Bees in a Tin line-up announced!

It is with very great pleasure that we’ve just announced the details for Bees in a Tin, an event I’ve co-curated with Hannah Nicklin and Jen Southern.

Bees in a Tin will feature talks and workshops from key makers and thinkers from around the country as well as two panel sessions for audience questions. If you’re interested in the spaces where the arts, science, technology, and games crash into one another, apologise, and then buy each other a drink: then this is for you.

The talking throne made by East London Kinetics

Even if we do say so ourselves, the line-up is outstanding, with contributions from

  • Dr. Rebekka Kill
  • Kate Andrew
  • Holly Gramazio
  • Hamish MacPherson
  • Stuart Nolan
  • Nigel Reid
  • Tim Wright
  • Pete Ashton
  • Katie Day
  • Alice O’Connor
  • Gareth Briggs
  • Henry Cooke

You can find out more about them all and what they’ll be talking/doing about on the Many & Varied website.

We’re also very excited to have a keynote commission from Sarah Angliss:

According to Sarah, the stage is a tricky place to deploy a machine with an unusual interface. Your audience may be encountering the interface for the first time. They’ll have to grasp its function as the music unfolds, even though they can only see and hear it in action, rather than get their own hands on it. These days, musicians often have to face the challenge of laptop-based interfaces, where so much of the function is embedded in invisible, intangible code. As Sarah talks about these issues and her experience with unusual machines on stage, she looks at the importance of ‘coupling’ – in particular, the audience’s sense of cause and effect between a musician’s actions and sound. What are we gaining – or losing – by loosening this coupling? Does it matter if the audience have no intuitive sense of the musician’s influence on the music? And how can we deploy coupling to turn any gig into an unforgettable event – one which could never be replaced simply by listening to recorded music at home.

Tickets are only £4.50. Buy some.

Where the heart is

ripples

I’m interested in how we connect to distant places.

A lot of my work prompts people to consider their immediate surroundings, but what of those places we feel some part of us is in, even when our bodies are elsewhere? Are you homesick? Do you long to travel to a particular place? Are you missing someone you can’t be with right now?

When a GPS Orchestra workshop seeded sleepless imaginations of being able to harness bee power, it got me thinking about the waggle dance bees use to communicate the location of good sources of pollen with other bees back at the hive. Since then I’ve been working on developing an object that signals to you your relative location with these significant places.

I want something that feels special.
Something that feels as precious and as fragile as the emotions and memories the person holding it has invested into the process.
Something that makes you slow down, something that encourages you to be contemplative.

I want a conversation that lets me spend time thinking about the places that are significant to me.
I’m curious about the places that belong to other people. The people that belong to other places.

I want to be stood on the deck of a sailing boat at dawn and have it remind me where home is.

Place interfaces – thoughts on bubblewrap, bees and lumps of clay

Here’s the audio and visual for the Lunchtime Talk I did on Friday for the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol. I’m afraid I couldn’t add the wax pods

In the talk I outline how I first got critical of interfaces and then use 3 recent projects (Colony, Dust and Waggle) to talk around approaches and experiences relating to using physical interfaces to mediate between people and place as well as between people and tech (and people and other people).

Place Interfaces – upcoming lunchtime talk at the Pervasive Media Studio

On Friday the 23rd of November I’ll be back at the Pervasive Media Studio again for a lunchtime talk. This time though, I’ll be stood at the front of the room…

Colony Prototyping

I’ll be talking about recent/current projects Colony, Dust and Waggle and their interactions, interfaces and materials. The full title of the talk is Place interfaces – thoughts on bubblewrap, bees and lumps of clay.

Further details are available on the pm studio website

Museum Camp: interesting digital stuff that doesn’t involve screens

On Monday I attended Museum Camp. As with MuseumNext in 2009 it was a) rather marvellous and b) a stimulating place to discuss ideas that relate directly and indirectly to my practice. Thanks to all involved!

Hello. We are interested in Museums and we want to think about...

I hadn’t intended to lead a session, but as a spur-of-the-moment decision I offered to instigate a session on ‘interesting digital stuff that doesn’t involve screens’. This was largely from a desire to carry on the conversation that had begun with my recent residency at Coventry Artspace linking in with Heritage Open Days, but also fly the flag for this other face of digital that perhaps institutions aren’t aware of.

I was really happy to see so many people come along to take part in the session. Sitting-on-tables-or-the-floor room only! This post is intended as a reference for those that were in the session and those that weren’t able to join us: pulling out the main areas of discussion and linking to some of the examples mentioned.

I started off by talking a bit about my background and why I was interested in interesting digital stuff that doesn’t involve screens: my journey through gradually more expanded forms of people+place and then influences from pervasive games (I like this definition) and the hackspace/makerspace movement.

