Pixels. Thousands of 'em…


Some folk feel like they’re being invaded by the scary digital world.

It might look look a little like the below video Suneil made by Parisian visual effects company One More Production…

Pixels.  Thousands of ’em…



The Mythology Engine

This is a fascinating experiment in augmenting storytelling by the BBC… it’s something their R&D department have been working called ‘The Mythology Engine’.  (via Emily Bell)

Theo Jones does a walk through in this video…

So, skipping over the fact that it’s Doctor Who (and therefore very, very exciting anyway), I think this represents a huge step on in terms of how complex narratives can be split out.

Going back to the Jimmy Wales talk on Wikia (at the Guardian Changing Media Summit), the tools that those communities use to build their databases aren’t a massive leap on, technology wise, from the first Wikipedia.



The Mythology Engine, on the other hand, looks like a Wikia site with a V6 engine in it.

If there was a way to make the tools that created it open-source, the communities who created things like Lostpedia, Wookiepedia or the Harry Potter wiki would be all over it I’m sure, creating the perfect framework for exploring the narratives of each of those stories.

At the very least, I’m sure the Doctor Who fans would very quickly and efficiently complete the BBC one.

But would they ever make it open source, like Wikia would be?  In these interesting times for the BBC, they’re being forced to watch carefully the areas in which they go into, as private companies complain that it ‘threatens competition’ in these areas.

Yet something like Wikipedia, famously, doesn’t make money; they raised funding to keep going from users last year.

So if it’s an area where people can’t find a way to make money, should the BBC fill the void with it’s own open source experiments?  And how does that work just with the UK..?

Tricky questions, but yet more evidence that the established practices of yesterday aren’t that relevant in the modern age.


Eight tales from The Story

On Friday I found myself gathered around the camp-fire that was The Story with a few hundred other folk who love a good yarn, an engaging raconteur, or a twist in the tale…

…it was a “celebration of everything that is wonderful, inspiring and awesome about stories, in whatever medium possible“, curated wonderfully by Matt

…and was held at the Conway Hall, a building with a pretty interesting story itself.



Now, unlike previous things here and there where liveblogging is a pretty neat way of capturing stuff for ‘future inspiration’, I didn’t think The Story would work like that for me.

And, it turned out, I was right; it was a ‘lean forward & lift the sash window in your forehead’ affair for me. 

Yet with the help of the excellent Story Newspaper (by Newspaper Club), Rebecca’s fullsome/awesome recap, and a flick back through the twitter stream of #thestory, I’ve pieced together eight things I learned…

…or now believe…

…or remembered I believed already…

…or just liked from the day…



1. Sci-Fi stories tell us what’s possible… and probable

Opening up the day, journalist/author/blogger/bespectacled Canadian Cory Doctorow read us his short story ‘The Story so far… and beyond‘, a tale of the future (the death & life of…) books and stories. 

For me, it achieved what great science fiction should; no matter how far the story goes, it’s rooted in something entirely plausible & believable.  I’m currently reading his novel Makers too (which Faris sent me after my social production thingy), which pulls the same trick of expertly extrapolating a future from things currently happening in technology.



I’ve talked about Sci-fi before, of course, but in the context of ‘Story’, I think there’s two interesting things that happen in technology because of science-fiction

Firstly, both writers and engineers start in the same place (what HAS happened, and IS currently possible with technology). 

But the writer is then free to speculate about the future without being held back by the real world constraints the engineer faces.  They’re both heading in similar directions, but it takes the engineer longer to get there…

Secondly, it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy…

…the engineers of the future, just by dint of who they are (geeks) what they like (geek stuff) and so on, grow up reading the science-fiction of the present.  They get ideas and inspiration of the path to travel from the writers… and so naturally follow that path. 

Hence lots of sci-fi prophesies ‘coming true’, and products like the Star Trek inspired style of flip mobile phones appear…

…from the Wikipedia entry for mobile phone inventor Martin Cooper:

“Cooper later revealed that watching Captain Kirk using his communicator on the television show Star Trek inspired him to develop the handheld mobile phone”



2. Television’s stories are getting much deeper

We had the pleasure of seeing Dr Aleks Krotoski’s mash-up telling the story of ‘the making of’ The Virtual Revolution

…if you’d watched any of the series (which most of the room had, of course), it was a great insight into what went in (or didn’t) to the final linear TV show.



It’s a great example of the depth to which stories on television can potentially go to now… way beyond just red button, or a microsite or the like. 

It’s fairly easy to create in-depth, personal, sociable stories from the making of the show, all put together using the same tools and technology that you or I may use everyday (flickr, twitter etc).

For those who’re interested in the subject matter, offering this level of depth behind shows is becoming increasingly more important.

…as an aside… there’s a Virtual Revolution test you can take to see what kind of web animal you are… I’m a web fox it would seem.  It’s fun, give it a whirl…



3. Pushing boundaries & expectations helps hook the audience in…

Jon Spooner and Tim Etchells both took the boundaries of where we were perhaps expecting things to go, and stretched them in weird (the former) or weird & filthy (the latter) ways…



In both cases, the audience sat there simply wondering just what might come next… in storytelling, doing the unexpected is amazingly powerful.

4. Comics rock (in an educational way)

So yes, we all know comics rock anyway… but what occurred when Sydney Padua talked about her comic creation Lovelace & Babbage is the potential for education.

Initially created for Ada Lovelace Day, telling the story of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, the comic has since found a lease of life in becoming the fully-fledged tale of the crime fighting duo…



…but just reading a few pages of the stories is teaching me more in a sticky way than endless Wikipedia or lectures would about the same subject. 

Comics like this should be on the curriculum.  And my mum’s a teacher, so I’ll sort that out then, yeah?

