9 extraordinary days of the Manchester International Festival

All my Mif2017 events

When I first came to Manchester, one of the many reasons I stayed was the international festival. It wasn’t just the festival but it was kind of mind blowing to have so many premiere art events in such a short distance and reasonable priced. The big one which I will never forget is Marina Abramović’s presents which surprised me at the time and then blew me away i retrospect. 2 years I watched a contemporary ballet called the tree  of life and there has been plenty more great experiences.

I bought quite a few events early May in between my travels. I missed the opening of the tickets, so a lot of events were sold out so I grabbed what I could even if I didn’t know so much about the events.

Here’s all the events I went to and really enjoyed…

MIF Opening: What is the City but the people? : Thursday 29th July

What Is The City But The People

I actually applied to be one of the people to cross the massive yellow catwalk which was constructed in Piccadilly Gardens. But while applying for it, I received a form asking a ton of questions about my profession. There was about 25 points and I couldn’t say yes to any of them, so I assumed I most likely wouldn’t be selected (rightly or wrongly).

I actually shot a ton of footage for the event, which I won’t lie was incredible. Each and everyone had a fantastic story, from a refugees who have made their way across europe and parts of the middle east, people who have had sex changes, people with chronic diseases, drag queens, teachers, 2 people on a blind date, cyclists, nurses, beekeepers, cake makers, a woman with a new-born baby, Ian Hislop the Architect, Noel from Oasis etc. It was incredible but the two which really got me was the woman who was celebrating her 100th birthday this year; and a man who was raped and in the attack passed HIV. Just incredible and as the screens said, maybe this is just cities – but it is this city.

It really reflected the diversity and of the city in such a great way. It was a real high and well worth watching the video although you couldn’t beat being there. So great it didn’t rain, because that would have ruined everything.

Not related to MIF but after the high of the MIF opening, at the barber the next day. A man walked in without an appointment and when he was offered one with female barber could cut his hair. He refused saying he wanted a male barber. Felt like a bump back from the previous high.

Party skills for the end of the world : Friday 30th June

Party Skills for the end of the world

I had no idea what I had set myself up for. It wasn’t till I saw a poster while taking the tram one day. I knew it was immersive theatre but I had no idea how immersive. So the vague ticket description saying wear suitable shoes had me wondering for a long while.

When I got to the secret venue, my Uber driver was confused and asked if I was in the right place? To be fair I was thinking the same thing too.

Of course I can’t describe all which happened because that would spoil it for others and frankly it would be pretty impossible to do this justice.

So here’s some pictures

Party Skills for the end of the world

It started with a good classic martini or in my case a few (I also made a dirty martini, that was the cloudy martini I had before the alarms went off).

Party Skills for the end of the world

We were moved deeper into the derelict building and then free to try a number of skills to take forward to the end of the world.

Party Skills for the end of the world

At some point more alarms and we were moved quickly through the building. Now I see why suitable shoes are required

Party Skills for the end of the world

Finally we ended up in a big room with a band playing something I imagine Underworld would play at the end of the world.

Party Skills for the end of the world

Then after a speech and blessing we were free to play in a vast building, and play we did till about midnight. I rejected the idea of going to the old pint pot because I had another MIF event at 1030am the next morning.

Party Skills for the end of the world

Interdependance: We need to talk about Power : Saturday 1st July

Interdependence: We Need to Talk about Power

There are so many things to be said about these series of talks and what better place to have them that in the Ancoats Halle, which I have never visited although I can see it from my window. I went along 2 years ago in the old Granada site but these talks were far better and the everything about them was +10 on the previous ones.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk about Power

Seeing Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and David Olusoga together on stage was pretty incredible. Each talking about power from the angle of race. Then when you can’t imagine how it could get better, Bad Language presented Jason Hickel (Writer of the Divide), Andrew O’Hagan and Deanna Rodger.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk about Power

I’ve already made a note to go along to the monthly bad language events, when it doesn’t clash with Volleyball or Werewolf.

MIF tour: Identity and the Fabric of the City : Saturday 1st July

Idenity and the fabirc of the city

After Interdependance in the Ancoats Halle, there was just enough time to head home have breakfast then walk down to Festival Square for a tour of inner Manchester.

