IMPRINTS inspire Nordic television producers

28 Aug 2014

Shine Nordics, the Nordic region's largest film and TV production group, invited me to speak about our identity management research at their Summerhouse in Stockholm. Summerhouse is meant as a networking event and a conference of ideas to inspire the producers and developers of Shine. After a pick up from the airport, a luxurious hotel suite, meeting the producer of The Bridge and the red carpet of a Nordic celebrity event, I was quite ready for an immediate career switch. Nevertheless, the next day was professor time again, and I talked about the future of electronic identity, with a one and only lesson (TV makers like simplicity) that the more tight, secure and ubiquitous our electronic identity becomes, the stronger the counter pressures of identity escapes will be, expressed, among others, in surveillance art and off-the-grid movements. A bit of Hegelian dialectics there.

Shine Nordics presentation

My talk mirrored the presentation of Marko Ahtisaari, inventor of Dopplr, former head of design of Nokia and now a MIT MediaLab director's fellow (see here for more). He talked about similar developments but then from the perspective of emerging technologies: he showed how corporations like Facebook are continuously looking for the next platform; that mobile growth forces developers and designers of new services to think about mobile applications first which produces a need to simplify; that the internet of things is inevitable and that all our appliances will standardly become connected; that the quantified self will be joined by a quantified other, and that a quantified us is on the horizon (Marko also studied philosophy). It was a great talk and what I thought was most inspiring was his notion that software, with all its global associations and neutral zeros and ones, might be local as well: and he  compared the aggressive nature of American Uber (sic) with a similar  but much more friendly app from Finland (with an immensely difficult name I forgot). Which then, of course, invited a discussion about what exactly was local about these examples: the idea, the branding or the software? Finally, Marko told how the MediaLab is propagating ' heads-up design', meaning hardware and software that free us from our mobile screens, so that we can look up again.

As if to prove that such technological developments produce their own counterforce, another speaker was Franz Aliquo, 'the Supreme Commander of the Shadow Government', who calls himself a cultural DJ and remixes pieces of pop culture into real life games. Others would call such games 'pervasive'  or 'urban' . He is especially famous for StreetWars (see more here and here), a three week watergun assassination game that he has organised in New York, London, Singapore and other big cities. Participants get an individual assignment and they need to 'kill'  opponents while, meanwhile, going on with their everyday business. Franz showed how one participant turned the game into a three week Jason Bourne fantasy and how another transformed a teddy bear into a remote watergun. Franz's talk reminded me of other forms of real life games, like historic re-enactments and murder weekends, and of  much more lame media tourism, where people travel to James Bond or Da Vici Code locations. While the sophistication of the technologies and game play may differ, all of these practices testify of a desire for 'real'  experiences, as opposed to the mediated ones that we are immersed in and sometimes overwhelmed by. More dialectics indeed.

Getting closer to everyday practices of TV makers, Jes Brando of Shine showed the new formats for the upcoming TV season, with the most ridiculous one, in my view, BBC's follow up to Strictly come dancing, in which celebrities try gymnastics ..... Eirik Soheim of NRK (the Norwegian public broadcaster) showed us his digital and beautiful experiments with data driven photography and film. He also treated us  on a mini drone camera that flew over us and out of the conference room while transmitting its images live to our big screen. That was some gadget fun, with serious implications for TV production. See for some great examples of Eirik's work here and here.

It was a truly inspiring day, at least for me, but from what I heard from the various participants (about 100) for them as well. I did pick up some discussion about adopting Hegelian principles for TV development, so if that was the impact we produced, we have done well.