TEDxCanberra

24 10 2010

I was not quite sure what to expect at TEDxCanberra, as this was the first time I had attended a TED event. However, I did have a few clues — I had seen videos of other talks online and knew that the tag line was “Ideas Worth Spreading”. TED started in 1984 with the original context being about “Technology, Entertainment, Design” but the event had grown far beyond those categories.

TEDxCanberras theme was ”Thinking Way Beyond”, with sessions divided into four categories: society, knowing, empowerment and change.  Notions of society, health, technology, education, the arts, science, human behaviour and culture were explored, ”in the context of what these things could be in the future or how they are making our future now”.

Three ideas have stuck in my head: “find your passions”, “pay it forward” and “follow your dreams” and all are aspirational and inspirational.

I particularly loved the video of Temple Grandin, who spoke about how “The world needs all kinds of minds“. In the video clip she talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids. Her talk reminded me of how important it is as a teacher and as a designer to think of how people receive, store and retrieve information – visually, aurally and kinetically .

Under the theme of Empowerment and with a focus on making dreams come true, I found Francis Owusu and his performers from Kulture Break very inspiring. I wonder if this is because I am a parent of a teenager that is starting to follow his dreams. Francis talked about how we should be dream enablers not dream stealers, an important point to remember as a parent. His presentation was broken up into sections and there were Hip-hop performances in-between, which illustrated and integrated the points of the talk, as well as being really cool and entertaining.

Kulture Break dancers

Kulture Break

Attribution Some rights reserved by Gavin Tapp

Here is some more information about Kulture Break  from the website:

Kulture Break all began in 2003 with founder Francis Owusu wanting to provide an outlet for young people to use their creative abilities to discover who they really are. He believed that you didn’t need to become somebody you are somebody! So he started out teaching break-dance and Hip-hop to students in a local high school where the name “Kulture Break” was born. The name embraces the meaning of breaking new territory, overcoming negative cultural barriers, stereotypes and empowering people. Kulture Break’s vision is to “influence a culture and empower a generation“. Offering more than just dance; it’s has become a movement with a positive message of hope and transformation for youth.

There seemed to be running through the talks a message of how we could transform society in a positive way, with a focus on empowering communities, especially young people, making me wish I had brought along my 17y/o son.

Ash Donaldson’s discussion on notions of bias was also very interesting and a number of his points rang true for me and my personal bias around so many issues. Also, by him talking about how are all biased in the way we see the world, it reminded me of when I was at university studying Art History. As trainee critics we were expected to look at an artwork objectively — a concept I always struggled with as we bring our own perspective and experience to everything we see and do.

So many of the other talks were fantastic as well — Pete Williams on Flowerdale, Mitchell Whitelaw (as always), Sunny Forsyth on the fantastic Abundant Water project, Kristin Alford, Mark Pesce and of course Patrick McGorry, whose work on raising awareness about mental health and youth is critical.

In summary, TedxCanberra is a cogent reminder that as a society we need to think differently, to prioritise differently and to think beyond ourselves as individuals to move forward. If we are enabled and empowered and aware of each other, anything is possible.

Thanks so much to all the organisers and the speakers for a wonderful event.

For all the tweets go to #tedxcanberra

Check out images on the Flickr TedxCanberra Group Pool

In the media: Great minds come together at TEDx Canberra Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s hot at Web Directions

15 10 2010

Yesterday a colleague and I were interviewed at Web Directions about “What’s hot and what’s not”. This was a great opportunity for us to plug livinggreener.gov.au as well as offer our opinion about what is emerging in the web development and design space.

Well, for me what is smoking hot at the moment is HTML5 and CSS3. I am uber impressed by what you can do without Javascript – transitions, fades, specialised fonts, animating images. To be honest I don’t think I have even explored the tip of the iceberg here as there is so much new stuff.

It seems so long ago when I created my first page in 1995, complete with tiled pineapples and a flashing title (many would remember that now ousted tag). There was not a lot of opportunity to animate then, not unless you included an animated gif or a flash tag. Javascript and Flash came later and both had their pros and cons. The capacity HTML5 and CSS3 has for doing much more of this work with less code is very inspiring.

Silvia Pfeiffer’s talk on HTML5 audio and video was fantastic (I know that is totally uncritical feedback). It was excellent because the possibilities offered to audio and video in HTML5. Silvia’s knowledge of this area as impressive and I look forward to keeping abreast of developments with HTML5, particularly in the open video space.

Knud Möller’s talk on RDFa was good value. As a member of the W3C RDFa working group he has a lot of insight into this emerging standard for tagging data. Again, there seems to be some good support in the open source community with Drupal 7 including RDFa as part of the standard set up.

Michael Smith’s “HTML5 Report Card” was very entertaining, the information was really useful and the presenting style was lots of fun. The useful links from this talk are all covered in his presentation on Slideshare (where he appears under the handle of sideshowbarker).

