Category Archives: Ideas

a proper thought for the day

It is nice to have something to mull over, some commentary by someone to think about, respond to or just think about. That is what ‘Thought For The Day’ should be. I guess it is, but it has been limit bound by the editorial team at the Radio 4 Today Programme to not include ‘thinkers’ who are athiest.

So, if we were to have a proper ‘Thought for the day’ what would it be. I was imagining a short 3 – 5 minute podcast that gets sent out each morning, together with a small space to discuss the thought, ideas etc.

Currently the thought is one that is informed by current events and our proper one should be as well, so whoever is invited to speak each day needs to do a bit of thinking and writing early in the morning. Maybe a better thought for the day is one that sums up a day, in the evening. Yes, I am assuming a GMT based timezone here.

So, given 5 minutes to ponder the day, events, and anything else who would you have speak?

Scaling the UnParty

It seems slightly odd to write this now, we have yet to hold the first UnParty UnConference but it has been raised in response to the last post, why not deal with Global Politics and thus global citizenship with these UnConference meetings.

To which my initial response is why not, people should and will bring the policies, ideas and issues that affect them, the things that concern them. If that is about an issue that is local then that is fine as it is engaging them and they are participating.

If the issues that concerns the people at the UnConference are issues around climate change or international arms trading then they can bring these concerns to the table.

Everything is recorded digitally and everyone can contribute and discuss online.

So, we could tag everything local or hyperlocal through to global.

When I started LazyGov I thought, a space to share ideas about what government is, what it should do, policy, regulation etc. I was told by some that ideas are what we have plenty off, it was tools and ‘projects’ that we needed.

I would suggest that whilst we may have plenty of ideas what we do not have is the breadth of possible discussion, in an inclusive way as possible. At least, we have some amazing tools online to do clever things and eventually everyone will be online, eventually.

LazyGov only worked if you had your own weblog, James’s OpenPolitics manifesto only works once you understand how Git/GitHub works, we need better interfaces into the digital space we are creating to record, shape and disseminate these ideas on policy and issues and governance.

The simplest interface to this digital world is talking.

Returning back to the global point that was the start of this response, I would expect within an UnConference that ideas would be raised that addressed local issues and some would be global in scope.

The trick is to look at each from both ends, to examine a local issue and pick out the points that can be abstracted to a global guidance and within a global idea look at the issues that would allow its local implementation.

If we reduce things down to rules (algorithms for global governance) then problems will arise, instead if we work along the idea of case law, case studies, examination and recording. One size does not fit all.

Of course there is nothing to stop someone running an UnParty UnConference and suggesting that for that meeting they look at Global Ideas.

holding an UnParty UnConference

Have you heard Mark Thomas’ The Manifesto? Its been on Radio 4. The set up is simple, Mark visits various parts of the country and people are invited to submit their ideas to join the Peoples Manifesto. Some are very funny, some are a bit odd and others are very interesting. Mark will do research on some of the ideas, asking experts for their opinion etc.

You might also have seen a project by James Smith (@floppy) The Open Politics Manifesto hosted over on GitHub. Using the tools developers use to record, edit and ‘discuss’ manifesto ideas.

Yes, you do need a GitHub account and know how to use it a bit, James has written notes on how to participate but it can be seen as a hurdle.

Of course, participation in the Mark Thomas project is also limited, in fact I am not sure if it is still running,

Years ago I started a site called LazyGov.org, which was based on the code that was written by Ben Hammersley to run a site he owned called LazyWeb.org, which in turn was based on an idea by Matt Jones. The idea was simple, using trackback you could post something on your weblog and it would get reflected on the lazyweb/gov page, linking to your post.

Again it was a digital tool when, in reality the number of us online was still low. It is not totally inclusive.

So the next intervention I propose is to hold an UnParty UnConference, or a lot of them all over the country and as often as needed.

Basically,

  • Find A Venue
  • Tell people about it
  • Get policy ideas recorded online for discussion
  • Someone to facilitate the meeting
  • Hold the meeting, discuss and record

The only rule should be that you need to be non-partisan. This is not ideology lead, it should be a space to discuss ideas rationally and calmly. Use the tools of deliberation, debate, research. Encourage people to go out and find and present the facts to support or not an idea, be willing to compromise.

Once your meeting is over, record and share the conversations online, update the policy ideas.

