Highlights of FutureEverything 2014

Future Everything 2014

Another year another good Future Everything festival. It seemed to fly by so quickly and partly because I was roped into the Radio 4 Character invasion day and Vision 2022,thanks for the tweet Julius. So although I was back and forth between different conferences, I did get to soak up some of the good events at Future Everything.

Future Everything 2014

Adrian Hon

Adrian was also involved in the character invasion day and his book History of the Future in 100 Objects made up part of the festival. I have to admit everytime I hear Adrian talk, he spurs a number of ideas and thought. Such a smart guy and plenty of interesting thoughts. My evernote was overflowing from the conversation with him.

Future Everything 2014

Anab Jain

I had not really come across Superflux but Anab delivered a stellar keynote in place of Anthony Dunne. Not only did she talk about the serious disconnect between what Snowden uncovered. But she also touched heavily on privacy, social compliance and the invisible war over autonomy. Not only a great keynote (which I can’t believe  was all last minute) but she also delivered a good fireside chat just like Adrian Hon did.

Future Everything 2014

New shape of things panel

I just got back from Future 2022 and caught the tail end of the new shapes panel. Its always impressive to see people you know very well talking on a panel. Dan W, Tom Armitage, Alexandra DS and Claire Red moderating. Wish I could have heard the whole thing but it was full of interesting discussion about the nature of the maker scene to the unnecessary maker projects going through kickstarter recently. It was certainly one of the better panels I’ve heard in a while.

Future Everything 2014

Liam Young

Liam’s talk was certainly interesting but the sync from the laptop caused the output to fail a lot and sometimes go out of sync.

Future everything had a lot of potential but for me didn’t quite pull through mainly because of my own hectic schedule. Must remember to give it more time in the future. Well worth attending and still very reasonably priced.

The #Futr of everything 2012

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

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.

Patrick Bergel

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.

Identity and Privacy Panal

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.

Net Neutrality Panal

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 Rotich

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.

Bilal Randeree

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.

Social Broadcasting panal

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

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

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.

Banging the drum for Media Freedom and the Web

I was very excited to invited to the Mozilla Festival which this year was in London. Not only that, it was in South East London.

The Mozilla Festival use to be the Drumbeat Festival but got a rename. The event is something between a un-conference and a hackday. A whole series of challenges which people can duck in and out of. Challenges ranged from Data Journalism to Disc Jockey hacking (ironically both DJ).

Dj Challenge

I headed up the DJ (disc jockey) challenge which was first formulated quite some time ago on behalf of BBC R&D and FutureEverything.

The challenge was to reinvent or at least evolve dj’ing. We started the challenge on Saturday afternoon and it kicked off with a little stimulus from myself and others in the form of a modified presentation. On top of that, we pointed to the Google Doc, which was an aggregation of thoughts from not just myself but many others including BBC staff.

That list is still available if your interested in getting involved in the challenges.


But what came out of the challenge were 2 very strong ideas…

  1. Can we create a format which supports tracks or layers in songs, then build Dj software which takes advantage of them.
  2. Can we build a club environment which makes use of sensors to feedback to the Dj and Vj in real-time through meaningful visualisations
More were talked about but these were the strongest ones, and these are the ones which will be taken forward hopefully into the Future Everything festival next year.
The theme for the conference/hackday was around media & web freedom and there was a question how does the Dj challenge fit into this? Well I gave the example of my pacemaker…

Dj Challenege

A few of us were looking at the problem of what you do with mixes once there finished? Actually one of them was from Mixcloud.com and we were exploring the idea of licensing, etc but we started to think what other ways can you experience mixes? One idea was to map locations to places in a mix.
On my pacemaker, I’ve done mixes walking through locations such as the wrong end of irlam mix. Imagine if it had GPS, so you could map sections to a location. When the mix is uploaded, it could lead people through an artificial version of my journey. So you could experience that moment when the bus streamed past and almost knocked someone over 🙂 How exactly this works, we don’t know, but that’s the challenge…


This for me is the effect of the web on Djing, perfecting fitting into the media and web freedom ethos.
The challenge asked a lot of the people who did attend and frankly if I was to do it again I would size down the challenge down to a few core areas and work on things which can be done in the 90mins we had. Mozilla did allow us to run over 2 days and we have some ideas did run through-out them.
Moving away from the Dj challenge for now, I didn’t get much of a chance to attend the other challenges, but they sounded great. There was a real feel of excitement in the air and the location of Ravensbourne added another layer to it all.

Mozilla Festival

Here’s some of the other stuff which looked very interesting to me…

This Javascript library is looking very impressive and the documentary combining Popcorn with WebGL was impressive. I can only imagine what Adam Curtis could do with this… I’ve made a note to check it out in detail soon. I also think it could be useful in the area of Perceptive Media.
Its another one of those Javascript library’s (seems to be a trend). This one is a nice gaming framework, its still in alpha but it slightly crosses over with the BBC R&D universal control spec from what I saw in the demo.
Hyperaudio links written text with the spoken word. This means you can edit a audio file like how you edit text. Its quite magical when you see it, and would make a great tool for remixing
Teaching young people through standard web technologies how to change the web and make it there own. I think of it like One Laptop Per Child’s Sugar but less programmatic…
Although this wasn’t in the event, I found them from one persons suggestion and then when I went to look up the Eatery I found it again. Its like Creative Commons for privacy, interesting…

Mozilla Festival

Unlike Hackdays where everyone gets a chance to demo there hacks to everyone else, the Mozilla festival had the challenge leaders stand up on stage and give a brief overview of the best ideas and prototypes. On the Saturday night there was keynotes from a whole bunch of people including Tim Hunkin. Everything was good till a guy from the Tech City commission or something started going on and on… Wrong place and wrong time to do a pitch for how great silicon roundabout and techcity are… Frankly I would have liked to have thrown a popcorn.js rubber toy at him because it was so out of tune with the rest of the event. Of course I didn’t do that… but it was bad. Honestly if I caught his name, I would be naming and shaming…

Luckily all the rest of the keynotes and presentations were actually good to excellent.

The event finished with the Dj challenge taking control, because we didn’t have anything built I Dj’ed on my pacemaker along with the Alphasphere guys putting on a performance on stage. If we had thought about it a bit more, we could have Jammed together but alas maybe another time? Maybe at the Future Everything festival…

Congrats to the Mozilla crew, it was great and certainly a highlight. Mozilla’s mission is a good one and something we can all get behind. I was surprised how many people I know from Yahoo, Ebay, etc who are now working at Mozilla. Although it was very adhoc it kind of worked…

I look forward to next year…. Excellent work Michelle, Dees, Alex and a whole host of other cool Mozilla people. It was a honour…

Why you should go to the Mozilla Festival

mozilla festival poster

Just in-case you had any reasons why you shouldn’t be at the Mozilla Festival? Here’s a whole bunch of reasons why you should be there. As most of you already know, we’re running the Dj and Vj Challenges during the Mozilla Festival event in association with Future Everything, Mozilla and BBC R&D.

We’re going to explore possible futures in the fields of Dj and Vj cultures with a aim to go live with something next year at the Future Everything Festival.

The whole event is at my previous college (Ravensbourne) which moved to its new location next to the Dome in North Greenwich. I’ve never checked out the new look college but if its anything like the new Salford University in Media City UK it looks to be something special and a great place to do a challenge like this.

Of course you want to be part of this… So why not sign up now and I’ll see you there in just under a months time…