Monthly Archives: November 2013

Life is a Remix? (with Star Wars and Minecraft)

I actually had the below film at the end of this post, and then I thought, no it should be watched first as it’s an amazing new Minecraft movie and one of my favourite films. (also far better than my ramblings), it’s from Paradisedecay:


During watching, ‘Everything is a Remix,’ it occurred to me that everything we do in life is a remix of everything that has come before, this is something I have never really consciously thought about before, just something I have accepted and maybe even conceived at the back of my mind.


Whether it’s music, film or even teaching our children, we always try to strive to copy and improve on what has been done before?  I however cannot really say improved or better as there are many things from the creative past that are brilliant and always will be, maybe the term should be evolved?  The ability to evolve and remix in these creative fields gives us new genres and inspiration, new ways of looking into things so that they are constantly changing and exciting to us.  The re-telling of an old story/song in a contemporary format is nothing new, and so history has shown us we are fascinated by stories from the past whether fact or fiction and many modern stories/films are taken from ideas from the past eg, the film, My Own Private Idaho takes ideas from Shakespeare‘s Henry IV.   I particularly enjoyed the part of, ‘Everything is a Remix,’ where it depicted George Lucas’s inspirations for Star Wars, it just shows how much historical observation and prior film knowledge from so many disparate sources can create a remixed story into a great film, (well it always will be a great film to me, others can decide for themselves).  Also there have been through the 20th and 21st Century, remakes/remixes of films eg King Kong, Dracula, Dawn of the Dead etc.  These are enjoyed/not enjoyed, compared and discussed by the generations who watched them first and generations who have never seen them before.  It reminds me of the way stories were told in ancient times and passed through the generations, (by mouth and by books), are we not just passing these stories through history the same way we always have, but through modern technology and remixing, so those in the future can also enjoy them, change them and be inspired by them also?

“Copy, transform and combine”: That is the analogy of this short film, it makes the claim that this is what we have fundamentally done since a single cellular organism, our natural order as it were.  However the the final part of, ‘Everything is a Remix,’ challenges the alleged natural order and targets the problems between stealing ideas and then suppressing creativity through the law and focuses on Copyright and Plagarism.  The film talks about the theory that, we are quite happy to copy things, but unhappy when things are being copied/taken from us.  Which is very true, however it seems to be when they are within our own lifetime!  Which brings me to Led Zeppellin, it seems now that only through modern technology and communications people have begun to see what they may or may not have done.  So should we be thinking, (which is probably biased as they are one of my favourite bands),  how many music lovers, musicians and otherwise would have missed out on Led Zeppelin’s musical inspirations, observations and influences if this band had not copied, transformed and combined their music?

However what happens when someone actually designs something unique and then intentionally says go ahead “,Copy, transform and combine,” add anything you can think of to what I have created and have a lot of fun in the process?  Well it gives you…….’Minecraft.’  This is what the creator of Minecraft Swedish programmer Markus “Notch” Persson did.  See Minecraft History.  He made the game open source so that people could create their own elements to it which are called, ‘Mods,’ if you know Java you can make whatever you like and add it to your game.  But learning Java is a large learning curve in itself.  So therefore many, ‘mod,’ creators have their ready made mods for Minecrafters to put into their games.  A lot of these and links to these can be found on the Minecraft Forum.  There are also tools such as Scriptcraft, which uses Javascript to to make your own mods and there are also guides such as Mods/Creating Mods to tell you the best way to go about it without learning Java and using Javascript!  I’ve never really gone into Java but I have learnt some Javascript as I made a game in Unity3D.  So I might have a go at my own mod sometime soon!

