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The Realities of Instagram

On the 6th of October 2010, Instagram was created to solve three simple problems:

  1. Mobile photos always come out looking mediocre. Our awesome looking filters transform your photos into professional-looking snapshots.
  2. Sharing on multiple platforms is a pain – we help you take a picture once, then share it (instantly) on multiple services.
  3. Most uploading experiences are clumsy and take forever – we’ve optimized the experience to be fast and efficient.

Like most social media platforms Instagram has slowly, but surely taken over our lives. To some extent, we are all guilty of browsing, scrolling and generally procrastinating our way through social media timelines. It has become something of a habit…a routine, from the moment we wake up, until we go to sleep we are keen to stay updated with Instagram.

The original essence of Instagram was to capture the moment, there and then, and simply add a filter to enhance the image, giving it that ‘professional’ appearance. But more recently, society as a whole has become fixated on how to accumulate the most likes and followers, what image is most likely to receive attention, and what will get positive feedback.

Of course, we all like to portray the best representation of ourselves through social media. But Instagram, by far, is misleading and distorting the reality of who we are from disguising emotions of sadness, to airbrushing imperfections.

By large, Instagram has not ‘solved’ three simple problems, but has generated many more, potentially being held responsible for damaging our self-esteem, originality and self-expression.

Self-esteem – Whether you are female or male, the majority of us can relate to how Instagram elites (models, personal trainers, and fitness enthusiasts), can give us that “Instagram envy!” feeling. But we often forget how those particular images have been constructed and photo edited to appear ‘flawless’. On the other hand, Instagram can make its users feel attractive, liked and popular through the number of ‘likes’ received on a picture. Interestingly, research by the University of Buffalo suggests that women who base their self-worth on their appearances are more likely to post pictures of themselves on social media to seek validation. Obviously Instagram, is nothing but a vicious cycle of aspiring to be like someone else, or to being accepted by others. One way, or another our self-esteem is damaged.

 Originality – Are we losing sight of our originality? on a daily basis I scroll down my feed to be welcomed by countless ‘throwbacks’, images of peoples ‘brunch’ (now cold, due to the photoshoot) and far too many ‘#OTTD’ (outfit of the day). Déjà Vu is a usual reoccurrence when browsing on Instagram, and it’s becoming a bit of a bore. As Instagram users, are we feeling uninspired? bored? or simply lacking in ideas?

Self-expression – From artistic skills, cultural beliefs, emotions and music, Instagram has the potential for its users to express themselves through visual and moving image. However, there are several drawbacks to transferring these concepts of self-expression into images. The power of an image is a common understanding throughout society, yet Instagram can be seen as restricting users from embracing how they feel and what they believe. But how? Instagram like many social media sites, is home to an abundance of online trolls, who thrive from criticising, judging and harassing other users. Consequently, Instagram users have become more conscious in posting their particular ideas, talents and beliefs.

The realities of Instagram are evidently making us more conscious of what we decide to post, in the fear of: 1.) Being rejected 2.) Viewed as boring and 3). Criticised or judged by other users.

 

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Just another ‘yello brick’ in the Wall: A Meditation on the Future of Creativity

The wild west of contemporary creative marketing has enabled the innovation and collapse of several companies, and nobody has made light of this more than the team at yello brick. Their ethos provides a service to companies and brands who want to reimburse their image, with either digital or physical campaigns.

Established in June 2012, the secret to their success is through the elucidation of campaigns through narrative. There are countless examples, but one worth focusing on is their work on the multi-platform game Reverie. It focuses on the blending of different layers of narrative mediums, such as game, theatre and technology. In fact, Reverie was so successful that it netted yello brick a commendation during the BAFTA Cymru Game Awards for Technical Achievement.

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A brief summary graph of the elements that make up Reverie. Image Source: yello brick

According to Alison John, producer at yello brick, over 250+ street players were involved and 4000 people were engaged online. It involved a mixture of advanced mobile phone interaction and ‘RFID’ technologies over 12 sparse locations in Cardiff Bay. It also utilised social media sites such as Twitter and emails sent by the ‘main character’ to participants She notes that two of the key aspects to the success of Reverie was:

“Our approach is centred around the audience. People want to create connections with what they see, buy and use.”

