Last week I attended ‘We Love Technology’ which was part of the LoveBytes festival in Sheffield. The day was billed as ‘the latest adventures in the creative use and misuse of emerging technology. Ten informal presentations by pioneering artists, designers and technologists exploring the theme of digital craft’‘ Which I think sums it up nicely in a couple of sentences. Here is my take on the day.
First up were Steve Simons and Simon Blackmore of Owl Project who essentially build strange things out of wood such as log based synthesizers. They demoed their very innovative Sticks UI which essentially requires you to bang together two sticks in a certain pattern to enable basic computer functions and typing, requires a very good sense of rhythm and patience in abundance.
The best talk/story/narrative of the day was by James Boardwell of Rattle. The title of the talk was ‘We Are Friction’ and I will make no attempt to do justice to what he said but just point you to the slides and the talk on his site here. You can also check out some associated discussion around the creation of the talk from the Rattle Blog.
Crispin Jones showed off some of his thought provoking design work in the form of social mobiles, psychic desks, and USB powered funbots. His talk dealt with how the design of technology impacts how they are used and as such you can design to create a specific type of use e.g. A mobile that gives you electric shocks if you shout. Crispin also showed some of his watches which impact the wearer by either giving messages of positive or negative reinforcement. For example one of his watches reminded the wearer to ‘Remember you will die’ and conversely another watch that told the wearer ‘All your friends love you’.
The first and only lady speaker of the day was Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino of Tinker.it. I saw Alexandra speak at TEDxSheffield last year and she was again excellent. The talk was called build for victory and Alexandra started by showing how design, industrial design and hacking are really not that far apart. As Tinker.it are the UK representatives of Arduino those little boards of fun also got a mention and she also told us to look busy as the Tories are coming. One of the pieces that they have worked on recently that caught my eye was the Hopper Invasion which was an array of space hoppers attached to pumps that were then connected to the web this allowed people to tweet and interact with the exhibit i.e. pump up the balls.
Matt Pyke of Universal Everything and previously of legendary Sheffield outfit Designers Republic not only wowed people with some stunning animations, processing work and installations at the V&A but he also induced a great deal of shed envy by showing his garden studio. He also showed some old NY Sushi flyers which made me a little bit nostalgic.
Tobie Kerridge talked about his part in some interesting biomedical and cybernetic research as part of the Material beliefs project. One idea presented here really stood out and that was networked bio sensors e.g. a digital plaster worn by patients that could relay medical information to a mobile device. This is a fantastic idea but as well as thinking about the tech they also thought about the consequences i.e. what if someone else got that data such as a life insurance company. The area of personal infomatics continues to fascinate me so this was right up my street.
William Ngan of Microsoft talked about his beautiful generative art which he presented on a Macbook running windows 7 which lead him to explain how he spent much of his time hiding his Mac from Steve Ballmer.
This was not the usual kind of event I would attend but the fact it was in my home city and is a subject I am interested in but know little about it seemed an opportunity not to be missed. It was a really eye opening day and featured some awe inspiring works of genius. I was also lucky enough to carry on some discussions afterwards in the newly opened Sheffield Tap which lead to some rather exuberant ideas to be discussed especially around those digital plasters and the concept of barely games. We love technology, we love art but everyone will always love the liquid that has driven all kinds of craft and creativity…beer.