To carry on the Minecraft story, the theory is this move to open source meant that it made the game hugely more popular, Alex Leavitt a PHD Student has an excellent video on his website that discusses this much better than I ever could, Alex Leavitt/Minecraft.  It also talks about the way the huge Minecraft community has developed because also there were no instructions to play the game.  So people made videos to help one another, joined forums and discussed the game etc.  I have found so far it’s a huge friendly community.  And the more I find out about this game and it’s community the more I like, you don’t have to buy anything to further yourself in it, everyone shares everything freely with one another.  My next move is to make my own personalised, ‘Skin.’  For non Mincrafters, you literally can make your own skin and be whoever you want to be eg, Darth Vader,  Kermit the Frog it’s up to your imagination.  I really like going onto websites and finding out what skins have already been made!

Anyway following the theme of everything is a remix I have recently found some really interesting Minecraft movies.  Here is a remix of one of my all time favourite movies, I think the attention to detail and the organisation to be able to get this working in Minecraft is amazing, it comes from Paradisedecay who also has a brilliant YouTube channel.

Minecraft – Star Wars – A New Hope


Collaboration and Augmented Reality with (Cocktails) and Wikitude

Drink Image3

Above is the promotion image for my map in Wikitude, scroll down to the bottom of this blog if you would like further information on it, (without having to read my collaboration insights and ramblings…)!

When I first worked in the Interior Design industry, all we had for document, information sharing and collaborative tools were email and FTP server sites, (the latter being controlled by the IT department within our company, we were lucky enough to afford and have a really good IT department who kept things running in those days).  We worked on international projects, passing documents back and forth to the FTP servers, (which could sometimes be a tad glitchy, a bit like a grainy version of a 1980’s episode of Neighbours compared to HDTV today)!  There were no handy messages popping up in the corner of the screen to say, ‘hello this document has been updated,’ etc, we had to regularly check our email……which was also rather slower then too, and well mobile phones were just phones, even text messages were a novelty!  It is unbelievable how far the internet has changed in such a short time since then, especially leaps forward for collaborative tools.  Today if we want to work collaboratively and share large files using FTP type sites, all we have to think is, ‘I’ll just send that by Dropbox,’ or similar without even giving the process a second thought.  Dropbox is easy to download, it’s free up to a certain amount of storage and nice easy and simple to use and does not require an in house IT department to run it!  This technology is now available literally at our fingertips for personal or business use!  It’s also very affordable for small businesses that require large amounts of storage too.  The internet now has some brilliant collaborative tools which means we can now share a wealth of information in many different ways on different electronic devices, for business, for pleasure in fact anything that we can possibly think of!  As a result ways of working have changed, remote working is now more possible and faster than ever.  However it also applies to information exchange and communication whether it is in the same building or continents apart. Remembering what it used to be like is a tonic to any hesitation I have had to exploring these current collaborative ways of working!

Tools for sharing information that we as a group, have been exploring recently include: Google Docs, Google Hangouts, Twitter, shared Google Maps and applications such as Wikitude.

An Interior Design project I worked on last year is an example of how we are using and integrating collaborative technologies. The last project I worked on, I worked with my colleague from a remote location.  My colleague, who was based in London shared project documents with me using Dropbox, (this article explains how to use Dropbox as a collaborative tool and positives and negatives, How to Use Dropbox as a Killer Collaborative Work Tool).  We also used Skype as a main communication tool, (as well as the, ‘old,’ mobile phone for quick chats, we used our mobile phones mainly to check email, Skype, Dropbox)! For this project, we were working on large specification documents, (which have to be produced generally for interior design projects), and were using Dropbox to share project files.  However it meant that we could not work on the document at the same time otherwise it would cause conflicts between the files.  It would have been invaluable if we could have done this, (due to time constraints and the large amounts of information we needed to input).  How I wish I had begun to explore Google Docs sooner, it would have been the perfect additional technology to work on this sort of project.  If we had used a mix of Google Docs for all the technical specification information and Dropbox for all the large file presentations and visuals, (made in professional graphic programs), together with Skype and mobile phone Apps this would have been a more dynamic mix. The Google Docs session that we worked on in the lecture wasn’t successful as we all were having fun with it and there were too many people creating changes to keep control of the information!  However when the document has a particular purpose amongst a small work team of 2 or 3, the outlook  and focus of the user changes, especially when the document has to be produced for a paying client! So I must say that I am now a fully fledged fan of Google Docs and if I ever work on another Interior Design project remotely or not, I shall certainly be using them.

