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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Martin Orton on: London Materialympics 2011

People were forced to leap from the upstairs windows of a burning building in Croydon last night as rioting spread across London and beyond. (Image: The Telegraph)

Everyone this morning is asking the same question, why? How can our young people do this to us? Where is the political agenda? Oh please…we’re focusing on mindless thuggish behaviour: the result, not the cause. It’s a tiresome perspective – as if we, the society that is responsible for raising them, are blameless.
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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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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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Egypt, the Internet and the washing machine…

Maybe they’re born with it…

Creativity in the crib: Babies learn languages faster and use them more creatively than adults, but where does this ability come from…?

Psychologists used to believe that humans were ’empty shells’, born without any innate creativity. But new research suggests that babies have surprising abilities to learn languages. Better than adults, in fact…

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Multicultralism has failed? So what’s the solution David?

“Multicultralism has failed” says David Cameron at the Munich Security Conference. It means people now lead very separate lives resulting in segregation between communities both culturally and socially. Mr Cameron makes the statement that this segregation can lead to radicalisation and even extremism as people are left needing something to believe in.

The speech has been topic of much controversial debate this week. One of the key questions has been “Is multiculturalism responsible for radicalisation?” There are points of view like those of journalist Mehdi Hasan who claims that Mr Cameron “is singing from a tired and discredited hymn sheet” by making such generalised claims. In contrast, there is also support of his speech like that of Maajid Nawaz who states that even though Mr Cameron doesn’t quite hit all the right notes he’s started a really important discussion for big society.

Multiculturalism is when “several different cultures (rather than one national culture) can coexist peacefully and equitably in a single country.” Are people of different culture, ethnicity, religion currently coexisting peacefully in Britain? When you look at groups like the English Defence League – intentions towards your neighbour can seem far from peaceful.

When Bold Worked with the Coexistence trust in Autumn 2010 we found that an uprising in radicalisation manifests in a distinct lack of understanding for other groups of people. When a person doesn’t understand the other, they get fearful and even panic about the threat to their own way of life.

The Coexistence trust work to ensure people from Jewish & Islamic communities coexist without conflict. The Trust has a collective of Youth ambassadors, many of whom are academics and critical thinkers. They tour round Jewsish and Islamic schools in England to spread the values that the Trust holds. More specifically, they explore what these different communities have in common in order to prevent prejudice and discrimination.

For the Campus project FaithHub, Bold created a series of Viral videos for the Youth Ambassadors to be used on tours around different university campuses. They can be used in seminars by the ambassadors with the intention that they will ignite new discussion about difference, diversity & identity.

You can view all videos on the FaithHub website

This project has become very relevant to current affairs this week due to 1) It’s attempt to improve the ability to understand others  as a basis to effective multiculturalism and 2) Suspicion surrounding growth in radical students leaving universities.

LN

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The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any

Are women fairly treated in the media? Jennifer Siebel Newsome thinks not and is on a campaign to write the situation with her Sundance nominated film Miss Representation.

It would be interesting to see a home grown British take on this – but it’s just as relevant here as the US. If sex sells, where do we draw the line?

GV

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