I’m looking forward to FutureEverything, Manchester’s annual foray into everything digital. It kicks of a week on Saturday (May 14) at the Victoria Baths (where I once went to an infamous acid house party) which examines the intersection between contemporary craft and digital hacking. The events last for three days, exploring the overlap between art, digital and music. Steve Reich, Rob Da Bank and Beach House feature on the programme. There’s a full talkothon to go with it. Thursday’s my choice. Paul Bradshaw of Online Journalism Blog and City University will give a talk about how journalists can use open data; Dr Chris Speed’s lecture on the internet of things is luckily on the same day, but Michael Smyth and Ingi Helgason workshop, Interfacing With The City, looks good too.
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As many of you know, I have a 15 month old daughter. Since she was born we have taken thousands of pictures of her and a great deal of video. So from about three months old she got used to seeing herself on screen. Now she loves it, snatching the camera out of our hands as soon as the shot is taken. She loves looking at herself in this way and we enjoy the moment.
But lately I have begun to wonder. What effect will it have on children if they grow up so used to seeing themselves in this way? We already live in a very narcissistic society and I am sure my partner (goodness I dislike calling Anna that) and I are not alone is showering our child with these images. So, my question is really about her generation. What effect will heavy exposure to their own image have on my daughter’s generation? Does the attention we give her with the camera teach her to be vain or is the camera just a high-tech mirror? I don’t know. But would like to hear from someone who might.
Nice to see my good friend Rob Van Kranenburg’s excellent essay, on the Internet of Things, given the design treatment. Here’s the alternative cover by Wendy wan der Waal. We should hire her for a second edition, Rob.
For graphic design we got the assignment to design ‘The Internet of Things’, a book by Rob van Kranenburg, a writer and researcher.
The most important was that you gave your opinion about the subject through the design of the book. I found all his theories about ambient technology … very interesting … you can look at the subject in several ways, and that causes confusion. That’s why I started playing with the reading direction. Every direction has a particular color, and at some points it overlaps. In this way it becomes more abstract.
I created the book in a completely ‘off-PC’ analogue manner, on a photo copier. Using colored sheets for the separate reading directions.
Thought it might be nice to mention the launch of Council, spearheaded by my sometime collaborator (and all round top man) Rob Van Kranenberg. He describes as a “thinktank for the Internet of Things”. Rob’s been building a formidable network for this for ages and will officially launch in Brussels on December. According to Rob:
“The Internet of Things (IOT) is a vision. Yet it is being built today. The stakeholders are known, the debate has yet to start. The European Commission published its action plan for IOT in June of this year. In hundreds of years our real needs have not changed. We want to be loved, feel safe, have fun, be relevant in work and friendship, be able to support our families and somehow play a role – however small – in the larger scheme of things.
So what will really happen when things, homes and cities become smart? The result will probably be an avalanche of what at first looks like very small steps, small changes.
Currently IOT applications, demos and infrastructure are rolled out from negative arguments only. For logistics, it is anti-theft. For ehealth it is the lack of human personnel that requires the building of smart houses. From a policy view it is the ensuring of safety, control and surveillance at item level and in public space. For retail it is shelf space management.
Council thinktank aims to grow into a positively critical counterpart to these negativities in focusing on the quality of interaction and potentialities of IOT for social, communicative and economic (personal fabrication, participatory budgeting, alternative currencies) connectivity between humans and other humans, human and things and human and their surroundings.
The wrestling with ambient technologies – the noise – is rapidly going out of corporate memory. A new young generation growing up at ease with ‘total’ connectivity, will enter IOT territory as simply another layer, another iteration of something they are comfortable in.
Therefore the launch of Council will highlight a personal history of locative media & hybrid spaces, by professionals of the i3 (Intelligent Information Interfaces) days, as well as the latest tools and applications, workshops on key issues short keynotes and time for debate and discussion.
Where: Imal, Brussels
When: December 4 2009 0930:2200 (public evening from 20:00)
Workshop 185 (including lunch and dinner)
Work has just begun on the winning design, by Heatherwick Studio. The brushes in the picture (above) are actually pixels and can be pre-programmed to display several different designs. The symbolism seems wholly appropriate, mind, as if to say to the world that, honestly, we can clean up our mountains of debt.
