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Journal

Lumino City

Fenby Miskin

For nearly three years, a six-member team of developers called State of Play has been toiling away in a London studio making a new video game. While there are probably thousands of such teams around the world coding away into the night, the members of this team are a bit different. Among them are an architect, a photographer, and a model maker, all needed to help physically construct the game’s environment. Titled Lumino City, the entire video game was first handmade entirely out of paper, card, miniature lights and motors.

While many games appropriate paper textures or have some kind of paper aesthetic, State of Play took things one step further and built the sets for each puzzle, photographed or filmed them, and then set everything in motion with code. The result is a breathtakingly beautiful puzzle game starring an intrepid girl who tries to solve the mystery of her missing grandfather. After an hour or so of extensive research I can confirm the game is amazing. Lumino City is available for the Mac and PC, and is coming very soon to iOS. You can read a bit more over on The Verge.


via This is Colossal

SURREAL SCULPTURES

Fenby Miskin

Japanese artist Yoshitoshi Kanemaki chisels these impressive life-sized figures from a single piece of wood. They are portrayed in a realistic manner, but Kanemaki gives his sculptures unique traits. Every impeccable artwork features two or more characters or expressions that are merged into one form. Sometimes, this means that an individual has multiple faces attached to their head, while other times parts of their body is joined with another person.

To craft this work, Kanemaki carves and chips away at a large log. The bark is stripped from it, and he sketches the form onto the wood. From there, he transforms the material into a smooth surface that captures the subtle details of the human body.

There are numerous ways to look at Kanemaki’s surreal sculptures. The different facial expressions circulate 360 degrees around the figures, and it’s as though we’re seeing these people in a film, frame by frame. Unlike their faces, their bodies remain in the same static pose, and it clues us in that there's something strange about these pieces.

More work by Yoshitoshi Kanemaki

via My Modern Met

Open Source Housing

Fenby Miskin

A disruptive business model might just enable more homes to be community built.

The advent of 3D printing and open source house plans has enabled the first WikiHouse to be built. The photograph shows a structure built in 10 days outside the London Building Centre. 

All WikiHouse design files are shared under open source licence, which means the system is continuously being improved by an R&D community of designers, engineers and self-builders.

More about WikiHouse

See some time-lapse photographs here

Touchable Memories

Fenby Miskin

Touchable Memories is a meaningful social experiment conducted by Pirate3D which converts photographs into 3D replicates with the use of a home printer called Buccaneer. In this way, the blind are able to recall via touch their old memories from photographs taken when they could still see. Even if they have lost their sight since birth, the tactile experience with the 3D re-interpretation of the photo taken allows them to visualize more vividly the memories that were shot.

As one of them puts it, ‘If I can touch the photograph, I can make the memory tangible again’.

Article by Kenny Ong

More about this story & the 3D printer at Design Boom

The Source

Fenby Miskin

Four and a half years ago, Brooklyn composer Ted Hearne begun following the rise of Wikileaks four and a half years ago, intending to adapt the story of Julian Assange's vigilante media organisation into a theatrical production called The SourceThen Chelsea Manning happened. After the whistleblower leaked secret war logs that revealed widespread wrongdoing on the part of the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq, Hearne knew that he had found his real subject.  

The Source debuts today in New York at the 2014 Next Wave Festival, with the performance described on its website as "four singers housed in a visual and sonic installation". Through computer-processed voices, the performers "inhabit a fever-dream assemblage of Twitter feeds, cable news reports, chat transcripts, court testimony, and declassified military video, shining a light on the massive information machine in which Manning, and our nation, has become ensnared". 

Last August, Manning was convicted of 20 offences, including espionage, and sentenced to prison for 35 years. "When Manning's identity became known and she became a public figure, her decisions became more interesting to me than Assange's," Hearne explains. "I started to imagine what she may have been feeling when she first encountered what we now know as the Iraq War Logs, and that helped me examine my own reactions to these documents."

