Archive: Projects

This is Arts Derbyshire

Last year we worked on a Making Future Work commission from Broadway Nottingham and Arts Council England.

We looked into Open Public Data in the East Midlands. We talked to data owners and compiled research (which we’re still compiling) with a view to making something with the data. We also wanted to help data owners see the value in opening their databases as well as artists, designers and developers see the potential for making new works and services out of them.

One dataset that we were successful in partially unlocking was the Arts Derbyshire membership database. This is a spreadsheet of artists, their practice and their location within the county. We were allowed to use the arts practice and location but not the name of the artist or organisation.

So, we made This Is Arts Derbyshire – a mapped visualisation of artists in the creative county.

Picture of the This is Arts Derbyshire website.

It shows clusters of artists in a location. The more you zoom in, the more granular it becomes. You can browse by ‘Artist’ or ‘Organisation’ as well as by all the different practices that are registered.

There are a few interesting uses for this kind of thing that we can see already…

For one, it shows how creative the county is. In our experience working with people like the Creative Industries Network in Derby, the creative output of an area is intrinsic to its value – both in the appeal for people thinking about moving there and for the fiscal benefits of small businesses.

It can help people thinking about doing business there. The map can show a strong network or the lack of a service, depending on the business needs.

It can help local businesses find other businesses to work with nearby.

We’re interested to hear about other uses you can think of. Leave us a comment is you can think of anything.

We’re also interested in hearing from any other holders of data who would like to explore ways in which they can present their data like This Is Arts Derbyshire or our work on the Birmingham Civic Dashboard.

Introducing MemCode PLC.

Time is a big part of the Mudlark studio. Barnes is all about the future — jetpacks and that — whilst Richard is obsessed with time travel (even running a micro-publishing imprint for it). I”m stuck in time, having spent too much of it reading recollections of events and being an amateur eschatologist.

MemCode, then. MemCode is the formal, launched, face of the project formerly known to us in the studio as “Memory Thing”. It came from a lunchtime conversation about not needing to experience something to actually experience it. Sometimes finding out about an event, getting excited about it and buying the ticket and putting it in your diary – sometimes that’s the most exciting part. Or even false memories (implanted, perhaps, by something collective like cliche or advertising) such as “sitting on the bleachers drinking Coke from a glass bottle”.

Memcode Plc headquarters
Memcode Plc headquarters

The idea of the thing is enough, you can imagine the experience.

Memory is a funny, unpredictable, brilliant thing, and so is imagination. MemCode is designed to play around with this. It”s a story-toy, and part of our infrequent series of scalable models, following on from SCVNGR at the V&A and Derby[2061]. In essence, MemCode is a sort of short-form publishing project, with a large dollop of fictional context for good measure. You may recognise MemCode as the memory preserving/sales agency from Derby[2061], which was developed in parallel.

The first bit of the story is now live. It’s the corporate website of MemCode Plc. It’s better if you go and read it in MemCode’s own words, but here’s the story in brief:

  1. MemCode are compiling your digital memories and formatting them for the experience of others.
  2. Memories are being tested by ‘Readers’, and created by ‘Writers’. You can be a Reader or Writer, or both. Just sign up to the mailing lists on each page.
  3. The first Memory they have developed is about to be released.
  4. It will be released by e-mail this month to people on the ‘Alpha Readers Mailing List’

There are so many influences and inspirations behind this project. Some are buried deeply (, Assassin’s Creed, Philip K. DickMurakami, Dirty Projectors” version of Damaged), and some have been cropping up even as late as last week (Imaginary Image Blog, My Earliest Memory, Facebook Timeline, ten years of 9/11 propaganda, Thinking In Tumblr, the 20th Anniversary of Nevermind).

MemCode isn”t designed for truth. It”s designed for evocation. So, I’ll stop here.

Soon, MemCode will release their first memory, and we’ll see what people make of it. Much like Derby[2061], we’re not really sure what this is, exactly. We’ve got our own ideas, but we’ll leave that until you’ve seen the ‘thing’.

Some Links:

MemCode
Alpha Reader’s Mailing List
Submit A Memory

Derby 2061

Today we’re ‘releasing’ a new ‘thing’. It’s an experiment…. a prototype… we’re not sure what it is yet…

Throughout the summer we’ve been playing with existing locative platforms. A lot of the time we get asked by clients to build them something using location, but a lot of the time it’s either just too damn expensive for the project, or would take away from the project by being tacked on to an otherwise nice tight package. Frustrated by the cost of new development, we decided to spend time messing around with what’s already out there. Even though we don’t like them so much, we started playing with QR codes to create contextual portals of interactivity, rather than strictly GPS-enabled gubbins. These were cheap, quick, easy like digital sketches. We tried out SCVNGR in a museum (in the V&A!).

Two of my favourite things are stories and time-travel. Everyone at Mudlark knows this. I like the layer that historical knowledge can apply to the everyday. It’s what Augmented Reality endeavours to do. Sometimes you don’t need apps, and sometimes you do. There are a few out there that have tackled history, so we thought we’d have a go at the future.

'Girl X' from Derby 2061
‘Girl X’ from Derby 2061

It started with Derby Train Station. I think we were just testing to see if Foursquare would let you make something up. It did. So we made an alternate version of the train station “location”. It was some time in the future, when a Monorail (the first sign of the future) arrives in town, and Toby started adding ‘tips’ about Memory Ports in the carriages (this set ended up setting the tone for the whole of the project).

