A Tech Triennial?

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but despite the unscheduled delay in proceedings posting during Mobile World Congress 09 seems appropriate…

A couple of weeks ago Waldemar Januszczak, the Sunday Times art critic wrote a damning review of the forth Tate Triennial; or rather he penned a damning feature on the state of the British art scene, which is currently on show at Tate Britain.

Admittedly a contemporary art retrospective wouldn’t ordinarily provide the stimulus for a DERT blog, but these are no ordinary times, and the review struck a chord. It was the concept of a triennial that prompted my thoughts to drift back to DERT, and over the past few weeks I’ve been mulling over the differences between the contemporary art world and that of the consumer tech industry. OK. OK. You might think that the differences are so stark that it shouldn’t take weeks to ‘mull over’, but bear with me…

Waldemar writes about “France in the 1860s, when the Paris salon became too powerful and the impressionist revolt needed to happen to revive art. The Tate is the salon of today: pompous, arrogant, all-powerful and utterly convinced of its superiority.” He refers to two exciting modern art movements that were a direct bi-product and reaction to the Tate’s pretentions (the Lisson Sculptors of the 1980s, and the YBA’s of the 1990s – Hirst, Emin and co.).

So how does this relate to DERT territory? Think of Damien Hirst (in his formaldehyde days, rather than encrusted skulls) as Spotify. Think of the Tate as the Brit Awards. Here is a company reacting against the accepted norm of the establishment (i.e. the music industry), and presenting a modern solution to a modern problem (i.e how to generate revenue, when the consumer demands free content). OK, so Hirst’s calf in a tank never resuscitated a flagging industry (well, unless you count the art market that boomed until recently) but you get my point. Tech Start-ups = young, revolutionary artists.

So back to Mobile World Congress. The very nature of the tech industry means that new pieces of ‘art’ are regularly showcased at trade events – CES, ISE, MWC etc etc. Start-ups clamour for noise at these shows and I suppose this is no different to how the Impressionists were overlooked by the Paris Salon. However, my point isn’t really about the struggle of new kids vs the old dogs. It’s more that we always look to the future. We’re all concerned with the next big thing, the upgrade, the new must-have piece of kit. True, coverage of this year’s event in Barcelona has looked at how the show differs from last year, especially regarding turnout. But this is economic observation, rather than a result of the new technologies and services on show.

Looking to the future is natural when emerging technologies evolve so quickly. But what if we took the time to reflect, as the art world does? What if the tech community held a triennial where the technologies of the previous three years were presented? Sure, there would be no commercial sense in a brand showcasing products whose shelf-life had expired, but what lessons would we learn, what patterns would emerge between trends, what new technologies would have already disappeared?


Kangaroo court

Following the ruling, a few analysts (Arash @ Screen Digest, Nick Thomas @ Forrester/Jupiter) have come out and criticized the competition commission for a lack of foresight – Pirates must be delighted (Nick Thomas, Forrester).

And while the collaboration may be denied,  the constituent players are still able to throttle competition: “Between ITV.com, Channel 4.com and Kangaroo’s core site, there will be little space left in the nascent online TV advertising market for the likes of Five, BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) and MTV. We believe the provisional findings suggest a lack of familiarity with online content markets.”

Arash at Screen Digest lamented the demise of the service that Didn’t know what it was

Was it a subscription archive service? Was it an ad-supported archive service? Was it a catch-up service? Was it both but in different windows? Was it free or paid? Would it feature US hit shows or not? 

At some point during the 20 months of its short life, Project Kangaroo was one or all of these things. In many respects, it was the brainchild of a confused pre-“iPlayer 2.0” era…

…Kangaroo was a waste of time and effort on the part of both ITV and Channel 4. As the dust settles, the focus will rightly shift towards ITV Player and 4oD which, if the BBC iPlayer and Demand Five are anything to be measured by, will have to make up for lost time if they don’t want to get lost in the noise. “

It’s certainly set the major broadcasters over here back a few steps, but opened a window of opportunity for others and all agree the market will continue to become more competitive.

