Future Everything 2013

I had the pleasure of attending Future Everything again this year. Manchester’s answer to SXSW in my own eyes. Now in its 18th year (I believe Drew said to me) its decided to move from the already packed May month to the earlier month of March. As usual theres a conference line up somewhere in the mists of the busy festival of events.

The themes this year are

These are my highlights from the ones I attended…

Future Cities…

Dave Carter

The never conventional Dave Carter is a real asset to Manchester, I can’t give the man enough credit for what he says and what he goes and does… It was great to hear his version of ask for forgiveness not permission.

Martijn de Waal did a talk titled A tale of 3 cities… social cities of tomorrow. In the talk about 3 cities in South Korea, Songdo, Homdu and Seoul City. Songdo was the perfectly designed city of the future, clean, designed and all that. Homdu is organic in its design and gives rise to some strange human made constructions. Seoul City is a responsive city with lots of systems which allow feedback and change. Its almost responsive in nature.

Rest of the talk was about the differences and how the platform of the city can best help the citizens within it. Which kind of city would people like to live in kept coming up, and generally a balance of all three seemed to be the general view.

I could hear the sharp intake of breath when Scott Cain of the TSB (Tech strategy board) made a comment about something being in London because that makes the most sense. But no one picked him up on it which seemed a missed opportunity.

Redsigning the Future

The redesigning the future talk was interesting but bugged me…  I think it bugged me for being very vague and not revealing a lot. I certainly got a lot more out of the talk with Magnus at Thinking Digital 2012. There were some stuff which was thrown out including the notion of “Super density” which I gather is the opposite of unevenly distribution. A day made of glass was mentioned a few times along with the science fiction condition and internet fridge too.

Which leads me nicely on to the after event called ideas are theft.

It sold its self outspoken, fun, spiky and dangerous but it turned into one of the biggest let downs in Future Everything history. What got me was there was some great panellists including Dave Mee, Usman Haque and Natalie Jeremijenko. All would be fun and could talk about stuff in a spiky dangerous way if the moderator would shut up, questions were any good and made sense. The 2nd half was better but to be honest the damage was done, people started talking within themselves and the guests looked pissed off. I know it was meant to be funny but it felt very amateur which isn’t what I associate with Future Everything.

On the Data Society front…

The super smart Mel Woods seems to be the person behind the interesting project I experienced called Chattr. The premise is simply to wear a microphone and have your conversation turned into a twitter transcript. You can see the transcripts if you look at the twitter bot ChattrLeaks or hashtag. There was a delay as everything was recorded then on handing the recorder back its send to the 3rd floor to be transcribed and tweeted. For me it was the balance of privacy which was super interesting. For example a conversation later with a freelancer had to be deleted because I didn’t feel comfortable with it being tweeted even though I was very careful not to repeat anything she said.

Of course when I first got the mic, I couldn’t help but spill lots of pearls of wisdom to the world…

“I would never invite someone over to my house on a first date” #chattr

— Chattr Leaks (@ChattrLeaks) March 22, 2013

The point of the project is to feel the tension between public and private. For someone like me to feel that tension, it certainly did the job well. Really got me thinking Mel, well played!

Farida Vis and Usman Haque had a session I wish I had attended from the very start. Living in an age of Algorithmic Culture is something I’m very interested in, specially in regards to big data. They digged into the idea of algorithms and are they useful to us? Farida joined the algorithm with the health of a company. Which got me thinking about something I saw where the company banned certain users from inputing more data because it was unbalancing the algorithm and causing excess processing time. Could it be possible to starve or bloat an algorithm (ultimately hack it) to slow down the processing? Farida and Usman did agree, that most startups use external processing power and yes that could if left unchecked cause excess processing and therefore money.

I’d love to dig into love in algorithms with these guys one day, but thats another blog post and maybe more soon.

API Economy

On the Creative Code front I saw a number of mini-hack events and also a good discussion about the Politics of Open Data and API Economy. Some good thinking about moving away from the big players such as Facebook and Twitter. Also talking about not just simply running to the next big player, so no running to Google plus (specially with whats happening with Google reader!)

There was a thought that the only way to run a API was to charge for it which had me reaching for the sky but there was so many questions I missed my chance. There were a number of artistic talks but none really stuck in my head or had me typing on my tablet. Bringing the archive to life with BBC’s Tony Ageh was interesting to hear where we are years later. Tony even suggested a date of finishing, which if I remember correctly was 2017? Awesome work… Except I have no idea why there was a makeie doll on the panel? Maybe only Bill Thompson knows…?

Makie

The Future Everything Summit was a good one, the venue in Piccadilly place is a lot better than MOSI and I liked the little touches like the honestly payment system for lunch and the like. I do agree with Imran that the layout and signage could do with a designers eye because it didn’t make total sense. I did like the fact hacks and bof/unconference events were happening in the spare spaces, this felt closer than years previously. I gather there was a lot of speakers who dropped out at the last moment but it all worked and it felt like a good event. You could hardly go wrong for less than 100 pounds.

Good job Future Everything, I look forward to other summits through out the year?

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.