Consumable media, probably consumed by me. Warning: May contain opinions.
Archive: Culture & Entertainment
Oct 28, 2009 Comments Off
Part of the brilliance of a photographic observation game like noticin.gs (which I wrote about the other day in the context of synchronicity and gaming) is that – as the name implies – it encourages you to be observant and notice things when you’re out and about in the context of your everyday life.
Paul Mison wrote about noticin.gs recently saying that it’s “helping [him] to look around” and that’s absolutely the same feeling I have.
I’ve got a long history of capturing random spotted/found/noticed things and moments from my commute and daily wanderings, stretching back many years – and not just photographically, either. Sometimes with the camera, sometimes with words, sometimes just by making a mental note – it’s the habit of receptiveness to the world around that’s interesting.
This relates to something else I wrote a while back about super-noticing:
Super-noticing is something which happens a lot if you’re trained to be receptive and observant, but also if you’re thinking about a particular thing.
This in turn relates to another earlier post about the ethnographic discipline of pattern recognition:
Part of the toolkit of ethnography and anthropology in general is observing patterns. This could be patterns in behaviour, appearance, ritual, language or otherwise. The anthropologist’s job is to spot the patterns and try to understand what (if any) significance they have, especially in relation to social or cultural environment, or other prevailing conditions.
The discipline of noticing stuff is part of what makes receptiveness and observation useful in life, as well as in anthrolopology and social gaming. But it’s good to have a particular outlet (or should that be inlet?) for the activity. As I wrote in the super-noticing post,
“Flickr is great for developing a discipline around noticing, too, and Flickr groups in particular – if your eye is receptive, then every journey out into the world can be filled with potential squared circles and little fellas and malapostrophication and more.”
Well, noticin.gs turns that hyper-receptiveness up to 11, but inverts it – it’s not about seeing the patterns so much as the anomalies – the things you spot which shouldn’t be there, or stand out, or catch the attention because they don’t belong, or are otherwise notable. Noticeable. Noted.
Once you start playing noticin.gs, it’s very difficult to stop noticing things. Above and below are just a few of the things I’ve noticed while out and about, captured with my phonecam, and filed to noticin.gs.
Oct 24, 2009 5
As part of Quadriga’s Online Communication 2009 conference, I was invited by the organisers to present some reflections about how to communicate with people online, drawn from both personal and professional experiences, in the form of an after-dinner speech. This was a new experience for me: I’ve never done an after-dinner speech before. Lots of presentations, lectures, debates and panels, but nothing in quite this format before, with no visual aid, nestled in between main course and dessert.
Rather than just post my notes, here’s a fully-written up version of what I said, including links to sources, resources, inspirations and further reading. Forgive the slightly odd formatting, with so many paragraphs – it’s structured this way to reflect the emphasis and pauses and topic sections as I spoke.
If anyone wants it, I was thinking about making an audio version available to download, because this is fairly long (about 25 minutes) – let me know if this would be interesting to you. And if you’re interested in me giving this presentation (or one similar) at an event you’re organising, do get in touch.
When I first told my friends I was coming to Amsterdam to speak to a room full of online communication executives, they asked me why I had to fly to Amsterdam to do that. Why do we all need to get together in one room? Couldn’t I just do it by email, maybe in a newsletter or a series of tweets?
Well, maybe – but if that had been the case, I wouldn’t have got to enjoy such a delicious meal and wouldn’t have met so many of you face to face. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to do that.
Actually, yesterday I asked my Twitter contacts whether there’s anything they’d recommend to a room full of the best and brightest communication professionals in Europe. I got a lot of interesting answers, many of which I’ll draw on later, but I particularly liked this suggestion from a contact who said:
“Just tell them they should promote the juniors for two months and let them run wild over the internet.”
Well, it’s an idea. Not sure it’s the first thing you could do, but still…
When Quadriga were putting together the conference programme, I was asked to present my perspective on online communication from “both sides of the wall” – as a keen online user both personally and professionally.
I’s just like to note that that implies the wall is somehow this insurmountable, divisive thing which is rarely scaled. In fact, the walls are coming down. I think it’s remarkably easy – and getting easier – to hop from one side to the other, and in fact the boundaries are blurring for many of us every day. I count myself as incredibly lucky that my professional life draws on my personal experiences and passions.
