Tuesday, 23 November 2010

immaterials: making rfid beautiful

I stumbled across a very interesting video about a clever idea from Timo Arnall and Jack Schulze - people worth watching if you are interested in novel and thoughtful design. I was following a link recommended to me by Sam Kinsley about the Making Future Magic project from Berg London, using ipads to create light animations. That work is well worth a look too.
But this video that I want to point people at, Immaterials: the ghost in the field, is all about "exploring the spatial qualities of RFID, visualised through an RFID probe, long exposure photography and animation" Basically that means they used a little LED light attached to an rfid tag and held it near an rfid reader to see when the tag and reader talked to each other, thus mapping out the edges of the range of the rfid. The video has a very clear explanation of why this is important for designers using rfid, and is intriguing enough to watch even if you aren't using rfid in your own work.
They are visualising the shape of the readable volume of different rfid tag readers - you can't see this footprint of rfid any other way, which can be a problem if you are a designer who needs to know where and at what angle to embed tags in relation to readers. Making a visual representation makes it easier for the designers to know where to place the components. And even if you aren't that bothered by any of that it's still worth watching.

Monday, 1 November 2010

trip to concordia

As is often the way I have a backlog of things that I want to write about that seem to have happened quite a long time ago tho really it's been only a few weeks.
I had a very interesting trip to Montreal, only my second visit to Canada and very different from my experience of Vancouver.
I was invited to visit the Oral History Research Centre at Concordia University, who were interested in work i have done in the past on locating oral histories using mscape. It was very flattering to be asked, and even more exciting to be paid to go. I cheekily asked if Dr Clodagh Miskelly could come with me too, as we worked together on the community based projects that seemed most relevant to talk about this time. So I had the benefit of catching up with Clodagh as well as getting the chance to meet some great people running some really interesting projects. Should have guessed that from their slogan "the stories people tell matter."
Special mention to Steve HIgh, Stacey Zembrzycki, Jessica Mills and Laurel Hart - who did a brilliant job of pointing us at interesting places to go and wander, and the best places to eat.

Apart from some interesting discussions on oral history, digital storytelling, locative media and so on, we gave a public talk and ran two workshops for people currently working on community based oral history projects with them. I hope we gave them an interesting introduction to some of the possibilities, perils and pitfalls of working with gps and pervasive media projects.

It was also good to revisit past work and realise that it was still interesting, and to try and map the spin offs in terms of people who got into mscape type projects through their involvement with the Southville CLASS group project on Wartime Childhoods.

Unrelated highlights of the trip were....

.....the best soya cappucino I have ever tasted, at café Myriade just over the road from Concordia university on rue Mackay

.....stumbling across Aux Vivres with Clodagh, an amazing vegan restaurant, a lucky break on my first night in a wet and windy Montreal, that we had to visit on our last day as we hadn't had space to eat their gateau fauxmage - the most fab cheesecake I have had in a while, even tho (or possibly because) it contained no cheese, milk, cream or butter. More of that in another post.

.....finding the co-operative book store on bishop street and enjoying the tshirt slogans, buying presents for family.

.....strawberry daiquiris at Mesa14. I've never had one before, well, not that I remember, so can't compare them but these were great - a very good way of taking the taste away of the worst meal I have had in years at some overpriced downtown jazz club in the touristy area.

Friday, 22 October 2010

more from branchage

It's a bit late but all this running around took a while to get over. Just thought I would share some more about working and socialising at Branchage

I was there to deliver a piece of pervasive media by Duncan Speakman, Always Something Somewhere Else, originally commissioned by HP labs as an mscape piece that could be applied anywhere in the world, as long as there is a tree to start from.....
The work was well received, on a sunny Sunday morning outside the Spiegeltent by St Helier harbour, even though a lot of us had been up partying the night before at the Bordée de Branchage with the lovely french gypsy orchestra (brought back memories of Negresses Vertes).
As always with mscape sessions, people want to talk afterwards about how they could see the potential for pervasive media as a way of delivering all sorts of things - I had interesting conversations with documentary makers, architects, town planners,from Jersey and elsewhere, about locating content in different contexts, and developing projects with various levels of participation. I pointed interested and enthusiastic people at the DCRC site and some of the work that past and present MA students have done with mscape, not least Jackie Calderwood and Dan Frodsham, and then I was off again sharing a taxi to the airport with two of the documentary filmmakers who had been showing work at the festival, Liz Mermin and Chloe Ruthven. Next year I want to hang around long enough to see some of the films!

