August 2006

Interactive Tedium from ISEA

by Andy Polaine on August 29, 2006

in General

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

by Andy Polaine on August 29, 2006

in General

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

August 29, 2006

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.

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

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Google Flight Sim

August 29, 2006

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…

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Location Aware Ads on London Buses

August 28, 2006

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 Yell.com’s plans for location-aware ads for London buses. If you haven’t been to London for a while (like me) then you will not have noticed that several buses have digital […]

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Interactive Architecture

August 27, 2006

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. […]

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