As part of that, I have a confession to make.
Read the rest of this entry »
Oct 7, 2009 2
I was interested to learn (via Mashable) that Hipster social location game Foursquare is launching in London at the end of the week. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s not in fact the primary school playground game we used to call “Champ”, but a location based social networking game played mainly via mobile apps, which involves players “checking in” whenever they visit a bar, restaurant, event or hangout to receive points based on frequency, pattern of activity, who else checks in at the same time as them and so on (there’s a full breakdown of points awarded in their Wikipedia entry). With enough points, a player becomes the “Mayor” of a particular venue, until someone else overtakes them.
Friends (and family) in the US tell me that it is hopelessly addictive and that it’s increasingly the first thing people do when arriving at an event these days.
I’m not sure that London has enough social butterflies and hipsters to make this take off in much the same way (who am I trying to kid? Of course it does!) but it reminded me a bit of two other things I’ve been engaged with in recent time.
The first is recently-acquired by Nokia social travel tracker Dopplr, which contains strong elements of synchronicity and coincidence built in to the user experience – while no points are awarded, the service tells you when your friends will be visiting your city, or when your scheduled trip will coincide with that of another traveller you’re linked to. In theory, that could mean that you’d be able to drop people a line saying “Hey, Dopplr tells me you’re going to be in Madrid at the same time I’m going to be there – let’s do lunch!” though in practice my experience has been that I tend to know when friends are going to be in the same place as me because we’re going there for the same conference or wedding or whatever.
But another game I’ve been playing recently (and really getting into) is the rather marvellous noticin.gs which is wonderfully simple yet very addictive. The game involves taking photos of things you’ve spotted and then geotagging them on Flickr.
You get points for noticing things
and points for being geographically near someone else’s noticing
and points for being the first noticing in a new area
and points for being noticed within a few minutes of another player’s noticings
and so on.
All you need to do to play is take a photo and upload it to Flickr, tag it “noticings” and make sure it has location data – some mobile phone apps include this on upload, but if not, you can always do it manually later, bearing in mind that points are only calculated on the previous 24 hours of noticings.
It appeals to me partly because it’s a habit I have anyway (spotting interesting things on my daily routine or extraordinary explorations and migrations across town) combined with a delicious frisson of pointy reward but for things which are not to do with effort but to do with coincidence and synchronicity and chance.
In other words, playing the game is rewarding in itself because it encourages you to open your eyes and capture interesting stuff in the everyday; getting points for doing so in a time/place which coincides (or not) with another player’s actions which you couldn’t know about is a delightful, random cherry on top.
Oct 1, 2009 19
Being a list of British actors depicting Americans in popular TV programmes, arranged by how convincing their accent is
(In this scale good = “Blimey, I didn’t know they were British” and bad = “A British equivalent of Dick Van Dyke”)
|John Mahoney (Frasier)
Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Without a Trace)
Ed Westwick (Gossip Girl)
Idris Elba (The Wire)
Damien Lewis (Life)
Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck)
Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica)
Hugh Laurie (House, MD)
Robert Pattinson (Twilight)
Gabrielle Anwar (Burn Notice)
Joseph Fiennes (Flash Forward)
Ian McShane (Deadwood)
Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies)
Louise Lombard (CSI)
Minnie Driver (The Riches)
Dominic West (The Wire)
Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy)
Michelle Ryan (Bionic Woman)
Kevin McKidd (Journeyman)
Eddie Izzard (The Riches)
Mark Addy (Still Standing)
Of course, it’s not for a British person to say whether a fake American accent is convincing or not, because we don’t have the natural ear, so this is more of a list of British actors playing Americans on TV ranked in order of whether their accent is convincing enough to the non-native ear to suspend belief or confound expectations of an audience who have previously heard them speaking in a different way during a performance. See: Lovejoy, a bit of Fry & Laurie, Eastenders.
Sep 4, 2009 4
The many ways in which the experience of Twitter’s development and growing popularity is very much like the experience of early blogging
The reminder a couple of weeks ago that pioneering blog publishing engine Blogger was launched ten years ago got me thinking.
