British Digital Corporation? Radical thoughts?

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour

You might have noticed I haven’t been blogging much recently (there are many reasons) but I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have a ton of things to blog.

One such thing is Jeremy Corbyn’s 2018 Alternative MacTaggart Lecture or rather his big, bold, radical thinking on the future of our media.

Big and bold maybe, radical? I’m less convinced but the interesting part is section 4, where he outlines plans for a British Digital Corporation.

The final idea I’d to share with you today, which I hope will generate some new thinking, is about how we, as a public and the media, as an industry take advantage of new technology.

I want us to be as ambitious as possible. The public realm doesn’t have to sit back and watch as a few mega tech corporations hoover up digital rights, assets and ultimately our money. This technology doesn’t have an inbuilt bias towards the few. Government is standing by and letting the few take advantage of the many using technology.

So, one of the more ambitious ideas I’ve heard is to set up a publicly owned British Digital Corporation as a sister organisation to the BBC. The idea was floated by James Harding, former BBC Director of Home News in the Hugh Cudlipp lecture earlier this year.

A BDC could use all of our best minds, the latest technology and our existing public assets not only to deliver information and entertainment to rival Netflix and Amazon but also to harness data for the public good.

A BDC could develop new technology for online decision making and audience-led commissioning of programmes and even a public social media platform with real privacy and public control over the data that is making Facebook and others so rich.

The BDC could work with other institutions that the next Labour government will set up like our National Investment Bank, National Transformation Fund, Strategic Investment Board, Regional Development Banks and our public utilities to create new ways for public engagement, oversight and control of key levers of our economy.

It could become the access point for public knowledge, information and content currently held in the BBC archives, the British Library and the British Museum. Imagine an expanded Iplayer giving universal access to licence fee payers for a product that could rival Netflix and Amazon. It would probably sell pretty well overseas as well.

I find this interesting mainly because I still think the BBC is still best placed to do this, rather than set up a new corporation. If I didn’t think this was still true I’d be rethinking what I’m doing at the BBC.

The thing I do think could work is a collaboration between different existing companies/institutes/organisations to a make something like Corbyn is talking about.

Now that would be radical…?

What is the Public service internet?

Myself and the Hon's

Its been thrown around a lot and if you search for the term public service internet you will click on something from Adrian Hon or Dan Hon. You will see stuff from others like chromatrope and even my own posts in searches. Or good searches will reveal related terms like Digital public space from newspapers like the Guardian and of course straight from Tony Ageh.

But not much from the BBC, so its quite exciting to finally see something more official.

BBC R&D researching the public service internet and looking for partners who share similar values.

We present the Living room of the future…

living room of the future flyer

I’ve been working on the living room of the future and write about it quite a few other places including the BBC R&D blog.

Its part of the reason for the radio silence recently, but honestly the team of 3 universities and 2 arts organisations have been hard at work to create the live demonstrator of the living room of the future.

living room of the future

I won’t lie, its bloody exciting not only for the experience but what it enables and stands for. I highly recommend taking part in the research if you are able to come to Liverpool from Thursday 3rd – 8th May.

Of course I don’t want to reveal too much and although its hard to do much of a spoiler as its about a shared experience. Our twitter bot is doing a good job showing the inners of what going on if you are wondering.

There has been a question for a while which people always ask. Why the living room? To which I answer sensitive place, common private area for discussions, there are existing social hierarchies at play in the space and its place for small audiences. Its also a complex space which I’ve seen talked about a lot recently.

BD3-34 - Pilsen St bedsit with armchair

I found Millennials don’t need living rooms, piece from the Independent fascinating.

A prominent architect has argued millennials do not need living rooms and their housing prospects would be greatly improved if size regulations were overhauled.

Patrik Schumacher, who took over as head of Zaha Hadid Architects after the legendary founder died in early 2016, said “hotel room-sized” studio flats were ideal for young people who led busy lives.

In a paper published by the Adam Smith Institute, he suggested size rules should be reviewed to increase the number of studio flats available to those on lower incomes.

While a 25-square-metre flat is the minimum in Japan, in the UK the minimum is 37 square metres for a one-bed.

Although reading through the piece, it sounds like a land grab to change the regulation and fit even more property in smaller spaces. There is a slight point that the price of property is super high and this could help (IF) prices don’t increase they are currently.

Polly Neate, CEO of housing charity Shelter, hit back at the architect’s remarks. “Tiny homes don’t necessarily mean cheaper homes, and at Shelter we know that having a decent place to live is vital for people’s well-being. So compromising on space and quality isn’t going to do anyone any favours,” she told The Independent.

“Homes in the UK are not expensive because they are too large, they are too expensive because our housing market is broken. When big developers realise they can squeeze, for example, 20 tiny homes on the same patch of land that once fit just ten then the price of land will rise to reflect this.

“The solution to the housing crisis is not to build ever smaller homes but to bring down the price of land and build the type of genuinely affordable homes that people actually want to live in.”

