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HHS8121 Seven Stories/Late Shows followup

Whew. It’s been quite a month. I’ve just about recovered from the barrage of coursework (although there are still a few little deadlines to mop up), enough to get my hands on all the photos and videos of the Seven Stories/Late Shows event, which went really well!
The pop-up performances worked better than I could have hoped for, really suited the venue and feel of the event. The culture-crawl premise of the Late Shows and the way the venue encourages you to wander around an explore really lent themselves to creating a sense of discovery as people got caught up in performances without necessarily planning to even see them.

I can’t take all the credit for the night, of course. Mike had a really interesting setup printing chapbooks in the studio, the performers’ talent was all their own, and credit for most of the documentation goes to Garry and Jade. But there is a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing that parts of the programme that I organised go off (mostly) without a hitch. I remember someone telling me that the best way to succeed in the arts is to team up with people more talented than yourself, and there’s definitely some truth there (-:

I had steeled myself for a lot of logistical difficulties, as well as the challenges of mediating between a venue and a lineup of potential performers with different needs, but everything went remarkably smoothly (although it certainly helped that I was mentally prepared). Didn’t stop me from being stressed out on the night. My own performance was… passable, in my own opinion. I could probably have pulled off a better set if my focus hadn’t been on coordinating everything else. But it was a lovely crowd, and a fun set nonetheless.

And now, a long overdue shout-out to the great local performers who came along, and went the extra mile, tailoring their sets to the themes of the exhibits and the venue. Follow the links below the check out their various pages and a sample of their work:

Doug Garry – old friend from the Edinburgh poetry scene, and one of my favourite spoken word performers. Also one of the Loud Poets.
Jayne Dent – amazingly talented solo singer, who also studies fine art here at Newcastle University.
Rowan McCabe – the Door-to-Door Poet. He does exactly what the name suggests, and he’s great at it.
Rosie Calvert & Will Finn – half (two quarters?) of acapella folk quartet the Teacups, and unfairly talented musicians in their own right.

That’s it from me for now. Expect some further screenwriting grumblings (its back to the drawing board again for me), followed by (hopefully) some new projects! In the meantime, here are some tasty video clips from the event:


HSS8121 Interface Critique

Since I ended up learning a lot about interaction design in a short space of time, I figured it might be interesting to take a look at some of the programs and websites I use a lot and see how they measure up to some of those criteria for good design. Let’s see which ones come out on top!
Warning: may contain frivolous misapplication of design criteria and bad comparisons.

1. Adobe InDesign
Professional desktop publishing software
The number of clicks required to achieve any goal is usually very few, generally 1-2 to find the tool you need and 1-2 more to apply it. Considering the sheer volume of things you can do, does this make it a ‘generous interface‘? You can accomplish a ridiculous number of things in very fine detail, using only the buttons available on the main screen, but considering how tiny they are and how very few of them can be used intuitively without going through a lengthy tutorial or spending 20 minutes googling them first.  InDesign does its job perfectly, but you really have to work for it. Which I suppose isn’t that bad a verdict, for a piece of professional design software.

Pros: mediates a lot of content simultaneously, good on both big picture and fine detail
Cons: interface must be courted with caviar and roses before it will consider helping you
Final Score: 7 out of 10

2. Runescape
Online MMORPG I’ve been playing too much of lately

I know MMOs are complicated, but seriously, how many different menu tabs do you need? How many different kinds of menus do you need? Zoom in on this screenshot and you’ll see icons for combat styles, daily tasks, skills, quests, armour, inventory, 9 different kinds of chat settings, friends, groups, contacts, settings, emotes, music, health, money… it just goes on.

I suppose it gets credit for having that many things onscreen without the game becoming unusable. I like this game, but considering that I’m already paying to play it I don’t enjoy the nagging suspiciousthat its much better at showing me the content that encourages me to spend more money than how best to experience what I’ve already paid for.

Pros: provides the comforting illusion of setting yourself goals and then achieving them
 the interface and the mechanics feel like they’re getting in the way
Final Score: 5 out of 10

3. Youtube

Video browsing website

A bit more alike in form to the digital archive/collection interfaces I’ve been studying, because it mediates content in a more linear way. Following this train of logic, I suppose Youtube is a pretty strong interface, given how easily and enjoyably you can get sucked into browsing material for extended periods of time, which includes discovering things you didn’t intend to search for. Pretty good on the ‘big picture -> subsection -> individual piece of content’ front too. Shame about the algorithms that recommend new content though; for my money they present you with videos that are too narrowly similar to the ones I’ve already been watching.

Making a channel, uploading videos and making playlists is much worse though, partly because the things you do as a browser and the things you do as a content creator are needlessly entangled. The screenshot above represents my channel, but only about a quarter of the visible screen deals with uploading and posting videos at all.

