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Transhumanism @ BlueDot Festival

Transhumanism @ BlueDot Festival

It was fantastic to be at Bluedot again this week, alongside Tom Shakespeare. I’ve known Tom for over a decade now and it’s always such a delight to be in his company. One of the rare academics who can use comedy within public talks to great effect.

Our discussion took us deep into the realm of transhumanism and spanned such areas as artistic practice and elite sport. I tend to be pretty liberal in how we approach this subject, not hell bent on humans having to embrace all technologies, but having the opportunity to do so. This means being allowed to choose a life that minimises the experience of biological suffering, while also transcending our species typical functions, notably the duration of our life span.

We didn’t record that day, but here’s something that captures much of my perspective on this subject. It’s one of my favourite articles from a few years ago.

Sadly, I was only at Blue Dot for the day, but the real highlight was catching Rebecca Taylor perform, just before my session.

Sheffield International Documentary Festival

Sheffield International Documentary Festival

This week, I was in Sheffield for Doc Fest, taking part in a discussion about the film “Hi, Ai”, which documents the lives of people who are building new relationships with humanoid robots.

The debate took us in lots of directions, but crucial for me is how the cultural context of robotics varies. We see a family in Japan and a single man in the USA, each of which are creating new kinds of experience with their robots.

Cheltenham Science Festival

Cheltenham Science Festival

Last weekend, I was at Cheltenham Science Festival installing GameLab and giving a talk about technology. We had a wonderful team from Salford University working on the install and some amazing experiences with the public. HERE’s an overview of what we presented, becoming now a fully fledged exhibition in the history of digital gaming.

The Royal Society and the Digital Society

The Royal Society and the Digital Society

Last week, I was invited by the Royal Society to take part in a round table meeting on the digital society, which brought some really great speaker together to consider where we are going and what it may mean to live a life in a more digital way.

My main take home from the day was just how difficult it is to develop insights into trends, behaviours, and concerns, when the platforms and environments are changing so rapidly. We need an ethics of uncertainty to accommodate the radical range of drift that occurs around our lives now.

There’s not much point in developing policies for platforms that are going to be defunct within 3-5 years and this is highly risky situation, as it allows a great detail of freedom to exploit people.

For example, by the time we have figured out what it means for a child’s mental health to be on Instagram from the age of 13 to 16, the platform may then be somewhere else.

This makes me think about how we develop an ethical framework for the often ephemeral experiences we have in digital space.

E(merging) Technologies & The Ideas Economy

E(merging) Technologies & The Ideas Economy

Last week, I was delighted to give a talk at Diversity UK’s Tech Showcase, focusing on the collaborative work we do at Salford University, bringing together art, science, technology, and digital media. It was great to hear the pitches of various companies in the region, so much creative innovation going on.

You have been upgraded

You have been upgraded

It was amazing to take part and support the realisation of Jon Spooner’s live event, ‘You Have Been Upgraded’. This was a really special experience, especially as it took place at the Science and Industry Museum. Lots of conversations about human enhancement!

Olympism in Action

Olympism in Action

Last weekend, I was in Argentina for the Olympism in Action Forum, invited by the International Olympic Committee to speak about doping. The event took place in advance of the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games. Here’s a quick overview of what took place, but it doesn’t really capture what I said in full.

Broadly speaking, I discussed how society must decide how far it is prepared to push health and longer lives, in order to come to terms with the doping dilemma. We live in times of profound experimentation with biotechnological changes, which make any notion of the natural athlete as a criterion of value within sport an historically redundant notion. This wider cultural shift is what calls into question the anti-doping mandate and is among the biggest problems our society has yet to solve.

The Prospect of Immortality #BlueDotFestival

The Prospect of Immortality #BlueDotFestival

On 21st July, I spoke in a panel with Prof Kevin Warwick, Prof Mike Stubbs, and Gina Czarnecki about the future of death, as part of a series of talks within BlueDot Festival. 

The prospect of immortality has long been a fascination for me, an extension of the pursuit of human enhancement and the logical consequence to expanding the potential of evolution.

While there are many big challenges to dealing with death in a technological age, the possibility of extending life means we are confronted with some completely new questions about our lives. How would we organize ourselves if we lived to even 200 years? Would we go to school for longer? Would we procreate at the same time? Would we think about our careers as singular paths in life? Would we transform our political regulations to ensure nobody had too much power? All of this is up for grabs and needs thinking about, if we continue to pursue longer and healthier lives.

The BioDigital Athlete #TNW2018

The BioDigital Athlete #TNW2018

My keynote for The Next Web conference in Amsterdam brought together my years writing about digital and biotechnological change in performance. Here's the video...

