Sneeze Diary

Back Scroll To Media

Sneeze Diary

Ben Barker

7th March 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 12.49.17

At Boring conference this year, Roo Reynolds spoke about collecting things. Among the curiosities one project particularly stood out, Peter Fletcher’s Sneeze Diary, ostensibly a record of every time he sneezes, but as he explains, it’s more than that. My interest centred on a couple of things.

Impartial Record


The sneeze diary creates a random, almost completely impartial record of a daily life. It scoops the mundane, the exceptional and the frustrating up into the same timeline to be reflected on side by side. I did some work on this with the watch camera a few months ago exploring non-partisan interventions that help understand the impact of all experiences, be they strong or weak, positive or negative. Typically we’re only good at capturing the strong positive experiences, it’s hard to critique such a skewed record.

The religious associations with sneezes gives them a resonance the camera doesn’t have, whilst being self-generated seems to makes it less of an imposition. As a caution, I wonder how long it takes before it begins to feel like a voluntary action, a reaction to boredom. In the same vein Peter has ways of managing his sneezes when it’s not convenient, say when he is on the toilet or away from his notebook.

Memento Mori


It’s also a momento mori. Forcing reflection by interjecting into your routine, lifting you from the moment and up into the larger narrative of your life. It asks you to remember both the moment and the journey, like stars on an ocean voyage. As Peter says:

This act of counting, and documenting, not only acts to highlight, intensify and enhance the experiences that accompany a sneeze, but also the events that fall between the sneezes, giving me a more profound understanding, even than I had before, of the simple joy in the passing of time

It’s a beautiful piece of design. Peter talks about how over time, it starts to seem unnatural when he sees someone sneeze and not make a note, and that’s the final proof. It’s a habit changing intervention, that reaches beyond the moment you sneeze and out into an exploration and reflection on what it’s like to be you. It’s an enhancing behaviour.

Once I had been counting sneezes for a short time, I became disturbed when I saw someone sneeze, and then not look closely at their watch or mobile phone and take out and write something illegible in a notebook. Witnessing people sneeze and then not record it has come to feel unsettling and wrong, as if they are losing the sneeze, letting it go to waste. Does this mean I am enhancing my life by counting my sneezes?

My own sneeze diary is an inelegant system, I just make a new evernote note for each sneeze. I have thoroughly enjoyed doing it and can’t imagine ever stopping. I love having this parallel, awkward record of my existence, that captures me next to radiators or at the kitchen sink as often as it finds me doing something memorable in the traditional sense.

As a side note, with evernote you get heaps of meta data, which is a point worth raising. Is adding extra meta data more loaded than an idea this elegant deserves? For the sake of this record I’ve added the date, but suspect it perhaps detracts. This may be the only place I don’t agreed with Peter though, the rest is poetry.

 

Sneeze Diary: #1-31


NOVEMBER

#1 / 25th Double. Central line, just out of Boring. Pizza for dinner?

#2 / 28th Hereford Arms, Gloucester Road. Friend through to the finals of the Game Lab.

#3 / 30th Cold morning at the studio. Working on the advent calendar.

#4 / 30th Just had a peice of chewing gum. Selling my iPhone on the forum.

DECEMBER

#5 / 3rd Double. Exactly midnight, editing Playable Cities document to send to everyone. Bit of a cold.

#6 / 3rd Part cough. Watching David Attenborough in Madagascar, laughing about dating an egg.

#7 / 18th 3 in quick succession. Making Saturday coffee, empty day stretching out before me.

#8 / 24th Double. Walking down stairs past Christmas stockings. Dry warmth and green/grey carpet of my parents house.

JANUARY

#9 / 2nd Double. At home, putting washing on the radiator. Festive hangover, no strong emotion.

#10 / 10th Part cough double, chewing gum induced. Laptop into bag, drink with friend cancelled. Free evening.

#11 / 19th Single. At home, morning before Playable City award announcement. Went to the mirror to watch myself sneeze.

#12 / 19th Delayed double. Making coffee, discussing the guy who thought the whole household was unemployed.

#13 / 22nd Big double, cathartic. Leaving work to do tax return at home.

#14 / 24th Single. Holding a full cup of tea, required some balance. Packing bag for training at Leyton Orient ground.

FEBRUARY

#15 / 2nd Nasal double, directed at carpet. Drinking an Erdinger, editing detective interview.

#16 / 5th Double, chesty. Lying on my side, 6.30am wake up for filming at BBR.

#17 / 4th Double, throaty. Night before going to India. Closing laptop, heading home.

#18 / 5th Rapid double. Packing for India, thinking about linen shirts.

#19 / 5th Single, just taken off out of Heathrow. Using the inflight seat to seat messaging service.

