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2011 in review

1 Jan

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

#VloMo11 (Video Bloggers Month 2011)

18 Nov

I’m not sure whether I qualify as a video blogger – how many videos should you be uploading a week or month for that to be the case? Anyway, I love the concept and decided, when I heard about VloMo11 last week, that I would join in.

Nothing too fancy of my own as yet but loving catching up with other VloMo-ers videos via Twitter and on YouTube. I’m using this post as a collection of my own and also a selection of others which have caught my eye – in particular a new online facility which I had never heard of until this week called ‘PummelVision’ which pulls images from RSS, Flickr, etc and puts them to music and posts them on YouTube or Vimeo. I first saw this put to use in a VloMo11 from @Documentally yesterday and was instantly impressed… only to find that it would have taken him 5 mins 🙂
It is, however a very creative use of the application, using it to present a years worth of Instagram images…

Cool though, and I couldn’t wait to make one of my own! (in 2 mins ;)) Just using a set from my Flickr feed…

Other highlights this week, which feature heavily in my videos was my Graduation Ceremony. On Tuesday I was in Dundee getting last minute bits ‘n’ bobs for the event on Wednesday so I did a 360 degree shot of the City Square, outside of the Caird Hall (where the ceremony takes place)…

and then the next day did a comparrison shot, post ceremony. (Here you have the opportunity to run them simultaneously!!!)

The thing with posting a video every day is coming up with fresh material but it’s a great exercise so, even though I arrived at the party very, very late, here’s to the rest of the month. Thanks also to the other VloMo-ers who have provided so much inspiration in what they’ve done…

Here’s a small selection…

QR jigsaw..!

27 Aug

So, finally, a physical Mystery Box!

I’ve been doing a lot more with the form of the QR Code lately. I’ made one barely recognisable as a QR Codes and it still worked! But few people would recognise it as a QR Code so it kind of misses the point.

So, I started working up my prototype concept of a QR Jigsaw. Initially I was going to have a QR on the bottom of each piece and the solving of the jigsaw simply gave you the correct order of a series of links, audio, video, images, in order to tell a story. I turns out that the QRs are so robust I was able to make the QR the jigsaw image and if you’re careful they actually scan.

So here’s some images and video of the making process. Time in the workshop is always good. Great to get away from the computer. The results of the laser cutter is good too but it’s very slow, at the far end of the building and you’re not allowed to walk away from it in case it catches fire… so it’s pretty dull waiting around…

So, the Masters Show opens today so come along and see the Mystery Boxes for yourself…

I’ll be talking soon about developments with a QR related service established by Rick Curran of [wideopenspace] and myself. Where this jigsaw idea fits in is that toys like this can be made bespoke and directed at any given location, but also that that location could be changed. The laser cutter makes it possible to customise every element of the box design and while they would mostly be consistent at least one side of the box and even the jigsaw could be customised.

Looking forward to experimenting further this coming week as I have one week left with the facilities… then I’m on my own!



9 Aug

A mobile-phone and a no-longer-mobile car...

The riots in the UK just now seem to be spreading as quickly as Morrisey could reel the names of cities off in The Smiths ‘Panic‘.

“Panic on the streets of London
Panic on the streets of Birmingham

I woke this morning to find that, for the third consecutive night, looting and arson are seemingly rampant across England with no clear indication that anyone can stop it.

I watched in interest on Saturday evening as the information and content on Twitter (and it’s photographic counterparts such as TwitPic, etc) and YouTube, was differing from that of the nation news agencies. The BBC seemed to be several steps behind and it was Sunday morning before the real story was told through verified means. While Twitter can be very unreliable there were those on line who were conveying a sense of fear that wasn’t present through the national media (thank you @davidcushman)

Astounding difference been official media tweets, journos tweeting on ground and real people sharing what they see. Fear in the latter – Aug 6, 11:24pm davidcushman

Cushman then went on to ‘ReTweet’ on-the-ground reports from both pedestrian observers and official news outlets.

RT @PaulLewis: If police indeed are saying #tottenhamriot “contained”, that is absolutely not true. It is mayhem.

RT @D_Dougieee: I actually cannot believe what I’m seein! A bus on fire! Police cars on fire! They’ve broken into banks, hairs shops n jewellery shops!

RT @itv_news: Police cars set on fire in Tottenham, north London, after riots connected to the shooting of a young man by police on Thursday #Tottenham

Last 3 RTs to illustrate that difference.