 

“Unlike traditional theatre where audiences are passive, Reverie encouraged its audience to be active throughout the production.”

 

The teaser trailer of the event also had its own website, which can be viewed below:

 

 

According to the official yello brick website, this level of interactivity and the combination of the digital and physical realms meant that the show itself sold three times as much as previous shows! In this humble blogger’s opinion, this trend of creative marketing is indicative of the future of the industry itself.

In the current economic climate of Brexit, we’ve got to rely on the industries that are currently pulling in the big bucks. Just last month, the BBC published an article on how trade bodies believe that the creative industry is the key to economic success. The Creative Industries Federation themselves stressed the economic benefit, that currently the industry supports 2.9m jobs which is a huge rise of 5.1% between 2014 and 2015!

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An info-graphic depicting the statistics of the UK Creative Industry in 2016. Image Source: thecreativeindustries.co.uk

The federation’s chief executive, John Kampfner, exclaimed that the government will soon need to realise that the creative industry:

 

“”will be as important to future economic success as traditional industries, such as cars or oil and gas”.

 

In the case of Reverie this may seem like a mere pipe dream. But alas, my dear reader, even now similar real-life multi-platform adventure games are seeing there slow and steady rise to the top of the creative industry! Take for example the extremely popular Escape Rooms, which currently has branches all over Britain and has several different themes and puzzles to complete!

 

I think we’ve got to admit something folks. Companies like yello brick and Escape Rooms are the future of the creative industries. In my opinion, it feels like the resurgence of the table-top, a rejection of the over digitisation of communication and entertainment without necessarily removing it altogether. I think we can look forward to seeing more adventurous titles like Reverie in the future! (Still waiting on The Crystal Maze though…)

 

You can visit the official Reverie website here: reveriethegame.co.uk

 

Or you can visit the official yello brick website here: http://yellobrick.co.uk

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Daring adventurers on the hunt, following instructions of Reverie’s main character. Image Source: yello brick

Featured Image Source: yello brick

How Zootopia changed the animation game (for animals!)

I don’t have to tell you that Zootopia had one of the best animated film in 2016 because the film already has an Oscar to prove that. What I can fascinate you with though, is the creative and technical work behind-the-scenes that might change the way you watch and appreciate Disney or any another animated film for that matter.

Zootopia is your typical mammal metropolis with residents that are 100% clothes-wearing and upright walking and talking animals. Like any world, it is comprised of various neighbourhoods from meadows to snow and to sand which mesh together to form a community where no matter who you are, you can be anything.

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Zootopia (Image Credits: Disney 2016)

Visually, the film is delightfully outstanding and evidently shows how far the animation industry has come since the hand-drawn-frame-by-frame days. Sadly, while the film has been soundly celebrated for its original, well-rounded story and lovable characters, the aesthetics and meticulous effort in detailing have not.

With a thriving inspiration and ambitious goal to push animation technology and innovation, the film brings animal animation to the next level. Featuring over 64 animal species (around 800,000 character builds), each animal species has been extensively researched into to understand their specific movement and characteristics. Luckily for animators, in this day of digital-age, most animations are now computer generated. Still, it doesn’t mean extra time to sit back and watch the tech do the work. For a team of animators and directors, 18 months were spent studying animal behaviour in the Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World and safaris of wild Kenya, in order develop an accurate and realistic representation of each species.

Of course, with so many different animals builds, textures and colours, the team had to find quick and simple technological adjustments even if it did mean taking 550 people and 5 years to bring the film to life. Pre-existing software was continuously built upon to make the talking animals life-like and more realistic. But dreams to push animated technology meant creating new programmes that didn’t already exist.

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Animation. (Image Credit: Disney 2016)
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Final fur & flesh added. (Image Credit Disney 2016)

For Zootopia, fur and hair was its game-changer. Different fur-types were studied under a microscope in various lighting setups to see how different fur-types reacted to light and make the animals look as accurate as possible.  A giraffe from the film had 9 millions strands of hair. And a mouse? 480,000. That beats Elsa’s 400,000 strands of golden locks. To master fur manipulation, each piece of hair had to also be manipulated individually. Animators and engineers created a specialised fur shader program ‘i-Groom’  – a never-before used fur controlling tool which would brush and shape individual hairs after being applied to the design.