The Next Web does eSport

The Next Web does eSport

Last week, I was in Amsterdam for The Next Web, a major digital/tech festival with 15,000 delegates. The first of my contributions to the programme was a dream team panel of experts on digital sport. We invited Shireen Hampdan from the groundbreaking architecture company Populous, Oliver Weingarten from Virtually Live, which is pioneering gaming and virtual reality sports event integration, and Bill Martens, from the amazing BamTechMedia. Here's the video!

Digital Health in the House of Commons

Digital Health in the House of Commons

Last week, the Digital Health Generation project I have been working on with Emma Rich, Sarah C. Lewis, and Deborah Lupton had a major event in the House of Commons, sponsored by Lisa Cameron MP.

The evening was a culmination of our work over this last year and aimed to kickstart a conversation about how the future of healthcare ensures that young people are at the heart of plans. 

Here are some of the slides from the evening.


The Digital Health Generation

The Digital Health Generation

In February, we ran our first webinar focused on the Digital Health Generation. Find out about what we are investigating for this Wellcome Trust funded project, trying to make sense of what digital health means to young people. Here's what we covered.

Sport 2.0 @ #MeCCSA2018

Sport 2.0 @ #MeCCSA2018

This month, i had the pleasure to give a keynote at the MeCCSA conference in London. As the UK subject association for Media, Communication and Cultural Studies, it was a real pleasure to be amongst peers I have known for well over a decade and a personal honour to have this opportunity. I focused on the way in which Sport 2.0 tells us a story about media change which has applicability well beyond the sports discipline. 

This work takes me next to PyeongChang in February, where I will cover the Olympic Winter Games, my 5th one! Keep an eye on this platform for short blog pieces and wider coverage.


Here's a bit of an overview of the manuscript for the talk....

Sport 2.0


It’s a real pleasure to be here at MeCCSA some 15 years or so after my first MeCCSA conference. And I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect a little on the intersection of disciplines that operate around this diverse subject community.

I have the dubious privilege of working across a number of subjects and, depending on the day, have my expertise described in quite various ways.


In fact, last year, I found myself giving public talks on drones, fake news, genetic enhancement, social media, Google Glass, and eSports, over just the month of November


But over the years, the connecting theme has been our technological culture and I have always focused on emerging technologies, writing about the digital alongside biotechnology from an early stage.


I have always been interested in the moment when technology becomes available and where new cultures of use emerge, curious about how our day to day lives are affected as a result.


I mention these details because they speak directly to the emergence of my own creative space within the conduct of my research, which has a bearing on the theme of this talk, Sport 2.0 – itself a title which speaks of a digital transition, drawing on the idea of Web 2.0 or Humanity 2.0, as Steve Fuller used it.


But, to put this further into context, next month my research takes me to PyeongChang for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, at which I will spend my time embedded within the media structures around the Games. Even here, there is an interesting story to tell I think, in terms of the complexity of how we, as academic researchers interface with the media communities we study.


But the origins of this work begin with a story like this from a couple of days ago


SHOW: BBC North Korea to Olympics screenshot


Way back when, I was taken with the idea that events - mega sports events in particular -  become moments for cultural and political discourse and perhaps even social change. At the very least, they are imbued with these expectations and, indeed, the principal industries around them covet such importance.


And here we have, at a time of presumed instability of North and South relations, the possibility that the Olympic Games will help ease these relationships, which may have major geopolitical consequences.


We see this kind of expectation operate around many other recent Olympic Games, where organizations position themselves and their values around the event to put across some crucial social message, as we saw with Beijing 2008, nearly 8 years ago in this Amnesty campaign.


SHOW: Beijing Amnesty campaign


And the media artefacts created around these programmes of work fascinate me intellectually. The imagery here along is deeply provocative and disruptive in a context where all imagery associated with this proprietary event is controlled.


And yet they are also spaces of multifaceted resistances. I recall how, in the lead up to the Beijing Games – China’s first Olympics as host -its aspiration to use the slogan


“New Beijing, New Olympics” was ultimately quashed, in favour of “New Beijing, Fresh Olympics”,


The story goes that the International Olympic Committee deemed that host cities are not there to change the Olympics, but to simply be its temporary custodian.


And often, technology is a thread within these discussions. In fact, every Olympic Summer Games over the last century has involved the pioneering of some new form of media technology, whether it is underwater film making, or virtual reality.



SHOW: Pool Cam


Back in London 2012, one big success was Pool Cam – underwater cameras in the swimming venues, that then had their own Twitter accounts and which were tweeting images during the competitions. Within 2 days of its launch, over 21,000 followers to the account.