Yes, there are plenty of steps to take next, from ideas though to action. This is just a stepping stone.

elegance and seams

The thing with a well made, elegant suit or dress is that, when you look you can see how the parts go together, the workmanship in making it, the adding of resilience to the components that see the most wear and tear.

And a well made suit should stay with you for a very long time, because it is well made and strong in a lot of places, but can also be repaired or modified as you change.

The seams may not be obvious but they are certainly not invisible.

Introducing the researchAgenda

I want to research how being more public and open about the subjects that you wish to research affects that research, does it make for a richer outcome? Does it mean that you start competing with others to get your results out sooner once you know that you and twenty others are working on similar topics? Or do you collaborate, maybe publish more, your own work plus work written together?

I sat down and hit the paralysis that I wrote about before, I want to change the world in these ways and right now I have no idea how to take the next step. Which idea is worth spending time on? which one not?

Of course, rather than just pick one work out the plan for it, then if it failed quickly move onto the next I decided to create another idea to address the problem.

researchAgenda is a simple site, simple because part of it is really me practicing my coding again after too many years just managing projects.

Using twitter, you sign in, and create a simple post, a title and a small block of text. Describe quickly what you are thinking of researching.

This can then be tweeted to your followers, who can, if they are interested visit the site, give you a positive vote if you think the idea is worth looking at, maybe leave a comment or maybe they know a reference you should be aware of, a paper on the web, or in a journal or another project by someone.

Each idea has its own view, so you can see all the comments, the suggested references and if it was your idea, you can press a button to start the project. What does this do? It clones a standard, default project in GitHub, creates a set of folders for data, documentation, references etc and a readme and contributor list that is based on the people who have added comments and references to your idea on researchAgenda.

Think of it as similar to HelpMeWrite for research.

At the moment there is nothing about the institution, nothing about how the project is reviewed or funded, or even a necessity to document what the outcome would be. It is currently just a space to write down the fact that you are interested in investigating further X. Maybe after feedback you get to refine what it is, maybe its a short project, you are going to spend a week just using a new technology and your outcome will be a blog post on what you found, good learning references etc.

Maybe though the outcome is more going to be more substantial. Can you take the input and form it into a proposal to go before one of the research councils, are you attached to an Institution that can manage the funding from such?

Of course, longer term this is, in itself a stake in the ground about creating a more public discourse about research, knowledge acquisition, generation and dissemination. Can you shape a research proposal an perform the primary work without being attached to a usual Institution? How are the outcomes of your work reviewed and published and how can the current models of academia bend to accept such work? Can they?

This does also tie into my previous posts, one on how to affect change, having a simple way to put a message ‘I want to do X’ that you can point to and ask for feedback is nice. Yes you can write a blogpost, or a facebook post or any number of other places but there is also something about the idea of a communal space, this is creating an simple ‘UnAcademia’ (ok, I’m not sure that is really the term to use, I could be quickly using up my valid excuses to use the Un- prefix). The other the Arts UnCouncil on alternative funding for arts and cultural activity.

I think as this stands, it would work for ideas around the arts and humanities, as well as for people who already operate outside the usual academic institutions. They can use the interest in a proposed research problem to help support trying to get funding for doing the work, for example. Would the idea work in other areas of research? Would bioscientists use such a platform to start staking out what they were interested in and maybe finding interest / collaborators outside their usual field/lab of interest?

There is nothing to say that you have to use the GitHub project, or you have to keep it open, maybe it can integrate into other online tools, maybe you can use this to help start parts of a research project that involve crowd sourcing of participation for microtasks?

researchAgenda will launch shortly in alpha, it is just a sketch in code but if you are interested in trying it out drop me a line and I’ll make sure you know when its live.

calling international rescue

it is nearly christmas here in the west and then the new year according to the calendar that I currently use. When new year comes around it is a good time to create some goals for that coming year, so this year I am going to post some thoughts around some ideas and goals that I have for 2012, after all it is going to be a busy and interesting year.

Firstly, following on from my wish to curate a set of TED talks that could be shown to school kids in primary school and then getting them to do things inspired by said talks I want to suggest something else to get our children excited by.

The last few years have felt tumultous, disasters, war, cultural upheaval. We need to instill the idea of Preferable Futures now more that ever.

Warren Ellis wrote about ‘rescue fiction‘. Thunderbirds and the like, that excited us as kids. Technology and Engineering used for good to make the world a better place, (whilst still being exciting and adventourous in the process). Now, my son is happy when the ShelterBox his cub group helped fund goes out to help people but what if once a week each term we charged the children with a task, to imagine solutions to current problems.

