Archive | Masters RSS feed for this section

Who Killed The QR Code?

25 Jul

Marble QR memorial in Pere Lachaise, Paris

Found this on the web via ‘Geek-eLeaks‘ and copied it here before it was removed… apparently a leaked obituary for the QR Code!

Obituary: QR Code

Who Killed The QR Code, aka Quick Response?
The sad irony of course was that the QR Code was anything but ‘quick‘ to catch on. Is this a tale of ‘tech‘ ahead of it’s time?

Created by the ‘Terminator II‘ sounding Denso Wave (a subsidiary of Toyota) in 1995, to keep track of car parts, the QR filtered through into public consciousness in the mid-naughties with the rise of the ‘smart phone‘! But it seems that the phones were smarter than the people and the QR just didn’t catch on. Speaking from Cupertino back in 2002 an iPhone said, “Sure I can make calls and text an stuff, but when you’ve paid $500 for a phone and $30 a month for two years you need a little extra, a little justification, to sweeten the purchase! QR did that for me in spades.. the geeks ‘lurve’ the Codes maan!
Clearly a hit with the early adopters QR Codes, along with more obviously useful applications, promted a whole slew of smart phone purchases and QR Codes could be found across the world on the office doors of computer scientists who would embed them with ZX81 jokes.
However, the ascension of the bell curve from early adopter obscurity to it’s big break with the early majority fan-boy status was an endurance test of K2 proportions. But even then it didn’t quite happen for the Code.
2009 was heralded as Year of the QR Code… as was 2010… and then 2011. To be fair 2011 looked promising, but even before the paint was dry on the ‘welcome‘ banners the backlash had started and signalled the demise of the Code called Quick. So what was it exactly that made the Code more Napoleon Dynamite than Justin Bieber?
Was it the casual association with Supermarket 1D barcodes?
Did it’s challenging appearance make it the Elephant Man in the room?
This may be one autopsy that remains unresolved.
This mystery may never be explained.
However, there is one designer who believes ‘mystery’ is ‘the key’. He also believes that the passing of the QR Code is much simpler than the media would have us believe.

Initially designer Jon Gill wasn’t enamoured by the QR code, he was much more interested in the much ‘cooler’ GPS technology, but the QRs accessibility made it perfect for his projects. In early 2009 he started an outdoor visual arts exhibition project called SuperFly. While QRs were on the cards from the start it would be late 2010 before they found their way onto a SuperFly street poster treasure hunt called NEoN Knights.

Gill says of QR Codes“They are a great tool for ‘mystery’! Once you’ve scanned one you can’t wait to find out what lies behind the next!”
Gill developed a close working relationship with the Code, some would say too close… but undeterred by the naysayers Gill persevered with a single minded creative passion. Of the Codes untimely relegation and controversial Wikipedia entry deletion, he says, “The problem, as I see it, was that too much responsibility was placed on the shoulders of the QR code. The QR is a key, a doorway if you will, to somewhere interesting, engaging, and worthy of the mystery implied by the enigmatic pixelated box that bought you here. The trouble was, while there were lots of really cool and creative uses of the QR they were swamped by a deluge of rubbish from ‘’ who just didn’t understand what to do with them.”
‘Less than Creative’ advertising and PR is nothing new. Open a magazine. Turn on a TV. Any day of the week. You’ll never be far from a steaming pile of marketing manure. But on this occasion it was the QR Code carrying the can. By early 2012 “doing a QR” had superseded “doing a Murdoch” (which, only months before had superseded “doing a Lucan“) as the street-side nomenclature for ‘disappearing without a trace‘.
The collapse of the QR Code would almost take Gill with it, although it appears he was doing a fine job by himself… he laments, “I was the QR-go-to-guy… the QR-go-to-superguy..! But when the QR Code folded I was seen as a one trick pony… I was a laughing stock and… well… folk assumed I’d go with it.
I’ll have the last laugh though… with ‘HooLED-Hoops’ my line of Hula-hoops embedded with LEDs that spell out pre-programmable messages… they’re going to completely change the way we communicate with each other… we’ll be bigger than Twitter!”
Gill may well be the architect of his own demise but the definitive killer of the QR Code remains a mystery, open for debate. Although it would seem that the return of the QR code is not. While many believed that the technology would live on such was the backlash toward it in the industry that, as a standard, it was completely deleted. When quizzed on any possible reinstatement an industry expert said, “It’ll be a ‘Adobe Flash’ day in Apple‘ before that happens.
Q.R.I.P. indeed.
A cautionary tale…?
…or could this mean that the death of the QR Code is imminent?
Clearly QReativity is called for…
What are your thoughts?
Comments below…

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..!