We thought there was also an interesting – if slightly xenophobic – assertion in the ruling that UK viewers particularly valued programmes produced and originally shown in the UK!

Research is always an interesting beast –  ask the man on the street what his favourite programme is and you can be confident it’ll be most recent show he’s seen and enjoyed; with the most popular content still found on the (dominant) terrestrial channels, of course UK viewers will seem to value UK produced shows.

The real reason this hooker our interest is because the ruling came out the day after The Culture Show ran a brilliant piece by Greg Dyke on the success of HBO. The raft of high-quality, challenging shows coming out of HBO (the Wire, Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Desperate House Wives) is increasingly recognized and lauded over here, at stark comparison to the home-grown dirge of reality eye-wash and mediocre ‘safe’ material – It’s all chewing gum for the eyes! (unable to access iPlayer? check accompanying Guardian piece here).

Ultimately, the consumer demand for high-quality, coupled with the increasing awareness of online video, means that regardless of Kangeroo cancellations market growth is a certainty here.

Now appearing in 3D

Chris Nuttall at the FT wrote an interesting piece the other day, looking at a number of 3D technologies that are being shown at this year’s CES.

Further indication that 2009 is set to be the year of 3D comes via Contagious today –  Pepsi and DreamWorks have collaborated on a 3D advert, to be aired during the infamous SuperBowl ad-breaks.

They’re distributing 125million free 3D spectacles so the yanks can enjoy the ad, which in a nod to collaborative money- saving will also feature a trailer for a new DreamWorks movie.

James Cameron has been talking about 3D movies as a solution to attract audiences to flagging cinemas for seemingly years now, though early trials left audiences feeling nauseous, I believe.  Last year I was lucky enough to attend a screening of U2 in 3D at the Imax.  The 3D experience was effective, stunning, awe-inspring; however, I’m yet to be convinced that it is anything other than novelty.  I can’t help but think that the ‘awe-inspring’ effect distances a cinema audience – as the artifice of the movie is heightened – rather than fully immersing the spectator within the action and emotion of the movie.

Hopefully I’ll be proved wrong.  It would seem that 3D TV for the home and mobile is gaining pace (Chris includes an interesting stat in his article following Quixel research into consumer demand for 3D), and the allure of 3D gaming should be obvious to even the most devout non-gamers.

It certainly will be interesting to see how the 3D story evolves this year.

*digs out retro red and green specs*

The Next Big Thing?

My label

My label

OK first off – my apologies. I meant to blog about this site about a month ago, when I stumbled across it on Mashable, and I have only just got round to it.

The site is called The Next Big Sound. It’s a music social network site that lets you discover new bands. *hears sound of snoring*. I know, I know – sounds familiar doesn’t it, but bear with me.

The differentiator in the site is that it lets you – the user- become the label. In simple terms, this just means instead of ‘adding’ friends, or ‘joining’ groups as with traditional soc nets this site asks the user to ‘sign’ bands that you like. The registration process involves founding your own label, and then you’re encouraged to sign acts that you like to your label.

Now if I’m honest there are a number of limitations to the site, despite how nice it looks. Firstly, the bands are all US centric at the moment (no band thing, I love Americana College Rock – ala Death Cab– as much as the next guy, and the recently added Map function does mean you can build up location-based ‘scenes’).

Secondly there is very little engagement or dialogue between you and the bands you sign, making it a rather lonely experience. MySpace changed the way that fans could interact with acts they liked, and the absence of any messaging element seems a little strange here. Indeed there’s actually very little information available on some of the bands.

Thirdly, the filtering and search functions are very restrictive. This means that scouting for bands is actually quite tiresome, and relying on the automated filter (similar to the Last.fm system) kind of takes the fun out of playing the role of an A&R man on the hunt for the next band who can make you a million

It’s actually this ‘play’ element though that made me sit up and take notice of the site. You’re restricted to signing 10 bands, which encourages you to be selective with who you sign – it’s a nice touch as you have to go for quality over quantity. For every signing you score points, the more popular and higher rated the band, the more points you earn.

