Futuresonic – Social Technologies Summit day 1:- Digital Futures & Digital Economy – Multiple-speakers #futr09

This took a look at the digital economy, and how creative economic activities can evolve, be supported and help promote this area. There was of course some focus and mention of the recent publication of the government report “Digital Britain”, mainly in the negative sense.

This session was delivered by several speakers and was structured in a manner to build from hardware > software and technology to use and influence (roughly).

“Next Generation Broadband – a disruptive technology” – Shaun Fensom, Manchester Digital

Shaun Fensom chairs ‘Manchester Digital’ and ‘Community Broadband Network’.

He took a look at the way technological change impact and effects things.  Typically it’s commonplace to say “It’s not about the technology but the things it can do, or how people interact with it.” However, this is an area where Shaun disagrees, technology can be disruptive and provides a massive impetus for change (behavioural and socially).

He provided several examples of disruptive technologies impacting on social behaviour and norms.

Example #1 – Disruptive technology/interfaces the modem:- allowed businesses and individuals to take advantage of computer to computer communications. The minitel in France, provided a whole different interface for telephony direction lookups and information, unfortunately they weren’t able to take that forward and shape the next technological evolution.

Example #2 – Disruptive communication and collaboration:- World wide web (hyperlinks and graphics), this needed ‘echo cancelling modems’ to be fast enough to deliver that type of web.

Example #3 – Disruptive access:- ADSL ‘broadband 1.0’  from late 1990’s, always on, via DSL and DSLAM into the ISP.  Explosion of e-commerce and the .com boom. E-commerce didn’t really materialise and It died off because broadband wasn’t ready or sufficient to sustain it. Since then e-commerce has grown to be of that imagined scale – Amazon.

Example #4 – Disruptive sites:- Wikipedia, and Youtube – via broadband and the 1st global user generated content sites, the democratisation of media took place and really changed the manner of how people share/publish information and retrieve it.

Example #5 -Disruptive media:- digital coping and widely available standard electronic formats for media. Made traditional copyrighting and content management rights of publishing industry virtually unsustainable in the age of the Internet generation. An example of technology being disruptive to existing business models.

He also mentioned other examples:- microcomputer in 1980s. industrial revolutions – steam engines and cotton industry advances.  – 1st generation shifts of technology.

Next generation broadband will mean fibre connections (light bearing data streams) to every home and business.  Next generation broadband will help enable services like Cisco’s telepresence (currently confined to high cost enterprise networks), to become more obtainable by consumers. This is one example Shaun gave of the potential for next generation broadband to be disruptive.

There were obviously questions about how to go about building fibre, especially in the light of the ‘Digital Britain’ report (very low ambition for average broadband speed across the UK).  Shaun said that at the moment, the major industry players such as BT and Virgin don’t have a great incentive to install fibre. However, one approach that the ‘Community broadband network’ is advocating is the construction of patch-work-quilt network coverage, where local initiatives, look after small regional areas and seek to join together to across the UK.

Wimax – etc. (comparison to ‘light’ bearing data – electro magnetic waves/copper all diminished in comparison)

Shaun concluded by saying, it was very difficult to predict how a new form technology will impact, and therefore what it will allow to people & businesses to do with it.

“Digital Convergence” – Enda Carey, Northwest Vision & Media (Games and Digital &Public Sector Support)

Enda Carey spoke about the initiatives of Northwest Vision & Media and their aims to create a world class digital and creative economy in the Northwest of England.  He spoke around the following sub-titles.

RCO – Regional Cluster Organisation

The purpose of the RCO, in terms of providing funds and supporting for businesses and individuals, is meant to make things simpler and more straightforward to access these services. The RCO also helps these agencies to drive convergence agenda. At the moment RCO’s already exist for automotive and aerospace industry verticals, this particular RCO is the 1st in the digital arena.

Northern Net

This is a high performance symmetrical network infrastructure to span across the north of England. It will consist of 25-30 connection hubs, and will be a service point linking content creators across the north back to Media city. (TV.Film, Art, Games, Digital Content, cutting rooms, and video conferencing rooms).

