birminghamuk

TED for the Dead

POSTED IN birminghamuk, my projects 8 October 2013

Is how my brain processes xHumed, at which I’m appearing on Nov 5th in Brum. Tickets available now.

xHumed__Dead_Good_Thinking_»_How_The_Industrial_Age_Forged_Our_Digital_Future-4

By and about

POSTED IN birminghamuk, misc, writing | TAGS : , , 12 November 2012

There was a piece featuring me and the sale of BiNS on the BBC News site last week. As ever with ‘news’ I felt the interesting stuff didn’t make it to the actual article and in fact I’m sure I didn’t say anything about gaps quite like that. I thought what I said was a bit more like this tweet:

But that’s the way it goes.

There’s also two writing projects that I’ve contibuted to over the last few days. One is 280 stops—a sort of Internet piece of collaborative fiction. I’ll let Jon Hickman explain:

“This is a tribute to two wonderful things: the 11 bus route which runs through Birmingham (oh, and bits of Solihull and Sandwell), and Geoff Ryman’s novel/website 253.”

The other is not fictional at all. An idea by Jez Collins and Craig Hamilton’101 Things Birmingham Gave the World’ is a tumblr that celebrates Birmingham’s impact on World Culture.

Why I’m giving up Birmingham: It’s Not Shit

POSTED IN birminghamuk, blogging, my projects | TAGS : , , 22 October 2012

At some point over the weekend, I decided to out the low level moving on campaign and put my most famous website up for sale on eBay.

I started the site back in the May of 2002, before there were really such things as blogs in the mainstream and the term ‘hyperlocal’ was not even a glint in an irritating theorist’s eye. Pretty much everything that’s ever been on it, and definitely everything technical was written or created by me, I’ve had a couple of ‘columnists’ for short whiles and a couple of bits of ‘holiday cover’ but that’s all. The site was flat, hand coded HTML until I learned of PHP and wrote a simple news updating section. Later I discovered that there wasn’t only a name for such things but software out there to do it more prettily and better.

And now it, or sites like it, are either the future of the media or a disappointment to those that thought they should be.

But, it didn’t start because the media was dying, it started because the media was crap: crap at explaining why people connected emotionally with a place that—when looked at objectively—was a bit shit. Crap at self awareness, crap at understanding real life. The media has changed a little, but mostly the contents have just shifted in transit.

I have always been proud of it being not only independent, but seen to be, so not taking advertising and clearly marking anything churned from a press release was always part of the plan. It was fun at times, maybe important and influential at others, but always fairly time consuming and costly. I’ve got lots of other stuff on now, and for the first time in years a regularly hour-ed job (that’s also in another city)—so it’s time to give up.

There’s also a way in which the landscape of ‘hyperlocal publishing’ has changed—the Corinthian spirit beaten down by encroachment of money or officialdom: from ad sales bullshitters to quango reports that do nothing but serve the interests of the establishment. I don’t have the energy to fight, but don’t want to lose that battle really. So the idea is to let someone with the energy try something else with the cultural cache that the site’s built up. There is a way forward for local content created by people that can reach an audience without aping what’s gone before, but just right now I don’t know what it is.

And I’d like to recoup some of the costs if possible, so I’m selling.

I’ll no doubt return to the themes, and the location, but for now time’s up.

(Here’s what I said just over two years ago about how it all started, I still think pretty much the same.)

Is Oxford happy?

POSTED IN art, birminghamuk, social media, twitter | TAGS : , , , 19 July 2012

After moving down to Oxford I did an update of my Birmingham Emotions conversational psychogeography project. That’s now quite simple as I have built a ‘happy monitor’ that can centre anywhere. I’m not as happy myself as I was with the results however, whether due to the increasing volume of the Tweets that it analyses or something else the rating doesn’t move around too much. Such was the problem I proposed in a very quick talk at Oxford Geek Night 27. Here are the slides from the presentation, I think the audio was being recorded and will add if I get hold of it.

I’ve already had a number of suggestions about improving the equation or analysis, if they’re code-able by me I shall try. If not I will have to ask for help…

On a side note, the whole idea of conversational psychogeography came to me when I was thinking of putting an emotional wellbeing indicator in the form of a light at the top of Birmingham’s Rotunda (see how it’s still unfinished right at the top. That was back in 2008, but it seems that London has finally installed something a little similar. Drat.

You can get twice daily Oxford updates on Twitter.