Next stop Montreal

Saturday, 25 September 2010

ipaq wrangling

Am sitting here in a hotel room in Jersey, sorting out ipaqs for tomorrow's demo at Branchage International Film Festival. I thought I would double check them all again becuase I had to take the batteries out to travel here - I hate the idea of the little buggers switching themselves on when they rub against each other in my hand luggage. I had the usual double check from security staff at the airport when twenty handheld devices popped up on the x-ray machine. Then I sat in the airport cafe removing all the batteries just to be on the safe side. It was a bit of a late night last night getting ready to come here - so much on top of the usual chaos! Carpet fitters laying carpet and taking off bathroom doors - which is a problem when you have paying guests, elderly mother in law passing out when shopping and being in hospital for heart tests, children being generally uncooperative with stessed parents etc etc But enough whinging.
I got here, had cream tea (well, coffee and walnut cake, and watched my daughter and her partner eat creamcakes, then headded to the hotel to get sorted. I put the batteries in the ipaqs, checked the settings (you have to make sure the devices don't go into powersave mode and dim their own screens or switch off). It was all going swimmingly 'til FOUR out of the 20 started complaining that they couldn't locate the file they wanted. Presumable the last user had set them to automatically load the mscape software and go to one particular experience, which I had deleted last night because I didn't need a music tour of Leeds city centre for this demo.
I tried clicking ok - no effect - then pushing buttons (hard buttons presumably disable) whinged out loud a little, and then texted Tom Melamed as he is usually quite helpful even out of hours when he senses desperation. Then I thought of factory reset trick - where you hold down the two outer buttons and stick the pen in the reset hole. Hurrah! It worked, but I had to then reload the mscape player as the reset to factory settings wipes out added bits and pieces (technical term). I'm glad I thought to check that, as I vaguely remembered being caught out before with that one. I was in full flow when text came from Tom, telling me to check the ipaq file store for a folder probably called 2577 and to delete or rename it and see if that works. I am writing that down for next time.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

wordpress blogs

I have been using wordpress for a couple of different blogs, and have been finding it relatively easy to use. One irritation though was that wordpress automatically added a link that generated "possibly related links" This seems to mean that it trawls your posts for keywords, even if you don't tag them, and puts links to random blogs underneath your post. I had switched it off on the pervasive media blog a while ago, only with help from Sam Kinsley, but needless to say I had forgotten how to do this. I spent some time this evening clicking around and finally spotted Appearance > Extras > Hide related links.
Phew. No more uncontrollable links popping up on Today I threw out.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

popcorn video

Just realised I forgot to promote the fab fashion popcorn video courtesy of Crispy Duck Productions. Great piece that explains what we were doing at the Fashion Popcorn launch at London College of Fashion. Currently beginning to cook up Fashion Popcorn 2. Will keep everyone posted

Fashion Popcorn Launch from Fashion Popcorn on Vimeo.

smug smug smug

Am feeling pleased with myself this evening for having finally solved a problem which had meant my home wireless network was not letting me access my featherhouse website and email server. I could get on to other websites, except for ones that were hosted by the same provider. The email server was an especial problem as a lot of my email comes vis the featherhouse address, and I send all my email using featherhouse as I can't use the uwe mail server to send mail.
Most irritating, as it took me a while to work out what was happening.
At first I thought that the service provider was down or flaky, as I managed to log on and send emails intermittently. Then I thought the server was just down in the evenings because I could access it all at work. I tried three different laptops, pc and mac. In desperation I tried plugging the laptop directly into the blueyonder box, ignoring the wireless router, and lo and behold I could access featherhouse.
This meant that the service provider couldn't have blocked me.
I talked it through with a very helpful friend and colleague, Richard Hull, who suggested I look at the wireless router and try putting it back to the factory settings. He told me that the IP address is dynamically assigned, so if I was blocked then all blueyonder IP addresses would be blocked, and he even tested it out for me that evening by accessing the same non-working sites from his blueyonder address when he got home.
So this evening I sat upstairs, connected my laptop to the wireless router, and started playing around with the settings for the router. I googled "connecting to wireless router to change login" to find the address to type in to access the settings page for the router :
And then I played around, reset the router to the default factory settings, then had to rename it, decide what security ( I went for WPA but need to check what is best and what works for mac and pc) put in a password, reboot a couple of times, and YAY! I can now lounge on the sofa downstairs, access my website, and send and receive emails.
I do like it when something works.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

