Apr 272012

I’m live blogging again, this time from the opening of Culture Hack Scotland 2012 which is just opening with our first guest inspiration talk….

James Stewart, technical architecture for gov.ac.uk 

They created the Gov data alpha; Www.data.gov.uk replacement for directgov.
Tricky to talk about that here… My perspective is from London but be aware we are thinking hard about devolved presences and how that is handled.
Inside government – stuff the general public wants but not first thingEleasing 10 design principles informing what we’re doing. Trying to change very old organisations with very new tech.
1. Start with user need.
2. Do less.
3. Design with data – using request logs for data, regu,actions on what must be provided etc. we use Google Analytics and think about KPIs to inform how we do and improve this all the time.
4. Do the hard work to make it simple – what two or three questions do you need answers to to make the simplest solution for your users
5. Iterate. Then iterate again. We put out a release,get feedback, improve, iterate, blog the change etc.
6. Build for everyone – we didn’t think about accessibility at all on the alpha but we are now doing a lot to ensure all is accessible and it really helps in thinking about making things simpler.
7. Understand context. A lot of people are set in their ways but lots of others are frustrated with the system and want change. Finding those people can be really powerful. Building stuff fast makes a big difference, let’s people understand the benefit.
8. Build digital services – how do you connect up the User experience and the actual service, the thing they want solved. How do we use APIs and decoupling to do this.
9. Be consistent, not uniform. Up until now you had to learn the sites from scratch. We don’t want them to be the same but once you learn to use one you should be able to use them all.
10. Make things open. We are very open source. We put code on GitHub. And we had an early commit to flag up erroneous Scottish bank holidays etc. we want more interaction. – engage, correct us…if you do these things openly people are inclined to come and help you.
Finally note that we are hiring!
Over to i think Erin for the data…
We have split this into themes…
  • Archives – Glasgow Uni, Scottish Poetry Library
  • Content – Edwin Morgan poems, Macbeth marked up, Catarina child’s book, images from museum did art gallery
  • Listings – in Glasgow at the moment it’s the Glasgow international festival on visual arts and we have their listings, we have List, Skinny, edinburgh Festivals, Creative Scotland etc
  • Footfall data, carbon/energy use in Edinburgh
  • So lets talk data…. You could use the Richard dimarco images to chronologically track social and cultural change over time. Or you could combine the international listIngs with social media mentions.
  • Alex – I want to think
  • Sarah Drummond, award winner, has ideas next!
  • Kate Ho – we want to do something with a particular Edwin Morgan poem, stobhill, to make a computer game
  • Rory? We want an en mass party game/reading of Macbeth!
  • James – loads of collection data.. Want to build a what do I do today… Pick from various pairs of pieces when having done a few of those you get suggestions
And now…
Brigitta Zics, director of culture lab at Newcastle University
We do various projects which bring together HCI as well as art researchers, very different from social sciences! And we are around 100 researchers, always happy to hear from more!
We are all about art, design, technology, but also critical and reflective perspectives on that work. So I’ve been asked to talk about aesthetic design… Hci is very tech driven, design and interactive design and designers who try to bring this all together are also important.
I work on combinations of all of these aspects… I am an artist, I code, I’m interested in psychology as well. We can think of interaction as knowledge exchange. How does interactive work become aesthetics? I want to show some of my work here to illusate the concept. I’ve done some work on data visualisation called mirror space. People interact with an object and their facial characteridates plus data on the web created an image to reflect back.  Abouts body movement, not literal representations… This is about experience not beauty here.
One of the most inspiring things I found was an article in new scientist on a woman with locked in syndrome who knew she would lose all movement, even her eyes. So she came up with a way to communicate through her saliva. So if you imagine ph levels, she could say yes or no by having someone read the ph in her mouth and using her body in this way.
So we need to think about the user, not just cultural or social but also how we are acting, what are we doing, our physical selves. Interaction that rElates to that. So taking a sort of aesthetic ecologies type approach.
So my current project uses interaction with eye movement and screen and a heating and cooling system. So I think about monitoring the user, feeding back to them and engaging with them so I set up a sort of feedback loop here. A kind of cognitive mfeedback loop of interacting in an aesthetic way with the body.  There are some papers we have written on eye movement systems and aesthetics. And we are looking at emotional states and engaging on that level next really.
My message is to go beyond tech and thinking about people and abouT their imagination, and qualities that outlast technologies.
And with that the talk ends, the action kicks off… And the live logging pauses for some time….
 April 27, 2012  Posted by at 7:36 pm LiveBlogs Tagged with:  No Responses »
Apr 272012

