The Secret Science of Superheroes

The Secret Science of Superheroes

Amazing to have received my copy of my new book, co-edited with Professor Mark Lorch. He and I cooked up a book sprint in Manchester Science Festival with some of the best people in the business to produce a fun book around the science behind superhero skills! It was published by the Royal Society of Chemistry and covers everything from Wonder Woman's lasso to what Spiderman eats for breakfast. You can find the book on Amazon, or at the RSC.

A day at Buckingham Palace

A day at Buckingham Palace

Yesterday, I accompanied my Vice Chancellor to a private audience with HRH Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace, along with our Registrar Alison Blackburn and civil engineer and all round  Here's the internal comms story we put out....

On Tuesday (18th July) Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Marshall visited Buckingham Palace for a royal audience with Prince Philip in celebration of our 50th anniversary. Helen, along with University Registrar Alison Blackburn, Chair in Science Communication and Future Media Professor Andy Miah and Lecturer from the School of Computing, Science and Engineering Neil Currie, had the rare opportunity of meeting with the Duke of Edinburgh to discuss our recent successes and plans for the future.  

As you may be aware, the Prince has had a long-standing affiliation with the University and was our first ever Chancellor who remained in post until 1991. He spoke fondly of the times he has visited Salford over the years and how impressed he has always been with our strong industry links. The Prince was interested to hear about our growing collaborations in the region, along with our drive for public engagement programmes like the Manchester Science Festival.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Marshall said: “Prince Philip being our first ever Chancellor made this special engagement at the Palace especially poignant. He has always had a very close relationship with the University so I welcomed the opportunity to meet with him just before his retirement. I was delighted to tell him about our strong employment figures and update him on our vision of the future in this, our 50th anniversary year.”

Professor Andy Miah added: “What came across to me was that, while figures like the Duke of Edinburgh have countless patronages and public roles, it felt like he truly cared about his contribution to our University. Salford was a place he could talk about with strong recollections and a sense of purpose about what the university could do.”

We'll leave you with this great image Andy took of the team outside the Palace gates which get top marks for aesthetics..

Google Glass  - my research

Google Glass - my research

I am in the process of completing an article and am now thinking about to which journal I will submit it, so I thought I'd put out a teaser of its structure and seek opinions/interest. It is broadly about the future of wearable/implantable technology and takes the period of working with Google Glass as an insight into this world, drawing on a range of datasets. It is based on 2 years of work with Glass from 2013-2015 and the article is likely to be about 10,000 words. I'm expecting to finish it over the summer and am interested in editors who might like to receive a submission. If that's you, please get in touch. And here's a link to some of the more informal experiments, along with a talk I gave at Google HQ about the subject.

 

 

Ok Glass?  
The Aspirations and Anxieties of the
Google Glass Generation. 

Abstract

This article explores the two-year period in which Google Glass was promoted publicly and released commercially on an Open Beta ‘explorer’ basis (2013-2015). It examines the aspirations of the developers and advocates and the anxieties of of (potential) user groups and eventual reactions of new users, to understand how people imagine the impact of and experience wearable technologies. The research draws on six datasets, which consist of YouTube videos, tweets from Twitter, and video recordings of user, to create an impression of what took place around the emergence of Glass. Together, the datasets create a complex device ethnography of Glass, which speak to its imagined transformative potential and a future where wearable technologies generally, which foreground a new research agenda for digital culture scholars.

 

Introduction

The Limits of Digital Design

Methodology

Background on the Google Glass Experiments

How Glass Worked

What Could Glass Do?

Findings

What Google Wanted from Glass

How ‘Explorers’ Used Glass

How Customers Imagined Glass

How Parody Explained User Anxieties

What People Saw Through Glass

The First 10 Seconds of Glass Experience

Discussion

Google Glass: The Story so Far

Conclusion: Was Google Glass a Failure?

