Friday, May 22, 2009

Spanish, Open Source, Spanish, Citilab

My head is still ringing from yesterdays onslaught of Spanish. The conference has no translation although Flavio and Alberto have made a big effort to sit next to us and translate but I have a feeling we have missed quite a bit.

Citilab is pretty impressive, a large old factory made into a technology lab that has as its remit a commitment to work with local citzens (that seems to much more of an empowering word than "community" which feels spoilt by years of soft touch community arts in the UK), conduct research, a conference programme, workshops and a huge amount of resources including large touch screens and arduino and lego mindstorm robot areas to play and develop. They seem very well funded and have only been going a year which explains some of the lack of organisation i have experienced and also the small audience yesterday.

The event is interesting (what I understand of it) and as often with these gatherings is held together by the high qaulity of the speakers. Flavio from Ars Games (I am learning not to giggle like only the english seem to at bottom, fart and poo references) and Alberto from Movilfest (a mobile phone film festival) are really interesting and knowledgable and are leading some very exciting stuff here in Spain. I didn't realise Spain spends the least money on culture in Europe and Barcelona the least of the Spanish cities, not what you would expect from a city full of sculpture, architecture and renowned for its beauty, music and well culture...

It seems the games industry in Spain has been stopped just as it was starting due to the economic situtation but investments such as Citilab must have great potential to support a new generation of innovators, artists and developers.

The speakers included Hernan from "the industry", who created a virtual world KTK with Telefonica, very early on. He has a Uruguyaun accent and speaks very fast and heated and i can't understand a word he says but he is also the vitality of the event. Yesterday evening involved pizza and a huge shouting rotating arguement about open source versus commercial enterprise, it was hilarious despite only understanding 20%, Leia kindly translated the key shouting matches and I attempted to throw some things into the bag, all in good humour. Being in Spain reminds me of my family and Jewish tempermants, the loud politicial shouting matches i grew up with so I am right at home.

Next was an interesting psychologist who is looking at game players behaviour, he did touch on gender but I felt he needed to make the gender issue much clearer from the start as you can't make general statements about gaming behaviour without taking on board who the majority of (video) gamers tend to be, mind you I was only cathcing 75% of this talk so maybe I missed this. One interesting point he made was about men's identity (and maybe more so in Spain) and the ability for men to define their identity in society is much more limited than for women, therefore they respond to the profiling, pretending you are something else, role play, play within games as a release of this constraint they have.

I was next and it seemed to go ok although my laptop failed me and crashed hopelessly half way through which made me speed through some of our projects in a vain attempt to get my flow back. So I think people were a little confused, i think it was brought back by questions and Matt Davenport joined in to save the day which was really good and nice to have a fresh view as ever of our work.

The final speaker was Joan Leandre who I know from the really inspiring Velvet Strike he comes from an old school hacker (although he says hacker has now been assimilated by the main stream) open source activist tradition but his research and work with shoot em up / war games is still or even more so incredibly valid and interesting. Had some ideas for education games based on real world events as a response to the horrifyingly cynical Kuma reality war games.

The day ended with a networked wine tasting event upstairs as part of an Innovate Camp for the Mediterranean. This is how I like my technology. Lots of very good expensive wine to taste, cameras streaming the event and laptops to twitter your views... and lots of delicious smelly local cheese. Heaven.

Matt D was exhausted as Kat had kept him up all night talking so he returned to Barca and Maria and Flavio kindly offered to pay for me to have another night in the hotel so I didn't need to cart my bags across town. They have offered to try and change my flights so I dont miss the conference this afternoon and I really want to hear Rebecca Cannon, creator of Killing Yourself and Artbase in Melbourne talk.

day 1

The hotel here is smart, with a pool and large bathrooms. We dropped our bags off and headed back to town to meet Kat and her dog Wimbo. We walked through old streets looking for a restaurant terrace that would accomodate a vegetarian, a vegan, a non veg and a vegan dog. eventually convinced a particularly narky pizza restaurant owner to give us a table and avoid little Wimbo getting eaten by a very large terrotorial dog. Had amazing pizza and wandered back to flat.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mobile Cell, Barcelona

I am amazingly off again. This time we are in Barcelona, although Matt is back at HQ, left in the on/off Spring of the UK whilst Matt the 2nd (Davenport) and I are living it up in one of the most beautiful cities of Europe... and my is it pretty and hot. I am a little confused about the conference where I am due to talk and was told the wrong dates which has happily given us a day off in the sun, to be tourists and go to the beach! Finally we get the day on the beach promised to us in Brazil and never realised!

Woke up to a perfect day. Slept at Matt's friends house in end last night as I missed the last train back to the hotel. Sitting on balcony watching seagulls swarm around an ancient church tower. the bell ringing every 15minutes. Waiting for Kat and Matt to return with a Spanish breakfast of tomatos, garlic olive oil on toast. There the bell goes again, the seagulls respond with their calls and swallows have now began to swarm. Like our Mudlark logo. They are beautiful and simple and they sqwark in tuneful rounds competing with the reggae playing in the flat, the TVs and music from the many balconies surrounding the yard below.

Yesterday we arrived to sun and warmth. In his excitement Matt decided we should tour the centre with luggage in tow. Was beautiful but hot work with wheelie case and heavy bags. Drunk cerveza and milk shake at the harbour and then found the metro to Playmobile ville, an appropriate vista for an event called Mobile Cell. Complete with sticklebrick style trees and boxes made of ticky tacky. this new urban sprawl is in complete contrast to the old centre of Barcelona with it's ornate decorative iron work, magnificant art deco, gaudi mosica, sculptural gargoyle laden edifices. Modern art, graffiti, bikes, skateboards, old wealth, new punk feel.

Cornella feels like America as new towns do. Since Parralelo I have been noticing more clearly the emergence of the Next Nature concept. The metro hear plays bird song piped into the artificially lit air of the train. As you become older does the present become more like science fiction? Are we preparing ourelves for a time when only artificial birds swarm overhead as we eat processed food supplements for breakfast grown from GM crops?