Friday, 31 October 2014

The Internet of Things

Part of a series exploring Pervasive Play - see the other posts in the series

The Internet of Things refers to physical objects which have a unique identity on a connected network. This allows a virtual representation of a particular object to be able to communicate with other connected objects, systems or humans. It gives an object a voice.

The idealistic view of these connected things is that we can have objects around our houses, towns and cities that make relationships together and enrich parts of our lives.

There has been huge commercialisation, along with crowd funding, which has impacted a quick growth of Internet of Things products on the market.

See this example of Microsoft Band which can help you "be a better human". Oh, please no!

Fig. 3. Little Printer (front) (2012)
Fig. 4. Little Printer publication (2012)
Fig. 5. Little Printer phone interface (2012)
Little Printer (2012 see fig. 3) by BERG, at first seems like a desirable and fun object. It is programmable by an application to print a daily report of social media feed updates, lists, recipes, news and weather reports (see fig. 4), it creates a personalised newspaper. But when you start to question this, it does not add any real beneficial connection or alternative beyond what is already available through apps on smart phones, which you need to programme the printer (see fig. 5). We start going in circles and turns out it is a bit of a gimmick. Jack Schulze, co-founder of BERG said during a talk at Cheltenham Design Festival (2014) “why bother doing it”. Experience, experimentation and understanding will develop future work. But at what cost?

These products throw up questions about the need to connect to everything. What is the reasoning for connecting to an object if it does not benefit. There are political issues surrounding the manufacturing process, ethical working environments and our use of raw materials for something that potentially has a short lifespan and does not work when the app is no longer usable.
"Connected Objects aren’t just going to be devices we own: they’re going to be public objects we share. And they can’t just work with bespoke apps for niche smartphones" (Armitage, 2014)
Contrasting to the growing commercial aspect of The Internet of Things, there has been an emergence in artists researching, experimenting and developing without the same reliance on immediate income of a product.

Hello Lamp Post

Hello Lamp Post from PAN Studio on Vimeo.

Hello Lamp Post (2013 see fig. 6) by design and research studio PAN, Tom Armitage and Gyorgyi Galik is a project which I feel encompasses the future of The Internet of Things and questions some of the issues surrounding the theme, whilst being playful. The project won Bristol’s Playable City Awards 2013 produced by Watershed.

Players make connections by communicating via SMS text message to everyday objects in the street. Hello Lamp Post is open to expansion, new objects can be unlocked by players using the identifier code which may already be part of the object (see fig. 7).

A player talks to an object by text messaging the central server which replies with a series of questions. The next person to make contact with the same object can learn about previous conversations and continue new dialogue.

Visitors and residents of the city become the players, everyone is eligible, there are no age limits, and almost everyone will have access to the technology in order to participate, play and connect.
Fig. 6. Hello Postbox (2012)
Fig. 7. Playable Codes (2012)

Unlike the commercial products, this project is not pretending that the objects are physically connected to the internet, it creates networks that go beyond physical cables. People are still connecting with inanimate objects and it is quite fascinating.

The simplicity with this is something the larger commercial market could learn from. My worry with this field is that it gets swallowed up by bigger corporations who are trying to monetize on the must have product. It is warming for a project which the central point is to empower the public and players to see the city in a new way, to make connections and memories through these objects which we pass everyday by turning them into playing pieces.

Internet of Things toys and games would be tempting to parents as a fresh way to entice children away from traditional computer games. Ideally these would require extra physical interaction and exercise, without requiring screen based play. This along with advances in computer game console controllers, like the Microsoft Kinect and Nintendo Wii, are hints at how the perception that computer console gamers are lazy, may soon be a thing of the past.

Read more at Part V – Affective Gaming

Part of a series exploring Pervasive Play - see the other posts in the series

Armitage, T. (2014) A Lamppost is A Thing Too. Available from: [Accessed 29 April 2014]. 

Figure 3. BERG Cloud Limited (2012) Little Printer (front) [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Figure 4. BERG Cloud Limited (2012) Little Printer publication [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Figure 5. BERG Cloud Limited (2012) Phone interface [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Figure 6. Pan Studio (2012) Hello Postbox [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Figure 7. Pan Studio (2012) Playable Codes [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The New Aesthetic

Part of a series exploring Pervasive Play - see the other posts in the series

During the last 10 years we have seen the implementation of new frameworks for social networking in a virtual world. Due to the methods and tools we have, there is still divide between the virtual and physical.

New strategies have recently come to light about our use of technology in the everyday, including that of British writer and artist, James Bridle who conceived the term The New Aesthetic (Bridle, 2011) which continued as a research project and observation of the growing use of digital technology and the internet in the physical world.

