"When critical thinking is at its strongest, it often comes from exactly the sort of fluidity of practice that does run through Digital Revolution. The London–based architect and artist Usman Haque has been creating innovative software products alongside interactive artworks for more than 15 years. In 2007, he founded Pachube, a global data–sharing network that anticipated by years the current buzz around big data and the internet of things. In 2011, Pachube enabled hundreds of Japanese civilians to quickly and easily share weather and radiation data in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, boosting monitoring and relief efforts. Haque's Umbrellium team has produced a new artwork for Digital Revolution, which takes up the entirety of The Pit, the Barbican's subterranean theatre space. Called Assemblance, the piece allows about 25 people at a time to physically shape beams of light with their hands, pushing and pulling them around the space–while also bumping into and potentially messing up the shapes created by other people.
Haque calls it 'a virtual reality', but not in the sense of a purely digital realm: 'It's there, it's responding to you, you can see it, but as you try and approach it you can't actually feel it. For me, the idea is to question this distinction between the physical and the virtual.' The process is akin to building a sandcastle on the beach, where you are building a structure that anyone else, or the elements, can destroy in a moment.
Assemblance attempts to answer the question: 'How do we create things together in a shared environment, where we can't always trust each other, but we need to act together regardless?' This, indeed, is the situation we find ourselves in now. In the modern digital world, the question of participation is crucial as our various networks–social, media, national–require us to constantly mediate between acting as individuals and acting as a group. For Haque, the digital has given us 'the capacity to have an effect on the other side of the world almost instantaneously', from news events and economic flows to disaster response and warfare. 'We can do things to other people in distant lands, and so the question of our responsibility, and our culpability, is thrown up in ways that it hasn't been before. On the other hand, we now have the capacity to connect with each other, and develop new ways to work together, rather than against each other.'
Assemblance asks the audience to see itself as part of a networked whole, where actions have consequences. It also points towards the fact that 'the digital' is not a medium, but a context, in which new social, political and artistic forms arise. After 50 years, at least, of digital practice, institutions are still trying to work out its relevance, and how to display and communicate it–a marker, perhaps, that it is indeed a form of art."
(James Bridle, 18 June 2014, The Guardian)
Fig.1 Assemblance, a 3D interactive light field by Usman Haque and Dot Samsen from Umbrellium. Photograph: Umbrellium.
"Today's youth are sharing a tremendous amount of information through social media. They share to connect, but in connecting, they leave large traces of their interactions for unexpected audiences to view. Those who care about privacy are scratching their heads, trying to make sense of why youth share and what it means for the future of privacy. danah will discuss how youth understand privacy in a networked world. She will describe youths' attitudes, practices, and strategies before discussing the implications for companies and the government."
(Danah Boyd, Microsoft Corporation, recorded 6 March 2012, duration 00:30:41.
"The European Conference on Social Media (ECSM 2014) seeks to establish a home for researchers and practitioners with a wide range of approaches to engaging with the impact, use and potential of social media across disciplines. If the defining characteristic of social media is that users create, share and respond to each others information, then the European Conference on Social Media will offer a showcase for state of the art examples.
To achieve this goal, we are inviting researchers to present their findings and new ideas, and practitioners to demonstrate examples from which we can learn. The first European Conference on Social Media – ECSM 2014 will take place in Brighton, UK, a city with a highly developed commercial, artistic and academic engagement with the use and evaluation of social media. This puts Brighton in an excellent position to share experience from European research and practise with Asia, America, Africa and the world."
"Traditional marketing was built for another age. Today a new creative energy is required. Sociability is the media of now. Social connections happen everywhere, every minute of every day, in the real world and in the digital world. Social communication touches everybody. Brands are carried along in the stories people share, and the conversations they have, in social media, on their mobiles, and face to face. We help brands to get their stories to travel further and faster, building sustained relationships and advocacy as they go.
Our story began in a (thankfully converted) cowshed back in 2000. We saw that a new age of communication was emerging, an age of social communication. Since then we have worked with some of the world's best businesses helping them to behave in different ways; encouraging participation and collaboration with their audiences. We now have an 90–strong team of talented thinkers, doers and sometime dreamers who bring social communication to life for brands around the world."