Hang (art) Westminster!

Apparently the Government Art Collection has been allocated £104,000 for buying new pieces of art in 2011/2012, according to this article from the Telegraph.

This figure is down on last year’s spend, which, again according to the article quoting Ed Vaizey was £194,000.

The art is displayed in Government offices and other public buildings. Some of it is in storage.

Now, in line with the Big Society, I suggest that we supply them with some new art. We should submit our art in the same way as submissions are made to the Summer Exhibition. The art on the walls should not show the state of the nation, the creation of us the people.

This could be a new public art collection, we can gift it to the Nation, as long as we know that on the offices of Whitehall, Ministers and their advisors have to walk past the images that represent our current state of soul!

I propose to post a regular brief, create an artwork about… and invite submissions. All submissions will be a part of the collection, though of course all rights are your’s the creators to do with as you will.

If you own a gallery and want to show the peoples art then let us know :)

and submit your art via hangwestminster@geekyoto.com

Cool news ideas

Whilst thinking about the new news idea of course I have been influenced by many other ideas, projects already out there and posts.

  • Demotix – a new news wire. Feeds from citizen journalists, a new route for photojournalism. Demotix is really exciting.
  • Contextify – This was an entrant in the 2011 Knight News Challenge, an idea around a service to help put stories in context, something that is missing in most regular news stories but something that using online we could and should do much more of. Our ability to go deep into a story, not just be superficial should be celebrated and vital. This plays into my wish for something slower, more considered. Important things take time to understand.
  • Richard Pope – Is always doing interesting, cool and amazing things especially around local news and information.
  • Wikileaks – It is causing some interesting discussions right now and whether you think its right or wrong it is making waves.
  • Heather Brooke – Amazing work, Freedom of Information requests and broke the MP’s expenses scandal.
  • Adam Curtis – His work on the BBC is always interesting. His blog has continued this, its never what you expect, its strongly his voice. It is a must read / watch, always.
  • James Bridle’s Historiography – James’ talk at dConstruct in 2010 was amazing, vibrant, angry and just the thing to make my mind whirl. This, this is important.

None of these sites, projects or people are involved in the new news idea but they are there in my cognitive space that helped form what it is that I wanted to imagine and would wish to build.

A news idea

I am sure some of you have noticed me on twitter going on about news startups, my own new newspaper etc.

It stems from the impending launch of The Daily, reading Mediactive as well as Clay Shirky’s latest.

What I have wanted to do was reimagine what the digital news service of the twenty first century would be, not encumbered with the weight of existing news rooms, proprietors etc.

I know what I am imagining, what I want. Reading Mediactive I realise that it’s not a thousand miles from other peoples ideas as well.

  • I don’t mind a news service, or a journalist who wears their biases and leanings on their sleeves.
  • I happen to love devices, I want my news, information across them. I want the service to know what have been reading / watching / commenting / annotating regardless of which screen I use.
  • I want context, background, I want to understand the story and it’s path not just the story itself (I know that does not make sense fully, I know what I mean I just have not worked out how to articulate it yet).
  • I want new journalism, as well as being pointed to stories across the reporting field.
  • words, pictures, video, audio are all equally valid and important,
  • the archive is important.
  • a daily astronomy section, no astrology anywhere. For Carl.
  • histiography. Keeping a track on how the entries in wikipedia are changing because of news reporting.

That’s just a start.

So I quickly realise that I am not going to build that myself.

Last night I was showing some friends McSweenys. The newspaper from last year especially. They spent months imagining and creating what their ideal daily paper might be like. It is a beautiful thing and an interesting experiment. It got me thinking.

I don’t have the cognitive space to do my new news service, in fact I shouldn’t. A news service is a communal thing, as much the internal organisational structures as external pressures.

So here is the idea:

1. Let’s all imagine our ideal news service. Server space etc is not the problem, discussion space is available.

2. A hack week to build ‘it’. It being an idea of what the dream is. Why a week, well I am just tired of weekend events that I don’t attend because of family. I also work during the week but if the event was spread, the people will be able to find some time to take part.

3. Commercialisation, monetization and all that. The tricky bit. So here I hope to involve some clever entrepreneurs who might like to help work out any new models for this but the key needs to be this:

A trust fund to run the service.

In the end everybody’s work would be theirs, to use, commercialise etc as they will, but can a model be made that the whole, a true rich vibrant news service be created that can develop a self funding model ? Maybe not but it’s got to be fun trying.

So, who’s in? My next steps are to gauge some response, set up a google group or two and see if I can find any support for the hack event. I might also think about a pledgebank to seed the trustfund, but.

This might all result in nothing more than a one off site that reports the news for a single day in a way that some of us find beautiful, or it may become one of the first true C21 news service.

All I can say now is, remember what Dennis Potter named his cancer…

the day job

I now work at SIX and I am setting up a creative technology team.

We are looking to recruit:

Javascript / HTML5 / CSS guru

Objective C / iPhone / iPad / Device developer

QA Manager

Interaction Designer

If you want to work at SIX too, and one of these roles seems a good fit for you, then drop me a line. mark dot simpkins At six-creative.com

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.  These 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.