This adds a competitive edge that is more akin to a casual game than a purely ‘social’ virtual music experience, which I thought was an interesting development. I’m not sure how the site expects to monetise the service, but if users are compelled to ‘play’ while they discover new music then it could prove very popular . If it’s of interest – a couple of bands I’ve signed and really like are somanydynamos (read it backwards…) and Han Ma and the Camaros.

And in other engagement/ music/ label news – why not buy shares in Patrick Wolfe for your loved one this Christmas?

Make the Tea!

Clever idea from Cravendale – milk – to get people making more tea and to crowdsource (gaining free insight into people’s tastes/office-drinking habits…)


The company recently launched the widget/social networking site, Make the Tea, which reminds you and those in your ‘group’ whose round of tea it is.  Once registered, it asks you to set your tea or coffee preferences (how much milk you like – colour-coded from 0-5, whether you take sugar) and set the time and day for when you want tea made (say, x5 per day).  It then sends a reminder at each of the times to let you and the people in your group know whose turn it is.


You can also upload pictures of yourself and your colleagues and leave comments for added fun and japery…



Now there are no excuses not to make tea (or for making hideously milky – ‘lazy-tea’ – as some DERT team members have been know to do…).





Papers turning to readers for news exclusives

In case you didn’t see it in the DERT Daily – article in the IHT on the rise of citizen journalism and its now open support by some newspapers.


The German newspaper Bild is partnering with Lidl to sell ‘basic’ digital cameras in the hopes of encouraging readers to contribute their own news stories to the paper as their writers, ‘can’t cover everything’.


As seen with Mumbai, the article highlights the way internet users are increasingly influencing the recounting of news in a less organised, non newspaper-regulated way  –  much to the horror of many journalists.  Interesting to see if any of the UK newspapers pursue similar initiatives…




A DERTy Christmas Wish List

Santa Claus is coming! Santa Claus is coming!  We all know that Santa and his elves have all gone web 2.0 (if you didn’t you heard it here first) so what better way to deliver the DERT team’s list of wants than through our very own blog.

So what is the team wishing for?

Luke Pollard, would like a solar powered charger for his laptop so that he can work from the beach.  Clearly he thinks that he is relocating somewhere hot or plans on working during his holiday?  Santa is sure to deliver requested gift to such a good, environmentally aware lad.  But if he doesn’t you can pick something up from www.selectsolar.co.uk

Will has clearly fallen in love with one of the items in his client Canon’s portfolio.  Acccording to him it is “*expletive* cool” and is the EOS 5D Mark II.  Not only does this bad boy shoot HD footage but you can continue to take snaps whilst filming.  A note to Santa:  Due to an unfortunate incident last week Will’s camera was broken….

Charmaine is opting for a Blu-ray disc player with the Disney classic Sleeping Beauty to compliment her new Samsung HDTV.

Gadget man Gareth is keen on what I can only describe as a music player slash pet: the Sony Rolly.  (Gareth owns many, many gadgets and as fun as it looks I can only assume that this would be another that would gather dust.)   

Polly fancies a subscription to the RED(WIRE) a really beautiful online music magazine (unlike any other online music magazine).  The money from the monthly subscription not only helps to tackle AIDS in Africa but also helps support new musical talent to.

Luke Mackay really wants an iPhone but if demand outweighs the stock he’d settle for a subscription to Wired UK magazine.

Me?  Well as much as I love my little BENQ projector, and games console combo, I wouldn’t mind upgrading to a SIM2.   Ever since seeing King Kong’s final moments in high-definition at a SIM2 press screening, no amount of tears could distorte or blur the most impressive image I have ever seen.  A tidy little Domino would go down a treat but Santa I’m sure a  Grand Cinema C3X 1080 will squeeze down my chimney.

Any other thoughts?

Merry Christmas