Lets not hide the world from them, its something exciting to embrace and we can approach this from practicle, design a thing to iamgining a world that they want, why the current status quo is not what they want.

once a week each term, I want schools across the country to make their children ‘International rescue’ and unleash their creativity on the world.

(Mr. Gerry Anderson, please let us do this in the name of the Tracy family).

 

Playful Radio – Something Political

Somethin’ Else make radio. In fact they do a lot of things, online, apps, radio etc. but one exciting thing that they are doing soon is a day of pilots for ‘Playful Radio’. July 7th they will broadcast over the internet a number of pilots, ideas for interactive, playful radio / audio content.

One of my ideas is in that list.

I have to admit that the idea when I put finger to keyboard, in my mind felt rather slight, it was in fact based on something that I had wanted to do around the election and was in fact much more of a visual art focus than this.

Inspired by the rather excellent ‘The Story‘ from earlier this year I wanted to do something around politics and playfulness. I still do, a day about playing games and making satire and exploring political ideas and processes in a way that is engaging to the many of people who would not in fact be interested in paying attention before.

We can step back further, before The Story even, to art. Here I have been thinking about the art of Peter Kennard, who now works with Cat Picton-Phillipps and they produce work, under the name kennardphillipps like this:

Tony Blair takes a picture of himself with a phone in front of a burning oil pipeline in Iraq - Photomontage
Tony Blair takes a picture of himself with a phone in front of a burning oil pipeline in Iraq - Photomontage

Peter Kennard has been doing this politically charged photomontage work for years, in the 70’s and 80’s he produced numerous works for CND.

One of his most famous is ‘The Haywain‘ where he took John Constable’s painting The Hay Wain (1821) and placed upon it the image of 3 nuclear missiles.

For me this is still a powerful image, the pastoral view of England with American missiles in it.

When Banksy started doing his ‘Santa’s Ghetto’ pop-up shops in London, this image of Tony Blair in front of a burning oil pipeline was a best seller.

It is not just Peter Kennard, a whole new generation of artists, many of them street artists are mixing politics in with their often playful images. The work of Banksy of course, but also collectives like Static.

Static produced a rather interesting ‘games’ series of prints around 2008. The three prints are ‘Right Hand Red’, ‘Fortunes Fated’ and ‘Corridor of Uncertainty’. They each have a distinctive style and each is about politics, protest and games. RHR features riot police and a game of Twister, FF Nixon and Kennedy face off over a Wheel of Fortune and in COU a game of Urban Cricket is played in an urban wasteland with riot vans watching.

They have continued to produce work that is based in politics and satire that is also playful and unique.

Now I have always enjoyed my politics delivered with a touch of anger, satire, creative spins etc. As I think I have mentioned in a blog post before, beyond my comic reading of Starlord and 200AD, when ‘Crisis’ came out I latched onto it and lapped up every instalment of ‘Third World War’.

And recently in my investigation into games and play it does not take long to find this same spark in this creative area either. Political simulations have been played for years. Some of the most popular video games are in fact of this type, Civilization and SimCity. There are also card/board games that allow you to play the Cold War or the Nixon/Kennedy election and most recently a small company in Cambridge started producing a board game about the ‘War on Terror’. It includes a black balaclava with the word ‘Evil’ on it. When your country is selected by the spinner as part of the Aix of Evil, you don the balaclava. Its probably a highly accurate simulation of the actual model used to decide who does form a part of this particular Axis.

On election night I wanted to fill a room with artists, to watch the coverage as it came in and produce art works, mashups through the night about the election, the reporting of the election, what was the world that was starting the following morning. Peter Kennard often describes himself as an ‘Unofficial War Artist’ then this would be a group of ‘Unofficial Election Artists’ responding to the nights events.

It did not happen, but the idea of mixing and remixing as an approach to examining politics and news as a playful prism still stuck in my head. So when I got an email mentioning that Somethin Else were looking for ideas, I sent something over.

All very visual, how does this work on radio?

So the idea was this, to take the interactive stream of twitter, find the stories and satirise them on the radio show, play with them. I tried to describe what I wanted, it needs to be The Daily Show meets Blue Jam, on the radio. The idea itself was not much more, as I thought about what I wanted to do I could not get away from thinking visually about the photomontages and mashups I have spoken about above.

