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Technological epiphanies: why I’m looking forward to the Media Sandbox Showcase

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Dan Efergan

Creative Director of Online at Aardman Animations and an advisor on the Media Sandbox scheme

Dan Efergan, Creative Director of Online at Aardman Animations and an advisor on the Media Sandbox scheme, looks at some of the innovative projects that will be on show in Bristol next week.

In a couple of weeks, the Media Sandbox Showcase will be upon us; presenting the accumulation of seven teams – about 25 brains’ worth – various forms of deep thought for a period of approximately 345,600 minutes. The result, you can be assured, will provide a number of epiphanies, each a small glimmer of future media as yet unconsidered by the masses.
At least that’s what we’ve experienced every year since being involved. Aardman Animation first joined the project in 2008, teaming up with HMC Interactive to create digital illusions, and are still involved today mentoring other team members. We’ve found the Sandbox a constant source of inspiration, its innovation feeding our development, each showcase providing a few seeds that, nurtured in the mind, end up defining our approaches, and ultimately, like any good R&D, making a genuine effect on our future.
Operation Sonic Boom - one of 2010's Media Sandbox projectsThese minor epiphanies (can you have a minor epiphany?) are still relevant and valid, holding implications as yet unexplored by the wider industry. Thinking back…
2008 left us contemplating pushing play back into the real world, and on a more practical note, how to deal with the ‘many to one’ situation that arises when you have crowds interacting with one experience. Since then, Aardman have been inspired to construct projects with greater integration between physical world activities and digital games, and we hope to take this even further.
2009 shocked us with the sheer dramatic strength of visually mapping projections on to the city’s architecture. The company, AntiVJ, who did this project continue to amaze the world with their work (a special mention to check out their videos), and intrigued us regarding the implications of a distributed shop front spread across the city. [link to street art dealer].
And 2010? By its very nature an epiphany is going to need the experience of the Showcase to allow synapses to fire, but themes are already emerging.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the projects created under the B-Open strand – which utilise key data from various feeds the Bristol City Council have, for the first time, provided of life in Bristol – deal with interconnections of people and place. Hills are Evil, a tool to find the best and easiest route between two places suited to individual circumstance (e.g. no cobbles for a wheel chair user), and Blossom Bristol, a game to plant virtual crops across Bristol affected by real world data, both seem to have created tangible technologies, already demonstrating prototypes in full swing. Having constructed these on established technologies (online map API’s and geotagging), the interesting outcomes will be how they engage and communicate with people, and how people will react back. For example, how will Hills are Evil communicate arbitrary ideas around accessibility to varied individuals? And by playing Blossom Bristol, will people feel any more engaged with the environment in Bristol, or is it just another game? Finally, I Heart My City, a project by Delib aiming to create a successful conduit between the council, its spending data and the public, has been musing over data philosophy, attempting to grasp quite what is what, what is important to who, and who is who.
Quite excitingly the Pervasive Experiences strand seems to have a veritable playground of interactions, all attempting to break down the barriers between our world and our media. The Showcase will be full of shouting, hitting, jumping, sweating, and other general mayhem with Mutant Labs Voice Controlled Games, Remode’s Research into Biofeedback, and the beautifully crafted tactile musical instrument AlphaSphere. In return, ‘new media’ will be exuding throughout the space with Moksha’s Sculpting with Scent, an experiment in encapsulating smells in an appropriate form for consumption.

Dan Efergan will be attending the Media Sandbox showcase, which will take place from 2pm on Friday 18 February at Watershed Cinema in Bristol.
Watershed employee Grace Denton, a graduate on the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries scheme, has been working on Media Sandbox and recently blogged about this and other parts of her role in our Bursary Blog, which is following Bursary holders as they begin their career in the arts.

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