Phone applications are also radically changing the way we can collaborate and share information, I have recently experienced exploring Wikitude.  At first I wasn’t too sure about it, the whole thing was slightly unnerving, when I researched I found an article such as this: Twin towers rise again in slightly creepy-feeling use of augmented reality.  Also I felt it had a foreboding of Orwell’s 1984!  I was not alone in having these thoughts I found a blog: The Fallen Mighty, that echoes some of the thoughts going through my head:

”Writing this as I am on George Orwell’s death-day, it’ll come as no surprise that I find this lamentable, especially because the instant availability of great gobbets of information also means that info can easily be manipulated for commercial and/or malign reasons. And returning to Anderson’s piece, even self-accumulated data – which is not necessarily the same as factualinformation, right? – can be used by data miners, or ‘pirates’ as I call them, to bombard you with sales pitches for anything that might improve your mood, bowel movements or sleep patterns etc., i.e. in much the same way as Google already picks up on the content of your emails, and Twatter your tweets (well not mine, obviously), Farceberk your cute snaps of little Johnny building a snowman and sell it to advertisers who then bombard you etc., etc. We may also become so enwrapped in our virtual or ‘enhanced’ realities that we are unable to distinguish it from the real one, indeed it may become the real one.”

The part that disturbs me the most is how much information is available to companies, hidden audiences, etc through us accessing and using these applications?  This does unnerve me, it is true that on sites such as Facebook I am annoyed by adverts and posts which are directed and unwanted to my account from activity on the site.  Should we blithely carry on, or should we be questioning much more about how much information we are sharing about ourselves and who can access it?  This always nags away at the my back of my mind every time I encounter a new technology.  I think we should always learn to embrace new things but also to question them as much as possible also, I think every site we share any sort of information on should have a VERY clear and dedicated page that describes exactly what we are letting ourselves in for!

However despite these wary feelings I couldn’t help but like Wikitude, it’s amazing that we can go to an unfamiliar city and wave our phone about to find what we are looking for, a certain type of restaurant or even where the cash machines are located. Generally as I searched the internet I have found that there is a lot of positive writing about Wikitude, The Wicked Wikitude App and also Wikitude Augmented Reality browser and BlackBerry Messenger – cool or creepy?

I then decided the only way to make a cool or creepy decision was to create my own collaborative map world using Google Maps and Wikitude and invite people to join in! To understand something you have to experience it, so I thought it would be a good idea to make a map of all my favourite places to eat and drink in Liverpool as I love going out there!  At the moment there are plenty of websites and reviews on restaurants and bars, however I thought it would be beneficial to make a personal map so that any friends or colleagues visiting the city would have a quick of what the, ‘locals,’ and also previous visitors really recommend.  It also might help myself and my friends and I negotiate the back streets of Liverpool after a good few cocktails, without jumping into a taxi for all of 2 mins discovering where we actually wanted to go to was just around the corner……)!!


Above is the Icon that is displayed beside my map in Wikitude.

I am going to share the information about my map with friends on Facebook and also by Twitter and will be interested to see who joins in. The map is invite only so that I have control over who will be able to edit it.  So if you have been out anywhere in Liverpool and think it was totally fabulous and worth putting on the map let me know and I’ll send you an invite.  So far most of my favourite venues are mapped because of the quality of the cocktails……I have published my map, it’s now on Wikitude, (download the free app to your phone), if you look in Food and Drink it will be there it’s called: Cooltastic Liverpool, (just because I love a good night out in the fab and cooltastic Liverpool)!