"One of the core themes of the New Aesthetic has been our collaboration with technology … a way of seeing that seems to reveal a blurring between “the real” and “the digital”, the physical and the virtual, the human and the machine. It should also be clear that this ‘look’ is a metaphor for understanding and communicating the experience of a world in which the New Aesthetic is increasingly pervasive." (Bridle, 2012)
Bridle’s platform about The New Aesthetic exists, not in printed books, but on the internet as e-books, videos of talks, blogs, essays, comments, likes and shares.

For further reading on the discussion about The New Aesthetic, start with Bruce Sterling's 2012 essay.

Due to the immediacy of the internet, this has allowed debate and discussion on the timely subject, resulting in new thinking and practice. What is happening is that we are now starting to make sense of how digital and physical can work together, instead of separately from one another.

The layering of technology into our everyday lives is something which can be quite strange, yet it becomes almost impossible to not be affected by it in some way. Devices provide us with roaming internet connections, providing satellite GPS data and maps which not only guide us, but can also track and monitor our actions.

There has been an increasing amount of artists using developments in technology as part of their practice by coding, hacking and prototyping electronics as these advances become more accessible.

Fig. 1. Surveillance Spaulder (2013)
Fig. 2. Surveillance Spaulder (2013)

As an example, Bridle’s Surveillance Spaulder (2013 see fig. 1 & 2) is a political reaction to the technology of surveillance. The conceptual, wearable technology detects CCTV surveillance and alerts the wearer by means of a small electric shock to their body. “ focuses information on the body and draws the wearer’s attention to the external systems trained upon them” (Bridle, 2013)

Surveillance Spaulder from stml on Vimeo.

The most interesting thing is viewing how technology has been played with, changing how the CCTV infrastructure and people of a city work together.

My linking of digital art, The New Aesthetic and pervasive play is to discuss how technology can become integrated physically as part of gameplay, to give meaning, purpose, interactivity and connections to people, places and objects.

Read more at Part IV – The Internet of Things

Part of a series exploring Pervasive Play - see the other posts in the series

Bridle, J. (2014) The New Aesthetic. Available from: [Accessed 1 April 2014].

Bridle, J. (2013) Surveillance Spaulder. Available from: [Accessed 29 April 2014].

Bridle, J. (2012) #sxaesthetic: Report from Austin, Texas, on the New Aesthetic Panel at SXSW. Available from:[Accessed 1 April 2014].

Bridle, J. (2011) The New Aesthetic. Available from: [Accessed Feb 2014].

Sterling, Bruce. (2012) An Essay on the New Aesthetic, Beyond The Beyond, Wired. Available from: [Accessed Feb 2014].

Figure 1. Bridle, J. (2013) Surveillance Spaulder [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Figure 2. Bridle, J. (2013) Surveillance Spaulder [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

What is Pervasive Play?

Part of a series exploring Pervasive Play - see the other posts in the series

The traditional definition of play:
"Summing up the formal characteristics of play we might call it a free activity standing quite consciously outside ‘ordinary’ life as being ‘not serious,’ but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly." (Huizinga, 1955, p.13)
Some examples of traditional play; toys, imaginary games, playground games (chase games such as tag), sports (such as football), board games, screen based computer games. The important aspect is something which is done for entertainment or fun.

Pervasive play is an activity, such as a game, where the experience is outwith, or breaks down some of the current boundaries of the traditional definition of play. This may question and change any aspect of the who, what, why, when, where and how play takes place.

When traditional play is an escape from the world, pervasive play wants us to utilise and see our world in a different way, using the elements which are already integrated into our lives and allow that be part of play, entertainment and fun.
". . . a gaming experience that changes according to where they are, what they are doing, and even how they are feeling." (Benford, 2005, p. 54)
Locations, actions, emotions and objects all feed into a pervasive game by harnessing new developments in technology. Digital devices and sensors act as an input to the game which can analyse and reflect back during gameplay to enrich the gameplay experience in different ways.

Read more at Part III – The New Aesthetic

Part of a series exploring Pervasive Play - see the other posts in the series


Benford, S., Magerkurth, C. and Ljungstrand, P. (2005) Bridging the physical and digital in pervasive gaming. Communications of the ACM. 48 (3), pp.54-57. Available from: [Accessed 29 March 2014].

Huizinga, J. (1955) Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Boston: Beacon Press.

Pervasive Play

A series of posts exploring the increasing presence of gameplay merging the virtual and physical.
These posts are from my journal on MA Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking

I will be posting new articles each day. To keep up to date with posts please follow the blog - see the right sidebar.

