Monday, 15 December 2014


Trending Topics
"A word, phrase or topic that is tagged at a greater rate than other tags is said to be a "trending topic". Trending topics become popular either through a concerted effort by users, or because of an event that prompts people to talk about a specific topic. These topics help Twitter and their users to understand what is happening in the world." (From Wikipedia)

The Trend project is something which I have been playing around with for a little while now. It started as a reaction to how frustrating social media can sometimes be, but has developed into a way that I can harness this to inspire me to create new work.

My outcomes for the #trend project:
  • Short projects that produce outcomes very quickly - for artwork and products
  • Build on different printmaking techniques
  • Developing sketching and note making
  • Improve workflow & project development skills
  • Alternative methods of gathering source imagery & image making
  • Improve ways of display work offline & online / selling work & products

#trend from Jono Sandilands on Vimeo.

The aim was to make a box which contains an Arduino and a thermal printer - this sits on my desk at work or at home. When the button is pushed the Arduino pulls in the latest trending topics and sends them to the printer. Everyday I could print off the trending topics and start exploring some ideas around them. I can choose to restrict further research online to keep a level of separation from the sometimes obscure reality of what these topics are actually about.

The piece in itself could be seen as observational - looking at how we have layered the internet into our lives and how strange it can be. Some of this is covered in my post about The New Aesthetic. The box is a little exploration into the Internet of Things.

Although the internet it is a great resource for so many things, including researching a topic for a project - I have a hard time finding a focus. I'm looking to improve my workflow using the internet and this is a step towards finding ways of doing that.

These trending topics sometime only last for a few minutes, before they become out of date, meaning that I either would need to work quickly and feed into the trending topic by publishing the work immediately - or be following a path of a project which expands outwith the original meaning not dictated by the quickly dated topics.

Depending on what is going on that day, where the trending location is set to and what time it is, the topics can vary greatly. Mostly they are useless or obscure, occasionally something interesting comes out, however it's interesting to explore some of the more obscure ones.

Countries and cities with local trending topics in Twitter.

I have done some experimentation, a proof of concept of the thought process behind all of this. This used one of the very first trending topics I received and I have written about that specific project separately to document the process.

Part of documenting the project and improving my ways of displaying work online I have created a mini site for the project at 

Visit the #trend mini site

Where can you get one & how does it work?
In order to print I followed the steps to get up and running with my own open source printer by the good folks at Find the list of components, the step by step process and all the code on GitHub. I bought my supplies including the Thermal Printer from Cool Components.

To collect the latest trending topics from Twitter I used the Twitter API to GET trends/place. I am running the Trend mini site on Wordpress. Thankfully Wordpress has a built in function for grabbing data from an external URL such as an API then parsing that data (into JSON via php). If in doubt consult the documentation I have linked. This along with lots of tutorials on how to deal with specific types of requests - such as pulling in data from the Twitter API.

My lasercut box is a slightly adapted version of the original Adafruit IoT Printer Enclosure both on Thingiverse.

If you're not into coding and working with Arduino, you could also see Little Printer, which I have written about before in this post about the Internet of Things.

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