But Somethin’ Else know about Radio and I got an email saying that they wanted to try the idea out.

Its amazing how popular comedy and panel shows about current affairs are. Its astounding that people would actually say that they did not watch the news, they watched ‘The Daily Show’ to get their information on what was happening in the world. Maybe it is something reassuring, if these people can write a joke about it, it can’t be ‘that’ bad. The world carries on. Forgetting, of course that comedy can often be so cruel.

I know that I cannot watch news progammes without thinking about ‘The Day Today’ and ‘Brass Eye’ the television shows by Chris Morris that tore apart how new and current affairs are communicated by modern media. Of course it was Chris Morris who also produced ‘Blue Jam’ something a lot more surreal and frankly odd. By latching onto Blue Jam as the nexus point with Chris Morris I want to say that we are trying to come up with something that is a bit different, not just Brass Eye on the radio.

Chris Morris has spoken about why his current film about Islamic Terrorists is not done in the style of Brass Eye, it was something he has done, about the language of television news, he did not need to re-tread that. We don’t either.

Of course maybe we will be lost in the sea of programmes about the news and I list these as shows that have influenced my when thinking about what this playful radio experiment could be.

My Inspirations:

‘The Now Show’, ‘PM’, ‘Broadcasting House’, ‘Mock The Week’, ‘Have I Got News For You’,’Russell Howards Good News’, ‘Spitting Image’, ‘Yes Minister’, ‘Yes Prime Minister’, ‘The Thick Of It’, ‘The Daily Show’, ‘Brass Eye’, ‘The Day Today’.

I hope that you will listen in on the 7th and give us your feedback, I hope that it works and it is something fun and worth listening too. When I have the links, I’ll post them here and on twitter. When I have more news on the presenter I’ll post that too.

In the meantime, if you think you spot a story that might be interesting, or could be funny, or just odd or important then let me know, on twitter: @marksimpkins

‘The Letter Writing Cafe’

It’s a small cafe, tucked away off a main street. There is a steady bustle of people walking past on their way to other places. Inside is a small counter to order your drink, maybe something to eat. A handful of tables and chairs, all old wood, looking like they have been used for years and been in places other than this.

One thing you notice is that all the tables are large enough for a sheet of letter paper to be placed down and for words to be written upon it, with a warming cup of coffee by your side.

Paper and envelopes, all detailed with the name of the cafe are available at every table. Postage can be ordered with your coffee and food.

Regulars can have their own box to which letters can be sent, the walls display messages sent generally to the cafe itself. Stories from around the world as people who have visited briefly decide to share their current adventure with the place itself.

Each table itself has an ongoing letter, one that never leaves the table. People come and add their story and thoughts to the letter, addressing the people who have been their previously or those yet to come. ┬áThese letters are in fact all over the cafe, the walls, the chairs. Stories can be told to everything in the cafe. They are like Kerouac’s long roll of paper recording his road trip only the travelling is not done by the storyteller for the journal, it is about those that move towards the object and what they set down in words at that time. The objects record those that use it, rather than the travelling experience of the individual.

Letters arrive and are sent, private and public messages to share and those to cherish. Letters official or random, some make sense whilst others more like a narrative fragment from elsewhere.

Some letters are bequeathed to the archive, to become as much a part of the narrative of the cafe. Others remain forever part of other stories, personal stories to be told to a different audience.

The cafe exists for those who want to sit down and write their thoughts, their dreams. Their criticisms and imaginings. The stories to share with loved ones, the letter to the editor or just a missive in a bottle.

It is a destination for letters and a distribution hub, a nodal point in a world of communication. A place to think,  to watch, to talk.

A place to write.

I’m going to geekGreen are you?

2008 looks set to have some amazing conferences, places where some wild and truly worldchanging ideas will be swapped and discussed. In no particular order we have the Oreilly conferences, Emerging Technology and Where2.0 (together with a raft of more focused conferences that are equally stimulating, such as Tools Of Change). SXSW is once again happening, and rising from the ashes that was Emerging Telephony Conference, we have the Emerging Communications conference, organised by a totally new team.

That is just in the first half of the year. At the beginning of the year TED takes place again with an exciting line up of eclectic and interesting speakers and participants.