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i-Groom Fur Generation (Image Credit: FXGuide)

An imaginary underlayer was added to give the animal ‘plushness’ – the illusion of fur density which made each character that much fuzzier and realistic. Combined with path-tracing, a technique that predicts how light will move between the fur, these techniques are what makes the bunnies so fluffy, otters oily and every animal so cuddly and real.

To develop each character further, flesh simulator PhysGrid was introduced and also extensively developed to mimic muscle and fat movements beneath the skin for each character, giving them a natural build and shape and expanding their life-like and lovable characterisation.

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Visual Development for flesh and muscle simulation of ‘Clawhouser’ the Cheetah (Photo Credit: Disney) (2016)

Between enhancing existing technology and creating new ones, Zootopia establishes new standards in replication real and naturalistic animal characters. However, the film itself is also one to be praised. Hidden beneath layers of innocent humour and cute, cuddly characters, Zootopia is harsh but profound social commentary, that shines light upon the dangers of stereotyping and discrimination in a multicultural society. Bright, inventive and very colourful, Zootopia sparks inspiration towards budding animators and continues to push the already high-bars within the animation industry, while continuously evolving the art of animation.

For more behind-the-scenes animation work, check out Fusion’s documentary ‘Imagining Zootopia’

Header image credits to Disney 2016.

What are the limits of artificial intelligence?

What are the barriers separating machines from us?

Repeatedly we are seeing artificial intelligence (AI) mentioned on almost every tech website – some voicing their concerns and others looking toward future possibilities. Today, we ourselves are already using different kinds of AI – such as virtual personal assistants, on our phones and on our computers.

Although it may be assumed by many as a recent technology, artificial intelligence is far from being new, and has been studied since the 1950s. So what has made AI important again? Or are we just encountering another cycle of hype like we did in the 1970s?

Artificial intelligence is about creating machines that have the ability to think like the human mind, and being able to do the right thing at the right time. Tech giants are applying AI to all kinds of data, and it is currently being used for smart cars, video games, purchase prediction and fraud prevention.

More recently we are seeing AI being tested in order to create self-driving vehicles, and there have even been claims that IKEA are diving in to the world of AI. From Facebook’s AI claiming to spot suicidal users to AI being able to predict when the heart will fail, the opportunities seem endless.

It’s easy to imagine a machine like Apple’s SIRI or Amazon’s ALEXA in the future engaging with others, answering questions or satisfying commands, however just because they can recognise voice and images, there is still a lot of work to be done. If you watch this video without being critical, it does seem believable.

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What are the limitations of artificial intelligence?

Natural intelligence is, by definition, embodied. Artificial intelligence are not yet capable of working the same way that brains do. The reality is that artificial intelligence lacks the ability to understand, let alone answer questions that we might ask to others.

In reality, conversation involves people making assessments of each other and knowing what to say based on their own experience. Some questions require an understanding about different contexts and how people operate in daily life.

Imagine asking an AI programmed machine “I’m going to bake a pie tonight, what do you think?”. Most tools will offer a wealth of recipes, instructions etc., but it will not however tell you what it thinks about that.

AI limitations include the fact that there are many questions that AI are incapable of answering, which can be answered by a human ever so easily. Researches have continuously studied AI’s capabilities over time, and have not yet found a solution for this.

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Google’s self-driving car (Source: Smoothgroover22 via Flickr) 

AI based search methods are never guaranteed to reach the optimal solution. When using AI in order to resolve an issue, it is difficult to gain true insight into the nature of the problem. AI’s can be referred to as little black boxes that simply seek to map a relationship between output and input variables grounded on a training data set.

This raises multiple questions concerning the ability of the tool to establish situations that were not represented in the data set.

Another limitation, which is not quite a technical limitation, but an issue that needs to be addressed – if artificial intelligence was utilised to build vehicles, who should be responsible if the vehicle were to crash?

Understanding these limitations are crucial to understanding the future potential of AI, and what it means to be “intelligent”. While researchers face multiple problems facing the future of AI, it is not to say that future predictions are unachievable.

The BBC claims that if AI is to be successful, 2050 may be the year that we see it.

 

Featured image: A health blog via Flickr.

Can Facebook really help build a global community?

What really happens when a billionaire businessman has a political agenda?