Pros: easy and intuitive to start browsing, and keep browsing for ages
you’ll mostly find more of the same, and managing a channel is much less intuitive
Final Score:
 8 out of 10 for browsing, 4 for uploading


4. Steam
Digital storefront and library for PC video games

I’ve always thought of Steam as the iTunes of video games, and I’ve generally liked it a lot more than iTunes and the other musical equivalents like Google Play that I’ve tried. Those always try harder to show me new things I might buy than to make it easy to navigate the songs I already have. On the other hand, Steam divides the storefront and the things I’ve bought from the storefront into two categories (and does a better job of handling dual purposes than Youtube).

As far as the storefront goes, its easy to search specifically and browse generally. The presentation of the library is lacklustre, but then again, it only has to represent a list of things you’ve already paid for, so chances are you know the contents pretty well already.

Pros: looks nice, handles the store/library distinction well
recommendation algorithms have the opposite issue, casting the net a bit too wide
Final Score:
 8 out of 10

And the winner is… 
hard to say really. As much as they could all stand to do certain things more intuitively, is it really in their best interests to do so? Arguably they are all generous, browseable & aesthetically pleasing to the extent they need to be, and no more. This was probably a doomed enterprise from the outset, but its been interesting to think about the interfaces I unthinkingly use in a more critical way, even if I mostly just ended up venting.

HSS8121 Out of Bounds + Yossarian (themes and associations)

OOB newcastle screenshot

Its been a good year for unexpected projects so far, which I suppose is more or less the point. Recently a lot of them seem to be falling under the broad heading of ‘finding themes and associations’, which seems to be a large part of my practice at the moment.

The main example, and a side-project that I’m very pleased with so far, has been the Out of Bounds Poetry Project. Long story short, some big-name poets took this anthology on tour, performing poems relating to place, ethnicity and various other themes – you can watch some here. Since then, a number of people at Newcastle and Stirling University have been working to present that material in an engaging way online, and that’s where I came in.

The work I’ve been doing can basically be summed up as watching every poetry video, making detailed notes on its themes and content, and then trying to come up with different connecting principles to help present the material in a coherent and interesting way. Fingers-crossed the end result will be an engaging experience that brings the best out of the poems and the poets’ performances.

I’ve really enjoyed this work, and not only because it helped to validate all that literary analysis I did during my A levels and ungrad. Its been an exercise in finding the common themes and elements between the different videos, as well as the potential effects of juxtaposing them. All in all, I made a lot of spreadsheets and a lot of mock-ups, which was more interesting than it sounds.

What made me think critically about all of this was a the last Enterprise and Research Methods class we had, with Daniel Foster-Smith, one of the co-founders of the creative search engine Yossarian. Its an awesome project, and I recommend you spend the five minutes it takes to check it out for yourself, but tldr: it aims to use lateral and metaphorical associations, rather than direct connections, to help you think outside the box. Trust me, the website explains it better.

It represents the intersection between a some of the things I’m currently doing (themes, association, visual representations) and both the linguistic and literary aspects of my undergrad. I’m currently exploring how I might apply Yossarian (or the principles behind it) to Out of Bounds and the other projects I’m working on. Below are two examples of the sort of associations the search engine produced for three of the main OOB themes (waterbondaries and voice) with just a few minutes of exploring:

There’s probably a lot more digging to do here. The algorithmic processes that Yossarian uses to produce these associations are interesting, but something I’ll need to investigate a bit more if I want to understand. I’m aware that I’ve mostly been moving from thing to thing a lot recently, not really developing any one idea a huge amount, but that’s the nature of research sometimes. Its all still on the table, hopefully a larger idea will spring from something soon.

HSS8121 Creative Entrepreneurship – Seven Stories


Finally found a good time to write about what could be the most exciting opportunity Creative Arts Practice has thrown my way – getting commissioned by Seven Stories National Centre for Children’s Books! The whole cohort was invited to send proposals for Seven Stories’ night at the Late Shows, and mine was one of the ones that got accepted!

The Late Shows is a ‘culture crawl’ that takes place on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th of May in Newcastle, with a kinds of cultural venues opening late and putting on all kinds of awesome free events. Seven Stories will be playing host to storytelling in the Attic, plus an installation in the Studio (put on by fellow CAP-er Michael Hirst) as well as pop-performances of music and poetry throughout the building (organised by yours truly). People will be wandering in and out and around as part of their general quest to absorb beer and culture and acquire glowsticks.

You can find out more specifics about the event itself here. The rest of this post will be about how it came about, for the purposes of documentation (and a tiny bit for self congratulation as well, gotta blow my own trumpet sometimes).