Digital Health

Digital Health

Last week, I was in Bath for an ESRC seminar about Digital Health and the Older Generation, set up by Cassie Phoenix. Within my closing talk for the day, I was able to get into the many ways that healthcare is being transformed through digital systems, mobile culture, artificial intelligence, and ingestible sensors. The latest article I wrote on this was published in Health Sociology Review and is with my colleague Dr Emma Rich, with whom we presently have a Wellcome Trust grant to explore how young people use digital environments to make sense of health.

Humanity 2.0

Humanity 2.0

In April, I gave a talk for the World Anti-Doping Commentary project, a legal initiative based in Switzerland. Their team has been preparing the first ever legal commentary on the World Anti-Doping Code and cases that surround its work.

I was asked to give a talk about what is a critical ethical issue of our time and so used this opportunity to reflect on where I have been and what I have learned over the years. The text from my talk will be published as an official stenographer's write up, but here's are the slides from the talk. It tries to lay out the context in which anti-doping finds itself between a rock and a hard place. I remain convinced that it's on its way to becoming redundant as a mission, but there's a lot more that will need to change before we reach this point.

Designing Sport's BioDigital Future #DSI17

Designing Sport's BioDigital Future #DSI17

Today, I am speaking at the Digital Sport Innovation event at Hotel Football. My talk focused on a proposition to create an Augmented Reality Gym, which brings together a range of interests I have in eSport, mHealth, Cities, Events and social media. Here's a glimpse into what that might look like.

Biodesign in the Antropocene

Biodesign in the Antropocene

Last week, I gave a talk for the MA Material Futures at Central St Martins, London. I gave a talk for them a few years ago and it was a real pleasure to return. Here's my manuscript from the talk.

RIP Gustav Metzger

RIP Gustav Metzger

 

I have always loved the way that photography opens up the world to me and the passing of pioneering artist Gustav Metzger has brought me closer to his work. I saw him in 2009 as part of an audience with Marina Abramovich and, since his death, I have enjoyed reading all of the articles about his work, which include the image I took back then, which was added to his Wikipedia Age. Here is a selection of them:

Art News

"Gustav Metzger, the German-born British artist whose work exposes modern society’s will to destroy people and things, has died, according to Andrew Wilson, a Tate curator, who announced the news on Twitter. He was 90."
“Self-destructive painting, sculpture, and construction is a total unity of idea, site, form, colour, method, and timing of the disintegrative process,”

Art Information Network 

"When I saw the Nazis march, I saw machine-like people and the power of the Nazi state. Auto-destructive art is to do with rejecting power.”

Jewish Press

“artists have a special part to play in opposing extinction, if only on a theoretical, intellectual basis."

 

Smart Cities and Sport

Smart Cities and Sport

Last week, the World Union of Olympic Cities new platform "Smart Cities and Sport" interviewed me for a piece about smart cities and sport. Here are a few of my quotes:

“With esports, these gamers are engaged in a global community. Cities can play an important role by providing them with a space to be competitive and creative within a community. In a certain way, it is an opportunity for the older generations to do something meaningful for the younger generations – a way to rebuild communities.”
“The definition of esports is still evolving, and this makes it a much bigger opportunity for a city. The idea is to apply digital technology to the practice of a physical activity. As of now, certain interfaces allow practitioners to advance into a digital game by doing skateboarding tricks, or play basketball on a specific court in a city. Others allow you to go for a run and, at the same time, to be part of a story in a virtual world. (…) I believe this is the future for esports: to bring it even closer to the practice of a sport activity.”

#SciComm and Creativity

#SciComm and Creativity

This week, the Times Higher Education published a piece about our new MSc in Science Communication & Future Media, an online, part time course, designed for professionals who want to increase their skills and creative capacities. The article is broadly about the need to do more than just communicate facts to the public, a position that has been reinforced in the last week, as authors write about the consequences of the Anti-Science Trump administration. Here's the full article and here's a link to our exciting new course!