Here we have examples of media innovation and media change – how to photograph the games differently – which itself is a consequence of saturated and democratized media. The professionals having to think more creatively, but with the added nuance of these being automated photographers – another theme emerging within this territory – the handing over of creative decision making to artificially intelligent systems.


So, sports as innovation spaces for the media is a core theme here and it makes sense when you consider the economic infrastructure of large scale programmes like the Olympic Games, where billions of pounds in sponsorship and rights holder money are tied up in the system and where those organizations that fund its staging seek to leverage the 16 days of competition to increase their market share through exposure.


We see this at every Olympic Games, especially over the last 20 years with each subsequent Olympic Games claiming to have transcended the previous achievements of the last, especially technological terms. For Beijing 2008, the organizers even created a building designed to look like a bar code, as a key flagship infrastructure, central to one of its core themes: Digital Olympics.


SHOW Beijing Digital building


And in many respects, this is an easy win - more people consumed the Olympics on social media than the previous Games, because there are more people using more social media.


SHOW: image of the intel site


This year, in advance of the Korean Games, we see a huge step in the direction of eSports, as Intel – a primary Olympic sponsor – hosts a major event a week before the Games begin, at a time where discussions are afoot to include eSport in the Olympic programme, which is partly why the backdrop to this prezi is a photograph of an eSport event – the World Champs from 2015, also in Korea.


Already then, we have a number of questions to ask of this terrain, which are pertinent to the expansion of our field


·      How are the sports and creative industries being reconfigured through digital change?

·      How does technology operate as currency within the staging of mega events?

·      How do we observe change within the media industries through such activity?


And through this talk, I want to outline how my research and practice have interwoven over the years, developing in part an ethnographic style of media research, and eventually how this moves into speculative ethnography, an idea which is particularly challenging to articulate, but which I think is crucial to our present times, which are characterised by the Kickstarter economy, an ever increasing part of our consumer culture, itself intimately connected to our pursuit of the future. I found myself writing about this a lot in a Nesta project on drones where, back in 2014, nearly every month a new Kickstarter drone was released, many of which never, dare I say, took off.


 Many of these ideas borrow also from work with the Designer Interactions team at the RCA, for which I guest lectured over 10 years and where the central proposition involved designing for the future in a way that invited critical interrogation.


My most often cited example from this is the design of a telephone tooth implant which two colleagues developed and I want to play you an interview with them about it, if only to show how their mischievous exploits in exploiting the media’s fascination for technology was used as a way of starting a conversation about the direction of mobile technology.


SHOW: Telephone tooth input


And here in one design is an indication of where media technology may take us, throwing up all kinds of complex ethical, cultural, and social questions.


And as the future shows us its teeth, we begin to glimpse this brave new media world


SHOW: Cicret Bracelet


Over its course, there is a research story here that describes the development of theory, practice, and of the crucial role of collaboration with the media industries, or which tries to weave together the theme of this conference on creativity and agency, as a lot of my research has involved utilizing creativity as a means through which to assert agency within an industry community and to utilize that opportunity to explore technological and cultural trends within the media.


So, I have done things like given social media training to Olympic athletes. Another role I have is as the future media mentor for the Young Reporters programme of the International Olympic Committee, which takes 35 young people around the world to the Games to learn how to report from them.


So where does sport come into all of this? It is my contention that we obtain critical insights into media change by studying sport and that, especially as this interfaces with emerging technology, we gain an insight into how technology changes societies and individuals. And so, this is also a talk that foregrounds the expansion of our field into new territories, which have yet to benefit from a research community around them. And I will go on to say more about this in the final part of this talk


To this end, I urge you to think of this not as a talk about sport at all, but of the media technology ecosystem that operates around it. I want to offer an indication of where I think this takes us as researchers and tie it back to some critical commentaries on what this means for us more generally about our diverse field.


SHOW: Screenshot of chapter and book


While the MIT book is a more in-depth overview of many of these thoughts,  further insights about this can be found in a recently published Afterword for a book on Digital Qualitative Research in Sport and Physical Activity, itself a good example of how expansive media research has become.



Yet, my entry into this field is also a story about the interconnections between research theory and practice.


Back in year 2000, I was working on a range of ethical issues related to sports technology and found myself brought into the fold of Olympic research.


This took me eventually to Sydney for the Olympic Games there, at which I learned of a place called the Non-Accredited Media Centre, set up in the bustling Darling Harbour, a prime city destination, way more integrated with the city than the Official Olympic Media Centre.


