So that New Year Resolution thing about blogging more. Yeah, it's happened AGAIN. Every week I’m going to log my web activity. Old school. A web-log. A blog. This week I have been mostly:
1. Searching for second hand cars for my kids and discovering that funding a child through art college is definitely a LOT cheaper in Holland than in the UK.
Conclusions? A ten year old Mini hatchback with relatively low mileage and a decent service record is hard to find in London for under £3000. Also, I may be trying to persuade both of my kids to go and study in Holland and forget about the rather staid, slow and expensive UCAS/student loan system we have in this country.
2. Contemplating what to do about my #CompoteTree.
I think it’s about time that I moved beyond a few sporadic blog posts, and actually tried to make sense of what I’ve been doing with my compote tree. To that end I’ve applied to be part of a really interesting event going on in Birmingham called Bees in a Tin.
It's described as: "a gathering happening on the 21st of February 2014 for interesting and exciting people who make unique interfaces for the world around them." I'm not sure I'm one of those people, but I do need to do something to challenge myself a bit more about making things instead of just talking about them. Here’s part of my Expression of Interest:
"My project is about monitoring closely as many aspects of a tree’s life as I can using a range of sensors, probes and measuring devices(many of which have been developed for the wine growing industry). On a practical level, I now have a year’s worth of tree-related data and media that I’d like to structure in some way that would allow the tree to generate its own stories.
Perhaps there’d be rambling sequences of text, or noises like a small baby or toddler. Or maybe the tree is outputting streams of movie or search terms or code based on my datasets. Even better, it may be that the jam I make is itself a *chemical* code, and, with each bag of jam that gets consumed, a secret story can be distributed not by an audience but *in* an audience.
I’d like to use the event to talk about how we might give trees digital lives generally. And I’d like to offer up my datasets for anyone to ‘hack’ my tree. I’d also like to bring along my jam in order to think about the ‘biochemical web’, the possibilities for ‘edible media’ and to see what stories we might generate using my ‘transmediacompote’.
My key questions for people attending the event might be: ‘could my jam taste better if it had a story encoded within it?’ and ‘how might we encode jam?’
3. Dead Digital Dan. DDD on the WWW.
The second speculative project I’ve been thinking about this week is a play or performance piece about a family coping with the digital remains of a dead dad - a geek who's left voices under the floorboards, memories in the furniture, secrets only the dog can tell.
I want to explore what happens when someone you love refuses to shut up and die. I’ve been putting together a mood board of technologies you might use to make your presence felt after you’ve gone.
I’m really interested in exploring how we’re all going to haunt our families after we’re dead. Already you can leave videos and sound files online after dying. But with a little bit of computing nouse, you can leave messages in particular locations for specific people, you can download your personality into household objects, you could have secret compartments unlock on a date far in the future, you could record your body movements in a mattress.
I’d like to develop a story of one family coping with a dead dad who has left a LOT of himself behind.
I’d like to use current technology to show how a dead person might deploy a whole range of systems, devices, toys and media to make his presence felt long after he’s gone. I’d like this to be funny, scary and little bit sad. I’d like the audience to wonder what it would be like to set up something like this for themselves.
At the moment I'm thinking of developing a series of short scenes to combine with feedback and contributions from the audience. Re: the short scenes - I’m thinking about an estate agent showing us round a house that has a digital ‘ghost’ in it; about a woman who is haunted by her husband whenever she takes the dog for a walk; about a boy who has a special and secret relationship with dead great-grandpa.
4. Lambeth in 20 years time
Local councillor and good friend Rachel Heywood invited me to join a discussion group about what Lambeth might look and feel like in 20 years time.
The author Tim Maughan gave a useful introductory talk. Tim's done some work on the NESTA Future Londoners project - offering "a series of imaginary characters created to explore the possibilities of urban life in the future."
It was salutary to note, too, that opinion was mixed as to whether technology (as provided by the likes of Google, Apple and/or the Government) was going to have a positive or negative impact - or even no impact at all - on communities living and working in Lambeth in the future.
We only had an hour to chat, so there's probably quite a long way to go before anything meaningful can emerge from a small group getting together like this. Personally, it was great to meet people who are actively engaged and concerned about where we all live.
Conclusion? Discussions about the future are quite often driven overwhelmingly by peoples' concerns about what's happening right now. Will our kids be tackling 'gentrification' as the burning issue of the day in 20 years time? I really hope not.