The Story 2015

It was only when I opened my notebook to start taking notes at Smashing conference this week (post coming soon!) that I realised I hadn't written up my favourite talks from The Story last month. They were ALL my favourite really, but this post would be a bit long if I included all of them.

Kati London

Data = personalities, relationships and emotions

Kati showed us a spider plant from the art & technology project Botanicalls - you put a sensor in your plant pot and the plant will ring you up and leave a voicemail in its gruff Scottish voice telling you when it needs watering.

Once you've done so it will ring you up again to thank you in an extremely happy voice, because they didn't want it to be like you only ever hear from this plant when it wants something.

I've never heard a plant sound so happy. I wish I could put one of these in my cat.

Anyway, I think they should team up with this Rainy Pot that Alex linked up the other day.

The other main takeaway I wrote in big letters in my notes for this talk was:


As evidenced by Kati's other projects, including brilliant things I can't find links to like cities talking to us, maps with neighbourhoods that grow and shrink with pride or shame in their crime stats, and bikes that show how happy they are to be used.

Matthew Plummer-Fernandez

I'm loving how 3D printing is taking off in art & fashion.

Digital Natives

At The Story I became a huge fan of Matthew Plummer-Fernandez's spiky 3D printed watering cans and bowls that very much remind me of many of United Nude's shoes (who also use a lot of 3D printing). I would buy these! (The art AND the shoes).
Chunky 3D printed watering can is made with Processing by Matthew Plummer-Fernandez
Photo © Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Venus of Google

The Venus of Google reminds me of Jenn Schiffer's AMAZING var.t project about making art with computers and serves as a reminder to DO MORE THINGS. Playing with Jenn's Codepens is an easier place to start than harnessing the power of Google and writing image comparison algorithms to produce my own, anyway.

'Venus de Google', art made with computer algorithms by Matthew Plummer-Fernandez
Photo © Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

sekuMoi Mecy & Smooth Operator

My favourite piece of his was not because of what it looked like but because .. well, because the inspiration behind the piece are thirty-seven kinds of weird about the perception of their brand and experience[^n], and because even heavily distorted the image is iconic:

3D printed Mickey Mouse is very distorted but still looks recognisably like the original, art by Matthew Plummer-Fernandez
Photo © Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Matthew talked about the copyright and piracy implications of getting this made up at one of the online printers. The question he had to keep asking himself as he tweaked the design was:

How much do I need to un-Mickey it?

It turns out that this is how much you need to un-Mickey something before IP regulations aren't enforced - and that Disney even tweak the design every so often to keep the whole character in copyright..!

This led to a FASCINATING discussion of using 3D printing as a visual encryption tool which I am not going to disclose here as the NSA is probably watching. Sssshh!

I can thoroughly recommend having a browse around Matthew's other work. (Needs JavaScript on to view the images, though). There's more on Matthew's Flickr, too.


I wrote up some more notes about other talks on Flickr:

My notes on Gary Carter at The Story 2015: he talked about the signal shift of 'rivers of recording' enabled by storage and bandwidth improvements in technology, that reality TV required. Reality TV may look live, but in reality (ha!) it is heavily scripted, styled and edited before broadcast. Also, democratisation of media leads to 'the story of the self' - and this is our new, current, exciting signal shift. (Fun fact: Big Brother launched its own tape stock to hold all the data!)

My notes on Alexa Clay at The Story 2015: Deviant entrepreneurs like corporate rebels, hackers, gamblers, Chinese copycats and gangsters - and drug dealers! - have a lot to teach traditional businesses. She met preppers and wanted to ask them: 'how do you forage for makeup supplies?'. You don't have to be just one person - the 'Amish Futurists' invented a new way to make buttermilk on their farms. And hilariously, Californians didn't realise that a new website 'startup incubator to find the next Messiah' was in fact satire.

My notes on Nelly Ben Hayoun at The Story 2015: Nelly does 'extreme experience design' at SETI. Her infectious enthusiasm: "NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE" as evidenced by the International Space Orchestra which is exactly what you think it is. She's persistent in achieving her goals and it pays off.

My notes on George Oates at The Story 2015: We should make Vol 2 of 'If Only The Grimms had known Alice'. Language is ridiculously gendered. Anna's gender-flipped Spiderman costumes are a great trick but ultimately reductive (see also: The Bondi Hipsters). The Long Kiss Goodnight is a good film. Katniss Everdeen can fight but even she got hacked - what does that tell our daughters? I want a different future for this kid, who isn't even my kid. 2 easy steps to less sexist films: change a bunch of characters first names to womens' names, and whenever there is a crowd scene, specifically say half the crowd is female.

You can probably tell that George Oates said the most that I really understood and that taught me more about how to make my way in the world. But I think that's a whole other post. (Update: George's write-up of her talk, The Conflicted Observer).

Chat @knotnicky.

[^1]: As I learned from Melinda's 'Disney Driven Development' talk at Futurelearn Talks. Here's (Melinda presenting DDD: Disney Driven Development at Electromagnetic Field last year). It was full of fascinating super-insider info about the Magic Kingdom, and this IP madness just confirms it again. (My own weird Disney fact: Walt may have been born in Mojácar, a town I visit often since my Dad moved there fifteen years ago. SPOOKY, eh! You can also see from that article how Disney are, even the Guardian couldn't get a decent image..)