I live in worlds outside of this

Doffy Weir is an artist and photographer who specialises in transforming derelict industrial sites and canals in east London into “beautiful, tranquil other worlds”. Earlier this month she held an exhibition at the Hundred Years Gallery in Hackney which experimented with a new form: improvised live music interpretations of her surreal photography.

The exhibition was titled ‘Lesney’s Ghosts I‘, and will be followed up by a second performance in the same format, both held in the bare downstairs basement of Hundred Years Gallery. Speaking before the exhibition began, Doffy explained how the name for her series of photographs was inspired by a man she met whilst out taking photographs in east London.

“I bumped into a man who was looking for Lesney’s Matchbox Factory,” she recalled. The factory had in fact been demolished in 2010, to make way for a colourful apartment complex known as Matchmakers Wharf. Many of Doffy’s photographs focus on the bold colours of the apartment buildings reflected in the nearby river.

“We chatted for a while, and then went our separate ways,” she said. “My husband said to me, ‘Why don’t you call the collection ‘Lesney’s Ghosts’?

“Afterwards, I looked again at the photos, and started to see something in them.”

The photograph shows jumbled red, yellow and blue streaks reflected in a rippling river

A multi-coloured close-up of Matchmakers Wharf, reflected in the surface of the river

One film, three versions

Different individual interpretations of the images was a key theme of the exhibition. Three musicians in turn played improvised live accompaniments to a short, silent film made up of Doffy’s photographs, played three times in succession. First, Marcio Mattos played a haunting cello accompaniment; this was followed by John Butcher‘s saxophone interpretation, which mixed guttering and rushing noises with piercing screeches and whistles. Finally Dave Draper played a melodious, unearthly accompaniment using a guitar and a laptop. Each time, the images seemed to tell different stories. A picture that looked peaceful in one version would suddenly become sinister the second time around. Sometimes, a period of silence was all that was needed to let the images speak for themselves.

Doffy spoke of the challenges that came with assembling her vast array of photographs into a film sequence. The soundless film was originally commissioned by Steve McInerney for the launch of Psychè Tropes Record Label 2014, and took four months to put together. The experience was long and frustrating. “Some days I just sat and cried,” Doffy admitted candidly.

She decided that after so much hard work, the film deserved to be shown at more than just one event, and started to conceive of an experimental new idea: improvised live soundtracks, conceived by the musicians on the spot, with no rehearsal before the event.

Timing the film’s transitions without knowing what the musicians might do was an even bigger challenge, but Doffy was thrilled with the results.

As for her inspiration in taking the photographs to begin with, she enthused, “I’m fascinated with rubbish, with the social history of it. Even though I come from suburbia!”

Without a doubt, no-one who viewed her photography could ever look at rubbish in quite the same way again.

#mynameis: A Timeline

It’s been a few days since the climax of Facebook’s “real name” saga, and the furore seems to have mostly died down. Facebook has officially apologised to the hundreds of drag queens, members of the LGBTQIA community, DJs, stage performers and others who use pseudonyms on Facebook for the policy which forced them to switch to their “real”, legal names on Facebook or face being locked out of their accounts and networks. It has made also made noises to the effect of revising, reinterpreting or otherwise adapting the policy to account for the ways in which a good portion of Facebook’s demographic use its service.

A lot took place in a short space of time, by way of protests, petitions, heartfelt personal accounts, hashtags, a suddenly viral new social network and more. So how exactly was it that we got from then to now? And where does the future of identity on Facebook really stand? In this post, I’ll attempt to break down what happened with a timeline of key events, and get to the bottom of where the policy is going.

Read the rest of this entry »

If you’ve been following events in the crowdfunding or online tech startup worlds at all, you might have heard of the controversy surrounding Healbe GoBe, an over $1m Indiegogo campaign to fund a device that medical science says can’t possibly work. A startup-focused news site called PandoDaily has been leading the charge on the investigation into Healbe’s possibly fraudulent campaign, and it hasn’t looked good on Indiegogo at all.

A little under a fortnight after the first article ran, Indiegogo responded by modifying the anti-fraud guarantee on its website so that the wording was less absolute. A day later, Pando reported on another Indiegogo campaign which had been funded less than six months earlier, also appears to be medically impossible if it can do everything it claims, and for which the company responsible for the device, TellSpec, has since completely reset the clock on the development of a product they originally claimed to have nearly perfected. A parody of the Healbe GoBe campaign was created called ‘Miracle Health Bracelet: Vaguely Track Your Health, Fitness and More’ which made it past Indiegogo’s supposed anti-fraud algorithm, though it has since been removed. Finally, to cap everything off, Pando reported yesterday that the undisclosed donation which pushed Healbe’s calorie counter over the brink of $1 million came from none other than Indiegogo’s chief of hardware, Kate Drane. Clearly, Indiegogo is determined to throw its full weight behind this campaign in spite of all the negative press, scientific debunking and waves of requests for backer refunds.