The idea has evolved substantially since the class brainstorming session we had in March. It began as a ‘grown-up storytelling’ event set in the Attic (aka the room with the STORY THRONE) with a small line-up of artists telling stories and then handing the mic over to the visitors, potentially to a theme or prompt related to the venue. Stories from childhood, perhaps relating to childhood toys or pets.

Note: at a very early stage a line was drawn between ‘grown-up storytelling’ (which sounds fun, whimsical, playful and all those nice fluffy words) and ‘adult storytelling’ (which sounds distinctly more X-rated).

This idea gradually split into two parts – the volunteer storytelling component, which was essentially an open mic event, and the professional performances. The performers I had in mind were primarily the kinds I had performed with in Edinburgh and Newcastle – performance poets (like myself) folk singers and comedians. All kinds of artists generally well-practiced in weaving narratives through their performances, which seemed appropriate.

It was these two ideas that I ended up sending to Seven Stories as a joint proposal. After a while, I got back a detailed set of questions, which was encouraging and gave me an idea of what parts of my proposal they liked and which parts they didn’t, or which had logistical issues. Ultimately the volunteer performers part got axed, because it made quality control and producing a cohesive event much harder, and the professional performances became the focus.

All this came with a set of unique challenges. The venue itself is aimed primarily towards children/families and adults interested in children’s literature (they have a really good archive), but the Late Shows is one of the times when it broadens its appeal. So, the material shouldn’t be aimed AT children, but must still be appropriate FOR children, at least as far as explicit language and content are concerned.

Plus the venue itself was such a great opportunity to try to bring adults into the feeling of creativity and discovery that Seven Stories is so great at, as well as the specific themes of the different exhibits. This all required me to be more selective in terms of the performers I asked to get involved, and for me to involve myself in choosing their material more closely than would be normal for a spoken word or variety night.

For those interested, here are some clips of performers that were on my long-list, to give an idea of the kinds of performances I wanted to curate:
Folk Music (Will Finn and Rosie Calvert)
Performance Poetry (Douglas Garry)

The event space was also a big part of the process, since Seven Stories is a large and unique venue. I was initially very excited to host performances (and perform) in the Attic, given the oversized furniture and decoration, and the dedicated performance setup. However, through discussion with the venue this changed to pop-performance throughout the venue. The main logistical reason for this was so as to not to fill up the Attic too much, but since I started looking at the Cafe, the Bookshop and the Exhibition Floors as potential performance spaces, I think its actually going to improve the performances significantly. Rather than trying (and failing) to get wandering visitors to stay and watch in one place, there will be performances wherever they go, hopefully adding a little fun discovery to the event, which seems fitting.

I’ll probably be rushed off my feet during the event itself, but I’m going to make some attempts at documentation, so expect another post after Friday!


Ethnography is the systematic study of people and cultures. It is designed to explore cultural phenomena where the researcher observes society from the point of view of the subject of the study. As for the methods for Ethnography, fieldwork is no doubt a main way for researchers to get various data and materials about society.

Specifically, fieldwork is the collection of information outside of a laboratory, library or workplace setting. The approaches and methods used in field research vary across disciplines. For example, biologists who conduct field research may simply observe animals interacting with their environments, whereas social scientists conducting field research may interview or observe people in their natural environments to learn their languages, folklore, and social structures. For instance, by observing or interviewing people, social scientist can obtain knowledge about their languages, social relationship, habit and so on.

Field research involves a range of well-defined, although variable, methods: informal interviews, direct observation, participation in the life of the group, collective discussions, analyses of personal documents produced within the group, self-analysis, results from activities undertaken off- or on-line, and life-histories.

As for creative art part, ethnography has some new features, including naturally occurring settings(How do artists work, how do audience work),ordinary activities(observe people from daily and natural life),Social meanings(how do people create and find meaning),The how of the social organisation of activities(eg. accident report), The perspective of the paticipants(in my opinion, it’s the aspect to change perspective to observe),The member categories(what is your TA, if you want to get more precise data, you need to expand the social groups),Descriptive(Say what you saw and reflect on the theory),Participant observation(you should be both participant and observer), Reflexivity (Reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect,In sociology, reflexivity therefore comes to mean an act of self-reference ).

Activities: 1 Observe what kind of art works people may interest in Northumberland street

2 make a proposal for public artworks


Observe part(Thursday, 11AM)

People walk quickly on the street

Most of them are old people (couples, with shopping bags) and students (without shopping bags, just passing the street).

People prefer indoor activities.

People will cast a glance at sculpture in the street.

Artwork proposal

1. Small art market in the center of the street.

2. Small LED door in the center of the street, people can open the door and connected the people from other place or even different ages.

Aim: to attract people to participant in more outdoor activities .


To sum up, by the way of  ethnography, artists need spend a lot of time to observe and experience their target audience, only in this way, artists can get enough data and make a comprehensive plan for their works.




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