Tag Archives: FutureEverything

It’s been a really tough year, but what’s next for media art UK?

I wrote this post for Life | Art | Us on 7 June 2011. Click on the link at the bottom to read the full post.

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On the Saturday of FutureEverything 11, I tripped over an interesting discussion organised by CODA, about the state of media art UK. As well as talking about the impact of recent funding cuts and the concerning number of media art organisations that had lost out, the group also talked proactively about how people and organisations active in the UK media art movement might work better together in the future, to improve the visibilty and understanding of media arts practice in the UK, and create a stronger voice for media art, particularly amongst policy makers and funders.

About the UK media art ecology

The UK media art ecology is fascinating and made up of many elements. It includes policy makers who provide funding and guidelines that help to shape the ecology at a strategic level, commissioning agencies who fund creative activity, arts and digital practitioners who make stuff, museums, galleries and other kinds of agencies (public and private) who show stuff, audiences who go and see stuff, academics, historians, journalists and critics who talk about work and broader trends, and education institutions who invest in the development of future practitioners, curators, creative producers, funders, critics and policy makers.

Image from Furtherfield's Rich Networking event

Image from Furtherfield’s Rich Networking event

A strong and vibrant creative ecology needs a good mix of all of these elements in order to thrive, it also needs these elements to work well together. Sadly, one of the biggest challenges facing media art UK is that the balance of these elements is quite skewed, particularly in terms of commissioning new work, and this has only become more acute as a result of recent funding cuts. Another challenge facing the UK media arts movement is that it’s fragmented, and it has been for quite some time. I’ll come back to this a little bit later.

Read this post in full – It’s been a really tough year, but what’s next for media art UK?.

What happens when geeks go camping?

I wrote this post for Life | Art | Us on 30 May 2011. Click on the link at the bottom to read the full post.

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In her session at FutureEverthing 2011, Professor Sue Thomas talked to us about her fascinating paper, When geeks go camping – finding California in cyberspace, which explores the relationship between nature, the outdoors and technological development. So, before you read any further, pack away that image of the speccy young geek, hiding away in his bedroom and chained to his computer. This post is about geeks of all ages getting out and about, and the amazing things that happen when they do.

Read this post in full: What happens when geeks go camping?

Let’s make friends with the robots

I wrote this post for Life | Art | Us on 17 May 2011. Click on the link at the bottom to read the full post.

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In his session Where the robots work, James Bridle led a provocative and inspiring talk about the role of robots in today’s society, and why he thinks we should make friends with them – sooner rather than later.

The proposition at the heart of James’ talk was the idea that for centuries we’ve built our cities and towns around our needs, but as technologies have advanced, the design of the world around us has started to shift towards the needs of our inventions, such as automobiles, electricity, networks, data and robots. The question is, have we managed to keep people at the centre of our decision-making? And do we really understand the implications of setting robots to work, behind closed doors.

Robots race camels

In 2005 the starting gun was fired for robotic jockeys in Qatar, as they set off on their very first camel race. Controlled by jockey operators from the sidelines, this premier fleet of robotic jockeys were instructed to pull reins to change direction and whip their camels to go faster and win!

Robot jockey racing in Quatar

Robot jockey racing in Quatar

Although this may sound and look quite ridiculous, the use of robots as camel jockeys represents an astonishing development in technology and human rights. The owners of racing camels in many regions of the Middle East have traditionally used children as jockeys because of their light weight; sometimes children as young as four years old. Faced with heightening pressure from human rights groups, Qatar outlawed the practice of child jockeys and looked to technology to keep their popular camel racing culture alive. The robotics firm K-Team in Switzerland came up with this ground-breaking solution and a new robot was born. Robot jockeys weigh-in at 57 pounds (26 kilograms) and cost about U.S. $5,500 each.

Interestingly, since Qatar handed their camel racing reigns over to robotic jockeys, both the United Arab Emirates and Oman have followed suit. So, in the last decade, robots have helped to ensure the future of this entertaining pass-time, and helped to end the exploitation of children involved in this activity. Go robots! Right?

Read this pot in full: Let’s make friends with the robots.