Fiction ‘improves social understanding’

8 Jul

UPDATE 24.09.2011:

As of this update I’m working on the design and layout of a book for a local photographer. A local writter is providing appropriate captions and the one included below is pertinent to this post. While the quote is specific to reading, I also believe it to be true of any form of narrative with which we can engage, ie analogue and digital games:

“In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to lead; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.”
S.I. Hayakawa (1906-1992), academic and United States Senator.

This is kind of interesting… I suppose anyone interested in fiction would believed this to be true anyway… but this clip from BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme would suggest that the findings of Prof Keith Oatley are a little more conclusive.

In a way it almost common sense to say that reading fiction improves social understanding because of course, paradoxically, fiction is never entirely made up. Fiction is a writer’s response to something he has observed in the real world.

As with anything, there are times when this is done well and times when it is not… but that’s another story…

The other interesting aspect to this games. I am convinced that games are exceptionally good at delivering the same story based experience as books. In a game however the player is part of the experience (creating their own story), within the context of the prescribed plot.

80’s Computer Games legend, Dino Dini, in his Keynote to the NEoN Digital Arts festival Festival in Dundee talked about this very idea and inspired a great deal of what I would go on to research through my Masters project. He talked about ‘excessive narrative diminishing player experience’… how too much ‘prescribed plot’ in a video game could hinder a player from creating his own story… by creating our own stories he suggested that we learn to understand ourselves and develop as human beings.

Oatley would appear to agree with this idea as he uses the analogy of a ‘flight simulator’ to give emphasis to his theory… and so, the circle is complete… and I rest my case…!

What do you think..?

Oatley’s research has been collected into a book Such Stuff As Dreams – The Psychology of Fiction and  is available now.

SuperFly Space Hop

8 Jul

A Space Hop, by SuperFly definition, is a treasure hunt using a specially tagged Google map, QR codes and mobile devices around a town or city. This one was designed as a ice breaker for PHD students gathered for a Summer School focusing on eTourism.

The game is part of my Masters research focusing on evolving role of storytelling through social media and video games. I want to find effective and engaging ways of using these emerging tools for education, entertainment and advertising.

The game in ST Andrews had five teams of four or five members each. Each team had a HTC Flyer Android Tablet to view the map, scan the codes and complete the prescribed tasks by capturing photos and video. In addition each team had a videographer with another tablet capturing their progress.

Just over a week ago I began the task of watching a few hours worth of video to make some sense of it all. There were certain things that I was looking for… were the tasks too hard, too easy, understandable? I was also looking for clues as to how a tourist may behave using an application such as this. Does it enhance or hinder the experience of visiting the city?

Below is a rough cut of some of the video captured during the game.

I’ve since been able to capture feedback from three of the five teams that took part and so I pretty much have a 360 view on what happened and how the players and observers felt about it.

Probably the most negative person in relation to how the day panned out was me because, as ever, there were technical issues. Nothing that could have been foreseen without a complete dry run, and nothing that couldn’t be remedied in other ways. Mainly the issues were with uploading images and particularly video during the game. Looking back, trying to gather a live feed of images and video, given the constraints of 3G, was perhaps a little optimistic. However, those issues coupled with some of the feedback would suggest that the most convenient way to go would be an ‘app’ that contained the Google map, QR reader and links to Flickr and Twitter so that each element could be accessed more easily.

I’m now in the process of visualising the feedback and experiences of NEoN Knights, the two SuperFly Safari’s and now the Space Hop.