Map of Birmingham— Inebriance Survey

POSTED IN art, birminghamuk, design, geekery, my projects, portfolio | TAGS : , , , 7 January 2011

Pub Map.pdf (1 page)

Map of Birmingham: Inebriance Survey 2011 PDF

Now that is what I call a map. Every pub in Birmingham as available from the Open Street Map XAPI (on 6/1/11), for use as a navigational aid.

Plotted as a mapless map with Maperitive, and text tided up in Illustrator, no data was added or removed (except for duplicate of ‘The Tennis Courts’ in Perry Barr, which is plotted twice on OSM).

Prints  available , although you’re free to open, download, and explore the PDF.

Data and icon from and © Open Street Map under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence and as such the PDF/image here is too.

Someone Once Told Me

POSTED IN birminghamuk, misc | TAGS : , , , 22 February 2010

Here I am, looking a little grumpy, as part of Mario Cacciottolo’s really rather lovely ‘Someone Once Told Me‘ project.

Someone Once Told Me - Gallery - 19022010

Investigative Journalism

POSTED IN birminghamuk, my projects, video | TAGS : , 8 November 2009

Is this ‘unique’ or are the media keeping people dumb?

POSTED IN birminghamuk, misc | TAGS : , , 4 June 2009

Birmingham Mail - News - Top Stories - Water graffiti gets Rep in hot water

The Birmingham Mail covered this exchange on Pete Ashton’s blog, which is good — it’s a story. To sum up, an advertising company working on behalf of the Rep Theatre were using reverse graffiti, they — mistakenly one would assume — used it on a monument (that it’s a monument isn’t immediately obvious, if you don’t know Brum), Pete pointed it out, they apologised.

What annoyed me was the way that the Mail’s report worked — it is so dumbed down as to be wildly wrong in a couple of places:

“A BIRMINGHAM theatre’s unique way of advertising with jet aqua sprays to create ‘reverse graffiti’ has left them in trouble.”

Unique? Let’s see what ‘unique’ means :”existing as the only one or as the sole example” — while reverse graffiti might be still thought of as fairly new, it’s not unique, not even for Brum – here’s an example from 2007 of BRMB using it:
brmb reverse graffiti

Later on in the article they tell us that Pete “writes a blog on Birmingham” — he doesn’t, he writes a blog on whatever stuff he wants to, including publishing pictures of himself dressed as a cloud. Maybe that’s why they don’t link to the blog, give the URL, or mention that the whole incident played out on the blog (instead they imply he’s talked to them - he hasn’t).

All media outlets have a style, but lowering the standard of discourse so far that it becomes factually inaccurate? Yes it happens all the time. Everything has to be “new” and “difficult to understand”, and “frightening” — so people never think that they should go off and find something out about things, never think that maybe there’s stuff they’ve missed, never think that they can go off an have their own thoughts.

Is it because they still blindly assume they’re the only place people get information from? Or do they really want to keep people stupid?

[EDIT: I'd just like to point out that this post isn't about not linking or crediting internet sources (gwad knows we've all been over that one), but about the terrible tendency to simplifly things to the point of incorrect. Whatever the process, reverse graffiti isn't unique, Pete doesn't write a blog about Birmingham — leave these two bits out the story is better.]

[EDIT the 2th: My point is that I know what's correct here, because I know of Pete's blog, and have seen the development of the reverse graffitti thing and —  while neither are important in themselves — it begs the question, what else do the media get wrong that I don't know about? Maybe some really important big things. I worry.]

Yahoo’s When isn’t so hot on where

POSTED IN birminghamuk, comment, found stuff, geekery | TAGS : , , 20 May 2009

Supposedly “hyperlocal” thing from Yahoo, hasn’t quite got the “local” bit, yet.

Where To Go. What To Do. Local Events - when.com
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Susan Boyle Swine Flu Sex and MPs

POSTED IN birminghamuk, found stuff, twitter | TAGS : , , , , , 30 April 2009

Birmingham Mail - News - Birmingham News - Susan Boyle: Erdington MP apologises after Twitter swine flu joke

Local MP Sion Simon (finding his way on Twitter) ReTweeted a (vaguely amusing, but not ear-shatteringly funny) witicism:

“I’m not saying Susan Boyle caused swine flu. I’m just saying that nobody had swine flu, she sang on TV, people got swine flu.”

It’s about Now Show standard, topical, smirk-worthy rather than a belly-laugh — what it isn’t is offensive in any way.

Two unrelated comments to make:

  • Firstly how desperate is the SEO’d headline there — pick the two most talked about things online over the last week and then add MP and Twitter — would the story have merited coverage if it didn’t give the opportunity to combine all those?
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