Saturday, 16 October 2010

Digital Futures 2010 - Day 1

On Sunday October 10th, a few dot.rural's travelled down to the Horizon Digital Economy Hub in Nottingham. Profs John F and Tim, Dr Arjuna, and Chris B were all attending the first Digital Futures annual conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (whilst dot.rural's Hien was representing us at Innovate 10, London).

Note to self: Never stay in the 'Nottingham Central Travelodge' again.

Day 1 kicked off with an intro from John Hand (RCUK, Digital Economy Programme) asking us to note who is not here that should be? I looked around but couldn't see any users...

The keynote on 'Living with a Contextual Footprint' and delivered by Tom Rodden followed. Whilst Tom talked about privacy and permanency, I considered the irony of blogging about it later.

The morning session on 'Digital Identity and Storage' included talks from Richard Mortier on a decentralised future, 'the cloud', 'the mist' and 'droplets'!

This was followed by Wendy Moncur on 'Digital Inheritance' - an unavoidably morbid topic, however its presented. Wendy's talk threw up a few surprises; there's a very real possibility that anyone of us will be baptised a Mormon after death, irrespective of our personal beliefs during life.

The final talk of the morning came from Derek McAuley on 'all our data in one place', data mining, business models, trust and ownership.

We paused for lunch (four desserts for Arjuna!) before reconvening for the 'Digital Interaction and Experience' afternoon session.

Gabriella Giannchi discussed the 'case of Rider Spoke', mixed media experiences and documents and archives to help connect communities. The idea of mashups and annotating and tagging digital media to enhance experiences... Are there any links with our Enterprise & Culture and/or Natural Resource Conservation projects, e.g. wrt to tourism?

'Automics' was introduced by Steve Benford as automated comics, going on to present theme parks as a complex photo ecology. I was looking forward to this but was left wondering about the scope of such photo, experience-based and semi-personalised souvenirs. Would I buy one at the end of a day at Alton Towers? No, probably not.

I was thankful for the exciting talk on 'Collaborative Cross-Modal Interfaces' from the team Queen Mary which pepped up the afternoon. Nick, Tony and Oussama introduced auditory diagrams; a tool to make diagrams more accessible to those with no/partial vision (whether depicting management structures in companies, files and folders on computers, technical schematics or financial plots). Ever wondered what an arrow 'sounds' like? This seemed to be one real example of (potentially) changing peoples lives using technology.

Ella Taylor-Smith's talk on 'Web 2.0 for Collaborative Production', e-government, e-participation, inclusion, connecting institutes of 'local power' in the Big Society and stronger social networks... This one prompted lots of discussion from the floor: is there a tension between inclusion and innovation? Is e-participation techno deterministic? How can we get people to act altruistically? Paul Kindred from the Welsh Assembly asked: There's a positive UK (mostly England & Scotland) inclusion agenda right now (Martha Lane Fox etc) but what about Wales?

I'd never heard of the Good Gym before. Its a brilliant initiative where Londoners do good deeds whilst out running, like delivering library books to elderly or house-bound residents en route. Its probably the one thing, if nothing else, I'll take away from Digital Futures. Thanks Ella!... Is there anyway of adapting this model and applying it to solve challenges in rural areas?

A quick break, a little bit of networking and a lot of coffee and cookies later... The 'Digital Communities' section began (chaired by dot.rural's Tim Norman).

It was great to hear from Lorna Gibson on the Seeds For Design project and the digitally disengaged. Currently the project is centred around Leeds, Dundee and Kent. Are there any plans to extend this study to rural areas?

The next talk of the session was by Ruth Rettie on 'CHARM: The Social Norm Approach to Sustainable Behaviour Change'. The CHARM project is an example of using digital technologies to assist with behaviour change. Keep your eyes peeled for the associated iGreen Facebook app, to be launched soon!

Jon Whittle
from Lancaster University presenting 'VoiceYourView: Mapping Public Confidence in Policing' concluded this session - undoubtedly the most engaging of all sessions over the two days.

VoiceYourView is a super initiative involving perception maps and natural language generation (links with dot.rural's MIME and Accessibility & Mobilities projects, as well as a technology platform?). VoiceYourView collects observations (such as 'how safe do you think your neighbourhood is?...) and overlays these on geographical maps, publishing them on public displays in real-time, with a view to improving society. Take a look at their paper here...

Does the combination of perceptions (or indeed facts) and maps pose any opportunities for dot.rural's Accessibility & Mobilities projects? Could real-time mapping of perceptions and actual data (e.g. on bus arrival times) assist the informed flexible passenger project?

Jon's presentation prompted questions such as: What if you simultaneously mapped perceptions and reality? Could publishing perceptions actually shape data, creating extreme scenarios in society? i.e. If you believe crime to be high in an area, could that belief, when made public, actually drive crime up beyond the true level?...

After a short break the evening poster session began. Two dot.rural members were selected to present their research: Arjuna Sathiaseelan on universal service provisioning using next generation access technologies;

and Chris Baillie on provenance in the web of linked sensor data.

With a long and jam-packed day almost behind us all that was left was the conference dinner: tomato soup with mozzarella; apricot stuffed chicken with vegetables/squash crumble; and lemon tart. Thanks to John F, I attempted to challenge Arjuna's 'four dessert record'. Unfortunately, my two helpings of lemon tart, white chocolate 'slice' and raspberry coulis just wasn't enough to claim victory.

A review of day 2 is on its way...



  1. Claire - :D -- Again to reiterate - I had 2 desserts in the afternoon (if I count the fruits not to be a dessert :p) and one in the evening..So basically 3-- so I think we have levelled ;)

    Also we need to mention the amazing and funny chat with Prof John F! He is awesome! :)

  2. This sounds like a fascinating conference and I'd be interested in knowing if any of the papers are available? I'm completing a study at the moment investigating the engagement of rural SMEs with the digital economy in Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire. It's part of a wider Digital Hub project which we've set up at Bournemouth University

  3. Phil- u shuld be able to get it from here:

  4. I want to hear more about the amazing chat with John F!