It’s amazing how much information you can take from playing a game like this. Besides the benefits that come from the experience itself there is also a huge amount of behavioural data that could be manipulated out of these scenarios. An artificial cultural probe? Not even sure what I mean, are any cultural probes non-artificial..? However, theres something in there… I’m sure that scenarios could be orchestrated, like role play, but observations made during the process… like a Swiss Army Knife of a design tool..?

Anyway, this post has been long enough so I’ll leave you with your thoughts and post more later…

SuperFly St Andrews Space Hop…

24 Jun

St Andrews is an amazing city.

As someone who grew up a stones throw from Birmingham, ‘Dundee‘ hardly feels like a city, let alone St Andrews… but in this instance size matters not and St Andrews has a great deal going for it, including the three C’s: Cultural, Cobbled and Quaint..!

On Monday 27th June (my boy’s 5th birthday! (Bad Dad!)), between 3 – 4.30pm I’ll be putting 25 PDH students through the paces of a SuperFly Space Hop! I’ll go into the ‘whys and wherefores’ of the name in another post… at which time i’ll also explain the object of the game… but for now, lets just say it’s a treasure hunt that thinks it’s an eTourism project.

I live in Fife, less than 10 minutes from St Andrews and despite the fun that I’ve had putting on SuperFly events in Dundee I’m really looking forward to this one. Firstly, thanks to the support from it’s host, St Andrews School of Computer Human Interaction (SACHI), and the local businesses accommodating the QRs (for now they’ll remain nameless to preserve the mystery…), the set up has been really easy. Principally however, the secondary benefit has been that I’ve been able to spend a lot more time in St Andrews… something I don’t do often enough.

The biggest challenge facing me these last few weeks has been ‘what not’ to put in the game. It has been a perfect opportunity to combine the treasure hunt aspects of NEoN Knights with the tagging of content that i’ve been experimenting with lately. I’ve also been able to build on the experience of the games since NEoN Knights (Game To Learn time two, plus the MDes open day) and have a much keener sense of what works for these events.

So, this is the one. This game is the focus of what my final Masters project will be. Even if only in a small way, each element of my research, my interviews and prototypes, plus the experience of previous games have come together and informed the conception and execution of the game. That’s not to say it’ll be the last – at least I hope not – just that it’ll be the last one before September.

This one has to count in terms of how I evaluate it afterwards. For that reason I’ll have at least 3 cameras capturing video and stills of the teams playing the game, engaging in the tasks and fulfilling the SACHI ethnographic brief. To the best of my ability I’ll be following a team around myself, but that may have issues for the teams and how I manage other elements of the game. Another two people are shadowing for their own interest (for future events…), but they’ll also be ideally placed to provide me with feedback afterwards.

The interest from participating businesses has been such that I’m hopeful that this game, or at least refined version of it, could be a semi-permanent digital fixture. Any number of players could engage with the game over a period of hours, days or even weeks… convert the points to ‘St Andrews currency’ perhaps..?

Well, let’s not jump the gun just yet…

Between now and Monday morning I’ll post a little more detail about the game but on Monday please keep an eye on Twitter (@onthesuperfly) for the hashtag #SuperFlySpaceHop and maybe one or two updates on the blog. I’ll be posting on how the teams get on… and there are sure to be a few surprises.


QReative Prototypes…

22 Jun

In preparation for the Masters final show in late August, we’ve started thinking about how the show might look. I’ll report back with more images on Friday when we are due to present our ideas. The prototypes are meant to be quick, dirty and lo-fidelity but… actual size. Hmmm…

Anyway, one of my ideas is to populate a large map with content that i’ve created and gathered. The gathering, for now, will take place through Twitter, although I may also do this through workshops in the coming months.

Please tweet me (@onthesuperfly) your favourite places in Tayside and NE Fife (using the hashtag #mboxspaces) and also a brief (it’s Twitter..!) explanation. It might be where you grew up, went on holiday, secret hideaways as kids or where you met your husband! There will be any number of reasons… what’s yours?

It you’d rather not use Twitter then feel free to use the comments section on this blog. I’ll credit all of the authors either by Twitter or Login name. The stories may also have audio, video or pictures attached to them so feel free to send me links to your Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, AudioBoos, etc, etc, etc…

Eventually I’ll populate a google map. It’s physical counterpart for the Mastes show will have cute QR flags for people to scan and discover the content for themselves.

