Archive

Television

Quick work thing. We’ve working with Chromecast for a little while.

Chromecast is basically a chrome browser on a stick that plugs into the back of your telly using the HDMI port and once connected to your wifi can be controlled by almost anything else on that network – phone, tablet, ‘puter.

It’s the sort of cheap, accessible tech that is really worth examining for opportunities – like the hacks we did with the Cooper-Hewitt – or this: Photowall for Chromecast.

It’s introduced in this video by m’colleagues George and Justin who first prototyped it and helped usher it into the world.

The SDK is out there – have at it.

Chances are if we’ve been to the pub together over the last 15 years, I will have mentioned Alternative-3, amongst the canon of great media proto-ARGs that include Orson Welles’ War Of The Worlds, Ghostwatch, etc.

Alt-3

I re-watched it on the plane over to the USA, and my addled-brain couldn’t help but retcon the whole thing into the LOST universe.

alt3

It was made of course, when the DHARMA initiative is intended to have made their orientation movies, which helps.

dharma

But the plot within it is worthy of Abrams, Lindelhof, et al.

alt3

And I was suprised that I found some parts genuinely sinister/scary still.

alt3

The biggest suprise?

alt3

Eno!

Gates' telescope

While this might be a typically hilarious technocratic and somewhat bloodless statement by Bill Gates, you have to admire the project itself:

‘”LSST is truly an internet telescope which will put terabytes of data each night into the hands of anyone that wants to explore it. [It is] a shared resource for all humanity – the ultimate network peripheral device to explore the universe,” he said.’

Gates gives $10m, Charles Simonyi gives 20$m. Various other software billionaires are exploring the human genome, or building space programmes.

In the past I’ve somewhat facetiously wondered what would happen if the BBC used it’s annual billions to move into space exploration, creating entertainments as spin-off.

A question I asked Max and Jack in the pub before Christmas was – what if these ‘exploratory billionaires’ made a land-grab for the public-service broadcaster’s territory instead?

Gates after all already owns Corbis etc., Google is mapping and measuring the Earth constantly for representation. While these are definitely for-profit enterprises, what if Larry and Sergey et al decided not to settle for just Google Earth but go after “Planet Earth” also?

If Google decided to beat the BBC’s Natural History Unit at it’s own game, what would be the result?

What if they decided to devote technology, money, phd’s and determination to mapping, recording, simulating, visualising and telling stories of the natural world with data rather than film. A kind of Quokka-for-nature, might be one possible outcome I guess.

What if they offered all of the data and assets they gather to scientists, students, schoolkids, storytellers with an open license? What if they gave it to games developers, educators, exhibitions to be used in playful, interactive, engaging ways?

Currently in the domain of natural history, there are efforts to build a ‘commons of content’ such as ARKive that are, pretty good, (although the Terms of Service are not exactly inviting) but you can’t help thinking if someone of the GOOG mindset and resource-base got their hands on it, it would be truly, literally awe-inspiring.

I guess the thrust of my question is what happens when software people with serious resources behind them get very, very serious about what’s traditionally seen as the preserve of ‘content’ or ‘editorial’.

Often at ‘content companies’, especially notable public-service broadcasters (ahem) – the great teams taking technical, systemic approaches to knowledge are indulged and somewhat encouraged at early stages, but if there is a spark of promise then ‘of course someone editorial will be brought in’ above them.

This does not often end well.

The troubling thought, that even in core areas of expertise with glorious heritage such as natural history, we’ll see that public-service broadcasters can, and will get dis-intermediated in a world where data is played with as much as stories are told.

Based on the rise of ‘exploratory philanthopy’ that aims to create “a shared resource for all humanity” as evidenced in quotes like Gate’s above, this might not be a bad thing…

.flickr-photo { border: solid 2px #000000; }
.flickr-yourcomment { }
.flickr-frame { text-align: left; padding: 3px; }
.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }



Lower lights?!?, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

Lots of hullabaloo about Hulu today, but the thing that intrigued me about the design – apart from the wonderful lack of feature-creep and the cleanliness that seems to bring it – was a single button, marked “Lower lights”.

I’m imagining it’s not an X10 controller interface, but rather does something marvellous in order to further focus your attention on the video – removing extraneous buttons or UI features, dimming the ‘computer’ to amp up the ‘telly’.

In other words, a wonderful, evocative rebranding of something very simple, standard and known: “full-screen mode”.

Well, what do you think it does?

When it comes to the people saving the Earth, or just the UK, or even just Cardiff from peril – don’t you want them to have a little more technical savvy, than, say a bored teenager?

Take a look at what alien crimefighters and Gallifreyan-crossword-anagram-answer, Torchwood are using:
Torchwood are Eloi

Despite being a shadowy paragovernmental agency entrusted with securing alien technology – they are most comfortable something that resembles a bad Web2.0 site, or a dodgy trillian skin at best. They’re your Hotmail friends! They’re the people who send you that Ok-Go treadmill YouTube clip four months after you saw it!

They’re Eloi! We’re doomed!!!

Reassuringly, good old Five are staffed with much more CLI-kinds of guys…

Spooks are Morlocks

The Spooks, unlike their colleagues at CTU (who seem to favour the 45 degree angled corners of professional flash design circa 2002) are strictly on the command-line tip with the odd snazzy-but-useful bit of hardcore datavis.

MORLOCKS, THANKFULLY!

One upside of being down for the count over a long weekend is that there’s no guilt in eating an entire boxed set of TV all at once.

I sat down (well, lied down) to take in Joss Whedon’s aborted cowboy space-opera, Firefly; and was pleasantly surprised.

It’s no wonder it was cancelled – it takes ages to get going, it’s got a huge cast each of whom “have a secret” and some of the best lines are in Mandarin it seems.

One thing that did strike me about a couple of episodes was how very few ‘screens’ feature in Firefly’s vision of the future – and in general how tangible and situated digital technology seems in that universe.
Read More

Title_who

On a flight watching “Rose”, the first episode of the new Dr. Who as rebooted by Russell T. Davies and produced by BBC Wales.

As Hammersley says – if this hasn’t been deliberately leaked by the newly bittorrent-hip Beeb to get fanpersons to blog furiously about just how good it is, then it really should have been.

I will now blog furiously (with minimal spoilage) about just how good it is.

Right from the start.
Read More

connections
I have just spent an hour of a cold, wet Finnish summer afternoon, transported back to being 6 years old in 1978, watching the first episode of “Connections” by James Burke.

What an incredible series that was, and what a magnificent storyteller y’man Burke is. Depressingly, I can’t see anything like that getting made now, although Schama‘s History of Britain is probably the nearest in terms of compelling, rhetorical, factual television.

The theme of interconnectedness and interdependence of civilisations, technology and nature is one that probably needs telling powerfully these days, too.

Oh, and dig that seventies on-screen typography.

More:
» Palmer’s James Burke Fan Companion
» Wikipedia entry on James Burke

Alternative-3 was a hoax TV documentary broadcast in the late 1970s.

It maintained there was a conspiracy between the scientific, military and economic elites of the world to escape a forthcoming planetary catastrophy by colonising Mars…

It was parodied perhaps by Douglas Adams with his Golgafrincham telephone-sanitisers, and shown at one of the Strange Attractor events in London.

So far, I’ve only managed to find some bad quality realmedia exerpts online, which is why I’m asking Ben’s new project, the Culture Lazyweb if anyone has an better digital version anywhere on the net.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,085 other followers