Posts tagged as promisingtrouble
- 8 September 2023
I’ve begun a small piece of ongoing consultancy with Promising Trouble on their Community Connectivity project. It’s a good example of the strategy and consulting work I do in my practice, alongside more hands-on technology making.
Promising Trouble is working with Impact on Urban Health on a multi-year partnership to explore how access to the internet impacts health and wellbeing. I’ve been working in an advisory capacity on a pilot project that will test the impact of free - or extremely affordable - home internet access.
Our early work has together has narrowing down how to make that happen from all the possibilities discovered early on in the project. That’s included a workshop and several discussions this summer, and we’ve now published a blogpost about our some of that work.
We’ve made some valuable progress; as I write in the post,
A good workshop doesn’t just rearrange ideas you already have; it should also be able to confront and challenge the assumptions it’s built upon.
Our early ideas were rooted in early 21st-century usage of ‘broadband’, a cable in the ground to domestic property - and that same concept underpins current policy and leglisation. But in 2023, there are other ways we perhaps should be thinking about this topic.
The post explores that change in perspective, as well as the discrepancy between the way “broadband” provision and mobile internet (increasingly significant as a primary source of access for many people) are billed and provided.
I hope that we’ve managed to communicate a little how we’re shifting our perspectives around, whilst staying focused on the overall outcome.
My role is very much advice and consultation as a technologist - I’m not acting as a networking expert. I’m sitting between or alongside other technology experts, acting as a translator and trusted guide. I help synthesise what we’re discovering into material we can share (either internally or externally), and use that to make decisions. Processing, thinking, writing.
When Rachel Coldicutt, Executive Director at Promising Trouble, first wrote to me about the project, she said:
“I thought about who I’d talk to when I didn’t know what to do, and I thought of you.”
One again, a project about moving from the unknown to the unknown.
The team is making good progress, on that journey from the unknown to the known, and I’ll be doing a few more days of work through the rest of the year with them; I hope to have more to share in the future. In the meantime: here’s the link to the post again.
- 1 August 2023
What’s been going on in the studio this summer?
UAL Creative Computing Institute
I finished another term of teaching at CCI: as usual, teaching the first year BSc Creative Computing students about Sound and Image Processing - an introduction to implementing audio and graphics in code. That means pixel arrays, dithering, audio buffers, unit generators, building up to particle systems and flocking - all with a focus on the creative application of these topics. It was great to see where the students had got to in their final portfolios - some lovely and surprising work in there, as always.
A reminder: why do I teach alongside consulting and development work? I have no employees, and so this is my way of sharing back my knowledge and developing new talent - as a practitioner-teacher, and as someone who can share expertise from within industry back to students looking to break into it.
I value “education” as an ideal, and so spending about half a day a week, around client work, for a few months, to educate and share knowledge feels like a reasonable use of my time. It’s also good to practice the teaching/educating muscle: there’s always new stuff to learn, especially in a classroom environment, that feeds into other workshop and collaboration spaces.
AI Clock P2
I spent a short while working with Matt Webb on “P2” - prototype 2 - of his AI Clock. He’s written more about this prototype over at the newsletter for the project - including his route to getting the product into the world.
This prototype involved evaluating a few different e-ink screen modules according to Matt’s goals for the project, and creating a first pass of his interaction design in embedded code. I built out the critical paths he’d designed for connecting and configuring the clock, as well as integrating it with his new API service. The prototype established feasibility of the design and, during its development, informed the second version of the overall architecture.
Since I’ve handed over the code, he’s continued to build on top of it. I find this part of handover satisfying: nothing is worth than handing over code and it sitting, going stale, or unmaintained. By contrast, when someone can take what you’ve done and spin it up easily, start working with it, and extending it - that feels like part of a contracting/consulting job well done: not just doing the initial task, but making a foundation for others to build on. Some of that work is code, some of it’s documentation, and some of it’s collaboration, and it’s something I work towards on all my client engagements.
I’ve been working on a small project with Lunar Energy. The design team were looking to prototype a specific hardware interaction on the actual hardware involved. I’ve been making hardware and software to enable the designers to work with the real materials in a rapid fashion - and in a way that they can easily share with technical and product colleagues.
Finally, I’ve started a small consultancy gig with Promising Trouble on one of their programmes, spread over a few days this summer, and then a few more towards the winter. My job here is being a technological sounding board and trusted advisor, to help join the team join some dots on a project exploring a technological prototype to address societal issues. A nice consultancy project to sit alongside the nitty-gritty of the Lunar work.
And what else? I have capacity from early August onwards, so if you’d like to talk about opportunities for collaboration or work, now is a great time to get in touch. What shape of opportunities? Right now, my sweet spots are:
- invention and problem-solving: answering the questions what if? or could we even?; many of my most successful and impactful projects have begun by exploring the possible, and then building the probable.
- “engineering for design” - being a software developer in the service of design, or vice versa; the technical detail of platforms, APIs, or hardware is part of what we design for now, and recent work for companies like Google AIUX and Lunar has involved straddling both worlds, letting one inform the other, working in tight cross-functional teams to build and explore that space, and ultimately communicating all of this to stakeholders.
- projects that blend the digital and physical. I’ve been working on increasing numbers of projects that straddle hardware, firmware, and desktop or browser software, and the interactions that connect all of them.
- technology strategy; that might be writing/thinking/collaborating, or building/exploring, or first one, then the other; I’ve recently done this with a few early-stage founders and companies.
- and in all of the above: thinking through making, informing the work through prototypes and final product builds.
You can email me here if any of that sounds relevant. And now, back to the desk and workbench!