Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Outsiders at London Design Festival with Interactive Newsprint


This pioneering technology, used for the first time with any form of photography, is part of the Interactive Newsprint project, led by the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.

I’ve tried to work out the best way to describe what Interactive Newsprint is.

The best I can come up with is through these two definitions.

OUTLANDISH: Interactive Newsprint is internet-connected paper on which microphones, speakers, buttons, LED displays and moving images can be printed with specialist ink.

SCEPTICAL: Interactive Newsprint will be limited to novelty-value gimmicks on expensive paper, an unnecessary piece of technology to sit alongside more robust media devices like tablets and smartphones.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. It will take some time and major technology developments for the paper to fulfil this outlandish definition.

Already, Interactive Newsprint is an internet-connected paper allowing an increased evel of interactivity between the user and the writer/advertiser. This includes instantly updateable audio
But the development of some of these outlandish technologies – perhaps a printed battery, a printed solar power source or printed moving images – will move a step closer with this project.

And that’s the beauty of this project, the possibilities Interactive Newsprint (IN) could lead to. The product currently is wi-fi enabled and uses circuits made of printed ink (though I’m not sure how far the printed circuits will be developed in the prototypes).

Technologists believe that eventually moving LCD images will be cheaply printed on to paper and other products, such as drinks bottles or crockery.

Designers hope that by developing IN they will enable new ways to fund content, a crucial development if any kind of print industry is to remain in years to come. Music could also be a key element for IN’s progression.

As we approach the fall of 2012, IN is a prototype which has been seen at SXSW in Austin Texas and is about to unveil its latest designs at the London Design Festival (in September 2012).

Several community, news and arts-based groups are helping develop the technology.

As part of the development my own Outsiders project is being used for IN, with three of the interviews from the book printed on to the paper.

The interactivity comes from embossed buttons on the images which, when pressed, play either audio from those interviewed, my own thoughts and views on the subject or opinions from those who have experienced the IN paper at the deign festival.

My personal favourite possibility is a localised paper with an advert from the local butcher, who can update the embedded audio in the advert at any time to tell customers of special offers or that he is closing early because he has to take his son to football training.

For photography, the project is a unique way of engaging viewers and we hope to develop this arts-based approach to the newsprint as the project continues.

NOTE: IN is funded by the Digital Economy (DE) Programme and led by the University of Central Lancashire, with technology company Novalia and Dundee and Surrey universities.

More details on IN at the London Design Festival will be announced soon. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Marlboro Nights, Come To Where The Smoking Was (looking back at the ban on smoking in public)

[gallery]My six-week exhibition at The Continetal in Preston has just come to an end.

Marlboro Nights the exhibition marked the fifth anniversary of the ban on smoking in public in public in England (July 1, 2007).

Marlboro Nights the book is availble now on Amazon in the UK and the US.

This big brash book documents smokers before the ban and then follows them as they were forced to go outside. Some of the portraits can be found elsewhere on this blog (or on www.gazcook.com where you can buy a signed copy from the store), below are some lovely landscape shots.




Blackburn Coffin Parade 2012 (the one which used to be held in Bamber Bridge)

The coffin parade held in Bamber Bridge whenever Blackburn Rovers or Preston North End are relegated or promoted did not take place this year.

Problems in Bamber Bridge to do with disorderly conduct last year led to police objections to this year's Rovers relegation party.

But some die hard Blackburn fans made a big effort to carry on the tradition. You can read more about that here.

These images document the result, a short march between two pubs near Ewood Park.

The parade in Bamber Bridge involved a huge part of the community and includes several dozen floats and an hour-long procession. It was a trvesty that the tradition was unable to continue.

NOTE: Images of previous parades can be seen in the features section of www.gazcook.com

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Preston Guild 2012 First Proclamation


Preston Guild is held once every 20 years.

It's the only Guild celebration in the country. 

The Guild was first started in 1179 by local traders, craftsmen and merchants. Known as the Guild Merchant, the organisation used to control trade in the town.

The Guild Merchant's trade control ended in 1790 but the Guild celebrations continued.


This was Saturday, August 18, 2012.

Morris Dancers are obligatory at every Preston Guild.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Twitter and the Changing Face of Society (or Now We Know What You Really Think You Vile Pigs)


Estimates vary from five per to twenty, but whatever the percentage it is a fact that a significant portion of the population are a bunch of tw@ts. 

Everyone has always kind of known this. The aggressive road rage driver, the aggressive drunk twenty-year old or the aggressive tracksuit-wearing mother shouting obscenities at her five year old. Can you see there’s a lot of aggression here? Some people just aren’t very nice.

But it’s not just that, there’s also the blokes in the pub making racist comments to each other, the blokes at work telling racist jokes and the racist parents teaching their kids to how to be racially insulting. Yes, there’s a lot of racism around, too.

The only difference is that today, this aggression, those insults and these points of view are recorded for everyone to see. Welcome to the colourful world of twitter.

A more accurate snapshot of people’s darkest beliefs could only be made if someone were to invent a machine that could transcribe people’s thoughts directly to the internet. Though, judging by the way that some people lack any form of self moderation in the things that they tweet, this is hardly necessary.

But this is the good news: Twitter will have a hugely positive effect on aggression and racism in society.

I’ll gloss over Twitter’s history, how many users it has and how it disperses and defines the news.

Twitter today is a mirror on society. Conversations that were previously confined to the park, pub or behind closed doors can now be read online in bite-sized sentences.

While much of the population use the platform to cheerily reveal thoughts on X Factor or their plans for the evening, others just can’t help themselves.

Out comes the bile, the racism, the spite and the abuse. It’s as revealing about society as it is disturbing. But we should appreciate that we are now able to read streams of consciousness of what other people think.

The term ‘internet troll’ has been coined for those tweeters who go a bad step further and start personally abusing those they don’t like the look of. In Britain there are daily instances of celebrities being abused, racially or otherwise, and of others in the public eye who have closed their accounts because the vile comments are too upsetting to read.

Thankfully, there have also been a number of cases where the abusers have been quickly arrested, cautioned or charged by police – most recently the 17-year-old who tweeted to British Olympic diver Tom Daly that he had let his dad down after failing to win a medal in the synchronised 10m platform. Daly’s father died in 2011.

Similar arrests by police have followed abuse of footballers on twitter. Another Twitter abuser was jailed and booted off his university course. It’s a routine I hope is repeated.

If it is, what we will see is these people who think their opinions is all that matters getting the message that they could suffer consequences if they continue airing their disgusting comments.

And if these nasty buggers start employing a degree of self moderation in what they tweet, they in turn may not verbalise these thoughts. Eventually, they may even stop thinking them. Yes, I know this is a long way off and there will be stupid, stubborn exemptions. But it’s a positive step if fear of legal action or loss of their job stops a racist tweeting about ‘black b@stards’ or ‘our ethnic friends’.

In this respect, the mirror that Twitter is on society will ultimately have a positive effect on the people who use it. And that’s not bad for a rather dumb social media platform.

Now, try saying all that in 140 characters.