Sport 2.0 and the BBC Academy

Sport 2.0 and the BBC Academy

Last week, I took part in a broadcast examining how digital technology has changed sports, with the BBC's Academy, an industry facing programme, designed for professionals. You can listen to it here

Sarajevo 1984, 33 years later

Today marks the 33 years since the Opening Ceremony of the Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Winter Games and so I dedicated my afternoon to capturing some of its history. The most remarkable location is the Bob Sled track, which was built in concrete and survives to this day. It remains now as a living monument to the Games, although for the locals, it feels also like a forgotten place.

Draped in overgrown foliage and graffiti, I learned that it has become a popular place to come walking and, while the snow was too deep to walk its length today, I had the chance to see a few of its turns.

It's hard to know how to place this as an Olympic legacy. It has become a tourist attraction, that much is clear. Yet, it does not resonate with conventional legacy language. After all, it has become a line of desire, rather than a purposeful sports facility. However, I think it is all the richer for this, and there is something truly authentic about it, as a manifestation of cultural heritage, re-worked by the local community.

Clearly, the 1990s war broke continuity for the city, in terms of many things, but also that Olympic legacy. The cable car running from the city to the mountain venue was lost - but is being re-built I am told. Also, many Olympic buildings were destroyed. So, there is something also compelling about the robustness of this unusually permanent concrete bob sled run. So, I am comfortable with talking about this monument as a feature of Sarajevo's Olympic legacy. Like the most effective legacies, they have to arise from a process of re-negotiation, re-ownership, and be sites of active value creation for a community. This area enjoys each of these features and, for this reason, i'm sure it will continue to be of historical significance and worthy of protection. And if that wasn't enough, you can also mountain bike down the run, which has to be completely awesome!

My trip here has been all the richer for venturing out to see this amazing site and I hope you will agree that there is a beauty to this Olympic heritage, even if it was not the one intended when it was imagined.

Draped in overgrown foliage and graffiti, I learned that it has become a popular place to come walking and, while the snow was too deep to walk its length today, I had the chance to see a few of its turns.

It's hard to know how to place this as an Olympic legacy. It has become a tourist attraction, that much is clear. But it does not resonate with conventional legacy language. After all, it has become a line of desire rather than a purposeful sports facility. Yet, I think it is all the richer for this, and there is something truly authentic about it, as a manifestation of cultural heritage, re-worked by the local community. 

Clearly, the 1990s war broke continuity for the city, in terms of many things, but also that Olympic legacy. The cable car running from the city to the mountain venue was lost - but is being re-built I am told. Also, many Olympic buildings were destroyed. So, there is something also compelling about the robustness of this unusually permanent concrete bob sled run.  

My trip here has been all the richer for venturing out to see this amazing site and I hope you will agree that there is a beauty to this Olympic heritage, even if it was not the one intended when it was imagined.

How drones are changing the world

How drones are changing the world

How the drone went from the latest must have tech toy to a billion-dollar cultural phenomenon

Andy Miah, University of Salford

Of the many technologies to have captured our imaginations over the last five years, there have been few with such lofty aspirations as drones. These high-tech flying machines have opened up new cultural pastimes which bring together hobbyist enthusiasm and a simple human curiosity to take to the skies.

In 2015, one of the largest commercial drone developers, DJI, was valued to be worth over US$10billion, while major media companies like Facebook and Google have been quietly acquiring drone manufacturers to further their aspirations of reaching the remaining world’s offline population by using high altitude drones to beam down data through lasers, giving those more remote communities a means of getting online.

But what are the big five applications that explain the proliferation of drones over this period, or which signal important contributions to our society?

Delivery

The great thing about drones is that they are small, fast, agile, self-guiding, and can carry things. Ever since Amazon’s first patent award for a drone delivery system in April 2015, we have seen new designs emerge and new applications imagined, including the company’s latest aspiration to create a blimp style drone carrier which will be able to deploy fleets of drones directly from the sky. Meanwhile companies like Flirtey have received approval for commercial drone delivery flights, for items ranging from Pizza delivery to bottled water, emergency food and first aid kits.

