The Freeformers/CSM Tech Jam was held at CSM on Thursday 17 October, and attended by 40 students and staff from all 6 colleges.
We started out with presentations from Cai Zhang and Derek Yates:
Cai Zhang: ‘Click and Deliver’
Cai’s grandmother was a great cook. Living in China, she did not write down any of her recipes, so when she passed away, she took all her cooking knowledge with her. It’s hard to imagine a situation like this now, when digital technologies encourage us to so thoroughly record, map and share information about food (Instagram food porn anyone!?). Cai discussed the powerful influence digital technologies have on our decision-making about food, bombarding us with messages about good health, taste and convenience. Apps, billboards, food blogs, websites and social media platforms are all telling us what to eat, where and when. Online retailers’ recommendation systems tailor our search results, narrowing down our literal and metaphorical shopping carts and discouraging diversity and experimentation. Showing LowLowKerry’s ‘Ad Gal’ video, Cai took a critical stance on clichéd advertising campaigns that reinforce negative self-image, and reminded us that TV cookery shows are not designed to encourage us to get up and cook – they are designed to keep us on the sofa, consuming. Moving from the virtual to the physical, she took us on a whirlwind tour of the world’s food vending machines, which dispense everything from pizzas to live crabs.
As well as the darker side of the technology/food lansdcape, Cai showed some intriguing examples of positive and altruistic uses of technology. Random Acts of Pizza is a community on Reddit.com that facilitates the sending and receiving of pizzas between strangers, and Litterati is a project that encourages people to use Instagram to photograph, tag and throw away litter across the globe. Links to Cai’s presentation will follow shortly!
Derek Yates: ‘Digital – it’s not what you think it is’
Derek’s presentation asked what qualities students need to survive the digital industries, and whether UAL’s colleges are doing a good job of preparing their students for a digital context. He drew on research undertaken as part of Alt/Shift, a curriculum development platform that ‘provides opportunities for meaningful dialogue and constructive collaboration between the creative industry and design education’.
- Industry doesn’t want perfectly formed products – it wants students to be focused on their journey and learning processes rather than outcomes
- Industry is looking out for a ‘Digital mindset’. This is about attitude, not software or skills.
- In a digital context, we have to test, challenge, iterate and allow things to be unfinished.
- Industry wants students and graduates to ‘Leave your ego at the door’ – to survive the digital industry, you have to be part of a team.
- Empathy is important – both for users and team members, and this is more important than your individual portfolio.
- The digital context wants you to be a ‘user not a utilizer’! Learn how to break, hack and re-imagine things rather than taking them at face value.
Derek also showed some inspiring examples of digital tech in action:
Decode Jay-Z project by Droga5 – an award winning campaign that put every page of Jay-Z’s book ‘Decoded’ in public spaces, and used Microsoft’s search engine Bing to enable an interactive treasure hunt to guide people to the pages’ locations…
Berg Cloud/Little printer: ‘Little Printer is a smart printer for the home. It scours the Web on the owner’s behalf, assembling their interests into delightful, personalised miniature newspapers, printed only two inches across.’
Freeformers then took over and led us through a TechJam, where we created websites using JSbin and Bootstrap. Participants ranged in ability from those who had never coded before to those with some previous experience, but everyone ended up with a website in less than 2 hours! One brave participant even managed to build his website on his iPhone… Freeformers run weekly techjams – all are welcome, so visit the website to get signed up!