Monday, 7 May 2012

Talk by James Bridle at the Lighthouse

In a previous post I wrote about my response to James Bridle's concept of  The New Aesthetic. Last week I also went to a  talk by James, which was at the the Lighthouse in Brighton. Thanks to Jonathan for telling me about it :-)

I haven't been feeling very well lately and my head felt slightly arrghhh when I went to this talk, so I know that I haven't remembered everything, and it probably wasn't in this order either, so I do apologize.

The talk began by showing a projection of different coloured pixels streaming from a Flickr site in America, well I think it was America, which created an abstract colourful rain drop effect. James had made this that morning which was quite impressive.

Another projection was shown of a little story book. James's mum had kept this from when he was very young. I think it was his first ever picture story book that he had made. He also discussed how some people have emotional attachments to books (obviously his mum had). I wasn't exactly sure if he felt this way too, but since he has printed quite a lot of books I assumed so, but I don't actually remember him saying if he did. I know people that feel this way too, they prefer to read an actual book rather than read from an electronic device. To be honest I don't understand this, as for me personally I prefer the content not the form, though perhaps I do prefer the form, only the digital form, with back lit screens, text that I can change to any size, along with having more space for books than I could ever have dreamed possible before the digital age!

James talked about how in India they are scanning thousands of paper books to convert into digital, and how by doing this it is making changes to the original text, due to either bad scanning errors, or people  trying to translate these errors, even people may deliberately add in their own text into the digital version! Also in places such as Peru there are also many pirated books which are all slightly different. I found it really amusing when he mentioned that he had found books with some of the characters in Harry Potter to be different :-)

The topic of James's publications arose and James mentioned how he made a book of his Twitter updates titled: My Life in Tweets.  I found this quite amusing, and even more so to find out that some people were disturbed by this, due to these Tweets being in their unnatural environment! He also talked about how he had printed 50 copies of a book based on Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times, originally subtitled For These Times. The paperback books were identical but contained different text! Furthermore he had  printed a twelve volume set of the history of the Iraq War from Wikipedia along with all the changes to the Iraq war. Click here to view. I found this twist in conversion from the digital to physical world to be quite interesting especially after James had mentioned previously about what was happening with the scanning of paper books to digital. This made me think more about the accuracy of the data on Wiki, and whether this information had originated from a person telling the truth or someone making it up or just difference of opinion, or a bot writing the data, which then James has taken and reproduced in the physical world, thus adding another level to this confusion.

James mentioned that he has a historian friend and how a historian's job is to also muddy the water so to speak. Everyone wants clear cut answers, but in reality there aren't any. I found this quite fascinating that James was working on similar lines to his historian friend, and the fact that this muddiness was also taken place via the scanning of paper to digital conversions, which then seemed inevitable to happen to all sources of data.

Another publication called: Where the F**k Was I?  is a book consisting of maps from various locations of his whereabouts which were recorded on his iphone without no prior knowledge. These iphones caused a slight uproar since some people were not happy being tracked due to privacy, but James appeared very excited! What is quite intriguing is that the phone not only stored James's locations but also the iphones cell towers and wireless networks creating and storing patterns within the digital infrastructure, which I think adds an almost weird sentience to its digital/physical mapping!

While I found this all very captivating I think my favourite part of this talk was finding out about a project called:  A Ship Adrift  which is a ship on the roof of the Southbank Centre in London, where a weather station has been set up. The data plots an imaginary route,  for the ship to embarks on its travels, picking up various data along the way, such as tweets and posts on dating sites, and geotagged wiki articles, and it's trying to make some sort of sense out of this acquired knowledge! I found this quite fascinating due to the randomness of the weather plotting its imaginary journey, along with the gathering of data along the way. I thought this was such a fab idea, merging the physical, virtual and imaged worlds together which all formed its existence. This also made me question if this existence was relevant, and of course it is.

I really enjoyed this talk. It was really good to hear more about James's work which I found to be really inspiring :-)

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