back at the end of july

Love this video, of the grandbabies meeting the guinea-pigs

Tuesday, 31 August 2010


It's going to take me some time to think about what has happened in August. Will mull it over and work out where the month went while I try to get my act together for the new academic year.
I have been doing some reorganising, trying to clear home and headspace but it's slow going. I haven't begun to tackle the small mountain of old sick electrical equipment and cables......

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Had a great evening at Fashion Popcorn, and have been sent some pics to prove it....
(There was free Martini, what can I say?)
Check out the fashionpopcorn blog for more info about who was there, what they said, when the next event will be.
In the meantime, here's a great pic from Andrea Vladova, which shows Harriet Fleuriot reacting to something I am saying to the nice young man from Peccadillo. At least I think that's what he said.

Friday, 23 July 2010

and another thing

The summer school for pervasive media producers has been running all week. Am sat at home recovering. Some of my time has been spent developing the blog to document the course, both for the students and us at the DCRC. I need to decide which blog to keep up and which ones to put on ice...

Mobiles and World Cup

I have hardly had time to write in here. Full time work and a month of Him Indoors being off at the world Cup in South Africa, so solo parenting for the first time in ages. I did a lot of rushing around trying to sort him a phone that wouldn't die while he was away. He was very attached to his old one (doesn't like change) which was a very old Nokia of mine that I'd given him to replace the first Nokia I bought him that he put through the washing machine. I went to the Orange store trying to find a Nokia with buttons, preferably biggish ones, but they don't exist. It had to be Nokia so he didn't have to learn a whole new way of interacting with a phone, needed a camera because occasionally he takes pictures, and as he was off to watch football & travel round South Africa meeting lots of old and new friends and take our son on safari I thought I might get to see some pictures.

But in the event he hardly used it anyway. What I didn't realise was that the sim card he had been given to use in South Africa wouldn't work with a phone that was designed to only be used with Orange phone cards. So there was still some remote organising to do; phoning Orange, getting the international roaming added in an attempt to cut the cost of communicating.

In the end he just borrowed a phone from someone who lives out there so he could organise his trip and make contacts. And we only got the occasional text back to the UK anyway - mostly about disputed referee decisions.

Oh! And I just realised I need to switch the international roaming off now they are back!

Friday, 9 July 2010

young women on facebook

Taking time out from getting to grips with philosophies I read this on mashable.com It's a study of about 1605 young women, presumably in the USA, and their facebook habits. I was impressed that some young women manage to check facebook first thing in the morning before they have even gone to the bathroom.
None of the other highlights on mashable seemed particularly surprising. The article writers seemed disturbed that:

  • "42% think it’s okay to post photos of themselves intoxicated
  • 79% are fine with kissing in photos"
which all seems so normal now, and hardly worrying, as I have watched my nieces' exploits online for a while. I am glad that my own daughters did not have the ability to publish pictures of their teenage exploits, leading me to stay unaware of exactly what they were up to.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Experimental Society

I am sitting on my bed in a student room on Lancaster University's disorienting campus, where I am attending the last event of Experimentality at the Institute for Advanced Studies, trying to assimilate just a little of what I have been hearing for the last two days. I should be sitting in the plenary session on Science, Art & Religion but I wasn't sure that I would be able to take it in. It's an interesting conference, but is making me feel as though there must be a lot of books out there that I haven't read or maybe have read but haven't remembered.

