Chris Speed & an Internet of Ghosts…

1 Apr

Classic case of serendipity this week… been trying to meet up with a Computer Science chap from St Andrews Uni since November when I did the NEoN Knights QR hunt… finally got a day that suited us both, which also happened to be on the same day as a new series of seminars happening in the Computer Science building.. first up Chris Speed!

Chris Speed is a research active designer working within the field of Digital Architecture, Human Geography and Social Computing developing new forms of spatial practice that transform our experience of the built environment. He is a Reader in Digital Architecture across the Schools of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art, where he teaches undergraduate, masters and supervises PhD students. (lifted from ECA website)

An Internet Of Things That Do Not Exist was Speed’s title.. stemming from the idea of ‘An Internet of Things’.. not something I was not familiar with but a glance at Wikipedia explains it as ‘a self-configuring wireless network of sensors whose purpose would be to interconnect all things’… this resonated with Jesse Schell’s lecture; sensors in every day objects and their increase in advertising, packaging, society, etc., as they become cheaper, etc..

I don’t know exactly what my project will be yet, i’m remaining as open minded as one can with only 5 months to go until delivery… but what I would expect to find, what interests me, can be boiled down to the following:

  • a good idea
  • a modicum of tech
  • an emphasis on real world experiences
  • collectively a device for telling or capturing stories

The projects Speed talked about matched my criteria precisely… the ideas behind them are inspiring, the tech was subtle and unobtrusive and the experiences were definitely in real life.

He describes memories and artifacts from the past, their representation and connections, as being ghosts… he made the connection between children (particularly in cinema) as metaphors for innocence and temporal connections… Spielberg’s Poltergeist being an example.. but most crucially the connection with technology through touch. I’m afraid what I’m writing doesn’t do it justice… but essentially going back to that creative openness found in children and exploring it as a a way of connecting with others was interesting to me and integral to what I want to achieve.

What I recommend is you check out the projects that Speed is associated with; in particular I was impressed with the Oxfam project where donators were asked for the story behind their donation. This was recorded and and the item tagged with a QR code and an RFID tag. Scanning the codes took you to a recording of the story… brilliant! And Oxfam’s income went up by 50% during the time of the project!

I came away from Speed’s lecture with a much broader scope of what my project could be.. the QR prototypes like NEoN Knights are just scratching the surface of what can be achieved, of what people can experience and share, through creative uses of very basic and freely available technology.

However, it doesn’t have to be all-singing-all-dancing… interestingly Speed related how, once his kids have finished a book he gets them to give a quick review, recorded on his iPhone. He then creates a QR code and sticks it in the back of the book… the scanned code links to recorded review online. How exiting! How cool! How amazing would it be for you, 5, 10, fifty  years from now, to go back in time to that moment, and listen to your own review as a 7 year old; not to mention playing it to your own 7 yr old… or your 7 year old grandchild!

A ‘ghost’ of a memory encapsulated in such a powerfully simple way.

Our kids will take this stuff for granted!

Of course, there is also the possibility that that book will leave your household and find a new owner someday. Someone who knows nothing about you, who you werre, where you were from… but hearing that same recording of ‘that someone’ who used to own this book.

But, maybe when you create your QR code for your own books, why not print off a few extra codes and drop them into the same book in Waterstones next time you’re in town… share your opinions guerilla style..!

Maybe I can get Waterstones on board..?

Inspiring projects…

Possibilities limited only by imagination…

Watch this space…

Projects of Chris Speed:

Thanks to Chris Speed… hope to catch up with you again at some point in the future…hopefully not via a QR code… 😉

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