One of the great things working with the IRFS gang at BBC R&D taught me is the habit of writing weeknotes – a (in our case, bi-weekly) summary of everything we’d been up to – serving as a record of our work, promotional material, and an opportunity for reflection. I wrote my last (for a while) batch of IRFS weeknotes a couple of weeks back, but it’s a habit that’s been really useful over the past three years, so it’s something I’ve decided to adopt in my own practice too.
So, then – this was my first week being based (permanently) in Barcelona – I’ve been living here since the end of September, but have been traveling back to London frequently for work, so this was the first week I really felt settled in. I already know the city reasonably well as a visitor, but it’s going to be great to finally get to know it properly as a resident – there’s so much interesting stuff going on here – particularly at the weird intersection of art, design, technology and society that interests me – and I’m excited to get involved in it and share it here!
A big part of my last few weeks has been going through the business of getting registered as a resident EU citizen, and signing up for social security and so on. I’m pleased to say this is now finally all done, having registered with my local CatSalut doctor’s surgery this week, and i’m now a fully registered member of Catalan and Spanish society. This was a daunting process (made more complicated by the fact that I’m self employed), but in fact was much easier than I anticipated (and, in fact, public institutions in Spain are in general very impressive in terms of efficiency and their use of technology, in comparison with the UK). I’m planning to write up the entire process this week as a reference for any other EU citizens looking to make the same move.
Most of my work week has been spent with Adia Health – helping them develop a personalised fertility profile which gives practical, medically sound advice to expectant parents and those looking to conceive or simply understand their fertility better. It’s been good to work on something which offers such a defined, and tangible benefit to its users, as well as being a bit more ‘hands on’ than I have been for a while. In addition, I’m working with a great team, especially good friend and frequent IRFS collaborator Matt Spendlove again.
I’m with Adia ’til the end of the year, and so am also sorting out my bookings the next few months as well – and have been talking to a couple of prospective clients with a variety of interesting projects – from natural language processing APIs to algorithmic international radio services. I’ve still got some availability next year though, so if you’re interested in working with me, please get in touch! You can see examples of my work or read more about my skills and experience elsewhere on this site.
Outside of client work, I attended the ‘Cap a la Ciutat Humana’ (Towards the humane city) film screening and panel discussion on technology and social innovation for humane and livable cities, at Cal l’Alier – the urban innovation centre run by the local government (Ajutament) of Barcelona. There was some thoughtful and animated discussion about how to create livable, humane cities, and the role of technology (and citizen participation) in doing so – both subjects very close to my heart. The Ajutament de Barcelona do particularly impressive work in this area in general, and there’s a very lively community of people working on urbanism, environment and technology here.
I’m also working on a workshop proposal for IAM Weekend 2020, responding to the brief: “How can organisations and citizens address the weird implications of the design, mythologies and usages of the internet(s) and digital technologies in the environmental emergency?” I’m in the early stages of developing this, but I’m developing some (hopefully) interesting ideas about how the concept of ‘waste’ has been elided from our understanding of digital technologies – and how an appreciation of the physical qualities, affordances, and phenomenology of waste could provide possible strategies for making the environmental impact of digital technologies more tangible. I’ll have more to share on this soon, but in the meantime I’ve found some really great articles on The trashcan icon and waste as metaphor in HCI, and practices of rubbish disposal and the relationship between waste and self, which have provided some amazing context, knowledge and inspiration. Lots more reading and writing to do, but more coming soon!
Finally, I’ve joined up at MADE Barcelona – our local community-owned-and-run hackspace / lab / workshop, and spent several satisfying hours there assembling a Bela Pepper and learning to use the laser cutter, (which I’ve got some interesting plans for in the future), as well as spending time getting to know their amazing community of members. I’m looking forward to spending more time there!
That’s all for now – more next week.
- The dead are at our backs: Fascinating read from Ben Tarnoff on the GLA’s attempt to democratise technology through the hackspace-like Greater London Enterprise Board in the 80s, and the lessons to be drawn on technology for the left today.
- A wonderful, extensive, interview with Donna Haraway from Logic Magazine.
- Towards a theory of the new Weird: A great essay from Elvia Wilk on feminism and the Eerie in fiction (also timely, as I’ve just finished Mark Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie).
- Utopian Overreach – a marvelous essay from Alif Ibrahim in the always-excellent Real Life magazine on technology, agency, and how the ‘digital wellness’ movement promotes an individualist view of humanity and, crucially, what this leaves out.
- Ghost Hands, Player Pianos and the Hidden History of AI