Some quite shocking video footage of police aggression at the Climate Camp, held in Bishopgate in London last week. Admittedly this is taken from the partisan Indymedia network, but, even so, the most telling thing about it is that none of the protesters appear to be throwing punches or stones at the police – even though they are being charged with shields and beaten with batons. Seen from this angle, the attack appears unprovoked.
+ Richard MacManus of the New York Times looks at the latest attempt to map a city using mobile phones. Mentions MIT’s WikiCity ambitious open source mapping project. Nice visualisations of urban data.
+ Music streaming: enjoy it while you can, says the Guardian’s Chris Salmon.
+ Michal Migursk: the end of online monoculture. Excellent critique of “recommender” systems (LastFM, Amazon et al) that help us chart the web.
+ Why Amsterdam is becoming both a greener and a smarter city.
+ Cathy Curtis: How the web made me a better copywriter
Forgive the self-linkage, but I want to direct you to my recent feature in this week’s Guardian Technology supplement. It examines the recent growth of free software around the world and wonders if the recession is the main reasons for its surge in popularity:
“Richard Stallman once wrote that the point about free software is it is “free as in freedom, not free as in beer”, meaning that people should be at liberty to do as they pleased with software, rather than subscribe to its restrictive licences. As the recession takes hold, the stress may be on the second half of his now-famous aphorism. To the millions downloading free software in a recession, the point is that it is free – as in free beer.”
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I’ve finally got it with Spotify – the Stockholm-based streaming service that’s been widely touted as the future of music. It allows users to create playlists and then share them with their friends over the internet with surprising ease. Awful name I know (may as well have just called it Spodify) but it’s a really nice application that helps you listen to a lot of new music in exchange for listening to the occasional advert.
The catalogue not at all bad: in building my first playlist it had over half the tracks I was looking for and they loaded almost immediately. Naturally, for a new service, there was a lot of stuff missing. Okkervil River were listed, but not yet their sublime new track Starry Stairs; no sign of The Dø, the wonderful Finnish-French duo (whose On My Shoulders has been my favourite track of the year); and I also missed tracks by new acts like Chew Lips (Solo), Jack Penate (Tonight’s Today) and Clerkenwell’s madcap The Real Tuesday Meld. Esoteric choices, perhaps, but all of these are already available on either Last FM or MySpace.
So … fellow Spotifiers here’s my first playlist:
Florence and the Machine – You’ve got the Love
Justice – D.A.N.C.E.
Diplo – Big Lost
Florence and the Machine – Dog Days
Santogold – L.E.S. Artists
Friendly Fires – Paris (Aeroplane mix)
Jay-Z – Brooklyn Go Hard
Dirty Projectors and David Byrne – Knotty Pine
Basia Bulat – Before I Knew
Monkey – Heavenly Peach Banquet
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Originally uploaded by opexxx
It’s been a bad week for ID cards. The UK government admitted on Thursday that neither its police nor its border guards had any current capacity to read or store the biometric data that is held on the damned things. Responding to a Freedom of Information request by the tech site silicon.com, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) revealed that “no police stations, border entry points or job centres have readers for the card’s biometric chip”, that despite the fact that ID cards have been issued to foreign nationals in November last year, with the IPS expecting to issue 50,000 ID cards by April.
Elsewhere, hackers in the US said that they had built a mobile platform that can clone large numbers of the unique electronic identifiers used in US passport cards – using off-the-shelf equipment costing just $250. UK hackers have already done something similar.
Quite apart from the many moral objections to the ID card – and the astronomical cost of issuing them, – it seems that, according to a growing body of evidence, the cards are not even fit for purpose: recording and storing our biometric data.
Here’s a bright idea. A lazer-powered light that projects a cycle lane on to the road behind the bike. Light Lane (left), by designers Alex Tee and Evan Gant, turns every street into a temporary cycle lane- and helps with visability too. It’s currently under development, not even at the prototype stage – so don’t expect it to see it in Halfords anytime soon.
I am impressed with MapTube’s map of the credit crunch. Thanks to some clever wizardry courtesy of Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL, visitors to its website can help build a map of Britain which attempts to show inwhich parts of the country various economic headaches are being most accutely felt.
Here is a map I created of Brighton (my local area) and its geographical surrounds. Portslade (here in Green) – where the rent is cheap – is where the people worry most about their food bills; in Hove (Red) people worry more about their rent or mortgage payments. I live around here and I am actually looking to downsize my rent.