Mark Zuckerberg recently posted a lengthy and ambitious manifesto setting out Facebook’s future while responding to the ‘fake news’ controversy.  The manifesto detailed Zuckerberg’s vision of a global community, and suggests that Facebook is on its way to being a global ideological movement.

While thousands took to their keyboards to leave approving comments, some scepticism remains. The hefty proposition is in some areas a little vague, and leaves room for a number of questions.

What initially comes to mind is, how can you lead a global community when you profit from capturing users’ attention and then selling it to advertisers? Zuckerberg mentions “the people left behind by globalisation” all while managing to pay minute amounts of tax. How genuine is wanting to build on certain areas of our communities while being unwilling to pay towards benefiting the ones we have now?

Among claims that this is an attempt to purchase political power, perhaps we must acknowledge the fact that he has attempted to formulate a political vision in the first place. Of course, society needs powerful people with good intentions, but we must always look a little deeper.

Should Facebook be involving itself in a political agenda in the first place? The power that Facebook holds can be used to exploit citizens in unparalleled ways. The picture we can receive when thinking about Facebook’s involvement in the government is fearfully close to resembling ‘big brother’.

While Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community, when will we begin to see some changes? While the examples he gives which regard how Facebook is a tool for great changes, is it just that? A tool? At the end of the day, the power still resides in the people, and for us to help one another it takes the person to do so, and not the tool.

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Is this what our future community looks like? (Source: Rosaura Ochoa via Flickr).

book’s future plans seem to rely heavily on artificial intelligence, which are still in the ‘early stages’ of creation. While Facebook is in a position to stop crisis, currently it can hardly seem to battle trolls with its current advances – let alone prevent harm.

Additionally, the risk of putting so much into an online community risks losing the offline one. As we become more and more concerned about what is happening online, we risk becoming less aware of what is happening offline. While it becomes easier to talk to strangers in cyberspace, it becomes more difficult to talk to our neighbours in reality. Is this the kind of global community we really want to build?

While Facebook has long encouraged people to spend increasing time online, where we can “look at many activities through the lens of a building community” like “reading our favourite newspaper” – all seems a little hypocritical while he fails to mention that activities such as reading our favourite newspapers will not always be an option if Facebook continues to prove itself as one of the biggest challenges to the publishing industry today.

A huge hand points to the old ‘actions speak louder than words’. Critical analysis aside – nothing is impossible, and technological advances have exceeded our expectations before. He is right to claim that it needs to start somewhere, and myself, I hope he succeeds.

(Featured Image: The Crunchies! via Flickr)

 

 

 

What the growth of Facebook means to journalism…

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, published a declaration article titled ‘Building a Global Community’ in February this year to outline long-term development plans for his world’s biggest social media platform. It seemed as if the manifesto was written in response to the recent criticism against Facebook that the social networking site has been partially responsible for fake news and the rise of populism in Europe and America. This long declaration indicated that Zuckerberg is now trying to become the world leader of humanitarianism. Based on the belief that most of today’s issues facing humanity require global responses, Zuckerberg writes:

‘In times like these, the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us’.

Zuckerberg outlines five key sections that need to be achieved in order for Facebook to become a global community in the next few decades:

  1. Supportive Community – Following the declining participation in traditional institutions such as local communities, Facebook is going to revitalise these important social infrastructure.
  2. Safe Community – Facebook is going to help people avoid harm and danger and offers support in the time of crisis for restoration.
  3. Informed Community – Facebook is going to achieve a society in which anyone can express his/her opinions while exposing themselves to new ideas to accelerate mutual understandings.
  4. Civically-engaged Community – Facebook is going to encourage civic participation in order to alter the situation in which only half the population participates in elections.
  5. Inclusive Community – Facebook is going to achieve an inclusive society, which is based on shared values and humanitarianism, transcending the differences in cultures and nations.

 

Optimism

Following this manifesto, as a user of Facebook, I’m now looking forward to seeing a further technical improvement on the platform as well as provision of new, convenient services. For example, as shown in the video below, Facebook can help people meet others who might share the same problem and establish social networks for mutual support to overcome various issues together. I expect that the development in the analytic quality, including AI can improve the accuracy of group recommendations as well as leading to many other functional improvements.