My thoughts went back and forth while reading but I wondered if the living space is squeezed what will disappear? Maybe the living room or kitchen will be first to go, looking at Japanese flats for example.

There was a choice in building the living room of the future, that it should be big or small? What was it it and what wasn’t. We decided on small to reflect the trend on smaller shared spaces and the need for the 3rd space.

Looking at the other side of the living room project, it was also fascinating to read about the UK’s first smarthome with Apple home kit baked in. The obviously scares the life out of me but every buyer of smart homes should read the house which spied on me and also the follow up which explains how it worked.

The house which spied on me

In December, I converted my one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco into a “smart home.” I connected as many of my appliances and belongings as I could to the internet: an Amazon Echo, my lights, my coffee maker, my baby monitor, my kid’s toys, my vacuum, my TV, my toothbrush, a photo frame, a sex toy, and even my bed.

Its super revealing and a very good long read. It speaks volumes about the different data which flows around our homes and spaces like the living room.

So what you waiting for, get yourself a ticket now!

Exploring the living room of the future in Sarajevo?

Yesterday I posted about being very busy over the next month or so and I mentioned going to Sarajevo unlimited. Some of you might be scratching your head, thinking why?

Well it starts with a better question than simply “Sarajevo? why?

If its possible to adapt, customise or even personalised media to a person and their context (we know it is – if you not been paying attention, check out object media and some of the perceptive media work); how does this work with a few to many people experiencing at the same media?

No more shared experience?

This is a question I get a lot on the road. I clearly remember when I first presented Visual Perceptive Media at This way up (conference about the future of digital cinema) in 2015. Most felt I was breaking the shared moment and therefore breaking the very idea of cinema.

Is this the shared experience you are talking about?

I always like to joke a little and remind people the shared experience was/is broken. You only have to look at on-demand, the huge amount of channels, ways to consume content and the ever growing diversity of sources. Honest media makers know you can watch the exact same thing and take away different things, due to your experience, background, culture, etc. But the question of the share experience is a fair point, especially as we drift further into our filter bubbles?

A different shared experience

So the question is, knowing all this, is there a different shared experience which can be enabled with the technology and research we have now? Something which people will have a hard time explaining and ultimately throw up their hands saying “…you had to be there!

Internet of thing - Perceptive Radio

I obviously say yes! I point at physical connected things as a potential way to bring people together and create new types of connected/shared experiences. This is why the Perceptive Radio was a big deal and what it stood for back in 2013, a whole year to half a year before the Amazon Alexa by the way!

Even before seeing things like the Good night lamp and BBC R&D’s dalek prototype. It was clear enchanted objects have the potential to connect people with the media in a bi-directional manor (media affecting the objects and objects affecting the media). With that in mind and the concept of the tiny theatre buzzing around my head from Jasmine and Vicky; it became clear that our living rooms are so packed full of connected objects could be ground zero with its diverse groups of people and contexts.

The living room of the future?

Very cool but what has this to do with Sarajevo?

It was during my talk at Future Fest when I met Caroline from the British Council. We briefly talked about the plan which I had already had support from FACT in Liverpool and the Nottingham Databox team. Then early  in 2017, we spent much more time talking through the project and its fruitful aims for research and user experience design; especially with the synergy of Object media and Databox which was demonstrated as homelab kitchen at Mozfest 2016.

Mozfest 2016

The British Council loved it and suggested a collaboration with their Western Balkans office as they have been monitoring some great creativity in the area. What better way to inject some much needed creativity into, on the face of it quite a technical project? Its pretty easy to forget its about the experience not the technology.

From my personal point of view, its great to have a more diversity outside the usual places. From my short time spent in Romanian and Estonia with Mozilla, I’m convinced this will be a collaboration with surprises and breathtaking results. Ultimately together we will explore what the living room of the future could be, when the media and connected objects (IOT) in the room talk to each other seamlessly but in data ethical way.

There is a blog post drafted for the BBC R&D blog with more details, but as the British Council have already started the process by advertising for 20 creatives to join our special workshop at Sarajevo unlimited. I thought I’d add some background to this incredible project… I’m very much looking forward to updating everyone as the project moves forward.

A very busy period coming up soon…

Reinventing podcasting

I am preparing myself for another really busy period of time. From Sunday 22nd right through to Sunday 19th November (yes almost a month).

This will mean the usual warning of being busy and not really replying in a timely fashion (what ever that really means).

Some will look at this list and say “ohhhh check you out… lucky devil!

My reply is yes I am grateful (my gratitude habit) that I can go to these amazing places, but even more that I will get the opportunity to talk to new people (audiences, future producers and maybe potentially co-creators). There are some amazing research projects in the pipeline, stuff that once again makes me very excited.

An amazing well loved colleague recently died. It was a shock but further reminds me and hopefully others our time is finite; We need to spend it doing what we love and making positive things happen. Inspire others to do the same and find their inner geekness.

Can’t say too much right now but in Cardiff & York recently, I share my a couple of ideas in the talks. There are slides which are good pointers to the ambition.

If you want to know more reach out (don’t be shy) or even join Storytellers United Slack.