My thought was I lived in Manchester for 9 years and still don’t really know much of the history of Manchester (as clearly noticed when going to the Salford Lads club and asking who the man was on the photos? Yeah I know!)

The tour was short but very insightful, as we walked from festival square/albert square to the central library, through St Peters Square, along princess street then china town. Finally we headed to kings street and on to deansgate. Many facts and interesting stories. Will have to go on another one of the tours soon.

Fatherland preview : Monday 3rd July

Fatherland

With my upcoming conversation on BBC Merseyside about the crisis of masculinity. I got a ticket and wasn’t quite sure what to expect; but what I got was quite a surprise and a fantastic theater performance in the excellent royal exchange theatre. I was very fortunate to have snatched a 2nd row seat too, giving real impact to everything I was watching unfold.

The play was funny, tragic and held together really well. I saw the preview, so I expect by the time it was out of the preview it would be even tighter than what I saw. I was also shocked to find out that quite a few of the cast were not professionals.

What if Women ruled the world? : Thursday 6th July

What if women ruled the world

This is the one ticket I couldn’t get first time around. I loved the concept and tried my best to blag a ticket. But luckily after seeing the previous MIF events, I went back to the site and found a bunch of tickets had been released. So I instantly snapped up one and pushed my other commitments for that night (sorry residents committee) but it was so worth it.

What if women ruled the world

Like partyskills & fatherland I don’t want to reveal too much although I am finally writing this on the last day of MIF 2017 (I got back from Berlin too late to really go to any of the ending events). We weren’t really allowed to take pictures too, but as soon as it was finished no one was bothered so I grabbed some of the amazing set and what an amazing location to host it (mayfield depot) which is the same place I saw Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack 4 years ago.

What if women ruled the world

The best way of thinking about what if women… as partly theater play and partly serious panel discussion. I’m planning to watch the other ones just to see how different they were from the one I went to.

My only negative to the event was the chairs were pretty sore on the bottom after sitting for so long. At least with Adam Curtis vs Massive Attack you could shift your weight around a little, although I remember that being too long for standing.

Interdependance: We need to talk about Technology : Saturday 8th July

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology
After going to the first interdependence event in the Halle, I decided to grab a ticket for this one as the theme was technology in Stoller Hall (another place I never been to before).

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology

The introduction of the robot from Sheffield University, and the reaction from the panel especially Joanna Bryson who verbalised her reaction as, ahhhh cute but wait why has it got a feminine sounding name? And why is it trying to act like pet? I’m now fighting not to treat it the way you want me to react. It reminded me of the very first time I saw a Aibo (sonys robotic dog, which I later owned) at the ICA in London. Everyone was so besotted by it then a member of the panel walked across the floor and kicked it off the stage. Of course Joanna wasn’t planning on doing this but her reaction turned to slight anger about the robot.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology

I was also trying to squeeze in more MIF events before going away for a week. I wasn’t wrong, another great series of talks hosted by the Aleks Krotoski. If I didn’t have to rush off to Volleyball to coach, I would have tried to catch up with her and some of the incredible guests.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology
I was very taken by Birgitta Jónsdóttir (who I heard so much about but never met or seen her live) and Laurie Anderson (who I hadn’t really come across before), who were just fantastic in everything they said. Joanna Bryson in the AI debate was off the hook, certainly someone I want to hear more from in the future.

Interdependence: We Need to Talk About Technology

On reflection, MIF pretty much couldn’t do no wrong. From the start with the decision to put the people of the city front and centre (I kind which I’d filled that form out now) to the amazing contemporary theatre productions. From deep note taking conversations in great spaces to immersive experiences in derelict buildings.

I was explaining to my sister how incredibly wonderful MIF is and why she should make the trip up to Manchester in 2 years time for MIF 2019. I said this while having dinner at the London Barbican after going to the into the unknown exhibit, which I was looking forward to.

I was deeply disappointed as I didn’t even get see the black mirror exhibit (they turned it off 5mins before the end and I went and visited everything else (theres 3 parts) before being told the exhibit is actually in the public lobby. To say I was peed off was an underestimation. From what I can see of the long turned off screen in the lobby, it would play visions of the black mirror universe.

