12 August 2007



"We've spoken with a health-care specialist who believes that the intensity of your research efforts is unhealthy."

OK, so Sharkrunners has issued me with a health warning, and I was up until 3am last night scrabbing in Facebook with Australians. In my defence, I was deliberately staying up late to get a good view of the Perseids meteor shower. And, anyway, neither Sharkrunners nor Facebook Scrabble can be played with any real intensity. In Scrabble, you're kept in check by the turn-taking (why do all of my opponents take so bloody long to make a move?) and in Sharkrunners you're waiting to be alerted to an encounter. According to area/code, the developers of Sharkrunners, ships in the game move in real-time towards sharks that are representations of real-world white sharks with GPS units attached to their fins.

So it's intermittent play and in that sense reminds me of Twitchr, Matt's mobile play prototype. In Twitchr, digital birds visit your mobile phone and you have a short, intense moment in which to snap them. I like these playful interruptions.

In other (non)news, I also like Wii bowling. Because I win.


No chance of overplaying that one, my arms couldn't take it.

Posted at 05:09 PM in Games, Nonsense, Play, Presence, Slowness, Social software, Toys | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Science of Spying

I was reminded via email this week that the interactive spying exhibition I produced ends its initial run at the Science Museum and Indianapolis Children's Museum next month. So far, almost 300,000 people have been 'a spy for a day'. I haven't written about the exhibition here, on my much-neglected blog, since the public call for ideas. Fortunately, the rest of the web has been less reticent.

I showed Régine, of we make money not art, around the exhibition in May and she wrote about it in three parts (mostly about the surveillance and counter-surveillance objects - real and imagined):
The Science of Spying - Part 1
The Science of Spying - Part 2
The Science of Spying - Part 3

And I enjoyed a 'sometaithurts' moment when Dame Stella Rimington, former director-general of the MI5, reviewed the exhibition for The Times: Unlock the secrets of the spying game. I was surprised by how much Dame Stella engaged with the more playful interactives during her visit and was particularly pleased that she noted the balance we were trying to strike between a fun role-play experience and a thought-provoking examination of surveillance:

The Science of Spying exhibition is very well conceived and researched. While offering a fun and exciting experience, it quite rightly avoids the James Bond approach. More than that, though, it will give the reflective 12-year-old some important issues to think about. When is surveillance justified? Who should be using all the gadgetry that science has provided, and against whom? And with what checks and balances?

It hit number 1 critic's choice in Time Out ("It's hard to imagine a 10 year old that won't love it", John O'Connell) and was generally well-received. But probably my favourite review is this 'end of the day' account posted to Google Video:

So, if you've been meaning to see it, you've got less than a month to get to the Science Museum. But if you do miss it, you're likely to have another chance. The exhibition will tour for up to 5 years, around the UK, Europe and the US.

Update: the exhibition's run at the Science Museum has been extended to Sunday 28 October 2007.

Posted at 04:16 PM in Exhibitions, Museums, Performance, Play, Spying, Storytelling | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

21 July 2005

AIM Fight

It's interesting to see AIM getting in on the popularity game being played with their software elsewhere (e.g. at BuddyZoo).


Why Fight?
What can fighting really prove? Using a complicated algorithm, AIM Fight crawls through the depths of the Internet to answer the all-important question that plagues us all: How popular am I right this second?

How do I win?
Your score is the sum of the current number of people online who have you listed as a buddy, out to three degrees. This means the score is constantly changing, and the winner of the battle will constantly change with it.

How can I increase my score?
You can’t! You need to get people to add you to their Buddy List window, and have more people add those people to their Buddy List windows, and have even more people add those people to their Buddy List windows. Your own Buddy List window doesn’t matter in the score.

What’s AIM Rank?
If your score happens to be in the top 5% of all AIM users online, we’ll show you where you rank in comparison to the others in the top 5%.

If you don’t see your rank, it means you’re not in the top 5%. Remember, not ranking doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just means that people who have you listed as a buddy might not be online.

(Via Waxy links, aka 'infocombot'.)

They've done a good job of making something fun without entering the murkily obsessive world of IMChaos and IMWatching. And it's smart that the outcome is in constant flux.

See also: Friendster Pachinko

Update: According to this article in the Washington Post, AOL just increased the number of people allowed to be on a user's buddy list from 200 to 450. This all ties together very nicely for them.

Posted at 10:31 AM in Games, Play, Social software | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

24 January 2005

Everything else is proofreading

Philip Pullman on play:

The most valuable attitude we can help children adopt - the one that, among other things, helps them to write and read with most fluency and effectiveness and enjoyment - I can best characterise by the word playful.

It begins with nursery rhymes and nonsense poems, with clapping games and finger play and simple songs and picture books. It goes on to consist of fooling about with the stuff the world is made of: with sounds, and with shapes and colours, and with clay and paper and wood and metal, and with language. Fooling about, playing with it, pushing it this way and that, turning it sideways, painting it different colours, looking at it from the back, putting one thing on top of another, asking silly questions, mixing things up, making absurd comparisons, discovering unexpected similarities, making pretty patterns, and all the time saying "Supposing ... I wonder ... What if ... "

...It's when we do this foolish, time-consuming, romantic, quixotic, childlike thing called play that we are most practical, most useful, and most firmly grounded in reality, because the world itself is the most unlikely of places, and it works in the oddest of ways, and we won't make any sense of it by doing what everybody else has done before us. It's when we fool about with the stuff the world is made of that we make the most valuable discoveries, we create the most lasting beauty, we discover the most profound truths. The youngest children can do it, and the greatest artists, the greatest scientists do it all the time. Everything else is proofreading.

Posted at 09:04 AM in Children and teens, Learning, Play | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack