Bizhan Govindji: Siri who?

3 million people in the UK pre-ordered the iPhone 4S (that’s 5% of the population, by the way) and were eagerly awaiting a soft thud as it landed on their doormats this morning. The feature that’s quite literally got everybody talking isn’t the highly improved camera, or the potentially revolutionary iCloud; it’s Siri, your new virtual assistant. (If you haven’t heard of Siri, you’ll want to say goodbye to that rock you’ve been living under and watch the advert here). But Voice Recognition on mobile phones is hardly something new. In fact my first ever phone – the now-ancient Nokia 3310 –  came equipped with voice-activated dialling.

So why all the fuss about Siri, and what are the alternatives for non-iPhone users? (more…)

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There’s an app for that

Angry Birds. (Image: www.rovio.com)

Apps are the craze that won’t go out of fashion. Smartphones are becoming increasingly common in the mobile market, and one of their big selling points are the apps they offer. These apps can be entertaining time-killers (catapulting birds at wooden structures to reclaim eggs from evil pigs is more addictive than it sounds), but they’re useful too, and span genres such as business, productivity, news, music and many more.

The number of people using apps is ever-growing, to the point where ideas that were initially meant for simple apps, have become unimaginably popular, and are now spreading into other forms of media – the Angry Birds film being a key example.
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Uzair Choughtai on: Is Facebook losing its ‘friends’?

The Facebook population

As much as I probably hate to admit it, I check my Facebook every day. Partly out of habit, partly because I have this odd feeling that if I don’t, then I’ll be missing out on something special. One of my friends might say something hilarious. Someone might post a cool video. Or, ALERT THE PRESS, someone might change their relationship status!

Most of my friends have a Facebook page. Some of my relatives in their 40s and 50s have a Facebook page and some of my friends grandparents have even joined! If the generational usage is increasing, how is Facebook losing its followers? (more…)

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Social Media Futures: The Virtual you

Snapshot from Museum of Me Online Exhibition

The uncertainty surrounding the safety of our personal data on-line is often focus of much debate… how is our data being used? Who has access to it? Who owns it? Data usage is a topic that can cause anguish for social media users, as well as confusion. Particularly when the big players such as Facebook discretely pilot new services, such as the facial recognition software, without telling their users about changes to data usage first.

Social Media users have the right to be concerned about their data, but should this stop us from using networks like Facebook? Absolutely not…

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Think you know Peckham? Think again…

Peckham, London is probably not the first place you think of when you hear BMX riders. Peckham is one of the poorest areas in Britain and is known for its high crime rate. However, it is home to a squad of some of the most exceptional BMX riders in Britain.  The squad consists of British and national champions and have two riders currently training for Olympics 2012.

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Twitter and the future of journalism

Those who awoke yesterday to read of Osama bin Laden’s death splashed across every news outlet could have been in some way better served by following Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) on Twitter who became, in his own virtual words, “the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it”, shown above.

These tweets were an honest description, free from spin and not aimed at achieving fame or writing Pulitzer-winning pieces (he didn’t realise what the attack was about until later).

Even though unwitting, his tweets surpassed much of the outpouring of on-scene journalistic accounts that regularly invade our consciousness.

Is Twitter (and other social media) breaking the mass media’s dominance on world issues and if so, what is the future of journalism? Will the result be a surge of Twitter reporting by ordinary people? And will the media attempt a catch-up by producing even more mind-numbing examples of ‘churnalism’ or will it insted seek a higher quality of reporting?

Of course. all these questions could become irrelevant if Professor Timothy Wu’s arguments about corporate giants taking over the internet and hegemonising it come to pass.

How to get ahead in advertising

This fascinating lecture by Ji Lee, now the creative director of Google Creative Lab, is an inspiration to every frustrated creative out there. Less than a decade ago, Lee was at an ad agency attempting to push the envelope and innovate but, for corporate reasons, was scraping the barrel and stagnating (see how easy it is to descend into a morass of cliches?).

Recognising that he was in something of a rut. Lee did what many of us can only dream of having the courage to: he went out himself. His idea was to extend the cretive process to ordinary people by launching The Bubble Project – a guerrilla campaign that pasted speech bubbles onto adverts all over New York. Eventually, people began to fill in these empty speech bubbles with all manner of creative slogans from the hilarious to the downright silly.

Lee had crested the wave of a new optimism that was coming with the rapid rise of the internet. He had tapped into a participatory mood (we have expressed scepticism about the various claims made for the revolutionary power of the internet but it’s unquestionable that the flow of information precipitated by the web has rapidly increased and unleashed new possibilites) that on the face of it was was comment-free but amalgamated a series of opinions and voices on a host of topics.

The video sees Lee tell us about how he overcame the frustration of his earlier career and how he went about the Bubble Project.

The Information Empire Strikes Back

The next phase in social networking and politics has arrived: states are fighting back

As was noted in our previous blog post –‘Egypt, the internet and the washing machine’, which put the use of social media in the Middle East revolutions in an historical context by reminding us of the use of the washing machine in women’s liberation – the topic of social networking and its effects often provokes fierce debate, with sides regularly and mutually castigating one another. However, some less-publicised developments around the world hint at a second round of hauling over the coals.

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Don’t believe the hype…

It’s hard not to like Jocelyn Bell Burnell. In fact, it’s hard not to love her. A devout Quaker devoted to social and spiritual issues as well as being bone fide genius, Bell Burnell missed out on winning a physics Nobel Prize for her discovery of pulsars (the Prize instead going to her supervisor), to which her response was: “I am not myself upset about it — after all, I am in good company, am I not!”

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Egypt, the Internet and the washing machine…

A mind once stretched by a new

idea never regains its original

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