 

Pessimism

Having said that, I’m very concerned about the future of journalism given that Google and Facebook enjoy extreme domination over the digital advertising industry. When you consider the striking fact that Facebook generated a total profit of 8 billion dollars over the past 4 years, you can’t expect what the future financial devastation will be for journalism.

Following the rapid digitalisation of advertising industry, the revenue stream for journalism has been hugely damaged and the past decade saw closures of a number local newspapers. One of the important roles that used to be, and still are played by local media is to function as a social infrastructure that enables a supportive, safe, informed, civically-engaged and inclusive community, which is exactly what Facebook is now proposing to achieve.

If existing local media continue disappearing due to a growing number of people relying on Facebook instead for the provision of information, who will be a watchdog of the local authority and who will carry out investigative reporting? Unfortunately, I don’t think such question was adequately addressed in the letter from Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has been testing various ways to coexist with journalism, but it still feels likely that local media will continue to vanish unless they make effective changes in their business model. Zuckerberg is not obliged to solve these issues for journalism, but given his excessive financial capability, his cooperation will be urgently necessary for media organisations. In other words, He’s the one who can destroy journalism, but he’s also the one who can save it.

 

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/27620885@N02/5262946223

 

Why we need to reshape the concept of creativity and stop limiting ourselves

Have you ever heard someone say ‘Oh, I wish I was creative!’ with such longing and disdain that it sounds like they’re missing a limb? Maybe you’ve declared it yourself once or twice to your artsy friends with the righteous belief that they own some innate genius of creativity that you can by no means attain? As the designated ‘artsy friend’ of my circle, I’ve come to realise that what my friends define as creative, however, is nothing more than a set of skills that I’ve continuously worked on throughout my life. I believe that the reason so many people think they aren’t creative is their own misconception of what creativity really is – not a skill, but a trait – and one that is not reserved for the arts or defined by them.

Creativity is the moving force that stands behind innovation, science, technology and evolution, but we often tend to forget or overlook this. The preconceived notions of creativity limit us, but worse than that, they also separate us.

“The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries and the creative industries have long been perceived as opposites, but in reality they are no more than two sides of the same coin”

I decided to look up the word ‘creativity’ in the dictionary of my computer and compare it to the definition of a synonymous to it word – ‘invent’ as an experiment in popular perceptions. Here’s what I found out:

  • creative |kriːˈeɪtɪv|

adjective

relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something: change unleashes people’s creative energy | creative writing.
• having good imagination or original ideas: a creative team of designers.

  • invent |ɪnˈvɛnt|

verb [ with obj.]

create or design (something that has not existed before); be the originator of: he invented an improved form of the steam engine.

The underlined sentences show that even in something as simple as a dictionary definition, creativity is attributed to designers and writers and inventions are attributed to science. The problem here is not the nuancing of word meanings in the English language, it’s the vivid distinction between being creative and being inventive. The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries and the creative industries have long been perceived as opposites, but in reality they are no more than two sides of the same coin. In their core, they both rely on combining complex skills and knowledge with originality in order to bring something new into existence, so why is there such a contrast between the two?

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Overall mentions of the word ‘create’ in Google Books from 1800 to 2008

Since the beginning of the 20th century the importance of creativity has been on the rise. It is now a characteristic that employers from both the creative and the non-creative industries use to describe their ideal candidate and this can be very intimidating to those, who believe creativity isn’t a part of who they are.
As this post comes to an end, I implore you to understand that creativity is ambiguous and that it isn’t exclusive. Patents and paintings are both inventions, which stem from original thought, and so are your ideas. The fact that they’re not ideas for a masterpiece doesn’t make them uncreative and in today’s competitive society to dismiss your creativity is to undermine yourself and your efforts.


If you want to learn some more about this topic, you can take a look at the links below:


Cover image by TeroVesalainen on Pixabay, credited under CC0 Public Domain

A Facebook Future: Utopia or Dystopia?

In February earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg released a 5,700 word letter on Facebook titled ‘Building Global Community’. This blog post is not a summary of the points that Zuckerberg makes in his letter, but looks specifically at his belief that artificial intelligence and technological advancements are an answer to many of the world’s problems. Despite his best intentions, his solutions seem ideological and create a Utopian feel to the letter.