When arriving into Sydney, I went along to the Media centre and presented my case for their accrediting me as one of their reporters. At the time, I was a phd student and with very few media credentials. But I had a website and I had published a few things.  And let’s face it, back then websites were radical. Sydney was only the second summer games to have one.


SHOW: Sydney 2000 website


So I showed them my website and that seemed to be sufficient for them to accredit me giving me a fancy pass which got me access to all number of things, everything except the sport in fact.


A big part of the early years of this work then saw me fascinated by the Olympics for everything other than sport. Thousands of reporters would come to the Games just to cover what happened around the cultural, political and social side and, at the same time, it was becoming apparent that the reporters who went to this kind of centre would be those typically working in an online capacity. In many respects these were outsiders to the Olympic world, but it was far more complicated still. In fact, some major media providers who had more staff than official accreditations would put their staff into this facility.


And here we see another intersection – between place marketing, event hosting, and new cultures of journalism. Very soon after Sydney, it became apparent that a core feature of such reporting was the rise of the online journalist around sports, which grew into a focus on citizen journalism. Many of the reporters accredited by the city to cover the games were people looking for that kind of story and by the time we get to Athens, the non-accredited media centre has become the politically most important venue at the Games from a non-sporting perspective, hosting all kinds of important events – in part because the access restrictions in the main Olympic venues made this prohibitive.


So, here I am trying to infiltrate this world of new Olympic journalism, while also trying to understand what was taking place around this new sports media complex.




In part to occupy this space more comfortably, I co-developed a platform that fitted the brief of the research aspirations, an online media outlet called Culture @ the Olympics, which would frame every application to subsequent Olympic Games to become accredited as non-sports media – media that the host city and region sought to engage to tell their story.


Now, there were two parallel tracks of digital change emerging at this point – 2004 – the time when we see the term Web 2.0 emerge to describe a shift in what the web could do. The first is the growing digitalization of the sports media and the second is the rise of citizen journalists who sought to occupy the privilege space of the professional media and disrupt its structures and narratives on the Games.


The two clashed around the time of Beijing as it became apparent that the expansion of who could be media meant that the exclusivity of that status could undermine the previously privileged exclusivity afforded to the media.


So for the remainder of this talk I want to whizz you through these points of intersection, which provide a glimpse into the complexity of the Sport 2.0 world and which hopefully will stimulate you to think differently about this field and where it is going in the future.


And to do that, we start here: 3 trends, all of which intersect in this world

-       Mobile Health

-       Mixed Reality

-       Gamification


What’s Next

-       eSports

-       Wearables

-       Ingestibles

-       Implants

-       Internet of things

-       Artificial Intelligence


And so, to conclude, I want to frame Sport 2.0 as an intersection of various media cultures the analysis of which requires taking into account their complexity. Examining sport tells us a great deal about where the media have come and where they are heading and this is why all studies of the media need to take on board how they work around the complex world of the sports industries.


Thank you.





Fake News, Science, and Journalism

Fake News, Science, and Journalism

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at an event hosted by the British Association of Science Writers focused on Fake News and Scientific Journalism. I was anxious first to draw our attention to the absurdity of this discussion, as it has been inflicted on us by Trump and his ridiculous accusations of fake news towards established, credible media organizations.

Anyway, moving on, we are here, the discourse has taken off and shone a light on how news information becomes indistinguishable from blatantly fake news, but also how it becomes blurred with entertainment.

My main concern in this is are the squeeze that printed press face, as a result of the social media era. We need to find better ways to support investigative journalism, but we also need to understand how people encounter news information across their day and across different devices. Otherwise, we are failing to take into account how this affects their receptiveness to certain media formats, or just the cognitive process that operates around such journeys. 

A few weeks ago, we created the Library of Fake News as an installation for the Manchester Science Festival and I believe we need libraries to help us navigate this complex world of web news, where bottom line interests dominate all stakeholders. Libraries may be our only independent public institution that can help us wade through the noise and figure out what's really going on in the world.



GATTACA 20 years later

GATTACA 20 years later

Here's the final edit of the event, created by Luke....


Last week, I took part in a debate hosted by Luke Robert Mason of Virtual Futures, which focused on the legacy and impact of GATTACA. We covered everything from CRISPR Cas9 to film theory and the challenge of speculative ethics. 

It was fantastic to have put this together with Luke, as the film is such a remarkable examination of a potential future, where the prospect of genetic perfection is taken seriously. Having worked in bioethics for nearly 20 years now, it feels still like a really pressing subject, which we haven't quite figured out still.


Tomorrow's World Live - ROBOTS

Tomorrow's World Live - ROBOTS

This week, I took part in a TW Live event at the Museum of Science and Industry. You can watch the recording here.