On the next trip out of town, I checked into the future Derby Monorail Station on Foursquare instead of the present day version. The ‘Tip’, rather than a commercial for something around me, felt more like a story. It felt like a nugget of another layer. It made me want to find more. Add to that a healthy dose of Pat Cadigan and Philip K. Dick and the next thing you know there’s a spreadsheet and collaborative Google Map open and we’re barn-storming what Derby will be like in fifty years.

A bit of time and a fair bit of thinking later, and it’s ready to road test. Fifty locations scattered around Derby city-centre and Darley Abbey (where our studio is) exploring what the city might be like in fifty years’ time. There’s a story in it to find. In fact there are a few. There’s the story of new industry, of civilian life in a new culture changed by it, the story of buildings being repurposed, of politics, of clock-making and time. All told by a female guide from the future.

Luckily, Foursquare have just released ‘Lists’, providing us with an easy way to share the whole story with users. Click here for that. We’re also making a Wiki for all the bits of story we’ve invented, and hope to add more to it if people add nuggets of their own to the locations.

Greg’s still on the fence about this project. He keeps asking me what ‘it’ is. So, for Greg:

It’s an experiment to find out the following:

  • Can you tell a story on Foursquare?
  • Will users engage with it?
  • Will Foursquare and it’s user base let you mess with the program?
  • How does it square up as the surface layer of a deeper story (tested out on the Wiki but possibly transferable to long-form print)?
  • Is it just me being me, or can checking in to things that aren’t there feel like the future (or past)?

It’s right on time to be something for a load of southerners to play with when they come to Derbyshire this week to immerse themselves in old industry at our Laptops & Looms three-day event, where we visit the historical heart of the Industrial Revolution, sitting in silk mills pondering the future.

Half the Sky

Just back from India, where I”ve been on the discovery phase of Mudlark”s latest project, designing four mobile social impact games as part of the Half the Sky multi-platform project.

Half the Sky is already a best-selling book by Nick Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, that tells stories of women in the developing world, stories that are by turns shocking and inspiring as they experience terrible deprivation and brutality and battle against them. The book suggests ways forward partly through these examples and also by laying out a series of actions and campaigns – political, moral, educational, medical, economic – that can not only improve the lot of females in these societies but the societies themselves.

Half The Sky is now extending out via a PBS special next year , a social action game on Facebook and a lot of work with NGOs, including the mobile games we are designing for , the executive producers of the Half The Sky transmedia material.

I spent a week in and around Delhi with Games For Change and Indian developers and distributors ZMQ, meeting, talking and – most vitally – listening with and to a variety of NGOs, as well as visiting various communities at whom the games might be aimed.

An Indian woman user her mobile phone.

We are designing for the very “established” Java, J2ME platform, because those are the sorts of phones you will find in these communities. Typically , there”s one mobile per family and it stays in the house , like a landline – in effect it is the landline. But everyone has some access to the key piece of technology and most of them are already playing games on their phones.

 

A goat.

The constraints of the platform are also the challenges. The same goes for the issues we want to express and “play” in the games – both during the trip and since my return we have been brainstorming ideas for games that will help pre-natal health, get parents to let their female children stay in school after the age of ten, improve girls” health so they can stay in education themselves, confront domestic abuse and even suggest the experience of enforced prostitution.

Children using a mobile phone.

We are looking at twitch, puzzlers, platformers, tower defence, simple simulations… We want great gameplay on small screen that doesn”t require a lot of text and gets the player to think and learn, but also, most importantly, engage. Although the subjects are clearly pretty serious, we never want the games to be called “Serious Games”. We plan to blog about the project as it develops so watch this space.

Half the Sky

Just back from India, where I”ve been on the discovery phase of Mudlark”s latest project, designing four mobile social impact games as part of the Half the Sky multi-platform project.

Half the Sky is already a best-selling book by Nick Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, that tells stories of women in the developing world, stories that are by turns shocking and inspiring as they experience terrible deprivation and brutality and battle against them. The book suggests ways forward partly through these examples and also by laying out a series of actions and campaigns – political, moral, educational, medical, economic – that can not only improve the lot of females in these societies but the societies themselves.

Half The Sky is now extending out via a PBS special next year , a social action game on Facebook and a lot of work with NGOs, including the mobile games we are designing for , the executive producers of the Half The Sky transmedia material.

I spent a week in and around Delhi with Games For Change and Indian developers and distributors ZMQ, meeting, talking and – most vitally – listening with and to a variety of NGOs, as well as visiting various communities at whom the games might be aimed.

An Indian woman user her mobile phone.

We are designing for the very “established” Java, J2ME platform, because those are the sorts of phones you will find in these communities. Typically , there”s one mobile per family and it stays in the house , like a landline – in effect it is the landline. But everyone has some access to the key piece of technology and most of them are already playing games on their phones.

 

A goat.

The constraints of the platform are also the challenges. The same goes for the issues we want to express and “play” in the games – both during the trip and since my return we have been brainstorming ideas for games that will help pre-natal health, get parents to let their female children stay in school after the age of ten, improve girls” health so they can stay in education themselves, confront domestic abuse and even suggest the experience of enforced prostitution.

Children using a mobile phone.

We are looking at twitch, puzzlers, platformers, tower defence, simple simulations… We want great gameplay on small screen that doesn”t require a lot of text and gets the player to think and learn, but also, most importantly, engage. Although the subjects are clearly pretty serious, we never want the games to be called “Serious Games”. We plan to blog about the project as it develops so watch this space.