My thoughts of a box with advertising surrounding you like 15 million merits, where the screens would pause and play a high pitch noise till you look again, certainly was over-thought. I guess? Maybe a suggestion for 2 years from now, as I can imagine creating this for MIF 2019 using existing technology.

I said it before but the MIF (Manchester International Festival) was one of those things which makes me very happy that I moved to Manchester. Yes could do the same in other cities but the size and culture of Manchester makes it seem like the ideal match. If you haven’t been before, mark it down in your calendar for 2 years time!

What a excellent 9 days! Just excellent!

Barbican’s black mirror exhibit

Black Mirror s1 ep 2: 15 million Merits

Interesting news recently, that London Barbican will be opening a exhibit around Black mirror episode S1 ep2: 15 million merits

I’ll be personally interested to see how far down the perceptive media (or as I use to call it intrusive TV) route they go? Also be interested to see if they use the chance to educate the public about data ethics and the value of data like the science museum have done.

Sexortation the new catfish scam?

Black mirror s3 ep3: Shut up and Dance screenshot
After a virus infects his laptop, a teen faces a daunting choice: carry out orders delivered by text message, or risk having intimate secrets exposed.

Tom Morris wrote on his blog

For some, Black Mirror seems to be a HOWTO guide. I guess if you are going to use sexual shame to make money, Britain is the best place to target.

He’s not wrong, from the Telegraph paper link.

Organised criminal gangs are blackmailing growing numbers of young men after using social media to entice them into performing sex acts on screen.

Police have revealed an unprecedented rise in the new crime of webcam blackmail – known as ‘sextortion’ – with more than 900 cases reported so far this year.

That is already more than double the total for the whole of 2015.

But senior officers at the National Crime Agency fear the true scale of the problem is far bigger, with many victims too ashamed to report their involvement to police.

Among recent victims were four young men who became so desperate at the thought of being publicly humiliated that they took their own lives.

I mentioned this in my talk at TedXManchester 4. At the time people seemed a little baffled and you can see how its can be confused with Cat-fishing. This partly why I felt it deserved a entry in urban dictionary (even if I did spell it slightly wrong).

Watching Black Mirror Season 3 episode 3: Shut up and dance I was instantly thinking about this even if [Promise not to spoil it… but there is so much I could say] but there is a really nice breakdown at the psychtech podcast too.

If people think blocking your webcam will solve the problem, think again! This has just got started, I dare not think how low this scam will go.

#Blackmirror s3ep4: San Junipero

Black Mirror s3 ep4
California, 1987: San Junipero is a fun-loving beach town synonymous with sun, surf, and sex. And for recent arrivals Yorkie and Kelly, it’s going to be a life-changer…

When I came back from a friend’s wedding in the lake district (massive congrats to them both). I decided to keep the weekend quite free before the weekend of Mozfest. As I was mainly relaxing I decided to do Black Mirror season 3 in one long evening.

I got to episode 4 and couldn’t help but be blown away. So much that it played on the mind and I had to watch it again.

Spoilers beyond this point! You were warned!

Continue reading “#Blackmirror s3ep4: San Junipero”

Black Mirror White Christmas on Lovegrumps

Black mirror white christmas

The Lovegrumps, which was myself, Ryan and Tom talked about the Black Mirror Special.

Two men exchange stories on Christmas Day. These stories tell of a dark future where technology rules our lives.

Black mirror is great but this episode is extra special. Seek it out!

Warning! If you have not seen the Black mirror special, do not listen to this episode of Lovegrumps! You have been warned… Massive spoilers!

Lifelogging a new way to look at reality

Me with Google Glass

When I was at the Quantified Self Europe conference earlier this year, I was at a talk about lifelogging… It was interesting to say the least but I took away a number of things. Two stuck out…

  1. The images which are taken, cease being images alone per-say.
  2. Lifelogging is like having another sense.

Really interesting to think about that while reading Here’s What Memoto Does With Your Entire Life After Photographing It and How lifelogging is transforming the way we remember track our lives.

