Creative tales from BEYOND — where ideas and people collide

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I’m in a flashback. It happened when Joanna Littlejohns from the Arts and Humanities Research council spoke about her curatorial work in art and photography.

I must tell you about our exhibition, I followed up, in which we featured 60 of the UK’s leading creatives from the television sector, like Sir Lenny Henry, designed as a multi-platform show. It garnered favourable press and toured the Mayor of London’s office and schools in South London. Joanna listened, gave me her card and introduced me to her colleague Helen Weedon. I shall write to both shortly.

I‘m back in the present of my conscious self and whilst looking around at the intentional soft collision* of delegates introducing themselves, I ponder. Had Joanna not mentioned her work, I would not have mentioned mine. We are all so much more than what we appear in “hello, I’m…” and accelerator pitches.

Would it not be something if our lanyards could talk to each other (AI + XR), just like a Tamagochi and provide a digital DNA of our work providing anchor points for wider discussions?

You could regulate your potential meets by scanning a room in “on” mode, “maybe” or “another time” mode. In the meantime we’ll rely on our soft skills, fast receding in the social media age, and eyes meeting each other to make connections.

The Imagine Me, Gentle Spectators Session.

Through networking I meet several experts, such as Guy Gadney behind Charisma.ai, an immersive film AI platform in which you can take on the persona of a spy. I swapped my anecdote with Guy about interviewing the former Head of the CIA in Washington DC looking at open source intelligence.

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Yassmine from Painting practices has worked on Booker’s Black Mirror and creates magic within the interstices of film special effects and creative treatments. I share her passion. My practice sits across multiple disciplines, featured in several academic books.

And then there’s Storyteller from the future Karen Palmer in the title photo above talking to Rony Seamons from AMPYFI who’s building a next generation search platform for journalists. I am a fan of Rony’s vision and part of his editorial board. Karen’s talent is to be deeply admired. She is pushing in a field that is extremely fertile and which produced this memorable offering on her panel.

You’ve done in so many minutes what I would have to accomplish over time in a dry lecture.

said AI professor Michael Rovatsos to Karen, or words to that affect.

Beyond, is a festival of ideas and people broadly from the creative industries and academia. And notwithstanding the knowledge exchange and “wow” factor, it’s a repository of multiple creative narratives that in 2030 will be a gesture away to retrieve deep linked pedagogic and start up video stories.

At the moment, the goodwill of Twitteratis and videos from the conference are some of the main legacy engagement focal points. Cap doff to @CE_Programme team for their hard work planning the event. A wee matter though; I miss the interaction of questions from the floor with experts on stage. Slido is a great piece of kit. Perhaps combining the two? The chair calling on the author of the question. This reinforces the idea of an inclusive conversation.

How do you capture the thought-enriching work of a two day conference in emotional evocative ways? Can it double down as a cinematic film itself or ape some of its attendant’s USPs. This is not a criticism, oh no, of Beyond. It did its bit capturing Captain Kirk’s opening monologue to Star Trek. No! That’s just how my brain works — creative storytelling.

You see, I’m a delegate, but buried in my imaginary digital lanyard (see below) I’m a creative, artist, technologist, lecturer and some might say disruptor who likes to mix the sub cultures of online (dotcom producer) with academia and my alt career as journalist for the BBC, ABC News, and Channel4 News. My network from UCD, UBS ( University of British Columbia) and figures like Mark Cousins acknowledged this thing, video or cinema journalism acting as a digital anthropologist.

The last time I was in Edinburgh I was enjoying the Fringe with Knowledge Transfer Partners, Soho Theatre, as we sought to investigate the development of a digital platform for comedy.

Today, I have a new family, Creative Clwstwr, (Cardiff University). The team manage a suite of creative screen-based projects, which include AMPLYFI.

Here then is a snapshot of BEYOND.