I’ve been blogging for nearly ten years now – since it began with a W – and being involved with something from the beginning, plus passionate (and sometimes despondent) about its potential and usage in the years since means I’ve had a lot of time to watch and think about how it has matured and been used. There are certain things which we can now look back on and consider milestones in the development and maturing of blogging – like how the media responded to it, how people embraced and used it and how it penetrated mainstream web usage over time.
Like blogging (which I started doing in January 2000, and used Blogger to publish my blog from April of that year), I’ve been using Twitter since relatively early on – my earliest update via Twitter was in November 2005. I’d link to it, but
a) it’s in my private/personal account (@megp) and
b) all my archived tweets (pre July 31 2009) have disappeared, as experienced by many others in this thread on the Twitter help forum.
It’s actually that help forum – and the appalling petulant and rude manner in which some users are addressing Twitter staff – which got me thinking more specifically about how, in so many ways, the timeline of the Twitter story mirrors that of Blogger and early blogging. Both have seen similar patterns of early usage and behaviour and adoption by certain functional and social groups, and both have learnt – the hard way, sometimes – about technical and social scaling issues as well as being a playground for emergent behaviours and activities, and all the fun and challenge that comes with that.
This isn’t an attempt to demonstrate that startups and new technologies are subject to many of the same pressures and reception issues – that’s been clearly documented and brilliantly expressed in Gartner’s Hype Curve. Rather, I wanted to explore some of the striking similarities in specific situations, movements and experiences in the early days of both micropublishing and blogging, from the perspective of an early settler and long-term resident of both of these strange and wonderful new(ish) countries.
So here’s something I’ve been working on for a little while: it’s a very approximate timeline of the activities, patterns, behaviours and reactions experienced by both Twitter (/micropublishing) and Blogger (/early blogging) during their first few years.
Read the rest of this entry »
Aug 25, 2009 1
This is disturbing, because I find him the most awful mewly mumbler and can barely understand him in normal speech, let alone when trying to figure out which lane I need to be in to get off the westbound M4 onto the northbound M25.
I can’t imagine many worse voices for the job, actually.
In fact, if you’ve ever listened to the superlative Guy Garvey’s FInest Hour on BBC Radio 6, Sunday nights at 10pm, or online via iPlayer, you may well have heard Sir Bob of Dylan doing a trail for his Theme Time Radio Hour show (which follows GGFH), in which he manages to sound exactly like Eric Cartman from South Park. It’s uncanny.
In other news today, a Tory has compared parts of “broken Britain” to Baltimore in The Wire.
As Stringer Bell might say: dat shit jus’ wrong.
Jul 29, 2009 Comments Off
Before you do anything else, listen to this:
Richard and the Young Lions – Open Up Your Door
Even if it’s not strictly your kind of music, I defy you not to have shimmied your shoulders a bit, or bobbed your head fractionally, or tapped your feet. Some kinds of music just make people feel like dancing. In fact, I’ve been listening (and deskbopping) to that song on a loop all day since my friend, neighbour and co-conspirator in localised pub quiz glory Dan Maier posted it to Twitter earlier. Good, innit?
Dan’s hosting the fifth birthday of his 13th floor club – a 60s (garage, pop & psych) music event – this Saturday night (1 August 2009) downstairs at the Albany, which is a pub and music venue opposite Great Portland Street tube station.
I don’t know all the details, but it’s about £5 in after 10pm (FREE before) and it goes on until about 2am. It’s only a small venue – maybe 100 people can fit in? – and thankfully it’s dark enough in the club that you can dance without people thinking it’s weird. Unless that’s what you want, of course… In fact, sometimes people dress up specially in keeping with the era, and I understand that this weekend, the the Actionettes will be appearing, which will be awesome.
In case that hasn’t convinced you to make plans to come along on Saturday, I asked Dan to bung me links to some of his favourite tracks, exactly the sort of thing that might be played on the night. Here are a few, with more after the jump…
Cindy & Bert – Der Hund Von Baskerville (1969
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich – Hold Tight (1965)
Jun 5, 2009 4
Big Brother started again in the UK last night.
