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Bill Thompson’s Vision of a Digital Future for the Arts

For those who were unable to attend the AmbITion North East road show, below is an excerpt from Bill Thompson’s fascinating key note address on a digital future for the arts.

Read more at the AmbITion Roadshow live blog:

Next up Bill Thompson from the BBC:

In his own words, “a digital refugee who would not like to be sent back to ‘analogue jail’”.

Used to work for an IT firm that basically consulted with businesses on using ‘green screen’ technology, old style computers!

Combined computing power in the room can dwarft that of a country. He wasn’t joking… visited Hungary a while back and was shown the country’s 64k internet connection.

Being connected like air for most.

It is not stopping, the speed at which innovation happens, surprises even him.

Talked about Microsoft’s touchscreen mapping device which shows where the fingers are on the back. Wish I knew what it was….

Plastic Logic’s flexible electronic reader. Flexible electronic paper.

iPhone, iPod Touch a result of 5 year research. Similarly, electronic paper technology may not be in the shops at Christmas but they are coming. We have proven it is possible.

Research that shows that it is possible to store one bit per atom. Store entire visual field of a person, storing every second of a person’s life on 60kg!

Contact lens that gives you an overlay on your visual field, image of a ‘contact lens’ with a circuit board etched into it…

Forget 3D cinema, this is augmented reality.

Other work, direct neural interfaces. Nerve cells like silicon! You can develop systems where nerves merge with silicon and you can control things directly.

Feels it is a one way process. Doesn’t think we will be able to upload thoughts onto memory, however we may well be able to control cars, laptops by thinking.

Rich, nerdy, ’stupid’ friends, will be able to try it out first! BBC website shows this happening already – Bionic eye gives blind man sight.

Examples: Cambidge Film Festival (of which he is trustee), Secret Heart film, Pilot Theatre on Second Life.

Other organisations pushing the boundaries: Tyneside Cinema, Cornerhouse, Manchester.

It’s about finding out what you can do within your remit as an organisation using digital.

Lovely pic of Tom Watson, cabinet officer for information, on a Segway! His Power of Information TaskForce now liberates online mapping applications for Ordinance Map information.

Digital Britian report a start, though he (Thompson) would argue for universal access at 2Mb for all (a fiftieth of the average speeds in South Korea).

Still discussing Digital Britain Report – ITV’s job cuts announcement yesterday showing that cultural practice that is dependent on broadcasters is on shaky ground.

“‘Maybe we should aim for being paid for content on YouTube”.

Bill shares his Facebook profile. “I’ve known about Christian (@documentally) for a while but I’m meeting him for the first time today”.

Know him from his online interactions, know about his gran.

Now onto Newcastle’s Bigg Market. It’s a place responsible for the moral decline of the country at this difficult time, because of text messages.

He is joking…

Making the point that when he used to go out in his youth, the only way his friends could communicate the next pub they would be going to would be by telling the landlord.

Text messages make Just In Time Drinking possible. Show that the effects of technology can be very unpredictable. We have to wait to see what happens.

When it comes to the cultural sector in particular, it is difficult to see the difference between the impact of the technology and the impact it has on our lives. Sometimes, that change happens whether or not we take the laptop or computer.

Press freedom is harder to repress even as the technology makes surveillance easier.

The environment within artistic development happens is so different from what it was 50 years ago is working in a different world and therefore must operate in a different way.

AmbITion was an intervention in an ongoing conversation between the arts world and technology. Was a way to counter institutional resistance to change of this form. Similar to how businesses resist changes brought on by technology.

It is always a risk to change something.

There’s more on the event’s live blog: http://getambition.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/ambition-north-east-roadshow-%E2%80%93-tyneside-cinema/

1 thought on “Bill Thompson’s Vision of a Digital Future for the Arts

  1. Reading is something I’ve always wanted to take up, but never took the time to research books or spend the day at the bookstore to make sure I didn’t waste money. I’m also an instant gratification type of guy, so I never really considered buying books from Amazon (or any other online source for that matter), while actual bookstores were intimidating.

    When the original Kindle was released, I was intrigued, but never researched it due to the insanely high price tag. It was obviously out of my price range. With the announcement of the Kindle 2, my interest was peaked again, and with my monetary situation being different than it was over a year ago, $359 was something I could afford. So I researched the Kindle 2, and found that it was something I would like to own. I have never owned or even seen an e-reader before, nor had I ever bought an e-book. But I am a gadget guy, and I want to start reading, so the Kindle 2 seemed like a great place to start.

    Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

    – I was expecting the device to be pretty small after reading online reviews, and while it is small, it isn’t a detriment to the device. It really seems like the perfect size. I’m a fairly big guy (6’4″) with big hands, and I can easily and comfortably hold the device in either hand. After being scared it’d be small, at this point, I’m not sure I’d want one that is any bigger.

    – The screen really is a sight to behold. As I read the reviews, everybody kept saying, “You have to see it to appreciate it.” They were right. The first time you tilt the device and look at the screen from a sharp angle, and realize that you can still see everything, you’ll be amazed as well. At times, it’s uncanny how much it looks like ink printed on a piece of paper.