I happen to love conferences, I find them stimulating and inspiring. They are a great place to make new contacts and for small half formed ideas to blossom into projects worth pursuing. They also take you out of your normal environment. Where ever it is you work, taking time out to talk to others whom you would not normally meet up with is always worthwhile.

The only problem is that there is so much to attend, and time and finances mean that you have to focus your attention on a small slice of the discussion. Luckily though, many of these conferences share the talks online and of course they are usually well attended by bloggers.

This coming year I do not think I will be attending any of these conferences, much as I would love to. I am not speaking at any of them (I have spoken at some in the past on public engagement and design ideas) and as so many take place in the USA unless I was to become a professional conference attendee and was able to stay stateside for a month or two attending them all, I would feel that the journey was not a correct thing to do in terms of carbon footprint.

Then an alternative idea came to me, or rather resurfaced as I have spoken about this idea in one form or another before on the GeoWanking mailing list. How about I arrange my own conference, its not an unknown thing to do.

Russell Davies recently organised Interesting2007, his London, affordable TED because he wanted to get that eclectic exciting feel that he got from TED but in a way that he could share with those who could not usually afford to go there. I missed Interesting2007 as I only found out about it after all the tickets had gone but it did sound truly interesting, a festival of ideas.

The last conference I attended was Flash On The Beach, a Flash developers conference, held in Brighton. This was in its second year its organiser pulling it together as he missed the fact that there had been no European, independent Flash Conference for years. Flash Forward has been held in the USA twice a year for the last few years but had not ventured across the atlantic for at least the last 4 or 5 years. Though I had problems with some of this years conference it was still very inspiring and full of ideas.

Of course there has also been the Unconferences, BarCamps, meetings arranged and the smaller conferences such as the ‘World Summit on Free Information Infrastructure’ or the Open Knowledge Foundation’s OKCon: The Annual Open Knowledge Conference.

Then years ago I was involved with a ‘group’ called the Association of Autonomous Astronauts. A group of us organised Space 1999: Ten Days Which Shook The Universe which included a small two day conference held in the University Of Westminster.

The gist of this is yes, I could do this (I am telling myself that).

Since this post is on geeKyoto any theme would be related to the topic of climate change, sustainability and other technical and green issues.

So I would like to ‘announce’ geekGreen2008. Announce in the sense that here is an idea, here are my thoughts on what such a conference could be.

Here is the pitch:

geekGreen2008 – radical ideas and stories in the time of climate change.

Venue: Well to be decided and has lots of dependancies but it is going to be UK based, at least for the first (only?) one. My initial take was for London. Interesting2007 was held at the Conway Hall in Holborn. The main theatre can hold 300 people and it has a nice stage. It also has an interesting history. Where else? Well RIBA has been suggested as has the ICA, and maybe somewhere like the BFI on the South Bank has some interesting spaces. In fact the South Bank would be interesting because Cape Farewell are currently in residence there and Cape Farewell is a project that I would love to see a part of this.

Outside of London though still has possibilities. Of course the ideal location would be the Eden Project in Cornwall, though somewhere like the Centre for Alternative Technology would also be a possibility.

When: Mid year? It is almost Christmas 2007 as I write this so nothing will really happen until January 2008. I would want this to be a success and get some of the best most interesting speakers, the best sponsors I can interest and the most interesting projects. To be realistic if this happens it will not happen until the middle of 2008. Still that means if anyone wants to go to this as well as all those other conferences I mentioned at the beginning they will have plenty of opportunity.

How much: As cheap as we can make it. I want to be able to get the people who could not afford to get to TED, ETCon and the others. That means conference tickets that are not in the thousands of pounds. Whilst I hope that businesses would want to take part I doubt that many would feel that this is (yet) part of their core business and would not write off tickets for employees that cost too much. That said we would want to balance what you get for your ticket. Hopefully we will still be able to put on one of the most exciting conferences outside of TED (this is all from word of mouth, I am yet to attend this conference).

One idea here though is the idea of the book club, or media club. You buy your ticket and that also supplies you with a series of books (or other media materials) in either preparation for the conference or post conference to carry on the ideas. Of course a project like this increases the costs and what if the material is already in easily available distribution? It would be likely, possible that you already own the relevant books or at least many of then. Still it is an idea (The Global Business Network ran a book club that supplied its members with the latest, most relevant books) that I think is worth investigating.

Now on to the speakers, for this I was thinking that we would only have one stage, so only the single strand. Whilst multi stranded conferences pack much more in you are left with having to pick and choose. I want to be able to let you sit back and listen and watch and learn and be amazed. I want you to watch something that given the choice you might not have bothered with.