I won’t lie: I think it’s nonsense. I haven’t watched it since the very first series back in 1999 (?) (when it had the feeling of new curious sociological phenomenon, and everyone was genuinely riveted by the Nasty Nick leaving the house development) but since then it’s buzzed away vaguely at the back of my summers, without any particular attention from me, like a tired wasp against a windowpane.
Why would I want to watch the tedious antics of a bunch of people of limited intelligence and entertainment value who I neither know nor care about? I can do that every day on the bus.
Working in media, however, I can’t fail to have some residual awareness of what’s going on, and it’s become clear that in recent years, to try and revive the tired audience and keep users hooked throughout the long stretch of nightly updates throughout the summer, they’ve fiddled with the format, and introduced a series of gimmicks.
16 people in the house
A secret house next door to the real house
Cultural exchange with a contestant from another country’s Big Brother
A rich side and a poor side to the house
A king (or queen) of the house
Tasks which involve endurance
Tasks which involve ridicule
Tasks which involve backstabbing
Tasks which involve nudity
All have which have conspired to mean that
a) the format changes so radically every year that the rules can be somewhat hard to follow (if you bother at all)
b) the show is less reality TV and more prolonged gameshow. It’s a residential version of the generation game, mostly, combined with elements of the infamous Milgram and Stanford prison experiments.
To save you the bother of watching this year, I’ve managed to source a top-secret list of all the gimmicks involving format, tasks and contestants that they’ll be employing this season to try and keep audiences interested:
- They are all actually horses
- Half of them are blind and the other half are deaf
- They are all left handed
- They can only talk in rhyme for three weeks
- One of them is a secret Libyan
- Two extra housemates have been hiding in a secret compartment under a trapdoor beneath the fridge for the first eight weeks, only coming out at night to nibble on leftovers
- They must all answer to the name Trevor
- The house is built over a plague pit
- There’s no toilet
- They’re not broadcasting it at all this year, so all the housemates are gurning and preening and backstabbing for nothing
- A 1 ton bomb will go off if anyone mentions J___ G_____
- All the beds will be replaced by sandwiches for a week
- They must all follow a macrobiotic diet
- An additional housemate will be introduced, who will refuse to speak to anyone
- One housemate must volunteer to die or they will all be killed
- They must end every sentence with “TWIIIIIIIIING!” on Thursdays
That should keep them watching.
May 28, 2009 1
(sorry, couldn’t resist pun)
Just spotted (via James Wallis) this New York Times article – one of a series of seven about how people allow themselves to be fooled. This part cites the case of the infamous second world war forger Han Van Meegeren, who managed to fool Nazis, the art world and all sorts of other people with his clever forgeries of Vermeer works in the early part of last century.
The article references two books from last year about the forger and his story: Edward Dolnick’s The Forger’s Spell and Jonathan Lopez’s The Man Who Made Vermeers.
While I’m sure these are both excellent works, it would be remiss of me not to point out that an earlier biography also exists and is well worth a read (as reviewed in the Observer here) – I was Vermeer: the forger who swindled the Nazis by my good friend (and former colleague) Mr Frank Wynne.
May 22, 2009 8
I promise I don’t write about Twitter all the time, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot (for work and fun) recently.
So, celebrities on Twitter. We’ve all heard about them, and we might even follow one or two. But why?
Some simple reasons:
- Fan of them/their work generally
- Like getting updates from them about what they’re doing/thinking (e.g. like a direct fan newsletter)
- Interested in a particular project they’re currently working on (e.g. filming a movie)
- Like cutting out the filter of gossip sites, news organisations etc and getting insight or news direct from source
- Like the potential proximity of creating a relationship/conversation with them (albeit one-sided – but it could be more at some point)
But I’ve got another hypothesis: could it be that (potentially in addition to any of the above) having a celebrity’s updates appear in your twitter consumption stream, along with your friends and other contacts, makes them more real/closer/more human because suddenly you cannot fail to be aware that they are sharing a time-context (which they must have before, but all your consumption of celeb updates had previously been mediated through the temporal displacement of publishing, broadcasting or other media)?