5. Audience participation is all about clapping & chocolate

Russell Davies was an excellent host; genial, funny, generous, and most crucially of all, he knows the power of interaction… especially when it comes to throwing out chocolate treats into the audience (which brought back memories of being at the panto)…



I caught a Kinder Egg, which is why I’m now the proud owner of an ISG (Interplanetary Space Gallivanter)…



6. Some stories stick with us for a long time

Now, Kat Akingbade (co-star of C4’s The Science of Scams) was there talking about how a lot of people tell stories around the occult for quite selfish and nefarious purposes, because the stories resonate with a lot of people in a certain way…

…and the photos she was using to demonstrate this though were a series of the ‘classic’ ghost photos:







…which to be honest I’d forgotten all about, but on seeing them again remembered that as a kid I’d absolutely pored over books like this Usborne one filled with these photos, stories and more…



…which now, thinking about it, is probably where a lot of the inspiration for the Gamages Model Train Club stories I write comes from.  I’m not weird; just conditioned…

So, some stories can stay with you and act as a formative force on your life for a long time it seems. 

Which is maybe why one of the most powerful forces at play in marketing at the moment is nostalgia; reminding people of something in their past is easier than trying to get them to believe something completely new in the present.

7. I’ve utterly wasted my life (compare to Jody McIntyre)

Sam Coniff from Livity didn’t tell his story, but that of Jody McIntyre – who, after going travelling around South America on his own, scaling Machu Picchu solo, and winning acceptance to Oxford, has now decamped to Palestine to campaign and report on everything that’s happening there.

Oh, and did I say that he’s got cerebral palsy, and his parents were told when he was born that he would never walk, and probably never talk? 

When the podcasts are up, I’ll post Sam’s telling of Jody’s amazing tale (so far)… in the meantime, follow Jody here and here



8. All the great storytellers need is the suit of clothes they’re standing in…

Last up, David Hepworth of Development Hell (who produce Word & Mixmag) stands up and tells us the most wondrous, evocative tale of suits, fathers, styles, eras and generations…



David was a brilliant mix of entertainer, sage, comedian, co-conspirator, humble, confident… he just stood on a stage for twenty minutes and took the audience with him on the journey. 

But something he referred to himself helps the rest of us… he’s been telling and retelling the story, working out the moral, the important bits (and no doubt the bits where he gets a good laugh). 

It’s only when we practice telling stories that we get better at telling them.


So there you are, The Story. 

The post is rather a long one, I know… so, if there’s a shorthand version, it’s this:

1. Tell stories that inspire others to do great things

2. Build depth into your stories, so people can dive deeper

3. Use your story to push against the expectations of the audience

4. Educate through entertaining stories

5. Get the audience to participate in the telling of the story

6. Tell stories that resonate with things from the past

7. Tell the stories of others generously

8. The more you retell your story, the better it’ll be…


Samsung move Minority Report one step closer

Josh & Thaer at PHD just sent this around… Samsung have used their face recognition technology to create outdoor advertising sites that change message according to who sees them…

“Samsung has developed an outdoor digital advertising system that tailors ads based on its audience.

There are three main components of the system: an LCD display panel, a dual lens camera and a processing computer, which runs the company’s proprietary facial recognition software.

When you first see it the system looks like a vertically oriented LCD display running an advertisement, but upon closer inspection two cameras are mounted on top of the LCD.

They continuously captures images of passersby and the PC processes those images to figure out how many people are in watching, their gender, if they’re an adult or child and how long they’re looking at the advertisements.”

Full piece here at PCWorld

So once again Sci-Fi films are laying down the path for real life…

…how long before they recognise you, find out what you like via Facebook Connect, and serve up ads based on that information?


The Star Trek Holodeck: coming soon


Just in from PSFK, this news; the Star Trek Holodeck is coming.  Woo-hoo!  Apparently IDEO have been testing it out with a company called EON reality.  Still very expensive, or course, but expect prices to plummet soon I’d imagine.

In the PSFK article, they say allude to something I’ve believed for a long time…

“…many hold Star Trek as an inspiration pool for future technologies”

Not just Star Trek, of course; I believe most Sci-fi can offer us inspiration for what actual real world products and relationships we’re going to see in the future. 

It’s clear why too; take some creative thinking people (writers, fantasists, storytellers etc), and get them to invent a view of the world way off in the future, where they can innovate to their hearts content; creating technologies unbounded by the realities that face engineers, designers and the people who actually have to build stuff, and situations where society is changed beyond recognition.

My personal favourite is probably Iain M Banks‘ work with a future society he calls ‘The Culture’.   From Wikipedia…

The Culture is a fictional anarchist, socialistic, and utopian society created by the Scottish writer Iain M. Banks and described by him in several of his novels and shorter fictions.

The Culture is characterised by being a post-scarcity society (meaning that its advanced technologies provide practically limitless material wealth and comforts for everyone for free, having all but abolished the concept of possessions), by having overcome almost all physical constraints on life (including disease and death) and by being an almost totally egalitarian, stable society without the use of any form of force or compulsion, except where necessary to protect others.

Now, that may sound quite a long way from where we are at the moment… but within it you start to see elements of today’s world.  Specifically in the case of The Culture, the notion of ‘post-scarcity’ where everything, and anything, is free to the members of society…

…with Chris Anderson’s forthcoming book, Free is going to feature a lot in the conversations we have over the next five years I think.

So, to prepare yourself…

Read Chris Anderson’s original ‘free’ essay here:


…and get yourself a copy of the brilliant Iain M Banks book ‘The Player of Games‘…


…and hell, you should really go and see the new Star Trek film too…

Welcome to the future.  Or at the very least, thinking about it…