In this series:
  1. Intro
  2. What is Pervasive Play?
  3. The New Aesthetic
  4. The Internet of Things
  5. Affective Gaming
  6. Around the Table
  7. Big Games
  8. It's Not All Fun & Games
  9. Keeping it Fun
We have been seeing an increasing presence of gameplay that brings together the virtual and physical in the attempt to lead to improved play experiences and memories.

The types of outcomes discussed in this series of posts are specifically created by artists and artist groups who are using play as part of their practice and experimentation. A game should be considered an artform.

Due to the interactive nature of gameplay, an artist is not always delivering a message or a story, but the player is given a platform to create and respond with their own ideas and outcomes from the base provided by the artist. This is where my interest in the subject begins. I am making links between gameplay and digital art practice, where artists use developments in technology and question the way we work and the tools we use.

There are no set definitions of pervasive play and it is clear that ideas are varying from different people - including myself! With this there has been experimentation, testing and lots of fun projects pushing the boundaries of what pervasive play can be.

The idea of Pervasive Play is not new. The aim of this series is to outline and share my research working towards a project proposal based around games as art. If you are interested or are working on something similar please get in touch.

The examples used are within the last 12 years. From a technological point of view this timescale does not make this research entirely recent. However, as a whole they form a strong base of understanding where the themes have come from and where they are growing.

Read more at Part II – What is Pervasive Play? 

Please let me know by commenting, tweeting or getting in contact.
To keep up to date with posts please follow the blog - see the right sidebar.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Pinball Memories... and ice cream

Up the stairs above D. G. Leslie (Don Leslie's) newsagents and grocers in Lerwick, there was a cafe that was also at some point a bakery.

My blurry memories of this wonderful place was the ice cream and the pinball machine.

The counter of colourful yummy ice cream that everyone remembers
I remember the smooth, varnished wooden frame & ball shooter lane. The plastic flippers and bumpers. And of course the silver ball bouncing around the playfield.

It was some time between 1992 and 1994, I would have been 5-7 years old.

I really have very little other memories about it

Once I was there with my brother when he played the machine. I had to stand on my tip toes to see the ball and playfield, I wouldn't have been very good at it then. We were likely told not to waste our money as the machine would have been likened to gambling machines.

Unfortunately the machine is no longer there. The cafe was converted into a pub named Captain Flints some time in the mid 90s.


"I think that one of the reasons we get nostalgic about things, is it's not necessarily the thing we were doing, its not that song, that game, that movie or that book. It's what was happening in your life at that time. "
Will Wheaton in Video Games: The Movie

The above quote helps me understand why this vague memory could be an important one. It was at a time in my life when I was influenced and learning from anything around me.

As a starting point to a project I am proposing around games as art, and in an attempt to piece together some of my own history with arcades (specifically pinball here), I have tried to dig up some more information and ideally pictures of this particular pinball machine, which sat in this cafe that is so blurry in my memory.

I feel a bit obsessed with finding out what type of machine it was, for what reason I'm not entirely sure. Maybe it mirrors my frustration and current techniques when researching a topic - trying to find something that is not there an obsessing about it until I eventually find something - if it is what I set out to find in the first place or not - I have taken that process and journey which directly feeds into the development and final outcome of a project.

I feel it will help me form an understanding where the idea has originated. Perhaps part of me would like to track down a similar machine and restore it - Otherwise it is just curiosity.

Facebook research

Many, many searches online have led me nowhere, so as an experiment I have turned to Facebook to see if it can be used as an effective research tool.

Very quickly my post had received some positive responses and shares:
  • Ice Cream - Of the initial replies it was clear mostly people remember the ice cream - it was that good! The other memories are good to help spark other memories.
  • Groups - Some suggested I asked in Facebook groups such as "Shetland Memories" in this one members share photos & stories of Shetland history, which is perfect although not been much more success here. This is like an advanced search - more specific - talking to a wider group of people.
  • Pinball - other people do remember the machine but nothing specific and no photos
  • Helpful Generally everyone is really helpful and will go out of their way to find out more - it would have been a good memory for them too
  • No photos It was noted that this was a day to day place to visit so nobody would have taken photos
  • Contacts I received a few contacts including previous owners - unfortunately there seems to be no photos.
  • Archives looking through newspaper archives could bring up something

Overall the Facebook research process is a bit like an unrefined Google search. I'm no further forward finding out what I set out for, but it has helped me remember slightly more about it with the help of others filling in some extra details. I'm interested in finding alternative ways to research a topic - I'm not convinced that Facebook is the place for it - I wonder if other have been successful with this?

I think my blurry memory of this particular pinball machine may have to remain blurry.

More to come about pinball and background to my projects.
This post is from my journal on MA Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking.