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Masters Show!

29 Aug

Saturday 27 August, 2011

A year ago that date was impossible to imagine and seemed so very far away, but how quickly it arrived.

What would I have done? What would be the result of this enormous tangent to my life..?

Now we know…

The morning started off with an introduction from Prof Tom Inns, Dean of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD), another intro from course director Hazel White and then a series of talks from Masters students past and present.

While we tried to capture the talks on Video only three worked out… mine is posted here and Hazel’s and past Masters student Danielle Hu will follow soon.

Looking forward to Tuesday’s Healthcare day and the rest of the week I’ll be around for tours and chats, so please get in touch if you are interested in a viewing.

You can find out more about the projects by:

• visiting the official DJCAD website,

• following the hashtag #mastersshow on twitter (@onthesuperfly)

• or using the same hashtag on Instagram where I’m collating images of the projects in various stages of completion

It’s been a fantastic year, thanks to all concerned:
I have had fantastic support from Rick Curran who designed the web elements of this project. Kenji Lamb (JISC RSC) for allowing me to test out games at Game To Learn and speak about The Mystery of the QR Codes at Open for Education; and Tristan Henderson (St Andrews University) for the opportunity to send PHD summer school students around St Andrews searching out QR codes in the rain
I would also like to thank: Derek Robertson (Learning and Teaching Scotland), Gary Penn (Denki), Divya Jindal-Snape and Fiona McGarry (Dundee University).

But finally special thanks to my family, my wife in particular, for giving me this opportunity.

Please visit us and see what we have to offer… we’ve done all this great ‘stuff’ and we want to do something with it!

Meta Maiden… part two

25 Jul

A 'real' picture of Maiden front-man Bruce Dickinson

In August of 2000 I travelled with my wife to Glasgow’s City Centre music festival, ‘Glasgow Green‘. I have many memories of that day… the afternoon was glorious sunshine while the evening was wet and foggy! I was gutted (and grumpy…) that we arrived too late to see a band whose name I can’t even remember now… and the highlight was seeing Beck, for the second time that year, put on a great show. I took with me my newly purchased Fuji 3.4 mega pixel digital camera (check me out!). I can clearly recall feeling quite nervous and vulnerable as, in 2000, the glow of the little backlit screen that we take so much for granted in 2011, was drawing attention to an unusual and expensive device. Many bands and palls were captured on that device that day… stills and video..!

Like I said, many ‘crystal clear’ memories of the day. None quite so vivid however than the memory of accidentally deleting all of those images, the very next day, while demonstrating the ease of use to my dad! Hmm…

I started off my last blog post with the news that within two hours of the concert I was at finishing there were already two clips of the show on YouTube… within 24hours there were almost 60.

On Wednesday (20 July, 2011) I was at an Iron Maiden gig in Glasgow. I last saw them in the same venue in 2006. While the collection of this data is hardly scientific, it’s useful in that, arguably, they are ‘like-for-like’ concerts five years apart (same band, same venue, most probably a large overlap in fans attending with a few new fans too young to attend five years ago…) and therefore comparable and reasonable data upon which to make comparisons and assumptions.

As the gig kicked off, the second thing I noticed (after the huge screens.. grrr) was how many cameras and camera phones were being pointed stage wards. The increase I would roughly approximate as ten-fold. Every fourth or fifth person would occasionally hold up an image capturing device of some description to document, in stills or in video, the ‘moment’.

Is it just me or …? Using a camera at a gig is challenging operation. Keeping the device steady, avoiding heads in the foreground, checking the battery level… oh, and trying to watch the band through the two inch screen. The irony is that all of the ‘moments’ that are captured during ‘live’ experiences, such as this, are the ones that are not actually ‘experienced’..!

A picture of a picture! One of the big screens at Maiden's show!

I understand that what’s captured is ‘part’ of the ‘thing’ we experienced and so of course, for many reasons, it ‘is’ valid. BUT, there is no doubt that for those few minutes or even seconds, we are actually being taken ‘out of’ the ‘moment’ and into a different experience altogether.

I think on some level, anyone who has tried to use a camera in these, or similar circumstances, understands that it’s awkward but we put up with it because… well, all sorts of varied and personal reasons. Amongst them, I assume, is the ‘evidence‘ factor: “I was at the gig, here is my evidence.”

So we endure the inconvenience (probably without even considering it), because the outcome has value to us. (Had someone tasked us with filming the whole show then I’m sure we would feel differently and less enamoured by the process.)

So, what do we take from this… that more people are using digital cameras and YouTube than five years ago? Well, kind of, but presumably we all knew that already. The fact that within 24hours there were as many clips of the 2011 show as had accumulated over the past five years of the 2006 show is interesting, but again, not too surprising given that YouTube only came into existence in 2005. However, the immediacy of the first two uploads less than an hour of the band being off stage ‘is’ interesting to me. Presumably uploading to YouTube at the earliest opportunity was in their heads as they were filming.

With some of the games I’ve set up I’ve tried to encourage people to share the experience in ‘real time’. What came out of the ‘Space Hop‘ experience was that while it was an interesting idea to people, it wasn’t ‘convenient’ enough… again it comes down to being taken out of the moment. There is another tangent here to be explored in my next post and it is ‘Twitter‘… the communication tool of choice for those ‘in the moment’…

How many camera/phones can you see..?

However… back to the cameras… if there is a future market for this kind of ‘immediate feedback’ of images and video and sharing the story in ‘real time’ how can it be optimised so that the author remains in the moment, not missing out on the experience. I think applications like Instagram have shown that there are creative solutions to sharing in an immediate and engaging way. And it’s convenient..!  Which in this case means it does a very good job of being simple enough so as ‘not’ to detract from what you are ‘meant’ to be doing and not taking you ‘out of the moment’…

Another avenue I’m interested in exploring is ‘GoPro video cameras’ that you can mount on your person and preset it to automatically capture images or video and even time-lapse. Maybe something like GoPro that could automatically upload images or time-lapse on-the-fly without any intervention would be very cool!

It’s fun to share this stuff. I’m grateful to @sirchutney for the use of images taken at the Newcastle gig and I enjoyed viewing his Flickr stream of the night as well as the video that he put together. But is capturing all of this video and still images diminishing the experience of being there? We tend to think of them as ‘memories captured’ never to be lost… but are they really helping us or are we relying on them to the point that our memories are getting lazy?

Memories are generated by many senses, not just by sight and sound… are we placing too much emphasis on the visual at the expense of the smells, the dynamics, the feelings..? Are we sacrificing the moment in order to have a ‘copy’ of it?

While I did lose a lot of images and video from Glasgow Green I still have pretty clear memories of the day. Despite not having any images of that day (from my perspective at least…) I can’t say that I’m any worse off as a result (and yet I have more than 16,000 photos on my laptop that span just over two years…).

What do you think… comment please or tweet me @onthesuperfly

Meta Maiden

21 Jul

Thursday 21st July, 1am

It’s 30mins since I got in the door from having watched the metal band Iron Maiden at Glasgow’s SECC. It’s about 2hrs since ‘Maiden’ walked off stage. Already I’ve been able to find two clips on Youtube of the show I just watched.

(UPDATE: Within 24 hours there are over 58 listed videos of the show on YouTube. Already as many as the total number of videos available for the show from 2006.)

At least two things were unsurprising this evening:

1. Maiden were excellent as ever and once again upped their game…

2. Despite this I’m still thinking about my project…

I don’t get the opportunity to go to many gigs these days. The last time I was at the SECC was to see the Pixies in October 2009… so the ringing in my ears has long since past.

However, I would like to draw some interesting comparisons from the last time that I saw Iron Maiden; in time they will explain the Youtube reference.

On arrival at the SECC’s Hall 4 I was disappointed to find video screens. I don’t remember Maiden having video screens in the past and while I know they are designed to enhance the audiences viewing pleasure I don’t like them. I never have. Now however, due to my research I am able to articulate more clearly (to myself and anyone who’ll listen) exactly why that might be… although I think my common sense had already worked it out!

Jim Banister in his presentation to BBC Worldwide talks about 3 forms of Storytelling and he uses the example of a Soccer game to explain the differences. They are Story Telling, Story Forming and Story Dwelling. To the folks at home watching the game on TV Story Telling is being employed; the game is being fed to the viewers via the camera operators and the director (the narrator) who dictates what it is you see. The players themselves are involved in the game and therefore Story Dwelling is taking place… they ‘are’ the story. For the crowd in the stand Story Forming is taking place; they are not directly involved in the game but the game is certainly influenced by their presence. Imagine the atmosphere in the stadium if only the players and the managers were present…

So, what’s this got to do with video screens..?

Well, at the gig tonight these same three variations of ‘story’ were also present. The band were Story Dwelling, I was in the crowd Story Forming, but for those whose gaze were lured to the siren-like screens storytelling was in play by the dictatorship of the master of camera puppets… (I know.. I’m mixing my meta(l)phors…)

I’ve always felt that my experience at a show was being compromised by the video screens. I want a memory of the experience itself… I’ll rather save the ‘dvd-like’ experience for home when I have no alternative.  It’s very easy to be taken in by the big pictures on the screen and forget that there is actually a stage to look at… the folk on stage might look quite small, but that’s all part of the concert experience. For me anyway. I don’t want memories that have been crafted through manipulated images, I want the ‘real-thing’!

…but it’s not just the video screens… it gets worse…

…in the image above a fella was taking a pic of the screens..! (a bit blurry I know but the glow to the right is the stage and the one to the left is the screen… the fella with his hand in the air has a camera in his hand…) Occasionally the camera operators would even get the screens in shot while capturing the band in full swing… how meta is it going to get (a photo of a screen with a screen on it… I fear we may explode!)..?

Is this healthy..?

Could we could be doing this from home!

What do you think? Let me know… more soon..!

Narrative is the Key!

7 Mar

Had some very interesting discussions around the area of Games Based Learning (GBL).

However, while there are examples of learning through the mechanics of specific games such as Nintendogs, the main focus seems to be the ‘situated’ learning aspect… creating a context within which to teach other skills. What this actually means is that the game is being used as a conduit for narrative.. which I admit they are very good at, but it’s not really what I was looking for. Besides which, if I am to work in an area that relies heavily upon it’s capacity for narrative I think I would rather go direct to source and work ‘with’ the narrative… which is kind of where I started…

What ‘has’ been niggling me is the fact that my strongest memories of games are where the narrative took over.. either because it was so compelling (Fighting Fantasy Role Playing books) or because the game created a space where narrative was created in the experience of the game (Elite) or the narrative created through sharing the experience of competition with a friend (ZX Galaxians). Non of these games had sound or colour.. one of them wasn’t even a video game. Each of them was, what we termed, ‘addictive’.

ZX Galaxians (1981)

One of my discussions was with a secondary teacher, Nick Hood who has been openly sceptical about GBL and it’s place in his classroom. However, his partner works as a primary teacher and has created her own paper based game, loosely based on the Facebook game Farmville, called Parkville. Nick clearly saw the value in this game in the context of the primary classroom but it seems to me that, again, this is narrative..  (in addition, from what he had already told me about his own teaching methods it seemed to me that narrative was a key component…) so I suggested to Nick that, ultimately, what we are talking about is creating a context for a narrative and that the graphics, sound, etc of games, whether on a computer screen or otherwise, were just the cream and that the real substance was in the story:

What this brings me back to is the strength of narrative and it’s place in teaching, learning, playing, etc… Is there a ‘narrative rock’ that has been left unturned..? Is there a new way of assembling these elements of narrative, play, games and technology that would meet the needs of learning or other areas where engagement is key, such as advertising..  …  ..?

This is a presentation that, back in November, encapsulated for me my interest in narrative and engagment. Jim is a Transmedia Consultant to the likes of BBC Worldwide no less and this video, in 8 short minutes, concisely identifies three areas of narrative ‘story telling’, ‘story forming’ and ‘story dwelling’ and their place in our lives. Add to those @Documentally’s ‘Story Making’ (which I think sits squarely between (or combines) Story Forming and Story Dwelling) then you have a tempting collection of narrative domains and playgrounds in which to place yourself or the player, learner, audience, etc…

Jim’s presentation directly influenced how I approached the design of the NEoN Knights QR hunt and i’m sure will continue to influence my further adventures in narrative..!

The NATURE OF SOCIAL NARRATIVE By Jim Banister from SpectrumDNA on Vimeo.