Other delivery designs have included life-ring drones, blood-delivery drones, and defibrillator “ambulance” drones – the prototypes of which show great success and clarity of use.

Filmmaking

In 2015, the world’s first Drone Film festival took place in New York, shortly followed by a number of others around the world. In the same year, the Drones for Good prize launched in Dubai, creating an annual US$1m prize for inventors to come up with some of the best drone applications. Finalists ranged from drones designed to map biodiversity, to a search and rescue drone which was its inaugural international winner.

Award winning filmmaker Liam Young created the first film shot entirely by drones, called In the Robot Skies. Artists are even putting 360 cameras onto drones and turning them into virtual reality perspectives, as in the case of award-winning Marshmallow Laser Feast’s In the Eyes of the Animal, which uses drones, LIDAR scanning, and VR to give a completely new perspective on the world.

Drone Racing

The United Arab Emirates created the world’s first Grand Prix Drone Racing event, with British teen Luke Banister winning its inaugural event in 2016 with a first prize pot of US$250,000. Since then an entire community of drone races have been popping up around the world, with the first professional race taking place in the UK at the 02 Arena in 2017.

Conservation

Drones also have the extraordinary capacity to occupy parts of our natural world that no other object can. These machines have been seized upon by environmental scientists to help us understand the natural world in ways that have never been possible before. For instance, primate biologist Serge Wich has been monitoring apes from above using a range of drone systems, while Neil Entwistle, of Salford University’s School of Environment and Life Sciences, has been mapping out flooding patterns in the UK to more effectively help us figure out how to protect ourselves against catastrophic weather.

Drones can also be used to track environmental changes. Thierry Weber/flickr, CC BY

Journalism

Journalists have also been quick off the mark to use drones. The Knight News Foundation project is developing a Drone Journalism operations manual to help reporters fly ethically and safely. And in countries where there is tight media control there is particular value in having drones to access places which have decreed off limits. In Turkey, for example, an activist allegedly had his drone shot down by police when he was trying to capture footage of demonstrations in Istanbul.

Hype?

Among all these amazing applications, there is also a lot of hype about where drones will take us. A lot is still very much in flux. Rules keep changing, freedoms to fly are being curbed in various countries, such as Spain, and there remains a concern about safety and how best to govern accountability. What’s more, it’s crucial to keep an eye on the links between the military and the consumer sector, as the overlaps are emerging – economically and politically.

There is already a push back against a world where we are surrounded by drones, such as the project No Fly Zone which lets US citizens try to protect the air space around their homes from drone intrusion. We also have a massive design problem in trying to actually figure out what a highway in the sky might look like.

But one thing is clear, the investment capital is there to sustain these applications for a long time to come and there is no sign of the number of applications diminishing so there’s still a great deal of change to expect ahead.

The Conversation

Andy Miah, Chair in Science Communication & Future Media, University of Salford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

NanoEthics

NanoEthics

This year, I am delighted to be joining the Editorial Board of NanoEthics, edited by Christopher Coenen. It has a fantastic back catalogue of really provocative articles on cutting edge issues in ethics and I look forward to reading submissions in the future! Here's an overview of what it does:

Nanoscale technologies are surrounded by both hype and fear. Optimists suggest they are desperately needed to solve problems of terrorism, global warming, clean water, land degradation and public health. Pessimists fear the loss of privacy and autonomy, "grey goo" and weapons of mass destruction, and unforeseen environmental and health risks. Concern over fair distribution of the costs and benefits of nanotechnology is also rising.
Introduced in 2007, NanoEthics: Ethics for Technologies that Converge at the Nanoscale provides a needed forum for informed discussion of ethical and social concerns related to nanotechnology, and a counterbalance to fragmented popular discussion.
While the central focus of the journal is on ethical issues, discussion extends to the physical, biological and social sciences and the law. NanoEthics provides a philosophically and scientifically rigorous examination of ethical and societal considerations and policy concerns raised by nanotechnology.