Today and tomorrow (and hacking right through the night) I’m in Glasgow for Culture Hack Scotland 2012. I’m along to play with data, to see what cool stuff other people create and to particularly see how our Will’s World dataa marked up version of Macbeth – is used.

This is the second CHS and last year I brought a laptop and charger but not a huge amount else. However I saw some really cool projects last year including some super hardware hacks. And this year the organisers are keen to see creative responses to data… and this makes packing quite the challenge… What to bring?

Well the laptop + charger + several extension cables was a no-brainer. What else?

An iPad, mini camcorder, pico projector, sound recorder, cables, cables, more cables, various paper and pens and pencils, and a few emergency chocolate snacks all seemed sensible too…

As did some lego, sketchpad, tripod, a mini desk lamp, and clothes pegs (for improvising a screen for the pico projector – of course). And the funghi packaging? Well that’s my mini Arduino kit just in case I can think of a neat way to programme my little heart charliplex in a creative way, preferably with Macbeth data…

As for what’s in my virtual bag well that’s more exciting: huge amounts of data from the CHS; lots of tools for non/timid developers like Yahoo! Pipes, Google Docs (there’s a lot you can do with their spreadsheets), many eyes, etc; and useful hosting tools like Dropbox. Not to mention the nuts and bolts stuff on the laptop: gimp, arduino, dashcode, voodoo pad…

Watch this space to see what we create!

Apr 272012

It’s been a while since I posted an actual blog post rather than a liveblog and I thought it might be useful to summarise some interesting new social media news that has emerged over the last few weeks. It’s in no particular order but should hopefully be of interest.

Friends Reunited re-launches. One of the very first social networks has made a very unlikely comeback recently. Friends Reunited was the Facebook of it’s day (around 2001-3) encouraging old school friends to connect and post messages on each others walls. It had a real following in the UK but it didn’t develop fast enough and when it was sold from it’s private owners to ITV it really went into decline. However with the visual appeal of Tumblr, Pinterest and HistoryPin in mind and the massive appeal of family history as a new focus the site has relaunched in a new visual nostalgic style. Those used to frequenting Mum’s Comfort Food (formerly Monster Mash) in Edinburgh will instantly be used to the look and feel which is a bit like iPlayer in I Love the 1980s mode. And a fascinating footnote: Freindsreunited are manually retrieving login details for users who can no longer remember their logins, email addresses, passwords etc. It’s notable only because it’s rare a site is around so long it justifies doing that. Although from my first login there it looks like the masses have not returned to Friendsreunited (yet) despite the press coverage.

HistoryPin adds lots of new features! Chief amongst these are Channels which allow significant customisation and aggregation of contributions. A lovely idea for individuals, local history groups etc. We were lucky enough to have Rebekkah from HistoryPin along at a JISC GECO workshop on Geospatial in the Cultural Heritage Domain last month – you see the notes from her talk – which included sneak previews of the new Channels – over on the GECO LiveBlog for the event.

Facebook launches Timeline for Pages. Anyone with a Facebook page will know by now that the old style pages rolled over to the new style Timeline on 31st March 2012. The new look and feel will be very familiar to anyone looking at friends profiles over the last few months (personal profiles having rolled over around January).  Whilst the responses to personal timelines seems to have been quite mixed I think the new format work rather well for Pages and I haven’t seen much in the way of criticism – although inevitably looking around for familiar elements takes a wee bit of getting used to.