To find out what inspired him to make music from classified cables read the full article on Dazed.

Shared brain activity predicts audience preferences

Fenby Miskin

Brain waves recorded with electroencephalography (EEG). Photograph: Deco/Alamy

Brain waves recorded with electroencephalography (EEG). Photograph: Deco/Alamy

Neuromarketing firms claim that brain scanning technology can be used to evaluate consumers’ responses to products and predict which ones they prefer, but so far most of these claims are hugely exaggerated.

New research published in the journal Nature Communications adding some hope to the neuromarketing hype, by showing that the brain activity shared by small groups of people in response to film clips can accurately predict how popular those clips will be among larger groups.

Ten years ago, Uri Hasson and his colleagues recruited five participants and used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan their brains while each one watched the same 30-minute clip of Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. They noticed that the film produced remarkably similar patterns of brain activity in all the participants, synchronising the activity across multiple regions, such that their brains “ticked collectively” while they viewed it. 

The researchers went on to show that films differ in their ability to induce this shared brain activity, with the more engaging ones producing a greater degree of synchrony, and more recently others have shown that the stereoscopic effects used in 3D films make viewing more enjoyable by creating a more immersive experience.

The new study, led by Jacek Dmochowski of City College of New York, builds on this earlier work. Dmochowski and his colleagues showed 16 participants scenes from the pilot episode of The Walking Dead, together with 10 commercials that were first aired during the SuperBowl championship, while recording their brain waves with electroencephalography (EEG).

The researchers also used official television viewing figures and publicly available data from Facebook and Twitter to gauge how popular each clip was at the time it was first shown. As in earlier studies of shared brain activity, they found that some of the clips produced a greater degree of synchronised brain activity in the participants that others.

Remarkably, though, the participants’ shared brain activity accurately predicted audience reactions to each at the time they were aired, with the most popular scenes and commercials producing the greatest degree of brain synchronisation in the participants.

Thus, the extent of shared brain activity within the small group of participants was closely linked to the collective behaviour of a much larger group of people, suggesting that brain scanning technology could eventually be used to predict peoples’ reactions to a forthcoming film, their product preferences, or perhaps even how they might vote in an upcoming election.

“I’m generally sceptical of claims about the application of neuroscience to marketing, which are often made by ‘neuro’ startups with little scientific evidence” says Yukiyasu Kamitani of the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, “but I think this study ... [with its] well designed experiments and sophisticated statistical methods ... provides solid evidence that neural measurement can be useful for the prediction of mass preference.”

Although the researchers also asked the participants to rate how much they liked each of the clips, they did not determine how each individual’s brain activity is linked to popularity. And it’s still not clear why the more popular clips produced greater synchrony across the participants’ brains, but one possibility is that we favour stimuli that produce a more stereotyped brain response that is shared by others.

Ebola Big Data

Fenby Miskin

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IBM will put its super-computing data crunching to use in Sierra Leone, as part of the fight against the deadly disease Ebola.

It has launched a system which allows citizens to report Ebola-related issues and government, health agencies and others to keep track of the disease.

Citizens can use SMS or voice calls that are location-specific.

The data will then be analysed to identify correlations and highlight issues.

Already, regions with growing numbers of suspected Ebola cases have been pinpointed and the delivery of urgent supplies such as soap and electricity have been sped up.

"We saw the need to quickly develop a system to enable communities directly affected by Ebola to provide valuable insight about how to fight it," explained Dr Uyi Stewart, chief scientist of IBM Research in Africa.

"Using mobile technology, we have given them a voice and a channel to communicate their experiences directly to the government."

Khadija Sesay, director of Sierra Leone's open government initiative, said it had helped "open up a channel with the general public so that we can learn from their input and create actionable policies in the fight against Ebola".

Radio broadcasts are being used to encourage people to use the system and telco operator Airtel has set up a free number via which citizens are able to send SMS messages.