    – The resolution on this device is impressive for such a small screen. Everything is super sharp. I’m very pleased with this aspect of the device.

    – I find the myriad of buttons on the face of the device to be very nicely done. As highly documented before, the buttons on the side of the device used for page turning, going to the home screen, and accessing the menu all engage with an inward click. This enables you to pick up the device with the edges without pressing any buttons.

    – I’ve read others who think the 5-way joystick is too stiff, but I think it’s fine. It’s provides a nice resistance in my experience, which means it moves when you want it to, and does not move when you accidentally hit it.

    – I think the keyboard is a bit smaller than I’d like, but I honestly wouldn’t change it if I could. It’s diminutive size only helps aesthetics, but is still usable. Besides, this is a reading device, not a typing device, so the keyboard only needs to be used in certain instances.

    – Some people keep complaining about the lack of backlights/frontlights built into the unit, but I don’t find it a problem. I understand the technology and understand why a backlight isn’t possible at this point. Plus, I’ve seen the lighting solution on the Sony e-readers, and I think it looks terrible. I’m firmly in the camp of waiting until it can be done right before doing it. A clip-on light seems like a fine solution, plus it doesn’t drain the battery.

    – I’ve also read that some people want a touchscreen, but I think this device is fine without it. Why must we make everything touchscreen these days? I prefer the physical keyboard on this device over a touchscreen even though it’s not used that much.

    – The speakers on the Kindle 2 are much better than I expected. I put a MP3 in the music folder, and was pretty impressed at the quality of which it played. I do question the decision to put them backwards facing instead of forwards facing, though.

    – My main issue with the Kindle 2 thus far is the lack of organization on the home screen. It seems very shortsighted on Amazon’s part to just throw anything and everything in a singularly formatted list on the home page. It seems like a gross oversight when considering the rest of the device’s utilitarian nature. Give us better formatting, give us separate sections so we can easy resolve our current books, the latest newspaper issue, the latest magazine issue, etc. Make it so that we can list our top 5 (or so) books on the home page, then have a link to the rest of our books on another screen, one we can, again, have complete customization control over.

    – One of my favorite features of the Kindle 2 is the percentage completed bar at the bottom. I love knowing how far in or how much left I have of a book. It also took me a bit to get used to the Locations, but now I understand them as being the digital replacement for page numbers. Given that you can change the size of the text, I understand why page numbers just don’t work in the digital realm.

    – I’ve personally not seen any issues with contrast and whatnot that others have been complaining about. The lighting that you read in is paramount to how grey the background is. It supposedly absorbs light just like paper, and I feel this to be true. Of course, I’ve never seen a Kindle 1, nor have I been able to compare one side-by-side with a K2, but the screen is fine for me. No complaints.

    – I do, however, see the “ghosting”, but only after waking it up from stand-by mode. You can see faint outlines of the image that was there, as well as being able to see a slight ghost of the text at the very bottom that instructs you slide the switch to wake. It’s like that text at the bottom doesn’t refresh correctly for some reason. It’s not a big deal to me at all, just kinda weird. If I really want to get rid of it, I just have to hit the joystick down a notch to have it bring up a definition. Otherwise, it’ll never refresh that bottom status bar from page to page. As far as the faint ghost lines from the stand-by image, those go away completely after your first page turn.

    – I can easily get lost in the Kindle while reading just like a regular book. It’s kind of weird that this is touted as a feature, because IMO, any well-written literature is easy to get lost in, no matter what you’re reading from.

    – Eye strain is completely non-existant in my experience. I’ve sat and read for an hour at a time, and my only problem is trying to get comfortable on the couch or bed.

    – I don’t care for the current magazine selection. I’d like to see more variety.

    – I like the newspaper feature, it’s very cool IMO. However, after getting the NY Times trial for the past 3 or 4 days, I just don’t find myself using it until my local paper joins up, which might be quite a while, since we aren’t even in the top 50 most populous cities in the U.S. (Lexington, KY is around 70-75 last time I checked. Hell, I’d settle for Louisville’s paper).

    – The battery life seems fine to me. I left wireless on for the first 3 days, and after reading through “Ur” and 25% of “DaVinci Code”, plus lots of general playing around with the device and checking out features, I got the low-battery warning about 55 hours after intially charging it to full. I turned off wireless, and got another 100 page turns or so out of it before getting the warning again. Half of this time was with firmware 2.0, the other half with firmware 2.1.

    Overall, I’m loving this device. A tad steep at $359, but hey, why work if you don’t indulge from time to time. Plus, in my 4 days of ownership, I’ve already read through “Ur” by Stephen King, and am already halfway through “The DaVinci Code”. This is really good for me, seeing as to how I’ve only read 3 books in the past 5 years or so. I’m loving looking through tons of books in the Kindle store and seeing what I might want to read next (it will probably be something to help me understand stem cell research a little better so I can form a better opinion on it).

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