I was privileged to attend the Future Everything 2012 Festival this year. At the conference, there was really great talks and the line up was full of twists and turns. The best talks I’ve blogged about here, but its worth noting most of them were good.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir is a member of parliament of Althing, the Icelandic parliament, formerly representing the Citizens’ Movement, but now representing The Movement.
I didn’t actually see Birgitta talk but I was standing outside watching the #futr twitter feed. The discourse was fascinating as it seemed to blow up like a timed bomb. There was some pretty radical things been said and to be honest everyone was loving it. Certainly wish I had forced my way through the bodies and the heat into that keynote talk. Likewise I would have liked to have seen the Cooperative talk and Rufus Pollock as I’ve not seen him talk for the good part of a decade! Although it was great to have Rufus say hi as he did remember me even after all those years…
Interestingly there was quite a bit of corridor chatter about the changes in politics from the likes Loz Kaye who stood for the pirate party uk with my ex-flatmate (tim) and maria in the recent Manchester local elections. Theres a real feeling things are for the better.
Rohan Gunatillake presents one of the most original talks you are likely to see this year – on how people are using technology to reinvent Buddhism. Rohan was recently named in Wired Magazine’s The Smart List 2012: 50 People Who Will Change The World.
Conservative, dogmatic and authoritarian… religion is the final frontier for innovation. And even though Buddhism has been the world religion most comfortable with evolving into each new culture it meets, it too is struggling to be of service and maintain its integrity in the face of the rapid changes of digital culture.
Not realising, I already knew Rohan from previous meetings while in London, it was great to go out to dinner with him later that day and have a good old natter in the Northern Quarter restaurant
When I first heard about the talk I was rightly skeptical, but what it boiled down to a talk about wellbeing, health and spiritualism of modern digital life. What got me was when Rohan pointed out if you turn off your phone, its not actually off. Theres still this space in the mind which thinks about what calls, texts, tweets, etc you might missing. And thats where he got me. Notifications and distrations is already something I’ve written about and why I love Gnome shell (although I made changes to make it more operating system like – couldn’t live without seeing how much battery life I have in minutes for example).
Anyway back to Rohan, his app buddhifiy is miss leading and like the start of his talk, I was a little put off being a non-believer but by the end there was enough good stuff for anyone to take away. I would love to get Rohan and Bobby together at some point. Bobby can learn a lot from Rohan about light touch apps and Rohan a lot about wellbeing.
Animal Systems is a creative technology company. Their inspiration comes from nature – studying biological and social phenomena from an information-theoretic standpoint. They also build practical, accessible, large-scale applications, including a new platform to network many devices. At FutureEverything they demonstrate their system, explore the pre-history of computing and answer some important questions: for example, is a butterfly a barcode?
This talk was more interesting from a R&D point of view. The idea of using bird like chirps for machines to talk was actually quite interesting. Patrick even suggested it could be a way for the internet of things to communicate like how birds do. There was quite a lot questions about the secure nature of the communication to which patrick said, its wholy insecure but they might have ways to do security alongside the chirps.
Chirp.io was only one of the things they had come up with and he kept making references to how unique butterflies. I think looking at nature for answers to some of our more complex problems makes a lot of sense and Patrick and Animal systems might be someone to watch carefully in the future.
They tell us to share. To share information and data, to share personal thoughts and insights, our opinions and ambitions. By sharing we circumvent the digital barrier and reappear on the inside as one of those in the know. We share to such an extent that we are all co-contributors of an encyclopaedic data-cloud of unimaginable proportions.
We like to believe that this digital tome is protected in some way. That entries are kept safe and more to the point private. But it isn’t, quite the opposite. Now, more so than ever before in the digital age, we are at risk from attack. So how is it now that we are supposed to stay safe online and are we foolish to believe we can continue living, working and sharing in an open digital existence?
The Identity and Security panel was decent with a bunch of experts pushing systems which had a more friendly face than things I’ve seen in the past. There was a emphases that we’re skating on thin ice and it won’t be long before However nothing will beat TedXBradford where the air was literally sucked out of the room by the last speaker – Paul Rogers.
