Week notes: 18 October 2015

Making Digital Work; Festival of the Imagination; Pastcards; an owl hoots

Week

I missed writing a week notes blog post last Sunday. Oops. So this post covers stuff I’ve been doing over the past two weeks.

On Wednesday last week I went to the Nesta Digital R&D Fund for the Arts conference: Making Digital Work at the Birmingham Rep. Speakers showed, and talked about, their funded projects combining arts and technology.

A highlight was Deborah Bull’s keynote talk on the Risk of Success: “fixed mental models can blind you to external events if they don’t correspond to your view of the world”.

Last weekend I took a train to the Ceiriog Valley in Wales to visit friends – a group of brilliant people who inspire me with the work they do and the projects they make. It was a weekend of good, long conversations that drew together new thoughts. Making time to think and share ideas is hugely valuable. I need to find ways to make more spaces like this.

Also, going to sleep looking out over a valley – while an owl hoots gently from a nearby tree – is pretty special.

This week, I went to the Festival of the Imagination at Warwick University. The festival celebrated 50 years of Warwick University, focusing on the theme of imagining the future.

One of the events I joined was panel discussion on The Picture of Health: exploring the future of medicine.

The discussion started with the question: ‘what will the job of a doctor look like in 25 years?’ Answers included: automated diagnosis; transparency; the advantages and challenges of each of us knowing our own genomes; and the importance of managing and understanding new science breakthroughs.

Many people on the panel felt the role of a doctor is about the human relationship. At the core this is about care, taking time to listen to patients, empathising and understanding their needs. “What were the skills I learned as a doctor? It’s the relationship. Unless we have empathy, we should give up now.”

Also this week, I helped test Pastcards, a new project from my friend Henry Cooke. Pastcards is a service that picks a photo from your Instagram feed each month, and sends it to you as a surprise postcard.

It’s a delightful, joyful project, provoking thoughts on physical objects, digital and the persistence of memory. Henry has written about the ideas behind Pastcards:

Instead of a physical, keepable print, the photos we now take become fleeting little posts that last for a few days in our friends’ timelines and then march off into the past, replaced by an endless stream of newer stuff. Photos have been transmuted from something physical and lasting, slivers of memory that fill up boxes, into ephemeral, disposable items of content.

Next week I’m looking forward to Canvas Conference at Birmingham Library. The line up includes speakers from Nasa, Medium and Withings,  If you’re going, come and say hello.

Notes

[image: a welcome message, Wales]