There have been arguments made on both sides, some saying that Indiegogo needs to take responsibility for the campaigns promoted on its platform and others saying that it can’t be held liable for what the crowd decides to put its money behind. Either way, the Healbe controversy is bound to have a knock-on effect on Indiegogo’s credibility and the willingness of consumers to back other products on its site. After all, there are plenty of other crowdfunding sites out there with innovative projects, products and ventures. But how can you be sure that they won’t have the same problem?

Read the rest of this entry »

As you might have gathered from previous posts on this blog, I’m constantly fascinated by the innovative ways in which different projects on the Internet make use of crowds. I’ve covered Tomnod’s use of crowdsourcing in global crises and the “crowdplaying” of Twitch Plays Pokémon. Then on 1st April, xkcd – “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language” – upped the ante with an interactive, crowdsourced comic strip called Lorenz.

Edward Lorenz, after whom the comic is titled, was an American mathematician and meteorologist. He was a pioneer of chaos theory and coined the term “butterfly effect”, which describes a tiny variable altering events to eventually produce a much more dramatic result, such as a butterfly flapping its wings and eventually causing a hurricane. The comic’s title text (a caption produced by hovering over the strip with your mouse) directly references the butterfly effect, reading, “Every choice, no matter how small, begins a new story.” The comic’s storyline is also dependent on user-submitted dialogue and click statistics and is therefore chaotic in nature.

The comic begins with an image of an individual (their gender has been the subject of much discussion on the Explain xkcd Talk Page, and they are largely agreed to be female based on them being referred to as a “lady” in one line of dialogue. However, as the dialogue is user-submitted, this is not definitive) at their computer. The user is given a choice of four phrases, randomly ordered, for the character to say:

lorenz1

Read the rest of this entry »

Last Friday was my birthday (hooray, another year older!) and as I move more into the world of journalism with the aim of hopefully doing a postgraduate course in it next academic year, I asked for a couple of books on the subject. One of those was We the Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, For the People by Dan Gillmor. First printed in 2004, with the paperback edition that I now own printed in 2006, it’s a little out of date for the fast-moving world of information technology, but is still held in extremely high regard, and I think it’ll be a worthwhile read. It was also written with a rather different audience to myself in mind: one for whom the idea of receiving real-time journalistic updates from inside a press conference or significant world event would be a revelation; who would find the idea that ordinary people might have a voice and views of importance equal to that of designated newsmakers to be controversial; and to whom the Internet must seem like a chaotic, volatile upstart muscling in on the orderly, established world of media.

I grew up on the Internet, and its language and ways are second nature to me. The journalism I’m most familiar with is not heavily-regulated and polished ‘Big Media’ but ever-fluctuating, ever-evolving online journalism, which is not a lecture but a conversation, and one in which the people play a part as important as that of the newsmakers. Online, news breaks first via the people, and newsmakers have to listen to them to find out what’s going on, instead of the other way around.

Read the rest of this entry »

In an amazing feat, the chaotic channel chatters at Twitch Plays Pokémon have succeeded in completing Pokémon Crystal in just thirteen days. That’s all sixteen badges, plus a win against the Johto League, rival Silver, and finally Red – and not the Red of the canon Pokémon games, but Red of Twitch Plays, with the iconic team of Zapdos, Lapras, Nidoking, Venomoth, Omastar and Pigeot. As with the first Twitch Plays, a wealth of fanworks has been created around the new team and their individual personalities, their struggles and their losses. If you missed the action, here are ten fancomics which together tell the story of Gold’s – and his Pokémon’s – journey across Johto and Kanto, all the while struggling with the legends of their predecessors and a constant stream of contradictory feedback from “the voices”. (I might have sneaked in an epilogue as well ;) )

Read the rest of this entry »

Crowdsourcing a Crisis

Last entry I talked about the evolution of “crowdthings” – such as crowdsourcing and crowdwisdom – which bring together the vast amounts of people connected by the Internet to achieve a complex task, or even just to carry out a simple task in an unforeseen way. Now we’re seeing the power of crowdsourcing in a crisis as the online public helps out in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

How are they able to do that? The answer lies in a website called Tomnod, which allows its users to scour footage captured by satellite imaging company DigitalGlobe in a bid to locate anything that might be of interest to the search parties. Users helping with the search for flight MH370, which vanished without a trace four days ago, have the option of tagging what they think could be wreckage, life rafts, an oil slick or “anything interesting or suspicious” in 3,200 km² of satellite imagery, in which each pixel represents 50cm of space. The site gives visual examples of the items in question, in order to clue users in about what to look for.

malaysian airlines crowdsourcing YOU CAN HELP: Experts start crowdsourcing to find missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

Read the rest of this entry »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.