Tag Archives: Manthorp

Crystal Bollocksing

Back in 2007, the Arts Council commissioned me to deliver a programme of presentations to officers across the country on the impact and potential of digital technologies.

Just today, I accidentally stumbled upon the Powerpoint I created for the programme and, if I say so myself (which I self-evidently do), I don’t think it was too shabby.

I emphasised the growing importance of Wikis (bit of a sitter, that one), ‘The Cloud’ & the less-than-one year old Twitter.  Admittedly I sold virtual worlds and especially Second Life a bit strong, but then I’ve always been a sucker for web3d (it’ll happen, just wait…)

I listed the UK’s top ten social media sites (according to Nielsen Netratings; Quite how Slide got in there I’m not sure).  They were, in order of popularity:

1          YouTube

2          Wikipedia

3          Facebook

4          Blogger

5          MySpace

6          Bebo

7          Slide

8          Yahoo! Answers

9          Windows Live Spaces

10        TripAdvisor

Funny to see those mighty which have fallen.  Windows Live Spaces was Microsoft’s blogging platform which died of awfulness in 2011.  Bebo was quite an interesting modular social media app which I had quite a lot of time for, especially it’s ‘Bebo Groups’ module.  It was popular with yoof for a while and, bemusingly, had a massive take-up in the Republic of Ireland.

Then there are the glaring absences; no LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or Whatsapp, to name a few on 2014’s top ten.  Twitter and Whatsapp, and their many fast-growing cousins like Instagram, Snapchat & Vine, really had to wait for the mass roll-out of the smartphone, their natural platform, before they could grow to their potential.

I concluded my presentation with four ‘Shiny Space Suit and Food Pills’ predictions for nascent or emergent technologies that I believed would have a major impact in future.  My predictions were:

  • ‘Rapid Prototyping’ (as we called 3d printing back in the days when the internet were all fields)
  • Augmented Reality
  • Crowdsourcing
  • ‘Artificial Creativity’ (ie., creativity by artificial intelligence)

Well, three out of four isn’t bad…

Ding Dong Merrily on High

The online campaign that has seen Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead riding high in the singles charts following the death of Margaret Thatcher is puerile, tasteless and really quite funny.

Howls of protest led by the right wing press have put the BBC in a bind; should they play Ding-Dong during the ‘Official’ Chart Show on Sunday?  At the time of writing they have announced a  fudge to a classic Auntie recipe ; they will play a clip from it ‘in a news environment’.  A clip from a 52 second song?  It scarcely seems worth the edit.

Personally, I think that the decision to censor the song is both wrong and cowardly. Wrong, because the remit of the Chart Show is to play those songs which currently feature in the charts; cowardly, because the BBC has kowtowed to political pressure.  In order to avoid criticism from the right they have invented a completely new protocol in embedding a news item within the chart show.  Why now?  Over the years, the chart success of dozens of songs has been newsworthy, from Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy becoming the first song to top the chart on downloads, through the campaign to keep Joe McElderry off the number one slot in favour of Rage Against the Machine’s Killing In The Name, to the recent success of the Hillsborough Charity release He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother.

Irrespective of the moral rights and wrongs of the case, what interests me most about the #DingDong campaign is that the song itself is entirely innocuous and has been continually available in one form or another since 1939.  If the song had charted at any time up to the week prior to the death of Thatcher it would have been played without hesitation (albeit with a degree of bafflement).  It’s not comparable to the re-release, say, of the Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen ahead of the Diamond Jubilee last year; God Save the Queen is an intentionally anti-monarchist rant, and a bloody good one at that.  Ding-Dong is not inherently subversive in any respect, other than by a third-hand association of the song with the intent of those who have purchased it.

This is the nub of the matter.  The decision to censor Ding-Dong is entirely founded upon assumptions made by the BBC executive regarding why people chose to buy it this week.  That they are almost certainly right in those assumptions is largely irrelevant.  What is unique about the BBC’s decision is that they believe they have the right to take action, punitive after its fashion, based on their own suppositions regarding the motivation of those who bought the record.  That, in an entirely literal sense, is Thought Crime.