Media city

Enda, introduced this as the biggest construction project in the UK at the moment. This is going to be in Salford Quays area and active from around, 2011 to 2012.  The purpose of NWV&M is to help people and businesses take advantage of this advent of Media city and supporting  cross organisational collaboration.

Proactive vs Reactive – Public Sector Support

Previously much of the work from the public sector area was reactive to industry trends, and now NWV&M is trying to be proactive and affective at bringing a convergence agenda to the NW.

He concluded the talk by giving a few examples of case studies of where NWV&M had provided support into the region.

“Why we must use Games for Good” – Philip Trippenbach, BBC current affairs

This was an extremely interesting talk on how gaming technology can provide significant impact to businesses and individuals outside of the traditional realm of gaming.  Philip outlined that the advent of ubiquitous high-speed broadband, will allow us to take advantage communications technology so powerful that people forget or forego the need to eat or sleep.  (see link)

Philip said the nature of ‘fun’ within video games  is categorically educational.  The essence of games are the ‘challenges’ and most fun and satisfaction in video games is found in (problem-)solving the challenges presented. Key game moments (points of heighten emotion and state) are the feeling of achievement found through succeeding in the process of learning how to solve these problems.

There are limitations of the technology however, the games sector is renown for aggressively advancing capability and features delivered via the user interface. In the main the challenge of a game is making the ‘reality’ of game as closely matching to our physical reality by mapping and calculating the vector based algorithms to render the game graphics.

The main reason we don’t take games as seriously we may be should do, is that games are almost always in the entrainment section.  But games are not just toys. Bear in mind how often do (war)video/games get descried and taken off the shelves and TV/film series on the same subject are accepted .  For example Insurgency, a close combat game.  coded and played by veterans, active service men and cadets.  Here is perhaps the closest reality to that type of close combat outside of the real warzone and explains why it attracts military types to experience it, and prepare and train in it.

Other games offer some facet of training or education via their intuitive graphic interfaces e.g.

  • Fiscal Budget games – US and UK BBC or ABC/Fox etc.
  • ARG – Alternative Reality Games.

The continuing evolution of games complexity and potential for significance will be something we ignore at our peril.

Finally Philip offered some insight into the changing role of the journalist.  With the advent of mass-media, now as almost real-time as it gets (see recently Twitter and Iran). With so many streams of data from alternative sources, perhaps the role will evolve to one of ‘community management’ or social producers and an interactive collaborative story tellers.

Incidentally there were 25 different sources/streams going out via mass media for this talk alone.

“Connected Worlds and Playfulness.” –Toby Barnes, Mudlark (previously – MTV2)

Toby Barnes also followed this up with a further dialogue on the absence of the mention of ‘games’ from the digital Britain report.

He also discussed the value of games…

Games are useful ways of creating mental models this can be done through a game or virtual worlds, from it we can learn, understand and benefit. Using mental models are the best way for us to learns and develop new ways of doing things, and placing those mental models into a game platform is an almost unique way in which we can allow others to share that experience, safely change parameters and inputs and experience the output.

Game console – ethernet connections wireless – connection of social interaction of games – fundamentally different.

The mobilisation of the gaming platform iphones, and Sony PSP, Nintendo DS etc.  Are bringing new social interaction to the nature of gaming and how people collaborate through the games and the platforms.

Obviously up till now game development is very expensive.  Technology is changing this, indy games (e.g. Braid) are becoming a reality. In the same manner as the proliferation of iphones apps, we will see this on the preferred gaming platforms.

Finally Toby described the advent of reality of real-world data-sets and assets being incorporated into game environments.

For example :-

Nike + – from the shoe to a social interactive community

Bodybug – gps trackable clothing, temp, heart rate.

Chromaroma –from Mudlark using ambient data collection – social gaming through travel cards, becoming part of your regular way of life within a game layer.

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