Week 10

21 December 2012

And that’s the end of 2012.

A very quiet end to the year: a few little meetings to wrap up one short project and investigate another. Otherwise, I treated it as roughly a half-week, and focused a bit on some personal work, none of which is really near completion.

On Monday, I also built the visualiser for this year’s Radio Roundabout. They wanted something “a bit New Aesthetic” for this year. I loosely interpreted this brief to produce a Kinect-powered visualisation of the studio.

Radioroundabout

It’s very straightforward: it takes the IR point cloud in 3D, colours it according to what the video camera can see – and then applies a strokeweight to each point based upon the audio line-in level (RMS).

So what you get is a room full of blobs that pulse along with audio – particularly fine on the Dan Deacon or Todd Terje that played on the show, but fun with spoken-word too.

The whole project – all two hours of gluing other people’s code together – is on Github.

And that was it, really – a few leads on work I’ve followed up, but a quiet end to the year. Weeknotes are now on hold until 2013 – after the Radio 4 talk – and I’m hoping there’ll be a bit more news to share then.

Not a bad start to freelancing, then; here’s to 2013.

Four Thought: The Coded World

19 December 2012

A few weeks ago I took part in a recording of Radio 4’s Four Thought. My episode of Four Thought will be broadcast on Radio 4 next Wednesday – the 26th December at 20:45pm. It’ll also be on iPlayer for the rest of the year, so if you don’t fancy interrupting Boxing Day for it, you can catch up later. I’ll probably link to it once it’s up on iPlayer.

What’s it about? It’s about technology education – from the “learning-to-code” meme that permeated 2012, through “computer science in schools”, and into what the real values of teaching technology are, and how you might go about that. Matt Jones’ post about a new age of STEAM was very timely, and suitably poetic; I’m only sad I didn’t talk a bit more about the value of the arts in my talk, though I hinted at it a bit.

So, if that sounds up your street, do tune in or catch up later.

Week 9

14 December 2012

Week 9 seems to be the last work of client work this year.

Monday was mainly about meetings, hopefully lining up some work for early next year. In the rest of the week, I spent a couple of days working on interaction design for an iOS product, drawing out maps, wireframes, notes on aesthetics and animatics.

It turns out the Four Thought I recorded will be broadcast on Friday, 26 December at 8:45pm. Flattering to be in the Christmas week, even if it’s a time when most people might be busier with family! It’ll be on iPlayer as well; I’ll probably mention that in its own blogpost nearer the time.

Otherwise, the usual admin – and beginning to plan Week 10, which is likely going to be a form of “project week” – prodding a few one-to-two day personal projects into life, if only to keep my hand in and get me up each day.

And, today, it was exciting to share that my work with PAN is shortlisted in the Playable City competition – that might go somewhere exciting next year; even if it doesn’t, it’s great to be shortlisted given the quality of the other entries.

And that was Week 9.

Playable City shortlist announced

14 December 2012

I spent a couple of days a few weeks ago working with PAN Studio on their proposal for Watershed’s Playable City project. I’m excited to announce that PAN (working with myself and Gyorgyi Galik) have been shortlisted for the competition, with their project Hello, Lamppost. You can find out more about the project here.

It’s an exciting shortlist – lots of friends, peers, and former colleagues on it – which really captures the breadth of thinking around play in the urban landscape right now. Final results are announced on 21st January; we’ll wait to see what happens next. Congratulations to everyone on the shortlist.

  • "It was so serene. These thousand year-old vessells command the space, and visitors are asked to contemplate them more than they’re asked to learn about them. We joked that it was the minimum viable museum… and there’s something in that. There were no distractions, no ‘spooky-action-at-a-distance‘, just a terrific lump of timeshifted history." Lovely.
  • "We were jealous of the younger kids in the one-to-one ward, because they had a PlayStation. It didn’t have the best games, but it had Micro Machines and Tomb Raider and it was better than what we had." I'd rather not quote anything other than the first line of this; you should just read it. A beautiful, haunting piece of writing from Mary Hamilton, about the things games can sometimes save us from (and sometimes can't). The kind of honesty you can't look away from, which is so hard to capture in writing, but which is here. Striking. (Trigger warning for self-harm).
  • "I think recognising this – when there is a path from a crisis that involves risk but rewards you hugely – with something you wouldn’t have imagined, is at the very heart of design. It’s certainly an incredible feeling when it works, when the judo-flip flows just so, and you end up somewhere brilliant." Yeah. I really, really need to trust that more when I feel it.
  • "Though adept at mathematics and engineering science, his inventions were all human-centred and focused on the experience and enjoyment of the user. He abandoned his design of a steam motorboat engine, for example, because once he had developed it to rival diesel power it lost its suppleness and "was not a nice thing any more". His car suspensions and the cycle developments were entirely aimed at providing a superior experience for the user. He was very taken, through his association with Bridgestone, with the Japanese sense of the "spirit" of an artefact, reflecting its origins and the care with which it was made. He liked the idea that by seeing and using something one can detect this "spirit", which fitted his own conviction that manufacture and industry are morally rewarding. "Man should make things … Make a profit, of course, but don't take the money gain as the prime judgment."" Great paragraph from this obituary of Alex Moulton.
  • Wonderful article about Hackney – and, specifically, a natural history of the borough as it is right now. The history of social housing throughout the area is particularly interesting; also, I found the distinction between "gentrification" and "yuppification" useful. Ignore the title – it is a meaty piece, with about 2% of it being about hipsters.
  • "…if any one of the participants at the meeting starts to deviate away from the subject, repeat themselves or get a little carried away with their topic, the "Scrum master" presents them with the baseball cap to wear – the idea being to "cap" the conversation at source! This indicates that the person presented with the cap is now prohibited to speak until asked to contribute again, or until the cap is passed to someone else during the course of the meeting." Iiinteresting.

Links & notes for this month