Who will speak, well at the moment no one but I do have a wish list. I want artists and scientists, technical wizards and crafters, storytellers and statisticians. Anyone who can present a through provoking idea within the framework.

That framework, well I was thinking that presentations would be between 15 and 30 minutes long, depending on the material. If anyone really needed more then I am sure it could be arranged though.

How long would the conference last? Well I have a gut feeling that two days of presentations, from morning to early evening would dazzle people with ideas. If we have space for people to carry on the discussions into the evenings so much the better. What would also be wonderful would be a final day that was more an unconference. This space would be open to all participants in the conference, if they felt that they have an idea that they want to throw into the mix then grab a spot on the third day. People who are not scheduled speakers would have a priority. This day would also be open to those who had not attended the previous two days, would be free to get in to and would still be recorded and made available online.

Oh yes, everything should be online as soon as possible after the conference, the idea is to get ideas out there and acted upon or at least new ideas stimulated and acted upon (acting very soon is getting to be very important).

Sponsorship and Schwag: Yes we would want sponsors, otherwise the ticket cost will be too high. Well there may be ways to avoid a lot of costs and still have a productive stimulating conference. Ideally we want sponsors who are willing to sponsor the infrastructure, getting the net into the venue and distributed to all participants, streaming of talks (maybe, it would be good to be as inclusive of those who cannot make the actual physical venue as possible). These are sponsors of the Apple, Google ilk. They can make it happen but they would have to see the benefit for them. I do not think it would be hard for them to see such a benefit but I do not want people giving out promotional pieces of paper or pointless trinkets with logos on them. If this is to be a conference on surviving the great changes that are happening on our planet then such things should not be considered. Maybe say, if the likes of Amazon sponsored the book club for each participant then each book could carry an message on the inside cover as to who supplied the book? Maybe they can use their existing infrastructure to deliver the books (of course they can) thus making sure that the Amazon name is out there.

Of course this would be much easier to sell into such companies with an established conference, TED has a reputation and an audience that is well understood. I want to say that we can create a conference for people who can have as much impact as many of them but they need a venue for the ideas to start and to continue. To the sponsors this will be as vibrant and creative an audience as the other conferences.

Finally in the land of Schwag, no bags! I do not need a new laptop bag. I attend a conference and get a bag. Oreilly give out tote bags, lightweight and useful to throw a pen, some paper and the schedule in. A lot of other conferences you go to and there you go, a new laptop bag, embroidered or screen printed with the conference logo and date. Within minutes you are milling in a sea of the same bags over shoulders. Apart from the fact that these bags are not the highest quality (my crumpler bag is much nicer) it is another waste of resources.

My thoughts here are, no bag but you will get a nice (hopefully very nice) embroidered badge with the conference logo on it. You can then decorate your own laptop bag with it (a nice craft workshop in the early evening with a load of people sewing badges onto their bags or jackets, somehow appeals to me). In fact WSFII had something similar, they had a screen printed patch and there was a space where you could go and get a few tips on attaching the patch to, well whatever you wanted. This allowed for creativity, a reduction in the nightmare sea of ‘is that my bag or your bag’ and in fact makes a much nicer souvenir of the event. Imagine attending a conference and seeing a patch or badge from one you recognise on someone else’s bag. This could be the trigger for a conversation, a discussion on the older conference versus where you are now.

So no bags, but badges yes.

I have skipped over the speakers haven’t I? In my vision of a line up we would have the following, in reality? Well I would hope that we would be able to get a few of them but what would be important would be the new and exciting voices that we have not heard before on the conference circuit. In fact, finding them will be the real challenge to make such a conference a success.

So who is on the fantasy line up, well:

* Bruce Sterling. Yes I realise that he is no stranger to the conference circuit but his fiction work has been a part of my life since it started being written and whilst in the last couple of years he has been known more for his work about design and objects and data (spimes) it is his Viridian Design Movement that has inspired geeKyoto and much of my thinking over the last few years. He is visionary, to hear him speak is a wonder. If you listened to his SXSW keynote from a few years back where he ended with a poem that could not help but move you. Even if he is not at a geekGreen event in person, I would hope that he was in spirit.