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Image credit: Unsplash

Zuckerberg’s letter included five sections that commented on Facebook’s role in online communities:

  • Supportive community
  • Safe community
  • Informed community
  • Civically-engaged community
  • Inclusive community

Each of these sections explained how Facebook could be a force for good in helping to build these types of communities online and offline.

In the first paragraph, Zuckerberg states that he aims to answer the question:

“are we building the world we all want?”

The answer to this question is of course, no. Everyone has their own vision of a perfect world. But the fact that Zuckerberg thinks that this is possible is idealistic which is reflected in some of his ideas for global improvement. His main answer to global issues is that at some point in the future, there will be technology to solve the world’s problems.

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There have been a number of speculations about the reasons behind this letter, such as Zuckerberg’s political aspirations to run for presidency in the near future, or Facebook’s aim to take over the digital world. Despite his motivations being unclear, it is evident that his intentions are to genuinely make a positive impact on the world. However, many of his statements about Facebook’s place in the global community refer to technological advancements that could be many years away. This is problematic since it shows Zuckerberg’s idealistic view that technology will solve the world’s problems and echoes the motto of the World State in Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World: “Community, Identity, Stability”.

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Image credit: Facebook

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2017 is the year of misinformation and fake news, something that Zuckerberg made sure to mention in his letter since Facebook has been criticised for the amount on their website. The company are finding it increasingly difficult to control content on their site with billions of users able to freely use it how they wish. Again, his answer is that he hopes there will be artifial intelligence in the future to combat this, but that it could be a long way off.

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April 2017 saw the ‘Facebook murderer’ in the headlines with many complaints about the amount of time that it took Facebook to take the video offline. Zuckerberg’s response was to say, similarly to his letter that they have a lot of work to do, which although displays that he is aware that Facebook is not perfect, he admits to mistakes but offers no immediate solutions, instead he repetitively states that they are working on technology to combat this.

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Image credit: Unsplash

Although there is a lot of innovation happening in the technology industry, it is possible that there is too much pressure on future technologies to solve todays problems. This is the main issue of Zuckerberg’s letter since although he admits to Facebook’s imperfections, he idealistically argues that future technology will play a part in his utopian social infrastructure despite the technology being potentially years away.

However, it can be seen that Zuckerberg realises the power of Facebook and so wants the world to know that he is trying to govern it as honestly and as best as he can. Zuckerberg did not have to write this letter, but the fact that he did shows that he knows he is responsible for the potential uses of Facebook, and that he did not intend for it to be used in a negative way at all. It can be seen that Facebook’s position in society is getting stronger with the increasing digital economy and whether it has a dystopic or utopic future is yet unclear.

 

App Review: Traces Olion, St Fagans

In an increasingly digital world, one in which museum attendance decreasing, there is a need for museums to adapt to a new audience. One response to this is the collaboration between National Museum Wales, Cardiff Universty and Yello Brick to create the app: Traces (or Olion for welsh speakers).

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The project for St Fagans National Museum of History aimed to find an alternative way to bring the digital experience into museums, and hopefully bring more visitors too. It is not an audio guide, or a digital map of the site. It is an interactive story that uses music and narrative to take you on an adventure around the castle gardens. The app can be used either by new visitors as a guide around the gardens or by people familiar to the site, to give them a new perspective of the space.

I went to St Fagans on a sunny May afternoon and was surprised to see nothing promoting the app at the entrance of the museum after seeing it being promoted on the website. However, after finding a lack of signal at the site, I understood that downloading it once you are there may prove to be difficult and so is best done beforehand.

A friend and I decided to do the partner experience. It is not necessary to watch your screen whilst using the app which allows you to appreciate the scenery rather than concentrate on your phone.

The walk took around 45 minutes to complete and was very enjoyable! The stories took me on a path I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen myself which was refreshing since I got to see St Fagans in a new light. The partner aspect was also a great addition, allowing you to be alone for a few minutes and then joining up again with different bits of information about the characters.

However, I would probably recommend the single journey option for family groups as a few times we ended up in different places due to not quite understanding the directions or walking at different paces. This made the walk more entertaining as we found ourselves speeding up and slowing down at points to match the thread.  Although it is clear they have considered pacing with the music, we still found that in some sections we did not walk at the correct speed and in one case a section was closed off so some improvisation was needed.