In Brighton (Yellow) – where the jobs are – unemployment is the prime cause for concern. Most surprising: in the east of the city, out towards more affluent areas, like Rottingdean and Kemp Town, most respondents are saying that they are thus far unaffected by the downturn- perhaps the pink pound is yet to feel the pinch.
We must remember, this is self-selecting list: a clever straw poll, and one restricted to the kind of internet users who can be bothered with this kind of application in the first place. Of those people, though, I would hazard an educated guess: this is probably an uncannily accurate representation of their woes.
We will see more of this kind of cartography of grievance. The colour-coded psycho-geography of the recession rendered simply in Google Map, such as this, because they tell both national and local stories with shrewd economy. Click as fuel prices gave way to job insecurity. Marvel for a moment at the areas not yet mithered. But most of all: wonder if you are worse off living where you are.
David Rowan is back in the Times (of London) warning of the rise of face recognition technology. He says that “FRT” will have many life-enhancing applications but equally offer many oppportunities to increase our surveillance.
“So let’s understand this: governments and police are planning to implement increasingly accurate surveillance technologies that are unnoticeable, cheap, pervasive, ubiquitous, and searchable in real time. And private businesses, from bars to workplaces, will also operate such systems, whose data trail may well be sold on or leaked to third parties – let’s say, insurance companies that have an interest in knowing about your unhealthy lifestyle, or your ex-spouse who wants evidence that you can afford higher maintenance payments.
Rather than jump up and down with rage – you never know who is watching through the window – you have a duty now, as a citizen, to question this stealthy rush towards permanent individual surveillance. A Government already obsessed with pursuing an unworkable and unnecessary identity-card database must be held to account.”
I’m bound for Nottingham later this week for the Raditor Festival and Symposium, which will explore notions of the “wireless city” while looking at how the future of public space might be shaped. I’m chairing a panel on the “internet of things” with my friend and collegue Rob Van Kranenburg; as well at the architects Usman Haque and Holger Schnädelbach. It’s on at the Broadway Media Centre, January 15 at 10.15.
Here’s the offical blurb:
“Future visions on part of the technology developers are predicting a world where everything from fridge to toothbrush will be computerised, in which not only users are linked to data, but where also the world of physical objects will be networked in a complex system of information exchange. Based on technologies such as RFID (radio frequency identification tags), our environment would turn into a space of “ambient intelligence”, interlinking the physical world with that of data space.
Exploring this controversial development, the speakers will illustrate the alarming consequences this might have concerning issues of surveillance and privacy. At the same time, alternative concepts of empowerment from the artistic community will be presented.”
I enjoyed New Scientist’s discussion on the “death” of science fiction. It argues that “science – and its handmaiden, technology – are changing so fast that it is impossible for science fiction to keep up.”
In a nice, well-rounded series of articles, including a great inverview with William Gibson (above), it argues that, while the genre’s golden age of prediction might be getting slightly rusty, it’s role of satirical mirror to society’s anxieties is less tarnished.
“As well as a mere storytelling device, science fiction often articulates our present-day concerns and anxieties – paradoxically, it is often about the here and now rather than the future.”
The feature-length documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? was one of the surprise hits of Sundance Film Festival in 2006. It told the story of a stalled attempt by General Motors to introduce “battery electric vehicles” to California in the early 1990s. By the end of it you were convinced that an evil cabal of automobile manufacturers, oil companies and the Californian government had deliberately destroyed the potential of the of the electric car.
Thankfully, the dream of cleaner, quieter and greener electric vehicles is not quite so dead. As was in evidence last week with the announcement by the Australian Government that it was to fund a $1billion network of recharging stations right across that continent by 2012. The news followed the announcement that Paris is to invent in an ambitious electric car rental scheme, similar to its popular Velib bike rentals, while Angela Merkle was ordering hundreds of eclectric vehicles to run in Berlin.
The story behind all these welcome announcements is that Britain is already well ahead in the race. Westminster Council has already built 14 recharging stations and many more have already opened across the capital (with as many as 80 ordered before the end of the financial year). Cities like Glasgow, Sheffield and Bristol are not far behind. The leading manufacturer for the charging stations, Elektromotive of Brighton, moreover, says its orderbook is full and the future for electric cars remains very bright, despite the onset of recession.