My Week In Happy: Digital creativity, Future Everything

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Make it Digital

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I created my first web content on a BBC Micro at age 12.

One of the things I really like to do is step outside of my world as a BBC web producer and find out how other people are being creative with digital media.

Writing this entry feels particularly timely as my department, BBC Learning, is looking for external partners to work with for ‘Make it Digital‘ – our focus on digital creativity for 2015.

In the 1980s the BBC Micro computer landed in schools across the UK. I was lucky enough to get my hands on one and contributed to the Domesday Project – an ambitious initiative to crowdsource local information through pupils.

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In 2011, the BBC ran a project to surface all the data captured on the huge laser discs that came with each computer, and I was delighted to see that my name had been included in the credits – my first contribution t o web content at just 12 years old.

Building on the huge success of the BBC Micro in the 1980s, the BBC are looked for partners interested in our project to ‘create a hands-on learning experience that allows any level of young coder from absolute beginner to advanced maker to get involved and be part of something exciting’.

If you want to apply for this you need to do it right away!
Expressions of interest close at 2pm Monday 8th December.

Hyper Island

So, on Wednesday I visited Hyper Island to take part in their very first ‘Learning Lab’. Hyper Island offers students an alternative to conventional academic institutions, with opportunities ranging from apprenticeships to MA programmes across the globe.

Learning takes place in Hyper Island’s own studios and, vitally, within industry settings. The Learning Lab was a teaserf for their latest MA programme, Digital Experience Design, which launches in April 2015.

The evening was hosted by Lauren Currie, Catherine McHenry and Tash Wilcocks from Hyper Island and Tom Higham from Future Everything (Manchester’s annual festival of ideas).

We quickly broke up into teams and got started with rapid idea generation (Post-It notes and marker pens at the ready), we worked rapidly to identify ‘broken’ aspects of further education, locate ‘pain points’ and work up a solution.

I worked with a graphic design lecturer, digital creative and filmmaker to prototype ‘Dean’s Den’ – an informal, non-hierarchical space (think bean bags and throws), where pitches for small sums of money for project can be made by students and lecturers, but the decision has to be made there and then within the Den and not deferred elsewhere.

It was great to meet so many enthusiastic and friendly folks and I’m very much looking forward to Hyper Island’s next Learning Lab.

Manchester Digital

Popped my head round the door of the Manchester Digital Christmas party on Thursday at the Cane & Grain in the fashionable Northern Quarter. Didn’t intend to stay for long but got chatting to lots of friendly people from across the industry from hosting companies to recruiters and games developers. It’s great to feel part of such a vibrant tech and digital scene in Manchester.

We often talk about making Manchester a Top 5 city in the UK for Tech, but for me it already has the top slot.

My Week in Happy: A harvest of happiness

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At the heart of this blog is the belief that we can take responsibility for our own happiness. This does not mean we can necessarily control how we feel, rather that the things we choose do and the people we choose to interact with have a powerful effect on how we feel about ourselves and others. As I ask in this earlier blog:

Why wait for someone else to set the scene when you can run the show yourself?

I’m going to keep details of this week’s activities brief as the theme I want to explore is how our own positivity can be reflected back to us by the actions of others.

Monday

Was thrilled that the Safer Internet Day project I worked on earlier this year was nominated for a BBC Production Award for collaboration across the corporation.

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Jacqueline Jossa (EastEnders’ Lauren) did us a nice film about webcam hacking

We didn’t win in our category, that honour went very deservingly to D-Day at 70 coverage across TV, radio and online. BBC Production pulled out all the stops to make the nominees and winners of awards feel that their contributions and output felt really celebrated, with famous telly faces presenting each award.

I have to say that, for me, Nicholas Parsons stole the show with his sharp wit and midnight blue moccasins.

Wednesday

Last week I wrote about Lou Cordwell’s talk (Lou is founder of Manchester digital agency magneticNorth) at the @SheSaysMCR event.

I got chatting to her afterwards and was chuffed when she said she’d heard of Cheeruplove.com. I was even more chuffed when she invited me to the magneticNorth screening of Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets at The Deaf Institute.

I’ve always been a fan of Jarvis Cocker so I was delighted to watch this cute film about Pulp’s last gig in their home town of Sheffield.

I also ran into fellow BBC-er, executive product manager, Lucie McLean (@luciemclean) and had a great chat about projects we were working on and online safety for children.

Friday

I was delighted when an invitation to the launch party for Manchester Science Festival at MOSI was wafted under my nose.

I’m really excited about what’s lined up for this year – regarding Robin Ince’s gig last week as a bit of a pre-warm-up. This year there’s a bumper crop of events and activities across several sites covering everything from 3D printing to ‘Weather & Climate DIY’.

I was also lucky enough to get some cut-price tickets for me and my friend @angieokchan to see ‘Not I, Footfalls, and Rockaby’. This is a Samuel Beckett trilogy performed by very talent actor Lisa Dwan while the audience are plunged into complete darkness.

The result was an intense and powerful experience. In the first play, the audience can only make out a small glowing spot of light hovering several feet above the stage. Only by looking closely was able to see that this illuminated Dwan’s mouth as she ranted through a stream of consciousness that it seemed impossible that one person could sustain.

 Sunday

It’s great when Manchester Girl Geeks get together – literally anything can happen. Our ‘Show & Tell’ session at ThoughtWorks sparked a number of planned and impromptu talks on everything from mathematics to cosmetics. Girl Geeks chair Katie (@stecks) heroically hosted the event and gave a presentation minus her voice.

I’d also like to give a special mention to Gemma Hill (@Gem_Hill) who gave an extremely enthusiastic and energetic talk about her new project to create an open source ‘choose your own adventure’ game. I’m really interested to see how it develops.

Note: Do we need watches to tell us more than the time?

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My watch is not a smart watch, but looks pretty cool with its built-in calculator.

BBC News Technology journalist and Click presenter Alex Hudson has been somewhat prolific of late. I know this because I have him in my Circles in Google+ – a space which I am still experimenting with.

In Alex’s article, Do we need watches to tell us more than the time?, asks why smartwatches i.e. connected devices have not made it to the mainstream marketplace.

He cites Knight Rider as the main cultural reference for children of the 1970s / 80s like me, in which tech-forward car Kit is controlled by David Hasselhoff speaking into a futuristic watch.

This is not the case for me, as it was a commercial featuring one-time Doctor Who star Peter Davison and his showbiz wife Angie Dickinson trying to flog some saucepans with a ‘lifetime guarantee’.

To date I have been unable to find a high quality clip of this advertisement, but here’s a slightly ropey one so you get the general idea.

The upshot of Alex’s article is that tech is just not quite there for smartwatches. While the big players like Casio, Samsung and (possibly) Apple continue to tinker, smaller start-ups like Pebble are getting in the act by crowd-sourcing their projects.

Why am I interested in this?

In imagining wearable ‘care labels’ I have focused on highly visible designs which could be worn, for example, as badges in the ‘Star Trek communicator’ style – read my first thoughts here and additional thoughts about a possible role in my project for mobile devices here.

A wristwatch could be another location where care labels could be displayed. Possibly in a more discreet way, giving the wearer a greater amount of choice about who sees the labels and who doesn’t.

In addition to this, one of the main advantages of smartwatches is considered to be near-field communication. It’s interesting to contemplate a world where not only could we communicate our daily care labels but pick up those of other people within range.