Real-time unedited view delivers a tapestry of perspectives versus an edited version of ‘the truth’ #tottenhamriot

Apart from the relative horror of witnessing this kind of information from the comfort of my own bed (800 miles away), I was intrigued by the use of the technology. We’ve seen it happen across the world… Japan, Middle East, China… when in times of distress social media has created a life-line for many… before, in some cases, it got shut down…

However, two days on and I’m beginning to see the effect of how this media is also being used to fan the flames. No, it’s not to blame..!; there are plenty of reasons why these things happen and not one of them is ‘mobile phone’. But as someone who has been using these types of media and techniques for the purpose of entertainment and education it’s a timely reminder that, like any valuable tool, there will always be a way in which it can be abused.

No doubt rioters are being rallied directly through various networks but also rallied through miss-information, and being made to believe there are similar incidents in their area when there are none.

Without question this is a desperately sad situation.

I have chosen not to link to any of the riot videos as I’m sure if you are reading this you are capable of finding them yourselves, and while there is much to learn from viewing these films, for many they remain a source of entertainment and I’d rather not propigate them.

There are some users though whose intention is the ‘other’ ‘E’. Education. Via Twitter I came across this Google map by James Cridland who has mapped verified information on the riots. If you read his blog you’ll see exactly how vigorous that verification process has been. It’s an illustration of how useful, but also unreliable, Twitter can be.

Sadly, while exactly the same process, it’s a stark contrast to the maps that I’ve been creating for the purposes of games and tagging and mapping media.
The outcome, while extremely useful in many ways, is also a lasting virtual memorial of what has happened over the last few days.

Let’s hope that he doesn’t need to populate it any more.
Alternatively you can check out the emerging hashtag of #riotcleanup where you’ll find more positive images like these. The same tech, the same areas, just different people…

New Brand Voice

8 Jul

In MDes this week our task has been to prototype the poster section of our final show. Part of that process is encapsulating our product not only in what we write about it but ‘how’ we write about it. What is your voice? Is it appropriate to your audience and your product?

A brand I’ve always had admiration for is Innocent, who recently published their first cook book (above). Obviously their products are great but it was the presentation that first got my attention. The illustrations were fun and and playful but that communication didn’t end with the illustration.. it continued on through the copy. The way that Innocent talk to their community is interesting and it’s carried through into other products such as the cook book. I’m not going to go on… i’ll spoil it, but watch this video by two of Innocent’s key management…

The interesting thing is that they say their style of communication is as natural as the products they create…  The other thing is that he mentions talking about the product as if he were talking to his ‘gran’. As a rule of thumb we, in MDes, we are often reminded to pitch as if we were talking to a ‘clever Aunty’… it’s not a bad idea… and it’s worked for Innocent!

I was curious though, because this week my wife came home with a new range of smoothies by Tesco. How interesting it is that they too have a ‘chatty’ style to their smoothy packaging… how does this fit with other Tesco lines, the overall Tesco voice?

Well, of course it doesn’t and it’s not intended too. Tesco are making an attempt at going under the radar and persuade you that their smooties are just as good as those really cool (but more expensive) ones on the shelf above.

Clearly you can communicate a lot in your ‘voice’. Maybe as much (or more) than you actually say?

So, my self appointed task now is to find a couple of examples of ‘brand voice’ that I like and that I think is pitched at a similar level to what I should be doing through my show… the hunt is on!

While we’re talking about voice… I was scouring through the websites of a few new Twitter followers last week and came across this site. Intro video’s I thought were a thing of the past… but then you don’t come across many as good as this… and it features an ‘actual voice’ that I was familiar with… back in the day (anyone still on CB radio?). The video says a great deal in a very short space of time and clearly it’s all about the ‘brand’ and ‘story’ in a very clear ‘voice’!

One last thing… here’s a ‘voice’ that branded not only a product but an entire culture… ably illustrated by marketing agitator Eaon Pritchard; also encapsulating these ideas of brand, story and voice!

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…

Return of the…

22 Jun

… hmm… I won’t say it..!

Anyway, after a hiatus that seen my semester two assessment go by, as well as completion of the Learning, Teaching and Assessment module, I am now back with a bucket full of ideas and a game to organise.

