May 22nd, 2010
As part of the public engagement activities around the 5th Dimensional Camera project, we ran a school workshop with A level science students from York. They were given an overview of the project in the exhibition, and we then discussed various possibilities and likely implications of Quantum Computing. Finally, all of us split into teams and came up with different scenarios around what they might wish to photograph with the 5th Dimensional Camera. Overall, a fantastic, inspiring day! And the scenarios varied, pushing the limits of time: One group photographed themselves in front of the camera for a month, another traveled with it to New York, while another put it on the moon, pointed it on earth and left the timer on for 100 years! Ultimately, the workshop inspired us to continue developing new ways of engaging with different groups of people, which we aim to do with the couple of other science-related projects we are currently working on, from the Lab.
May 18th, 2010
I was in Manchester last week for FuturEverything, clearly a transformative cultural event for the city of Manchester, buzzing with a series of interesting conference talks, art exhibits, live music, the UnConference and more. Here are just few of the talks I enjoyed at the conference : Glonet: Drew Hemment and Adam Greenfield kicked off this unique event happening simultaneously in five cities: Sendai, Vancouver, Istanbul, Sao Paulo and Manchester through a series of presentations, and informal exchanges. John Worthington from DEGW presented a series of thoughtful ideas around 'The Experiential City', focusing on semi-public spaces as the 'City X-rays'. Very relevant in the context of my upcoming talk around 'India's Immaterial Urbanism' for WCIT 2010. Over from Sendai, Prof. Hitoshi Abe provoked the audience with his thought experiment of the 'Megahouse' where the residents adapt the 'The City as a Home'. (made in 2007, but as relevant today). And ofcourse, images of the popular cat-cafes in Japan. The 'Open Everything' Panel was great, with Dr. Amir Hannan presented his efforts to allow patients access to their electronic health records. Building a culture of openness within the system has not been an easy task, as expected, but his efforts in this context are commendable. Jordan Hatcher focused on open content, copyright and all the legal implications of these. Case studies presented: farmsubsidy.org, fishsubsidy.org, aidinfo.org, ending with a wry note: "on the internet no one knows if you are a dog". Chris Taggart's fantastic work can be found here, his talk was about 'failure', emphasizing on the need for 'small, quick, innovative projects' that often organisations dont take the risk to do. Also enjoyed Chris Osbourne's data viz of the Ash cloud impact on our carbon footprint, Adrian Hon's take on the 'purpose of play', and great work from co-panelist Martyn Amos around ants, synthetic biology and collective creativity. (which deserves a separate blog post!) Convergent themes around 'collaborative futures', 'openness', 'participation' and 'storytelling' that emerged from the conference fed well into my own presentation. I focused on our Power of 8 project, showing a 'real' example of how collaborative futures and multidisciplinary projects can be initiated and built. I presented the methods we, as a team, developed, the nature of the actual collaboration, what conflicts came up and how we attempted to use those conflicts towards creative ends. As much as the design process was important, so were the narrative outcomes that it generated, and the projects that we are now carrying forward. The fact that most of our public engagement workshops ended with 'climate change and the decline in natural resources' as the top concern, was a surprise for the audience. (Presentation will be uploaded soon.) Thanks to the organisers of FuturEverything, and also to Michelle Kasprzak, Gill Wildman, Nick Durrant, Andy and Mike (City ID), Alison Powell and Shawn Micallef, for making it so much fun!
May 5th, 2010
"What will it be like to admit Artificial Companions into our society? How will they change our relations with each other? How important will they be in the emotional and practical lives of their owners? How much social life might they have in contacting each other?" These are the opening questions of the recently released book 'Close Engagements with Artificial Companions' edited by Yorick Wilks. For those interested in designing potentially new experiences/products/services that come under any of these categories: 'smart', 'internet-of-things', 'robots', 'intelligent'; this book is a must read. Contributors include Sherry Turkle, Dylan Evans and Noel Sharky. Image: Hiroshi Ishiguro of the humanoid robots fame, talks about how his daughter burst into tears when she met her (child android) twin for the first time. Wilks' book also has an essay by myself, co-written with Alex Taylor and Laurel Swan from Microsoft Research, Cambridge, titled 'New Companions', in which we discuss our explorations around 'new artificial companions', and our design project from couple of years ago: Autonomous Energy Devices. Image: Living Radio In our essay we argue that developments in AI have given rise to the prospect of very different kinds of machines, machines that are unlike humans or animals but that we may still want to form relationships with. We then discuss a project exploring energy autonomous robots. Ecobot, an example of such a robot, is shown to exhibit unique characteristics that may afford new, distinctive forms of Companionship. Finally, a design concept of an autonomously powered, household radio is presented to illustrate how these new kinds of relationships might be investigated further. (READ FULL PAPER) (Also an earlier post about Donna Haraway might be relevant)