Likewise the panels about producing a living and net neutrality were also interesting and somewhat noteworthy
Catalyst from Lancaster University was interesting for introducing everyday people to new technologies. In actual fact what i found interesting was the notion of making people consider there geeky side and join the much talked about classes of the hackers. Fitted well with my thoughts around the internet of things, diybio and producing a living, etc. Tools of change was the strap-line and the speaker Juliana Rotich was a perfect compliment to the whole project.
Juliana is originally from Kenya where she spent her early life and schooling. She later moved to the US where she majored in IT and has worked in the industry for over ten years. She was named in the Guardian’s Top 100 Women in Technology in 2011.
She collaborated with the online community and co-founded Ushahidi, the Swahili word for testimony. Ushahidi is a web-based reporting system that utilises crowd-sourced data to formulate visual map information of a crisis on a real-time basis. In Kenya it was used to map out incidents of violence.
Ushahidi then grew to be an open source platform that has been used in various situations such as the Haiti and Chile earthquakes, the Palestine conflict crisis, and the heavy snow crisis in Washington. As a Program Director she manages projects and aids in the development and testing of the Ushahidi platform.
I was also lucky enough to go to dinner with her along with Rohan in the Northern Quarter one night which was great, didn’t quite get a chance to talk as much as I would have liked but there were so many great people at the table and not enough time.
One of the people around the table also was Bilal Randeree who was from Al Jazeera.
Bilal Randeree is Social Media and Online Producer for Al Jazeera English (AJE) based in Doha, Qatar. He works in the newsroom, using online tools and platforms for news-gathering stories from around the world.
He will be talking extensively about the Arab Spring and the role Al Jazeera played in documenting those events. He will also be looking forward into 2012, predicting what he hopes to see and what he envisages will actually happen both socially and politically in the Arab world.
Very good talk and reminder of the power of the stuff most of us are simply playing with right now.
Chris Jackson from Metabroadcast address the key arguments for expanding content delivery to new media platforms, and look at ways to bring online properties into more traditional broadcast formats.
In the Social broadcasting panel I dropped in a few hints at perceptive media, saying we can stop thinking about broadcasting being from glass to glass. It was good seeing Metabroadcast as I’ve not seen them in a while. Certainly need to make the effort to see them and talk perceptive media once I’m in London again (which looks to be the week of the 11th June by the way)
Farida Vis certainly got me thinking in regards my interest in data and algorithms.
Farida has recently developed an interest in open data and data driven journalism and some of this work (on the future of allotments in the UK) has been published on The Guardian Data Blog and elsewhere in the mainstream media. She is the co-author of the Data Journalism Handbook.
I remember tweeting something about my interest in dating data and learning more about the habits of people. Heck I started thinking maybe I should do a PhD in online dating… So much to say and discover with all that dark undiscovered linked data!
Carlo Ratti from MIT was wonderful as you’d expect. Sensing cities is a amazing project and has many things to say about sensing people in the home. It was a excellent end to a really good conference. Lots to take away…
The wireless for the conference was pretty ropey on the first few days but it became solid on the last day. I used my Samsung Tablet to do most of my communications, deciding not to bring my laptop at all. Might do the same for Thinking Digital in a week, however its such a shame because the new battery last 7-8hours without turning off most things. Seems a real waste…
On Saturday I attended Larkin About’s Future Everything play day. Interestingly it was on the same time as Blast Theory’s I’d hide you which is a shame because I would have liked to have given it ago. Although people did look a little crazy running up and down the northern quarter wearing strange gear and a camera.
The Saturday afternoon and evening games were really interesting, but the one which stood out for me was 7 candles.
7:Candles is played in the streets surrounding Contact and across Twitter. A photo-based treasure hunt involving teamwork, candles and interpretative tasks.
Ok yes our team won, but it was a really interesting game and there was some great interaction over twitter. Also reminded me of parts of we dream the city.