I sat on a table and waved my hands a lot as I talked about two recent digital installations that encapsulated a lot of stuff I’m passionate about: making people look up; affecting how people interact with a space; instigating collaboration; making people think and speculate and do experiments to try and find out.

Trapeze Monkey from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

Secret Police Disco from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

Rebecca Shelley took some comprehensive notes on the conversation that followed as has been kind enough to share them, so here’s where we went from there…

But how much does it cost and is it something we can realistically implement?

Your local hackspace as a resource for know-how and possibly people with skills looking for an interesting project to use them on:
Birmingham: www.fizzpop.org
Coventry: Tekwizz
Hackerspaces wiki (includes a listing of active spaces around the world)
Hackspace Foundation has a UK list

Not got a local hackspace? Why not host one?
Museum 2.0 post
At the time of MuseumNext 2009 The Life Science Centre in Newcastle had got a long way towards planning to host one, not sure how far they got with implementing it.

Arduino is the platform I use: a small computer but also a community that shares a massive amount of information. A standard board costs about £25 and a lot of the sensors are available now as things aimed at a hobbyist market. It’s probably people’s time that’ll be the main expense.

Sensors include distance-measurers, motion sensors, noise detectors, humidity sensors… You can link up sensor inputs to a variety of different outputs, with some decision-making in between if the result is this, then do this.

Remember…

Later on we reminded ourselves that the behaviour or effect we wanted to induce should lead the design, rather than the technology.

Use what you have in terms of resources and the space.

Low-tech is as valid as high tech.

Other technologies you can harness

Magic vests, silly hats and balloons.

Secrets, missions, games, small groups of people who are in-the-know and pantomine (as seen with the Secret Police Disco as people who had found it tried to enable others to make the discovery too).

How do you set/stage the space?

How you describe what’s going on and the process by which people enter that activity (or not).

Do I see it as performance? No – mostly because the idea would terrify me! – but I do see it as performative sometimes, and I’m interested in spectacle and different types of audiences that observe it.

I tend not to emphasise art (it’s scary to a lot of people!)
I tend not to emphasise technology (it’s scary to a lot of people!)

Can you pique people’s curiosity? Reward those that seek out the hidden things?

The Heritage Open Day event that Trapeze Monkey and the Secret Police Disco were a part of had a short paragraph and the end of the heritage-orientated handout that said I’d been in residence and things were ‘available for discovery’.

Question from Nikki: How does this sit with pedagogical aims of institutions? Does it matter if only a small number of people make the discovery?

[Silence…]

How do you connect these experiences with the outside?

One participant talked about experience using gamification, linking in to people’s online social networks and harnessing the technology people carried in their pockets.

Another reminded us that not everyone has smart phones and I reminded us this was a session about non-screen-based approaches!

We then talked about the urge to share stories/experiences and possibly also how to close the feedback loop and do something useful with the contributions coming in from social media (or I might be conflating that with later discussions).

Education and fun

I noticed a few undertones that seemed to suggest these two are mutually exclusive…
(I disagree.)

Flows of visitors

Institutions are aware that visitors tend to stay in the areas that are more populated. Can we use interactive installations to draw people into the less well-trodden areas?

We talked about conferring agency, and how this brings people back if they can see their actions are having a direct effect on the space.

Someone talked about the audio piece Shhh… at the Victoria and Albert Museum and how it had enabled things like men transgressing into the ladies loos.

Can I give some examples of exemplary projects?

Um, this threw me a little as I think this is what I’m trying to move towards understanding through getting more of the museums’ points of views. I fell back on describing things I had encountered that had resulted in me having a powerful experience.

Symphony of a Missing Room, Lundahl & Seitl part of the 2011 Fierce Festival Hannah Nicklin’s thoughts and a This is Tomorrow article.

Ran on blindfolds, binaural recordings and the gentlest of touches leading you down the rabbit hole.

We talked again about spectacle, and returning to see what things look like from the outside. Also buying in to an activity and submitting to the experience.

Blast Theory were mentioned as the technology big guns. I’d seen some of their control room for I’d Hide You. It’s a lot of tech!

Reminded me to say that things will go wrong. Embrace it! (And design for it!)

This linked us back to an open approach and fostering a sense of agency and ownership – you can playtest your prototypes and people will appreciate it, it doesn’t matter if it’s not polished and flawless.

Hide&Seek’s Sandpit approach (and use of low tech).

I also mentioned the previous week’s Heritage Sandbox showcase and the Ghosts in the Garden project at the Holburne Museum. Smartphone technology wrapped up in an intriguing interface and an engaging narrative.

I’m totally into this as an approach and have used cardboard and simple electronics to replace touchscreens and turn using what’s basically a satnav into a team activity for 5 people.

Worried about a lack of budget? Cardboard props are great because they flag up that this is something running on imagination-power and you can do anything with that!

A Song for Skatz: using The Anticipator from nikkipugh on Vimeo.



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