The images which are taken, cease being images alone per-say

“Photos make sense as contextualizers for all that data [from the quantified self movement],” Johansson says. By saving data like GPS coordinates and which direction the camera is facing along with the photo, Memoto has also positioned itself for possibilities such as putting together all of the photos taken from one place into a 3-D map or allowing users to opt into a photo pool when they’re at the same event.

None of this, however, will be possible unless enough people find the app’s automatic timeline of their lives compelling enough to warrant wearing Memoto in the first place. For that, the company is betting on something akin to an extreme FOMO–or a fear of missing out, not on an experience, but on the opportunity to capture an experience. FOMOOCE, if you will. “This is a way to get to an effective mindfulness by knowing you are not missing out on capturing anything,” Johansson says.

Lifelogging is like having another sense

In 2013, lifelogging is set to hit another milestone with the launch of self-tracking hardware devices like Google Glass and Memoto’s wearable, automatic camera set to hit market.

To explore the “lifelogging” phenomenon and the shift in how people are remembering and capturing their lives, the creators of Memoto recently launched a documentary about the lifelogging movement. The documentary includes interviews with experts in the field like Steve Mann and Gordon Bell, along with the technical lead of Google Glass — exploring the past, present and future of lifelogging.

Of course the whole lifeblogging movement is dominated with Google Glass right now and the idea is in many visions, (usually dystopian) of the future including Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror’s The Entire History of You.

Set in an alternative reality where most people have a ‘grain’ implanted behind their ear which records everything they do, see or hear. This allows memories to be played back either in front of the person’s eyes or on a screen, a process known as a ‘re-do’.

A promising and interesting future for lifelogging… Me thinks

Perceptive Media isn’t about algorthms alone

BBC Perceptive Radio

From the Independent today… something which sounds like a episode of Black Mirror

The most cunning trick of the internet is that, with the help of some clever algorhythm-tracking piece of technology, it follows  our online behaviour and reflects  it back to us in the browsing choices it offers.

Dismayingly, radio may soon be playing the same game. A new invention called the Perceptive Radio, unveiled at the recent Thinking Digital Conference, is said to be able to respond to the kind of device listeners are using and to where they live. It will then adapt its output to include, for example, mentions of their local town, or the weather outside.

The aim, according to the team behind Perceptive Radio, is to provide “a more immersive experience” and, it almost goes without saying, to encourage diversity.

It sounds creepy to me. The very last thing I want from my radio is that it is customised to me and reflects my own world. True diversity lies in difference, not similarity.

Terence Blacker misses the fact Perceptive Media isn’t about algorithms alone. Its about giving the storyteller freedom to tell stories which make sense to the audience at the time. It also considers the space and place where the story is being told.  It doesn’t simply reflect your world back at you. I would say its a very lazy writing to do so, you also fall into the trouble of the mediabubble theory and finally how do you cover a group or audience?

Luckily Bex jumps in with a comment…

Interesting re ‘Perceptive Radio’. I was at the launch at Thinking Digital, and went to the lunchtime session as had somewhat of the impression that you give here – that it would become yet another ‘echo chamber’ – something I’m always seeking to avoid – but it seems more about intelligent reactions (e.g. volume changes if you’re singing along), and augmented information dependent upon location. I’m sure as with all other tech, can choose to enable, customise or disable..

Perceptive Media is smarter than machine algorithm alone. It empowers the scriptwritter and storyteller…

Black mirror s2e1: Be right back

Black Mirror s2ep1

Black Mirror season 2 episode 1

Martha (Hayley Atwell) and Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) are a young couple who move to a remote cottage, where Ash’s parents used to live. Ash is a big user of social media, tapping away on his phone, just a bit too much. Martha doesn’t really mind, she loves him and they’re looking forward to their new life together. The day after the move, Ash is killed, returning the hire van. At the funeral, Sarah (Sinead Matthews), a friend of Martha’s, tells her about a new service that lets you stay in touch with the deceased. By using all his past online communications and social media profiles, a new ‘Ash’ can be created – disarmingly ‘real’ and a help to a grieving partner. Martha is disgusted by the concept and wants nothing to do with it. Martha decides to stay in the cottage, despite her sister, Naomi (Claire Keelen), being worried about her isolation. Then one morning Martha receives an email from ‘Ash’. Sarah has signed her up. Martha is furious and deletes the message. But then she discovers she is pregnant and in a confused and lonely state Martha decides to talk to ‘him’.