Day One started with a brain-frying opening address from Scott Lash, called "To infinity and beyond: experiment/experience". His talk included references to Kant, Derrida, Stiegler, Aristotle, Francis Bacon (not the artist), Philip K. Dick, Michel Callon and Thomas Heatherwick, with Latour and Foucault popping up in the questions. I am sure there was a Mathematician in there too but can't find it in my notes.
Scott was bouncing around and explaining so many things that it's going to take me a while to work it out, but here's a rough version from my frantically scribbled notes. I'll take you through step by step but can't guarantee it will make any sense, as I only got about 10% of it. I'm sure it's just a question of concentrating, and perhaps doing a degree in modern philosophies.

Kant's Critique of Reason (apparently the second edition is the one to read) was first up. I recently read an essay of his, thanks to Patrick explaining something to me about Enlightenment as "man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity" so thought, phew, am recognising some names here. Derrida and Stiegler were mentioned, as was technological phenomenology, so I made a note that I really need to read some of that, as I have in the past and found it interesting.
  • Francis Bacon: the first empiricist; he wrote about experiments; defined his experimentation against the church dogma of the time.
  • He wrote about moving from the situation of experience to the situation of experiment; from subjectivity and experience to subjectivity and experiment
  • Bacon wanted to put experiment in the place of logic; logic is a tool that disagrees with metaphysics
  • (I ♥ wikipedia)
  • Bacon said there are two types of experience - accident & experience
  • a posteriori knowledge is what we get from experiment/experience
  • we need to keep a posteriori knowledge in our notions of experiment
I think that means that we experiment with open minds and only take from the experiment that which we learn from it.
  • Kant puts experience at the centre of knowledge; there is no knowledge without experience
  • we perceive the world, intuit the world, through transcendental aesthetic - space & time
  • Nowadays we do have knowledge with direct experience
(I did want to ask if they had books in Kant's day because surely that is not direct experience but thought I was probably missing the point somewhere)
  • Badiou (aha! here's the mathematician) says that knowledge has nothing to do with experience
Now I am confused - will have to check that out, but it is something to do with that in modern geometry the figure disappears, contemporary mathematics we have knowledge without direct experience, proving we have secular infinities, some infinities are bigger than others.
At this point I was wondering if Scott had disproved the existence of God, which would be handy.
  • Back to the theme.
  • What is an experiment?
I'm going to go read the rest of the notes now and come back to this when my brain is slightly less fried

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

robots and avatars

I was invited to a lunchtime discussion in London at NESTA: Robots and Avatars – our colleagues and playmates of the future organised and chaired by Ghislaine Boddington of body>data>space
The conversation was kicked off by provocateur Noel Sharkey who is Professor of AI, Robotics and Public Engagement. Lovely combination! It was an interesting and wide ranging conversation with input from people from different disciplines, including Hazel Grian who has been developing her own robot project as part of an artist's residency at the Pervasive Media Studio,
The lunchtime talk was documented and will be disseminated online as part of Robots and Avatars ongoing research. It's a great site to look at for finding out more about what's going on in the world of robots and avatars, and how these developments might affect the future of work and education.

Friday, 7 May 2010

playing with QR codes again

To find out what this is about, go and download a QR code reader to your cameraphone. The QR code reader is a piece of software that you open up on your phone and it will use the camera to take a picture of this funny square and then display what information is embedded in the pixels.

I use a reader from i-nigma.com
They have a long list of supported devices, i.e. gadgets you can use to run the QR code reader. I found it better to search for the right software on my laptop and then download it to my phone.
I have found that I tend to stop and scan QR codes now just to see what's there.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

smugness and 'free' software

So, today I had to try and transcribe a sound file that was recorded on my mobile phone. Needless to say it was in a format the windows media player could not understand, so I downloaded Audacity to listen to it. I have been meaning to do this for a while because Audacity is a really useful piece of free (or make a donation) software that I like to show to groups that I work with so they don't think they have to fork out huge amounts of their budget for microsoft/apple software. I also like to show people another suite of 'free' software; Open Office, which I use instead of Microsoft Office. Open Office will open and save to most other common formats, whether it's text, spreadsheet or presentation (eg .doc, .xls, .ppt) and I use it all the time for work. you can export to .pdf from it too.