Reeps One, an acclaimed beatbox artist converts his music into visual shapeshifting digital sculptors. It was mind gnawing. I had the pleasure of being in the same space as Shlomo as an artist in residence at the Southbank, so I have huge admiration for this craft skill. The screen-based sculptures were kadinsky meets Moore. Imagine such sculptures and their unique patterning being reversed engineered to yield language? Talking by symbols. All the more so when Pip Thornton’s @Pip__T showed her project “How much does poetry cost?’

Pip examines the price of words via Google’s ad scheme. It yields dystopian thoughts of a future world where the English language is restricted because Google has a monopoly and trade mark on words. It’s not as absurd as it sounds. Twenty years ago, who would have thought we’d buy water from a bottle?

When language is costed, to bypass omnipresent smart speakers placed in our homes, we may resort to our own bitcoin symbol-language.

Pip kindly translated a favourite poem I tend to share with my students, Guillaume Apollinaire ‘s — ‘Come to the edge,

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”

Price? £7.20. The most expensive word was “Will”, which I imagine to be the document associated with leaving possessions for the living.

What becomes apparent is traditional words and their meaning have been transmogrified by the search giant. Linguistic capitalism Thornton calls it.

Is there an AI plug-in for the future that aids memory? Hyperthymesia is the rare condition in which people remember everything, but what if we could boost our capacity to remember, because I’d like to extract as much knowledge from the speakers’ pitches. Memory of course is a complex process, but besides repetition, attention and the motivation to learn, events associated with strong emotional states e.g. fear, happiness, anxiety are generally more memorable.

Ghislaine Boddington’s The Internet of the bodies and ethical futures certainly created several emotional states. A multiple award winning artist and researcher, she evoked images of human avatars, robots, as well as movement and dance generating AI digital manifestations. I’ve an idea to share with Unity (Dance group that appeared on ITV), which my Robby is one of their dancers (seen at the beginning at the front row, far right).

Ghislain’s last slide showing digital implants in humans reminded me of professor Kevin Warwick’s cyborg implants from the 1990s. How near are we to ubiquitous cyborgs via an Internet of bodies? By Boddington’s reckoning, close. Elon Musk’s tech start up Neuralink envisages humans minds melding with implants.

Karen Palmer’s presentation was a dopamine injection characteristic of hyper cinema, both physically in her videos and in her stage presence, using dramatic pauses and time-jump narratives to move the audience from one periodical state to the other. Her narrative rides a Sci-fi arc. She tells us she is from the future and has come back to warn us of what’s ahead. She carries a pressing message.

Across AI, as systems are being built they’re only as good as what they ingest. If the data is subconsciously or intentionally programmed to negate pluralism, diversity and cultural variations in society, then we are storing up far bigger problems for tomorrow.

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Image taken of Poet of Code

Earlier this year at the Barbican MIT’s Joy Buolamwini’s Poet of code looked into algorithmic bias. Several facial recognition system could not identify her, a black woman. When she put on a white mask, it did. Her research led to one of the major tech companies removing their facial recognition software after news broke, so it could correct the bias.

The code that shapes the future world is being written now, and in silicon valleys and their variants across western democracies there is no compunction to make its input data accountable or diversely inimical to human progress and co-habitation. Data scientist Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction indicates how widespread, mysterious and destructive algorithms are quietly being integrated into decision making processes.

In 2030 it will be too late, if institutions, such as academia, do not play a more active 5th estate role that requires demonstrably more inclusion and diversity in various protected characteristics, who will? Stories are the glue for ideas, but to eke out that well-known phrase, culture eats strategy for breakfast.

AMPYFI’s Rony Seamons acknowledges this inclusivity and used the platform to call on everyone to contribute to their research. We’ve become reliant on Google whose search returns are limited says Rory. A next generation search engine must be able to scrape the deepest channels of the web and retrieve results that are immediately academically verifiable and like, the aspirations of other speakers at BEYOND, go far beyond what we expect at present.

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End +++ Thanks to the Clwstwr team and BEYOND Conf team

*Collisions is a label fmr Artistic Director Jude Kelly CBE used with her artists in residence at the Southbank Centre.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah’s digital Lanyard. For more click here.

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hashtag#code hashtag#future hashtag#storyteller hashtag#society

Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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