*Spoilers ahead, you were warned*

Excellent episode which involves a woman losing her partner. A friend sets up her with a special system which takes all the public data of that person and generates a avatar of the data. So all those public tweets, flickr pictures, etc. First it emulates the voice and then it starts to emulates other aspects. In the end the woman is lured into levelling up  to a physical avatar.

While it seems somewhat insane… Its not as far future as you may think.

When I first started watching it, I instantly thought about Weavrs

Weavrs are your alter egos crafted from the threads of the social web.

Imagine Weavrs + Google Now…! Yes be afraid, be very afraid… You think sleeping with your partner as weavr is bad, wait till you point it at someone eles’s weavr! Or worst pointing it at yourself!  Scary and freaky stuff!

Charlie Brooker did a preview showing of black mirror at the BFI last month, which I need to watch when I get a chance (can’t get it to play on my xbmc setup unforgettably). Thanks to tim dobson for reminding me of tomscott’s piece about this a while ago… well worth watching like most of his stuff

 

Is online dating all its cracked up to be?

Black Mirror series 2

Off the back of my blog post about online dating… Imran added a little more context by pointing at some more related stuff by Dan.

There was quite a few things I wanted to talk about when reading “A Million First Dates” by that guy again

The positive aspects of online dating are clear: the Internet makes it easier for single people to meet other single people with whom they might be compatible, raising the bar for what they consider a good relationship. But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new? What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high? What if the prospect of finding an ever-more-compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability, in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track?

And therefore, cue the obvious paradox of choice point

The Paradox of Choice, the psychologist Barry Schwartz indicts a society that “sanctifies freedom of choice so profoundly that the benefits of infinite options seem self-evident.” On the contrary, he argues, “a large array of options may diminish the attractiveness of what people actually choose, the reason being that thinking about the attractions of some of the unchosen options detracts from the pleasure derived from the chosen one.”

Although I’m a massive fan of choice and I have problems with Schwartz’s conclusions in the book, I can see what Dan is getting at. Theres a feeling that if it doesn’t work out you can try again easily enough. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this amount of choice has made me less likely to make things

At the selection stage, researchers have seen that as the range of options grows larger, mate-seekers are liable to become “cognitively overwhelmed,” and deal with the overload by adopting lazy comparison strategies and examining fewer cues. As a result, they are more likely to make careless decisions than they would be if they had fewer options, and this potentially leads to less compatible matches. Moreover, the mere fact of having chosen someone from such a large set of options can lead to doubts about whether the choice was the “right” one. No studies in the romantic sphere have looked at precisely how the range of choices affects overall satisfaction. But research elsewhere has found that people are less satisfied when choosing from a larger group: in one study, for example, subjects who selected a chocolate from an array of six options believed it tasted better than those who selected the same chocolate from an array of 30.

I think the comparison of chocolate and dating is a weird one. I guess if your treating dating like picking chocolates, then somethings wrong? There is a aspect of the grass is greener on the other side but I think its a maturity thing…

As online dating becomes increasingly pervasive, the old costs of a short-term mating strategy will give way to new ones. Jacob, for instance, notices he’s seeing his friends less often. Their wives get tired of befriending his latest girlfriend only to see her go when he moves on to someone else.

I don’t know if this is true but I certainly felt my parents shifting about on the other end of the phone when I talk about the last date I went on. When I would mention a woman’s name from week to week, they would sometimes say “oh you’ve mentioned her a few times.” and if I mentioned her name more than a few times “oh she sounds pretty serious?”

Also, Jacob has noticed that, over time, he feels less excitement before each new date. “Is that about getting older,” he muses, “or about dating online?” How much of the enchantment associated with romantic love has to do with scarcity (this person is exclusively for me), and how will that enchantment hold up in a marketplace of abundance (this person could be exclusively for me, but so could the other two people I’m meeting this week)?