A lecturer at St Andrews University was following the progress of NEoN Knights back in November and offered me the opportunity to put on a game as part of an eTourism Summer School. I’ll go into more detail in another post but that’s about to happen on Monday so lots to do.

Another item for an impending post is the Masters Project Exhibition prototype that is due to be revealed on Friday!

But anyway, the blog’s back online and I’ve got plenty to report, so here goes…

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.

Open Letter To Self

1 Apr

As a concerned parent, just over 12 months ago I started looking at the evidence related to the effects of computer games on children and the wider population. This in turn led me to what I am now pursuing as a Masters Project. If you sift through the horror stories you’ll find ‘some’ genuine reasons for concern, but from the evidence I’ve seen, the key issues seem to boil down to common sense and having a decent relationship with your kids.

By no means am I setting my self up as SuperNanny, so first and foremost this is an open letter to my future self, for whom Lego Star Wars II will be a distant, idealised memory.

Jon (Jon in 2021 that is…),

Hope all’s well with you and the family…

It seems to me (the 2011 me) that if our kids (yours and mine…) are playing computer games, we really should know what those games are and, most crucially, what those games entail. Also, how many hours a day are they playing them..? We should know this stuff, and restrict as required! It’s possible to have too much of a good thing, right?

And they are good… they are glorified puzzles… and there doesn’t ‘have to be’ zombie slayings… so don’t demonise them or scape-goat them for crimes they haven’t committed..! (No one said this would be easy…) Certainly a better use of time than TV!

Talking of TV, do you remember that old Panarama ‘Addicted to Games?’ programme from 2010 where the reporter, Raphael Rowe said, ‘If I asked my six-year-old son to stop playing PlayStation football or a Wii adventure game the result was a mini-fit, complete with genuine tears and tantrums. I did not get that kind of extreme reaction when I called time on cartoons on TV, playing in the garden or his favourite action toys.’

This is one we thought about a lot at the time, having had similar experiences… however, it occurred to us… don’t switch the console off halfway through a game! It’s not fair… do parents turn TVs off halfway throughEastenders, or Corrie? (Whether they should or not is another matter…) But ‘no’, they don’t! So, just agree a time limit, then they decide if it’s worth starting another level or not…

Establishing boundaries is what parents have to do all the time… but building in a bit of ‘self management’ drastically reduced our ‘game related’ tantrums in 2011… hope that’s still working out for you in 2021! 😉

Finally, as with everything they do, try not to get ‘old’ and ‘dismissive’, join in! You might not get ‘their stuff’ all of the time, but it’s important to try… it helps keeps our kids safe and puts us in a better position to encourage variety… bowling, dancing… synchronised swimming even!

I must say that I’m looking forward to how this all turns out for us… maybe we’ll look back and laugh… maybe not! I wonder where you are just now… Maybe you’re reading this on your new holoPad at the local Syncronised Swimming Gala..? Either way, i’m looking forward to seeing you… soon!



Geocaching + Prototyping

21 Mar

The Games Based Learning conference, Game To Learn: Take 2 in Dundee this past weekend was a great experience and i’ll blog more about some of the outcomes as soon as I can process them all.

One of the things I was keen to do was document one of my ‘SuperFly Safari’ treasure hunt QR experiences. I wanted to try to capture and understand more about what is so enjoyable about these games; but also what the story capturing process might be if it was integrated into the experience.

Capturing my own game was problematic as it seemed to hinder the process of play. It was also very difficult to follow anyone as the game was being played in breaks between talks and meals. What I chose to do instead was tag along with a group on Ollie Bray’s GeoCaching workshop. While I was taking part a little bit, the main focus was documenting and observing.

This gave me many insights, not only during the game but also afterwards. The fact that I was taking images meant that no one else had to bother too much; instead they got on with enjoying the game in the knowledge that I would be sharing my images afterwards. Once the images were uploaded the sharing began, and while I didn’t know everyones email or twitter id, they soon materialised via the network that had grown in the group.

The fact that everyone playing was a teacher or student teacher was also helpful. It demonstrated to me that I could devise games like this as a demonstration of what could be done, but not worry about how suitable it was for kids… I could give them ideas but it was down to them, and more enjoyable I think, for them to think of ways of interpreting the game into their own area or style of teaching.

I was happy that here was evidence of any area where stories could be made, recorded and shared… and with a bit more work, the experience could be enhanced to have real learning outcomes built in. You can find a visual record of our story here on Flickr.