Also, I think there is momentum building in the geomapping space, though I have a way to go to get around the dev side of things. Icelabs Max Wheeler’s talk went a bit over my head on a technical level, though his website decaf sucks, is a lovely example of the use of geo-data that displays elegantly across desktop and mobile devices. Although I still have lots to learn, I am certainly getting a much better idea of what is possible with flexible design and geo-data.

Speaking of Icelab, it was great to see Nathan McGinness, who used to work there and was a member of dorkbot cbr before he relocated to Sydney to work with Digital Eskimo. He was there showing off his invention sketch lab. Good luck Nathan – it is a great idea!

Nathan McGinness - sketch lab

As a first timer, I understand now why so many web people make the pilgrimage to Web Direction year after year, as this is a great opportunity to learn, network, catch up with friends, colleagues and even past students. One of the things that hit me the most is this where people talk about how they make things, rather than just thinking or writing about it (which is what I have spent last 9 years doing –  focusing on my PhD).

I am looking forward to much more time to play and learning through doing, not just observing and I have plenty to inspiration thanks to Web Directions.





Real World CSS3 for designers – Dan Rubin workshop

13 10 2010

Dan Rubin’s CSS3 workshop was featured as part of the Web Directions South, which is a very popular event for web professionals.

It must be said that Dan is a bit of celebrity in this community as he has been involved in many high profile projects and contributed to a number of influential texts in this field. For example, Dan is a contributing author of Cascading Style Sheets: Sepa­rating Content from Presen­tation (2nd Edition, friends of ED, 2003), tech­nical reviewer for Beginning CSS Web Devel­opment (Apress, 2006), The Art & Science of CSS (Site­Point, 2007) and Sexy Web Design (Site­Point, 2009), coauthor of Pro CSS Tech­niques (Apress, 2006), and Web Stan­dards Creativity (friends of ED, 2007).

Even though I am not a designer in my current job, occasionally I do some freelance work, and, as my approach focuses on accessibility and usability, there is a significant role for CSS in the design process. Ironically, I really got into CSS when one of my PhD advisers, Tim Brook helped me to solve a design problem on a website project titled swipe. My initial design was of a bar code that was composed of images sliced into a table and then JavaScript was used to do roll overs and change words. My approach could only be described as very 1997, as despite my awareness of the accessibility issues, I could not think of another solution except for Flash. After Tim looked at the website he sent through a small piece of CSS which gave me the roll over. This was enough to get me thinking and playing with CSS as a design tool and I was very happy with the result.

The idea of play was a big theme in Dan’s workshop, which was a very practical tour of websites and tools that are utilising CSS3. The two things that were the most inspiring was media queries (new and easy ways of including multi device support in one style sheet) and the availability of a range of fonts that you can access and download.

The range of tools and the browser support for CSS has been exponential and Dan’s survey of CSS3 was very helpful. I will certainly be downloading tools such as CSS Edit (Mac), Modernizr, Selectivizr and accessing the quirksmode, hard boiled web design by Andy Clark and realworldcss3 by Dan Rubin websites as resources.

Some useful links from Dan’s workshop:

I am definitely inspired to experiment and remember the fun of play and of creative problem solving with CSS design. I have started a sandbox section of my blog to document my experiments and will share this play with readers.





Blogging under the radar

7 10 2010

There has been a lot of discussion online about bloggers in the political and media space, particularly if they are public servants or are considered ‘non-professionals’.

But what is also lurking (pardon the pun) is how social media enthusiasts share information and link to each other. There is an etiquette (or more precisely netiquette) involved that is about acknowledging your sources and validating your position. In a blog, an active link is considered a reference. It is not like an academic assertion that needs to be referenced in order to sustain an argument. It is much simpler than that – it is simply an expression of respect.

By taking the time to link to the information and people that you are discussing, you create a picture for your reader that has value and credibility. What is more, the author appreciates it! I am certainly appreciative of the efforts that other bloggers and tweeps take when referencing my posts or creative works. I am less impressed when people cut and paste from my blog into their own posts (even if it is a list of links) without acknowledgment.

I guess this is because I actually want people to read my blog and to follow the thread of the discussion. After all, even though my blog is a hobby, it still takes time and I invest a lot of effort in ensuring that other websites, blogs and tweeps are referenced. This is primarily because I greatly value the opinions and work of people who are active in the space of social media, semantic web and information management. Whether they write as themselves or under a pseudonym doesn’t really matter to me, what I am interested in is the ideas, opinions and the flow-on conversations that are generated.

Personally speaking, I make no attempts to fly under the radar and put a disclaimer on my blog to clearly state that the opinions expressed are exclusively my own. Fortunately for me, my employer and research institution endorse me to participate in this arena, in my capacity as a media researcher and creative practicioner, which takes a great deal of pressure off.

What I hope for, along with respect for each other in the blogosphere, is that there will be increased acceptance of an author’s right to choose how they write and as who. I also hope that there will be an acknowledgment that diversity of opinion is healthy, whether you are a professional journalist, public servant, media critic or just have a point of view.

For more information see #groggate and Craig Thomler’s blog post When traditional media exposes public service bloggers