Back to sound editing: I did have to download the beta (ie not entirely predictable) version of Audacity so that it would run on windows 7 on my netbook, and with the beta version I could also download a plug in to get Audacity to recognise .amr files (the format to which my phone records sounds). This plug in will recognise various file formats that I have had trouble opening in the past, so fingers crossed, next time I have a range of sound files to work with it will be easier.

And it works, it seems. So now I am feeling pretty smug. And I had better go finish the transcription.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

fashion and technology

The fashion world seems to be embracing technology more and more - loved this fashionpopcorn blog post about an Oasis launch that used quite a simple device to engage people, with specially commissioned poetry running on MP3 players for the audience. Artistically presented. I like that they also produced paper-based versions for people to take away as souvenirs.

Will be keeping an eye on this.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

launch of the DCRC

Had a great time yesterday at the official launch of the Digital Cultures Research Centre. I met some interesting people and reconnected with old friends and collaborators who had come down to see what we are planning to do. It's an exciting time for all of us at the DCRC, and I am really pleased to be part of a great team of people. I even joined in with my colleagues, to draw with Tine Bech's lights, but refused the lure of the karaoke salon. I have seen the photos...............

Thursday, 25 March 2010

don't forget your fiducial

I just popped out in my lunchbreak to watch some colleagues having fun playing with the Sancho Plan's new project on the BBC Big Screen outside the Pervasive Media Studio. They had to wave big cards with patterns on that triggered animated characters to appear on the screen and sing together in harmony.

Apologies for the flicker effect

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Ada Lovelace Day

So here we are and it's Ada Lovelace Day again, when we are meant to blog about women we admire who are working in technology. Last year I wrote about my youngest daughter, admiring her tenaciousness at getting equal time to play with technology. This year in a spirit of shameless self-promotion I want to celebrate my two older daughters, who are now working together, and with me, developing ideas for new media/technology projects and cooking up plans for an interesting joint future

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

mini projector fun

I saw one of these in action at the BBC Blue Room that had travelled to Bristol to show people some nice bits of future technology at New Tools New Ways of Working.
It's an Optoma Pico PK 101 DLP mini projector, about the size of a mobile phone, that connects via video input to your device. The one I saw was projecting video from an iPhone, at roughly the same size as a 13" monitor. It says it can display up to 60". I have a vision of football matches being projected onto all available surfaces at family events. Needless to say I wanted one.
You can find out more here

babies do skype

Sunday, 24 January 2010

clean speech

and speaking of phones, love this idea, that the phone can spot swear words in speech to text and replace them with a row of symbols. It reminded me of the story I was told by someone who was happily playing with his child's toy that translated text to speech, seeing how far he could go with typing in obscenities for the toy to declaim. He managed to get quite a few but there were some words that must have been deemed so foul by the designers that the toy would not even attempt to speak them out loud.

I am not sure whether I would want a piece of software to edit swearing out of speech, although on reflection, I can think of a few people I would like to nominate for permanent use of something similar, everytime they open their mouths.

Monday, 11 January 2010

breaking the unbreakable phone

I did feel sorry for the poor man from the company that makes the unbreakable phone that gets broken in this clip by the reporter from the BBC. Boys do like a challenge don't they?
This phone is obviously unbreakable in the same way that the Titanic was unsinkable, or that the shoes my son went through in three days were kidproof

Friday, 8 January 2010

hardcore gaming granny

I am hoping that 2010 is the year when I catch up with all the things I have started and couldn't finish, partly because of family stuff and partly because I am so easily distracted.
I am hoping to spend a little more time on sorting my blogs this year, and thought that posting something about a hardcore gamer in her seventies was a good start. I read this blog and loved it. Not the stuff about the games, but the great way the blogger talks about grandma. I also love that grandma confounds expectations of how grandmas are meant to behave, as she is so foul-mouthed, speaking as someone who is trying not to swear in front of kids and grandbabies. This women could be a role model for Catherine Tate's Nan.