artefacts have touched every one of us, from the Newton-owning gadget freak to the refugee relying on GPS to find a way to safety.

Telegraph Cable

Telegraph Cable

I’m honoured to have had a small part to play, as a member of the Advisory Panel, in shaping the new gallery. I’m proud to know the curatorial team behind it, and have seen their care, dedication and persistence over the last three years (my email archive tells me the first meeting was on March 1st 2011). And I look forward to visiting the gallery many times in the years to come to remember my past and see what clues we can derive as we try to build a future in which these tools are used in the service of all of us.

Come, visit, learn. Don’t worship, but do take inspiration. This is what we can achieve.

The Gallery

The Gallery

William Thomson (Lord Kelvin)

William Thomson (Lord Kelvin)

Reclaim the Net

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Looking at Gothic

Looking at Gothic

On October 2nd I gave a talk at the Cybersalon event ‘Reclaim the Net‘ and had an excellent time.

There’s a video.



There was an audience, including Christian Payne and Richard Barbrook.

Cybersalon Audience

Cybersalon Audience

I had some notes to speak from.

And I used a talk I’d given at the ICA back in 2002 as inspiration – Is Big Business Killing the Net?, the New Media Knowledge Christmas Lecture, 9 December 2002 began:

Duh!  Of course it is – at least, it’s killing one way of building a public network, the one that is inherent in the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol, the one I grew up with. The one I value.

Speaking Notes

Speaking Notes

“The future of creativity”

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The quotes are intentional. I was asked to give the opening talk at the CREATe ‘All Hands’ conference in Glasgow last week, which took place in the House for An Art Lover.

House for an Art Lover

House for an Art Lover

CREATe is the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy, based at the University of Glasgow. It is funded jointly by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). CREATe investigates the future of creative production in the digital age, and in particular the role of copyright.

This is the paper I wrote and formed the basis for what I said, mostly. I’ll post audio and the slides soon – I’ve left the placeholders in to show me where they go.

 

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Fringeweb – where it began.

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One morning in August 1994 I woke up in a large, airy flat somewhere in Edinburgh. Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc were making breakfast, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring were getting ready for another day of performing, and Danny O’Brien was almost certainly wrestling with his dialup connection so he could read email. At least, I’m pretty certain the others were there. You’ll have to check with Mr O’Brien. It was, as they say, a long time ago, as this contemporaneous article from the Independent makes abundantly clear..

I’d been crashed on the sofa after a night that had started with a performance of Danny’s genre-busting show ‘Caught in the Net’ in the upstairs room at the Pleasance and had ended with drinks. I was there because I had bankrolled the show, and wanted to see what I’d spent good money on.

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‘Applied for and evidenced’

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According to the recent report on Operation Alice, the Met’s investigation into ‘plebgate’, the rather unfortunate ‘incident in Downing Street involving the Rt. Hon Andrew Mitchell MP and police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG)’, a significant element of the evidence against some of the officers involved came from Sun journalist Tom Newton Dunn.

Tom didn’t betray his sources – his phone did.

As part of the investigation ‘the telecommunications data in respect of Tom Newton Dunn was applied for and evidenced’ (para 5.120 of the Operation Alice report, PDF here thanks to Jack of Kent).

And that is why journalism isn’t really possible any more.

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I edit; you censor; they oppress

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There’s a well known verb declension in the online world

we edit
you censor
they oppress

I was reminded of it by Emily Bell’s excellent piece in Sunday’s Guardserver (what else can we call it on Sundays when the masthead says ‘Observer’ and the URL says ‘guardian’?).

http://www.theguardian.com/media/media-blog/2014/aug/31/tech-giants-facebook-twitter-algorithm-editorial-values

It’s well worth reading in full, especially when she points out that:

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and what’s next are and will continue to be making editorial decisions on our behalf.

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