Ello...Ello

Fenby Miskin

Predicting the end of Facebook in 2014 feels reckless. Like slapping a date on the fall of the wall might have felt in the 1980s.

As of June this year, the social networking behemoth had 1.32bn active monthly users. According to the latest data from the Pew Research Centre, 71% of online adults use Facebook. Considering 73% use a social networking site, that’s pretty much: all of us.

The startup world is full of people pitching and failing the next big thing. Two days ago, though, something exciting happened. San Francisco began jumping out of Facebook’s ad-splattered soup and into the clean, empty social networking world of Ello.

Ello is crawling with bugs, isn’t out of beta testing, and it’s still taking off in starship headquarters. 31,000 new users were asking to be beta testers at this week’s peak. On Thursday, the Ello team had to shut down new invites to the site as they struggled to keep up.

The brain-child of Kidrobot designer Paul Budnitz , Ello is the “anti-facebook.” It’s been around a while, but the LGBTIQ community’s recent struggle with Facebook’s “real-name” policy has been instrumental in the shift to the site. Ello positions itself as a network with a manifesto and a social conscience. Its logo has a V for Vendetta-like menace to it: an eyeless black smiley with a spinning mouth that mocks the social gaze we are so used to feeding online.

Humans like us forget that change is the only constant. Facebook will not last forever. The only questions are why the move starts, when it does, and where the party is next.

This year marks a decade since Mark Zuckerberg and his motley crew of 20 year old programmers moved to Palo Alto, California, and defined a new phase in the internet’s infant history with their soothing blue sans-serif. Facebook has succeeded by providing us with a mirror during our early development. It’s inevitable demise will stem from a problem that only starts to hit you as you grow up: the complicated nature of time.

Facebook’s core identity management strategy is its photo albums. They’re the only part of ourselves that it lets us store, search and catalogue in any meaningful way. Narcissus-like, we can organise thousands upon thousands of images of our selves down through the years. There is no similar organizing function for the identities we create as we change: our thoughts, books, links, articles and music.

Considering that Facebook claims American users spend 40 minutes a day on the site – a whopping 243 hours a year – it’s no surprise that our past selves are starting to seem oppressive and unwieldy in their muumuus.

Facebook’s most important social function, the flipside to the photograph, used to be that it truly did give you a place to connect. A shared hive mind with people you would otherwise drift away from. Then Facebook began using a News Feed algorithms and default filters to choose whose posts you saw, they were trying to slow down the wall – and boost the likelihood you’d see Britney Spears’ updates over your friends. Its overall effect was infantalising. When Facebook acts like an overbearing parent, it’s only natural that the adults will want to move out.

The constant data-collection and streams of personalized advertising added injury to the insult of what was already feeling like a tight, airless social space. The internet can seem like so much light and pulses, but its effects are real. Visually and emotionally, the self you inhabit on Facebook is still a child.

Enter Ello.

A lot of the justified concerns surrounding the new networking site stems from how it will manage to protect user-data and stay advertising free.

Ello is absolutely defiant in its stance – you will not be commodified, you will not be managed – but as other beta-testers have shown, they did accept venture capital. $435,000 of it. And investors tend to want their money back, big and fast.

Ello says that it’s going to monetise by selling features. If that makes enough to keep their heads above water – and with its current growth rate, that’s an exciting “if” – let’s hope it can be sustainable. A networking site where you can pay to personalize, while still engaging some sort of coherent social space – not the screaming dark boom of the late days of MySpace – would have its appeal.

There are plenty of other features that would be useful tools as well. The ability to keep and share ideas, links and lists, and not lose things to the ever-hungry maw of the present would be a great boon.

Facebook already feels like a Tupperware party. That’s not always a bad thing. You want to turn up once in a while because it’s worth seeing people and eating cake with your Great Uncle Mark… even if there’s a risk you’ll walk away paying for the cake tin. 243 hours a year at the Tupperware party seems a lot, though.

Article by Ruby J Murray for The Guardian's Comment section online