Culture Hack Day :: notes for my 'what if the web is a fad?' talk


The ROH’s Culture Hack Day last weekend was just awesome.

I strongly recommend checking it out for all the background. Photos.
I gave a rather vague (shall we say, optimistic?) 5 minute lightening talk about the future of everything. Then a most enjoyable Q&A alongside Claire Reddington and Leila Johnstone, and in the rather esteemed company of lots of cool folk.
It was wonderful to be able to talk about culture && tech in the same breath, to geek out on an ungeeky subject and not feel like I should just shut up and sit down...
(anyway...)

NOTES FROM MY TALK... (this isn’t a write-up, I didn’t really know what I was going to talk about and this is just trying to collect it together - so apologies if it is incoherent)
Big thanks to Rachel Coldicut, Erin & Katy and to Kim Plowright for getting me there.

What is this for?
Good hacks turn data into magic.
Raise the bar.
Open eyes.
Change the game.
Unlock minds.
glimpse the future.

Where are the data sets?
No idea.
Someone told me a funny story the other day about a client who asked "is the web a fad". Hilarious, because they were looking from the bottom of the mountain - they hadn't even begun to climb. But from the top of the mountain... well, yes, "the web" probably is. All those websites and browsers and protocols. "The web" is 15 years old. The internet is 40 years old. Data is centuries old. And data is exploding, capturing, organising, formatting - but presenting, interpreting?

What can we do... well What can't we do?

Here’s the structure.
the web - fad (see above)
web apps - good.
closed enironments - bad.
proprietary systems - really bad. death to innovation.
net neutrality - everyone should know how bad this is.
the power of open systems - ditto but good
so the “web” is probably imperilled - (i’m not completely convinced)
but data is alive and well - so true.
and the internet is alive and well.
We’re amazing at collecting/ organising/ interrogating / distributing data.
We're poor at presenting and representing in a human way
Context: For example like you might look something up in an encyclopedia or in the fridge and you get peripheral data (like the length of the article or the smell of the fridge) that helps shape your understanding of the original data.
Likewise: How much nicer is it to experience data physically? Why can’t computers show us things in a ‘real’ way. Anologue/digital anxiety - need to find consolation in the physical as every aspect of our lives becomes more digitized and less tangible.
In ten years we're not going to be opening laptops up. we're probably not going to be looking up websites in the way we do now. Do you? I look for information. Websites are like business cards. Or portraits. They are generally dumb data.
We'll be working on multi-surface systems which are linked or talk to each other via the internet, in multi-screen (or non-screen) environments
Already we can see that the primary input technologies are going to be ‘touch’, ‘speech’ and ‘gesture’, all very human - no more keyboards or devices. and fortunately the leaders in each of these technologies are three competitors. apple - touch, microsoft-gesture (kinect) and google-speech.
So the next challenge is going to be taking all this ever growing mountain of data and humanising the experience of interacting with it.
It is the beginning of the beginning and the most exciting time to be working in these fields - every step forward is a journey of exploration.

… and then how does this apply to cultural institutions....

BTW the digitisiation of our physical reality is genuine. I think people would have spoken up if they could show that CD sales aren't declining, that digital book sales didn't just overtake real book sales, why kodak is going to the wall or that the kindle was Amazons best selling product of all time over christmas... I don't hold a moral view on these things - I just observe them and I believe we can begin to look at ways at making the physical and digital interact more solidly.
is all gd.