Mobile Fun Factory

So we (Garry Bulmer, David Checkley, Rachel Sutton, Kim Wall and I) eventually finished building a Mobile Fun Factory for The Public in West Bromwich.

Designed as a mobile unit that is interactive in its own right as well as providing a method of displaying work made during the summer programme’s activities, the Mobile Fun Factory had quite a brief to fulfil. It also had to fit in the goods lift.

Here’s what we made…

Mobile Fun Factory

It sports:

  • A 42″ screen on the top
  • A smaller touchscreen screen in the Secret Cinema (behind the velvety curtains)
  • Some amazing velvety curtains
  • A camera sending a live feed to a screen on the other side of the unit (pleasingly infra-red)
  • A chimney that glows in a vaguely TARDIS-style manner
  • A scrolling LED matrix
  • Lots of mesh for attaching artworks to
  • A mahoosive blackboard
  • A Control Panel full of big pressy buttons, thunky switches, rainbow LEDs and random noise samples
  • A periscope
  • Glowing circles (really quite pleasing!)
  • And the best boot-up sequence ever (see below)

Mobile Fun Factory boot-up sound from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

And it still fits in the goods lift!

Well, sort of, the periscope and the chimney have to be detached, but we figured out ways of doing this in a reasonably straightforward manner whilst still having them secure once re-attached.

Here are a few photos (more here):

Waiting to receive and disseminate Fun

The gorgeous curtains for the Secret Cinema. What’s inside? Only one way to find out…

Nice kaleidoscope effect when the periscope points at the LED hoop

The LED hoop in all its glory. It also runs Conway’s Game of Life, which is rather nice.

The Control Panel – an easy way to lose track of time as you explore the different sound samples and admire the blinkenlights. All those switches and buttons do something; can you figure them out?

Photos of several of the bits don’t really do them justice, so here’s a quick video to give more of a flavour:

Mobile Fun Factory from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

The Mobile Fun Factory is now parked up in the main entrance atrium to The Public awaiting your interaction pleasure. Go have a play.

17 ways…

A (silent) video accompaniment to the previous post:

17 Ways… from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

Manifesto for mediascapes

During the Almost Perfect residency, I had the chance to try out a few different types of thingies running off the mscape platform, but towards my 4th week in Banff I was starting to question the typical delivery format of iPaq and headphones. I couldn’t see how wandering around on your own, gingerly holding a foreign touch-screen device whilst plugged into headphones and being isolated from your surroundings related to my practice.

Nothing against those other mscapes I experienced, it just wasn’t a canon I wanted to contribute to.

Here’s what we were using to run the mscape player off:


A sight that might make some techies salivate, but kind of intimidating at the same time. These would generally be used in conjunction with some fairly substantial headphones. As a result you could very easily be worrying about if you’d pressed some of the wrong buttons, accidentally nudged the touch screen or whether you were easy prey for some street crime …rather than concentrating on whatever sounds were being delivered to via the headphones.

Things started to get interesting when people paraded down the street en masse but, for the most part, the experience stayed with the person wearing the headphones.

Cue my manifesto for mediascapes:


Be visible (i.e. make it obvious that something is happening, rather than skulking around wearing headphones and looking at a small screen); and be audible (inflict your happening onto innocent passers-by).

These starting points later opened out into further thinkings about how to make mediascape experiences shared experiences and how to make mediascape experiences playful experiences.

How these thoughts manifested themselves was through a quick prototype alternative housing for the iPaq.

First I hacked (in the non-tech sense) apart and rewired some mp3 player speakers and then I mounted them inside a cardboard tube.



I then had something big with a strong physical that you were very aware of carrying; something a bit shonky and made from very familiar, very non-intimidating materials; something that was loud; and something just a little bit ridiculous. A tool, a plaything, a conversation starter.

Actually, I had two.

With a diameter of influence of about 20 metres each.

With two of these ‘talking sticks’ I had a way of encouraging interaction between people using the mediascape. We also started up a few conversations with people who had no idea what was going on …but wanted to find out!


Like when Emergent Game‘s egorbeaver made friends with the ticket inspector or when Paul and some other Digbeth Invigilators found themselves in the position of having to make sure an inebriated stranger got back to her hotel safely I find these instances of when a thing bleeds out of its original context and reaches another layer of participant very interesting.

It was also fascinating to see how changing the interface for the mediascape changed the way people conducted themselves. Admittedly I don’t have a huge amount of experience with mediascapes, and wandering around the corners of campus listening to piano strings being broken is probably going to foster a fairly light-hearted reaction, but there’s something different going on here, right?




careful now










[Update: And there’s some video footage here too.]

In C for Open Road

open road

I always knew I wouldn’t be able to realise my full-blown ideas for a locative media version of In C whilst I was in Banff this November: there just wasn’t time to organise the tech, the musicians, the recording and the power issues.

Still, not one to be put off by technicalities, I set off for a walk and a low-tech version. In C for musicians, speakers, GPS and open road.

map and chalk

Armed with a map and some chalk I walked along a road that had been closed to vehicles for the Winter. Taking each of the motifs in turn, I walked until what felt like the appropriate moment to pause and draw the music onto the road’s surface.

really open road

I’m not sure how long I walked for or how far I travelled, only that I got up to the 17th motif before my chalk ran out. This, I decided, was the end point for the piece.

Only not quite.

My minor obsession with In C is tied up in with chance meetings, interactions and collaborations with various people outside the group directly involved with the residency I was on and, as such, somehow really underlines the true value of residencies such as these. I still had 4 more sticks of chalk (kindly donated by Laura, thankyou!) and decided that rather than continuing in a different colour, I should open things up to further collaboration from other people.


A kit containing instructions, the remaining chalk, the score for In C and a map was passed on to Dohi Moon – one of the In C musicians from the concert – for interpretation and, perhaps, adding another layer of chalk to the road.


I’m not sure what happens next, I just wanted to give it back.

update: Dohi Moon has posted a photo of her interpretation.

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