One of the most fun parts of the new format Facebook pages is the ability to add “Covers” – large images (851px by 315px – very similar to many WordPress theme banner sizes) which have presumably been labelled as “Covers” to appeal both to those who create elaborate scrapbooks and photo albums as well as those who wish they’d been in a rock band. We’ve now got Covers in place for all of our Facebook pages – why not take a look at the EDINA AddressingHistory Page and Digimap Page both of which use nice geospatial images:

Digimap's Facebook Page showing the new Timeline.

We actually try to keep a collection of images of events, services, etc. for just these sorts of times. A number of us at EDINA are pretty decent photographers and tend to take Digital SLRs to events anyway so we make a concious effort to capture our own high resolution images that are specific to us and our work so that when it comes to sharing images, illustrating blog posts or reports, etc. we have suitable images to hand. For AddressingHistory and JISC GECO, both of which were both very much about engaging the community and encouraging them to blog we’ve found Flickr accounts really useful – sharing images of materials and events lets others out on the web create more engaging posts and talk about our projects. Talking of images…

Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion. Old news now but still worth noting. The story has mainly been reported from a “is this the new dot com bubble” perspective which is hardly surprising as the purchase does value a free iPhone app at more than the value of subscription-based New York Times. However looking at this a bit more pragmatically it’s not quite such a daft purchase. Facebook has paid “cash and shares” and with the Facebook IPO coming up very soon it’s possible those shares are a big part of the payment and being valued highly. More importantly Instagram has a lot of the design and hipster chic that Facebook lacks, useful in itself, and will bring with it a user base and their photos – since images are, in my experience, some of the most productive sources of interaction on Facebook, that’s also significant. Instagram’s main function is to make fairly mediocre phone images look quirky, nostalgic, and tangible in a hard to explain sort of way. Adding that functionality to the photo sharing and storing aspects of Facebook seems like a good move as more of us move to experiencing the site almost exclusively on smartphones or tablets. On a sort of related note a very good recent(ish) Planet Money podcast talked about the longtail of the app economy with the founder of Instapaper.

Pinterest sees rapid growth and claims 97% of fans are female (see piece in Forbes and stats on TechCrunch). If Pininterest has passed you by so far you may be more than a little surprised at the number of new users it’s attracted in a very short time. The idea is very simple and rather familiar if you’re used to using Tumblr, the Flipboard iPad app, the new(ish) Delicious Stacks, Flickr Galleries, Storify, and any number of more obscure Web2.0 sites.  Pinterest is essentially a virtual pinboard for images – you can also add short comments and share those links/images. It’s a very basic idea but engaging because it is so visual, easy to use, and the interface is based on big buttons, easy browsing etc.  Like many predecessors it’s a custom magazine for the web but, unlike many of those, it also has a big user community. And for reference websites with no “pinnable” images cannot be pinned/saved/shared so it’s a great reminder to always include a good image on your webpresences – particularly if you can share something eyecatching!

Citizen Olympics Reporting. Two recent and exciting citizen reporting initiatives have been kicked off recently. The first and larger is #media2012, a reporting network for the Olympics. They held a recent kick off meeting which you can read about here. There is also an associated project to provide crowdsourced blog coverage of the Scottish arm of the torch relay which goes by the name CitizenRelay. Read more about getting involved here.

And finally… EDINA has a new LinkedIn page! If you head over there you can start following us for updates and news. And if you are a current or former staffer here do update your profile to create a connection back to the page. We’ve actually been planning to create a LinkedIn page for a while so it’s really good to see it live!

And even more finally… Our Will’s World project (#willdiscover) has launched and is contributing data for this year’s Culture Hack Scotland. The data is here in case you’re interested but there will be much more on that to follow…