So, what are you waiting for… what’s the story?

200 Seconds…

6 May

UPDATE: Below is the lo-down on our previous 200 seconds project – we are running a similar event on Thursday 26 May as part of DJCAD’s Degree Show. Find us in the Masters Showcase, Room 212 (animation corridor) at 1pm. We would welcome as many people as we can cram in the room and come prepared to write down a bit of feedback for us either online or in the room the old fashioned way, with pen and paper. We’ll only keep you for about 25 mins so we won’t even spoil your lunch hour. Hope to see you there!  : )

In the MDes studio we were looking forward to a visit of students from Auburn University, Alabama (25 April) and we decided that, rather than bombard them with a series of talks about DJCAD an what projects we were up to, we would loosen things up a bit and turn the day into more of an event!

While we had lecturers and students volunteering presentations… some more experienced than others, what we really needed was a leveler..! How could we present these talks in such a way that would give everyone an equal footing..? Pecha Kucha was the perfect solution!

Pecha Kucha means “chit-chat” and is a format of presentation devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham Architects, Japan. Each speaker has 20 slides and is allowed 20 seconds for each slide. A total of 6min40sec.

The first even took place in 2003 and today you will find events, using this or similar formats, across the world.

We modified the format a little stipulating 10 slides of 20seconds each (3min20sec or ‘200seconds’ as it came to be known). What I didn’t mention before is that Pecha Kucha slides are on an automatic timer; once your 20seconds are up the next slide kicks in. While this might sound relatively easy, it’s telling how that even the most experienced of our speakers were uneasy with the format.

Nice 😉

I’m disappointed to report that everyone did great. No one went blank, cried or went over time. No one even crashed the ‘time’s up’ alarm that i’d built in for 3min 35sec… and I think the Alabama crowd sensed the nerves in the room and it added a nice edge to the proceedings.

So, for your viewing pleasure I present to you my own 200sec presentation. It’s the first time that i’ve done one of these, and if i’m honest, although i’d practiced it about 6 times, this is also the first time that I managed to make everything fit!

Adrenalin’s a winner!

A picture is worth…

4 May

Ordinarily, the adage would have us believe that ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’… in this case the BBC’s Royal Wedding picture is worth several thousand stories!

The BBC say, “This high-definition, 1.15-gigapixel picture, is a composite of 189 images. The full picture measures 81,471 pixels by 14,154 pixels. The field of view covers 200 degrees.”

That’s some image, and a nice memento of the day.., if you can find yourself..!

You’ll find the image on the BBC website.

It’s another example of how technology is changing what is possible in terms of storytelling as well as capturing and sharing those stories. Millions of people will have a version of this event, what this image does is put several thousand all together for all to see.


9 Apr

Stories take many forms. One of my favourite forms is the documentary… i’m sure there’s a little documentary maker inside me somewhere…

Anyway, that’s why, these days, the blog is such a fantastic opportunity for us to document in a similar way… words, pictures, even video, can be brought together along with relevant links from across the web. It’s just a matter of getting into the routine… the Blog-u-mentality!

For further evidence of this please see ‘Documentally‘…

Anyway, the end of last week was a challenge. At home we’d had an eye on a damp patch in the garden for a week or so while the weather was dry. Eventually I took to the ground with a garden fork to see if the water would run away. Instead, more appeared. We had a leak!

It was the water main between the stop-tap and the house. Once we came to terms with the leak we organised a quote. Then we had to come to terms with the quote. The hotel w/e break in Edinburgh was knocked on the head in favour of saving more money and digging up and locating the leak ourselves before calling in the plumber for the final analysis.

By that point i’d grown more confident and, faced with the opportunity of saving even more ‘student strapped’ cash, I decided to fix the leak myself. And very rewarding it was too. Final quote, £460+VAT. Actual money spent, £9.75 inc VAT. #WIN!

However, to put all of this into perspective I would like to share with you this video found on Open Culture. It documents the day to day of Venice out with the hustle and bustle of the tourist season. Puts my little leak into some context I think…