* Brenda Laurel. Her book ‘Utopian Entrepreneur’ is to me now a small bible of sorts, re reading it inspires when I reach an impasse. Her work on virtual reality and interaction is still vital and interesting but it was this tale of doing what she felt was right for her and in turn the society in which she was a part.

* James Lovelock. This is not a conference to debate if climate change is happening or even if it is human endeavour that is causing it. I believe that both of these are true statements. What interests me is what we need to be doing about it and James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia idea is key to this. His most recent book ‘The Revenge of Gaia’ is a warning of the disasters that await us through inaction and this inaction would also cause disaster even if human action was not playing a part in the cause of climate change. Strong in his belief in his ideas and with the scientific understanding and rigour to back them up James Lovelock would be vital participant in geekGreen.

* Christian Nold is an artist who has been travelling the world and showing us our environments from a new perspective, that of emotional response. His work is both exciting and new, it crosses many boundaries and can have an impact across many disciplines yet for Christian his art is important.

* The Long Now Foundation’s aim is to make us think long term something we do not do either as individuals or institutionally. Climate change is here for the long haul, its effects will be long term and we need to be able to visualise and think in terms like that as well as the short term. A whole new skill set is needed and it is the Foundations aim to foster such thinking.

* Guerrilla Gardening

* DIY Kyoto are a small company who recently produced the Wattson. A tool for visualising the use of electrical energy in your home.

* George Monbiot

* Dopplr is a new website about travel. That you can see when you are going to be in the same place as many of your contacts, friends and fellow travellers leads to serendipity. They are investigating ways of making the travellers carbon footprint more obvious and to see if this tool can help to manage the travel style of the global citizens.

* AMEE is a web service that is designed to give a consistent understanding of your carbon footprint. It encodes all the government standards and data and makes it available via an API so that your footprint applications will be consistent with others.

The inspirations for this, well for all of geeKyoto and many of my other ideas and projects are many but to add a final dash of contextual goodness:
JG Ballard, William Gibson, Jack Womack, Bruce Sterling, Carl Sagan, Cosmos, Mike Davies, Naomi Klein, Iain Sinclair, George Monbiot, Andy Goldsworthy, Neil Gershenfeld, Jane Jacobs, Stewart Brand, Peter Kennard, Adam Curtis, Derren Brown, Richard Dawkins, James Lovelock, Buckminster Fuller, Walter Segal, Ansel Adams, Peter Akroyd, Brenda Laurel, Jared Diamond, Ken Macleod, John Gray, The Long Now Foundation, WorldChanging, Martin Dodge, Brian Aldiss, Patrick Moore, Heather Cooper, Barbara Hepworth Edward Tufte, BLDBLOG, BoingBoing, all the speakers at all the conferences I have attended and watched over the internet and many many more.

If you think that you would be interested in geekGreen2008 or if you know someone who might be interesting to speak at such an event then please let me know. If you know of anyone else who might be interested then please pass on the link to this post. If the interest is there then I will arrange it.

the daily climate forecast

yesterday (14th February 2007) i was lucky enough to attend the 3rd Design Futures conference, held by the BBC’s Design Forum. yes it is for BBC staff only but the ideas are so important that they need to be spoken about elsewhere.

the day had 5 world class speakers, one of whom was John Thackara, of ‘In The Bubble‘ and ‘Doors of Perception‘ fame. His talk was about content, an underlying theme of the day. His focus was content in the face of global, catastrophic climate change.

by starting with a distillation of Al Gore’s presentation to four slides he then went on to present some of the work that is happening in DOTT07, or Designs of the Time. this is happening in the north east of england and is looking at design and everyday life, in the context of climate change.

he then gave four ideas that he felt that the BBC could help build and communicate. all four are good and important and i can see ideas for all of them but at the moment i want to concentrate on one which i feel is visibly most appropiate for the geeKyoto project.

‘the weather report’

on prime time television, every day we have meteorologists present what is essentially a jargon ladden, scientific based prediction and report on the current and expected weather. most people watch it and note the graphic over their area, the rain or the sun maybe paying attention to the time as well. does anybody really understand what they mean by the bands of high (or low) pressure and why it affects the weather over their heads?

so the challenge is can we present the state and predictions of the climate, globally and locally. all the science and politicians state that it is going to get worse before it gets better and if we do not do anything it will just get worse.

can the BBC do this? well yes i think it can but so could geeKyoto, could we make a ‘the daily climate’ meaningful and easy to understand in as ambient and easy a way as possible?