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The stories we heard conjured a number of emotions and all were interesting, they give you a sense of history of the area despite being fictional characters. At one point, I became especially immersed in the story when I looked down and found leaves in the shape of a heart, just as I had been told there might be. I wasn’t sure whether this was intentional but it made the story feel more authentic and effective by mixing the digital story with real life space.

Overall, the walk was very enjoyable and was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon. I would definitely recommend it to people on their own, in couples, groups or families. I would say as well, that a pause/ fast forward/rewind would be useful since if you mishear something you have to go back to the beginning of the chapter to listen to it all again and catch up. I think this is a great app for people both familiar and unfamiliar with St Fagans because it really does place you in a different reality. Going forward, I hope to see more publicity for the app as summer approaches. This app has proven to be a great attempt at incorporating a digital experience into St Fagans and I think it would be great if similar storytelling apps were developed for other sections of the site or even other museums.

Download the app for free on iTunes Store

 

Credit: Screen grabs taken from Traces Olion app.

Film Review: Lion – The Power of Technology

Heart breaking, soul-searching and enthralling are just three ways I would describe the film Lion. Based on the true story, The Story of a Lost Boy by Saroo Brierley, this film’s adaptation of a hard-hitting narrative is what makes it a success. Directed by Garth Davis and showcasing the talented actors Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, it has been described by The Guardian, as an ‘incredible postmodern odyssey’.

Released in October 2016, Lion took $4.15 million during its first weekend, making its opening the fifth highest grossing for an Australian film according to distributor Transmission Films. It has gone on to receive nominations for six Oscars and four Golden Globes, including Best Drama Motion Picture, and has been praised all over social media with tweets from Kim Kardashian, among other celebrities:

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Source: https://twitter.com/KimKardashian

The film re-enacts the incredible story of Saroo’s life. At the start, he is a five year old Indian boy (played by Sunny Pawar, who is originally from a Mumbai slum), living with his mother and brother in a rural Indian village. Saroo joins his brother at work but one night he falls asleep on a train and becomes separated from him. Scared and alone, Saroo finds himself in Kolkata, surrounded by local people who only speak Bengali, a language very different to his native Hindi. After living on the streets of Kolkata and avoiding some sticky situations, Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple. In his new home of Tasmania, he gains an education and appears to look forward to a respectable future, full of prospects. However, Saroo is prone to flashbacks of his previous life, so decides to make it his mission to investigate his past with the help of modern technology. Through the use of Google Earth, he manages to track down his old home and become reunited with his mother.

The film succeeds in sticking closely to Saroo’s original story, and the director’s use of powerful cinematic techniques and mise-en-scènes makes the film feel authentic. However, it is not until the genuine footage provided by Saroo at the end of the film that the full reality of the situation hits home. Seeing Saroo’s adoptive mother meeting his real mother for the first time really struck a chord.

This prompted me to reflect on some deeper issues – if Saroo had not been adopted into the Western World, would he ever have found his mother? How has the different experience of Saroo’s two ‘mothers’ been influenced by the places in which they live? Why has the world allowed the lack of technology available in poorer countries to become yet another factor, which punishes those in poverty?

It seems that the mix of love, determination and the power of technology brought Saroo and his mother together again. For the average Westerner, who normally uses Google Earth to pinpoint his or her house, it seems incredible that such a platform could have such a substantial effect on someone’s life.

Google Earth by Jonica Schmutz, on Flickr
Google Earth– the platform that Saroo used to find his mother. “Google Earth” (CC BY 2.0) by Jonica Schmutz

Although it has been claimed that India is the fastest growing tech hub in the world, many of its people are not even able to access services like Google Earth. In India, 900 million people do not have access to the internet due to issues such as affordability and awareness. In contrast to the UK, where one in four people have broadband connection.

In this country, technology is often criticised for making our nation lazy, yet its positive elements are overlooked, such as the billions it brings into our economy and the opportunities it gives us to invent. This film shows us that we really need to appreciate how fortunate we are in the UK to have access to such creative technology.

Lion’s portrayal of Google Earth shows that technology can make the unthinkable happen. It has and will impact positively on people’s lives, yet it is up to us to allow everyone the freedom and access to use it.

 

All images free to use under Creative Commons legislation. 

Cover image source: https://goo.gl/images/2317y6