Crisis Camp Haiti – London

Vinay Gupta [Hexayurt Project http://www.hexayurt.com] and myself [http://www.geekyoto.com] recently kick started the London chapter of the CrisisCommons project [http://www.crisiscommons.org] and helped initiate a series of workshops, Crisis Camp Haiti – London.
Already there is a dedicated group co-ordinating with the US crisis camps and central CrisisCommons teams and making sure that the work done at these workshops is useful and vital to the whole aid / emergency and redevelopment work that is going into Haiti.
We have a space over at the London Knowledge Labs [http://www.lkl.ac.uk/cms/index.php?option=com_events&task=view_detail&Itemid=27&agid=233&year=2010&month=01&day=23] for the next few Saturdays and have started contributing to the Relief Web project
(in fact for a report on what has happened at the first workshop look at this wiki page [http://wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/Crisis_Camp_London_Ongoing]).
Of course, we still need more help. If you can do something then please get in touch.
* The wiki is here: http://wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/Crisis_Camp_London
* Join the Google Group here: http://groups.google.com/group/crisis-camp-london/subscribe
* Follow and use this tag on twitter http://twitter.com/search?q=%23crisiscampldn #crisiscampldn
* Follow this Twitter list http://twitter.com/georgeweyman/crisis-camp-london/
* and the Twitter account @crisiscampLDN
* Ning group http://crisiscampldn.ning.com/ and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=265208869243
Crisis Commons London is going to exist beyond the events in Haiti because things will happen again, if you can take part, help out in some way (and help is needed not just in the area of code but in everything) then please do take the time to stand up and help.
Thanks
mark
Further reading:
Hexayurt Country [http://hexayurt.com/hexayurt_country/]
Architecture For Humanity – Haiti Quake: A Plan for Reconstruction [http://architectureforhumanity.org/updates/2010-01-17-haiti-quake-a-plan-for-reconstruction]
The Right Testicle of Hell: History of a Haitian Holocaust by Greg Palast [http://www.gregpalast.com/the-right-testicle-of-hell-history-of-a-haitian-holocaust/]
Follow the news at [http://haiti.com/] and Demotix [http://www.demotix.com/haiti-earthquake]

Vinay Gupta [Hexayurt Project] and myself recently kick started the London chapter of the CrisisCommons project and helped initiate a series of workshops, Crisis Camp Haiti – London.

Already there is a dedicated group co-ordinating with the US crisis camps and central CrisisCommons teams and making sure that the work done at these workshops is useful and vital to the whole aid / emergency and redevelopment work that is going into Haiti.

We have a space over at the London Knowledge Labs for the next few Saturdays and have started contributing to the Relief Web project

(in fact for a report on what has happened at the first workshop look at this wiki page).

Of course, we still need more help. If you can do something then please get in touch.

* The wiki is here: http://wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/Crisis_Camp_London

* Join the Google Group here: http://groups.google.com/group/crisis-camp-london/subscribe

* Follow and use this tag on twitter http://twitter.com/search?q=%23crisiscampldn #crisiscampldn

* Follow this Twitter list http://twitter.com/georgeweyman/crisis-camp-london/

* and the Twitter account @crisiscampLDN

* Ning group http://crisiscampldn.ning.com/ and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=265208869243

Crisis Commons London is going to exist beyond the events in Haiti because things will happen again, if you can take part, help out in some way (and help is needed not just in the area of code but in everything) then please do take the time to stand up and help.

Thanks

mark

Further reading:

Hexayurt Country [http://hexayurt.com/hexayurt_country/]

Architecture For Humanity – Haiti Quake: A Plan for Reconstruction [http://architectureforhumanity.org/updates/2010-01-17-haiti-quake-a-plan-for-reconstruction]

The Right Testicle of Hell: History of a Haitian Holocaust by Greg Palast [http://www.gregpalast.com/the-right-testicle-of-hell-history-of-a-haitian-holocaust/]

Follow the news at [http://haiti.com/] and Demotix [http://www.demotix.com/haiti-earthquake]

‘What Is The Exact Nature of The Catastrophe?’

In July 1968, New Worlds magazine asked this very question:

New Worlds July 1968 Cover. Issues #182
New Worlds July 1968 Cover. Issues #182

Now is the time to pose the question again, back in 1968 science fiction writers took that challenge and produced some of the bleakest yet compelling dystopian and catastrophe based works ever written.

Now some of those same writers throw up their hands as they cannot imagine worse than the world is putting forwards right now.

geekyoto 2009  London

  • Date: TBA
  • Time: 0900 – 1730

‘What is the exact nature of the catastrophe?’

Speakers (subject to change):

Dr. Maxwell Jones – Manchester University

Jody Boehnert – Eco Labs

Patrick Andrews – River Simple

Gavin Starks – AMEE

The Beagle Campaign

Suw Charman Anderson – Ada Lovelace Day

and more to be confirmed.

join us. Tickets will be available soon.

UPDATE:

The date has to change, I will be posting an update to the date and venue shortly and tickets will be available as soon as I can confirm the new date.

geekyoto 2009 – August 15th Conway Hall

Just a note, though it has been quiet at gk HQ in fact we have been rather busy.

Just this last weekend, we ran the first Africa Gathering, here in London as the launch of the geekyoto global briefings. It was an amazing day and we will have more reports here and over at the AG website.

We are also planning some more events but I did want to say that the next geekyoto conference is provisionally booked for August 15th, back at Conway Hall.

The theme this year is:

‘What Is The Exact Nature of The Catastrophe?’

Yes, there will be more information soon and tickets released.

design for everyday life