Interactive Tedium from ISEA

I didn’t get to go to ISEA this year (not that I’ve been for ages) and I actually pretty pleased I didn’t. I really wanted to like the stuff I saw online, largely thanks to Brett Stalbaum doing a trawl of YouTube for all the videos from ISEA.

But, as usual, there were the crazy modern telematic dance to squeaky violin crowd, the utterly pointless matrix of infrared LED’s, invisible to the human eye, which can only be seen through the viewfinder of a digital camera. (On the video you hear people discussing its pointlessness). And of course the usual array of ear-splitting electronic feedback with quivering, dull, dull, dull visuals and the blinky-blonk laptop music crew.

What a disappointment. This stuff just hasn’t moved on for a decade and even back then we used to find it tedious. All the decent work is happening in more commercial areas such as tour visuals and public installations. So, new media/electronic artists out there remember:

Plugging the feedback from a rubbish circuit board you cobbled together for the first time into an oscilloscope and dancing around in front of it may be art and you might love it, but its boring as hell. Try making something beautiful, it’s a lot harder.

I’m going to miss Ars Electronica, which I’m much more upset about given that I live so close, but I’ll be in Barcelona. So there’s some compensation.

Cambridge University prove their stupidity

You don’t have to be stupid to be a Don here, but it helps.

I really enjoyed Francis Beckett’s article in the Education Guardian regarding Cambridge University’s entry requirements which lists 20 A-level subjects considered ‘soft’ options. Beckett argues, quite rightly in my opinion, that this is basically academic snobbery and has very little to do with the level of difficulty or rigour of the subjects in question:

If what Cambridge really means is that these 20 subjects are easier and less rigorous than others, it will take some proving. A young relative of mine wanted to study A-level music technology – which is one of Cambridge’s undesirable 20 – until he saw the course and realised it was too hard for him. He took the easier option of history and politics – both proper academic subjects, approved by Cambridge.

Taking a look at the list it reads very much as a thermometer of current cultural trends. Cambridge might wish that the days of learning Greek and the ‘Hard’ Sciences are the only true education, but by failing to engage in the subjects that are central to contemporary culture they risk making themselves increasingly irrelevant (which I have written about at length previously).

Part of the problem I have with this is that it taps into and perpetuates the myth that the arts are ‘easy’. This is part of the talent myth, which essentially suggests that because one has a ‘gift’ then it’s not hard work. Yet anyone who truly knows about making anything creative knows that it takes a lot of hard work indeed. Hugh Macleod has probably most famously summed this up in his How To Be Creative essay/long blog post.

The thing that I find frustrating is that the same people who are arguing these are ‘soft options’ probably consume a large amount of the arts that those taking these subjects will produce. Not only that, they’ll be awfully snobbish about it being High Art too.

Here is the offending list, by the way:

  • Accounting
  • Art and design
  • Business studies
  • Communication studies
  • Dance
  • Design and technology
  • Drama/theatre studies
  • Film studies
  • Health and social care
  • Home economics
  • Information and communication technology
  • Leisure studies
  • Media studies
  • Music technology
  • Performance studies
  • Performing arts
  • Photography
  • Physical education
  • Sports studies
  • Travel and tourism

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10 Years of Flash

Is it ten years already? I really am getting old. I remember the days when Flash was a really awkward little ‘Director pretender’ animation package with a clunky scripting language. It’s really only been a year since that hasn’t been the case.

The Barneys site

So the Favourite Website Awards have been running a vote on the Most Influential Flash Site of the Decade.

It’s categorised into years and looking through them you can see the ‘me too’ action going on. The first few years are overblown Skip Intro action of course, then we get the Barney’s sliding masks of 2000 (above – and no, it didn’t win that year’s accolade), then onto pixel-art action before heading into heavy animation and most recently overblown video. It’s worth a look even if only to see the excesses still ranking up there far too highly. The sad thing is that, lush as they are, not many of these have a decent idea behind them…

Anyhow, the final vote for the all-time, super-duper, most influential site is on the 30th August. Shouldn’t it be Macromedia Adobe?

(via vi-R-us)

Google Flight Sim

Me flying over South London somewhere...

Okay, so once again I’m so far behind the curve on this one I’ve wrapped around and am in front again (I reckon). Mark Caswell-Daniels’ Goggles – a flight sim using Google Maps is up there on my list of “things I wish I had done” (which is getting rather long these days).

It feeds into my slight obsession with Google Earth/Maps and some kind of God-complex I’m sure.

It’s a portfolio piece for Mark, so go visit his folio and someone give him some work. The bandwidth is costing him a fortune.

(Thanks to Iain at Crackunit for this one.)

Location Aware Ads on London Buses

I’m a bit late catching up with this one (I have been working… remember that?), but I just noticed this post in Ad Age about’s plans for location-aware ads for London buses.

Yell. On buses. With GPS.

If you haven’t been to London for a while (like me) then you will not have noticed that several buses have digital displays on the side now. So the plan by agency AKQA is to have contextual ads based on GPS readings of the buses’ locations. For example, when the bus is in Marble Arch you’ll see an ad saying “Find a Gym in Marble Arch”.

All of which is fine and dandy and everything, but it does seem rather a dull use of a remarkable convergence of technologies. I can’t help thinking that there might be much more amusing uses for it like “This bus is late, get out of the bus lane” or something. Or a game.

Interactive Architecture

The Graffiti Research Lab (the folks behind the LED Throwies) have just launched another project called Interactive Architecture. Basically it involves leeching some power from streetlamps and using a projector to beam interactive works onto the side of buildings. I like the generative stuff that uses the windows of the building as nodes, very smart. Of course you can download the source code too if you want.

Apparently this technique is called “Projection Bombing” and you can find out all about it at the Instructables website.

Here’s the YouTube version of the clip below, but be warned, the music is crap.

(Thanks to Danielle at Binalogue for the link).