This one is very interesting… I have to admit date after date you do loose a certain amount of excitement. The weird thing is depending on how things came about would change my level of excitement. For example meeting women through plenty of fish was not that interesting, mainly because I found them quite young and sexually motivated. OKCupid was a little more mixed but I’d admit it wasn’t like the first few months.

But its not just online dating… A lot of my other dates have been through speed dating and likewise the excitement has died down.

And its funny that I met Laura under totally different circumstances…  Also funny I met Sarah in a non-dating situation. Both I met through the medium of the internet but not via online dating… Could there be something about online dating which is slightly self destructive, for some of us? (I do know people who met and are very happy now)

If things didn’t work out with the lovely Laura, I would go back to online dating but I’ll be honest and say I was kind of fed up of it. I have met some good and very bad woman. Some of them I’m still friends with, but there is no way I feel compelled to go back to that. The notion I personally wouldn’t be as committed isn’t true in my own case. There is nothing pulling me back to that lifestyle.

It could all make a great episode of Black Mirror, endless searching and never being contented. But in reality life isn’t that complex/simple. Thoughts of love overwhelm the brain and we soon forget what it use to be like being single…

More on that Youtube Video

After I got a automatic/robot take down for my intrusive TV demonstrate from the Black Mirror episode 2. I’ve decided to see what I can do to get the video back online, by going through the YouTube process instead of just posting it somewhere else.

However there seems to be little I can do…

Copyright Info: Intrusive TV?

Your video, Intrusive TV? , may include content that is owned or administered by these entities:

  • Entity: Channel 4 Content Type: Audiovisual content

As a result, your video has been blocked in these locations:

Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, United Kingdom

What should I do?

No action is required on your part. Your video is still available everywhere not listed above.

What can I do about my video’s status?

Please note that the video’s status can change if the policies chosen by the content owners change. You may want to check back periodically to see if you have new options available to you.

Under certain circumstances, you may dispute this copyright claim. These are:

  • if the content is mistakenly identified and is actually completely your original creation;
  • if you believe that your use does not infringe copyright (e.g. it is fair use under US law);
  • if you are actually licensed by the owner to use this content.

I need more information. I want to learn more about the dispute process.

Please take a few minutes to visit our Help Centre section on Policy and Copyright Guidelines, where you can learn more about copyright law and our Content Identification Service.

So as you can see its only blocked in the country of its origin, which strikes me as totally backwards…! Oh well, I could say a lot about this but to be totally fair, its not Channel4… Its some automated process doing automatic takedowns on behalf of Channel4. Who was it that said code is law?

A vision of Intrusive TV?

There is one sequence in the last episode of Black Mirror, which you got me really thinking (bear in mind there is tons of interesting subjects matters explored in the show)…

A long while ago I coined the term Intrusive TV for a technology which later got renamed to Perceptive Media. Without going into any detail, this is what I’m worried may happen if certain aspects of the technology behind Perceptive Media is taken to its extremes.

Without any details, you can still certainly get a feel for how scary a future were heading towards…

Hopefully YouTube/Google won’t take it down straight away… But if so, watch the whole thing and about 40mins in look out for the sequence when there’s not enough credit to skip or change anything. You will know which bit when you see it…

Oh no… within a few moments I got a email…

Dear cubicgarden,

Your video, Intrusive TV?, may have content that is owned or licensed by Channel 4.

No action is required on your part; however, if you are interested in learning how this affects your video, please visit the Content ID Matches section of your account for more information.

Sincerely,
– The YouTube Team

Oh well so much for that…

Black mirror’s 15 million merits

You got to hand it to Charlie Brooker… not only is he a genius of comedy but he’s got a amazingly dark sense of humour…

If you’ve not checked out Channel 4’s 15 million merits, you must watch it.

Its a mix of Big Brother, Xfactor, Miniority report and Gamer all mixed in one with deep meaning for the connected generation. If you don’t mind being spoiled Den of Geek of a excellent review while if you’ve not seen it, check out this review which is a little less on the spoilers.

After watching it, its also worth reading the background of how it was all put together in creative review