#20 / 11th Double, in Afgan airspace. Tired, watched The Help, nearly cried.

#21 / 11th Single, over Eastern Europe. Watching Brazil.

#22 / 11th Cough-like sneeze, single. Heathrow airspace, the City and the City.

#23 / 12th Single, muffled by a developing cold. Writing Mind film questions, thinking about new world wines.

#24 / 12th Single. Realising the event is paid.

#25 / 13th Single, Ill. Checking the map of Africa.

#26 / 25th Single, cycling. Fake Nike trainers and a sunset. 6-0 at football.

#27 / 26th Single, expecting a second. You’re so smart and I can’t wait to see you

#28 / 27th One sneeze, kicked out of pub. Drunk, Cheese.

#29 / 28th Single. Bacon sandwich and horror films.

MARCH

#30 / 3rd Single. Waiting for the 78, about to buy a kilo of sausages.

#31 / 5th Double. First sunny day in March, thinking beyond lunch.

#32 / 5th Three part single. Beer on the stoop, and a medicinal airwave

 

Siren Diary


We extended the idea for our recent trip to Unbox in Dehli, to make a micro version over the four days of festival. We called it the siren diary, and an alarm went off at intervals through out the four days. It was fairly unsuccessful as people were so busy, so we changed to become the sirens ourselves using a video camera. We hoped to start conversations about how people reflect and build on experiences, how we manage the passing of time and what it takes to shake up a routine. Here are some of the responses to the question, “what are you thinking about?”

Perhaps the nicest thing we heard was a girl who for every term throughout her 4 years of college used a different perfume. She saw it as a way of separating and remembering the stages in her life. It’s another beautiful intervention, giving episodes a specific smell and acknowledging them as descrete periods, strung together to form a whole. It makes standing at the dresser applying perfume an act of understanding, a smile at times passing.

What does remembering feel like?

Back Scroll To Media

What does remembering feel like?

Ben Barker

2nd October 2012

Since first talking about memory a few months ago, we’ve been playing with a few things that explore its role in how we reflect on experiences, and how we remember. We’ve recorded the podcast with Neuroscientist Izzy and the smell camera is coming along well, more to follow on that shortly. In conversation, it has also become a defacto measure of an experience’s worth. Below are some of the other things we’ve been fiddling with.

 

Hour Day Week Month Year


http://hourdayweekmonthyear.com/

The site asks you to recall an event after an hour has past, then a day, a week, a month and a year. It started as a space for us to test the methods we use to remember, and to try new ones. Now we’ve given it a user login and a bit of a face lift so that anyone can use it, and we’d love it if you tested your own memory. There is some advice on the site for different approaches you might take. We’ll soon be adding email reminders for when it’s time for your next recall.

How does a memory decay?

From the memories that I currently have in process on the site, I’ve found strong visuals, faces and the colour of things are easy to recall. Yet the sequence of events is easily muddled and any conversation that took place is much harder to bring back. I’m currently doing a number of variations, one where I list everything I saw in space, another where there is a sequence to events. I’m beginning one where I break it down by senses, a control of sorts. A year down the line, I’m hoping for a time capsule quality to the memories, that revealing them will be surprising and there will be traces of change in the way a memory has evolved, like Munch repainting his Sick Child. I have an image that a memory will eventually decay down to it’s essential element, the bit that will be both the reason it remained and the thumbnail by which I know it.

 

10,000th Day


http://panstudio.co.uk/ten-thousand/

We joked about the fact that no one celebrates their 10,000th day, then a quick calculation showed I’d missed mine, which I found surprisingly disappointing. To help others avoid the same loss, I built a php calculator to figure out when it was, based on a given birthday.

Then I started to obsess over what I did on my 10,000th day. It’s likely that we remember more than we realise, but unlike the systems we compare our memory to, our concept relating is poor. Which means the events of that day are probably stored, but the date does not evoke them. With a little work I was able to figure it out. This got me thinking about what role technology plays in memory recall. With my past all backed up on servers and hard drives, I became detective, no longer responsible for my past, but rebuilding it bit by bit from the traces I had left behind. The moments when I had left a digital mark.

This led on to a line of thinking about how our collected digital memory might look in the future. Do we need a new, centralised digital archive? Are we happy that our past (like our identity) has become so distributed across information structures? When we finally give it all to technology, what does our memory look like?

How much of your 10,000th day can you remember? What technologies helped you to do it?

Searching for mine, I went to twitter first, which revealed where I’d been a a day after and a few days before. My emails showed what I’d been working on, I checked my bank statements to see if I’d spent any money in the pub in the evening, but that was the day before. My calendar was blank. I checked facebook, nothing. Then I searched lightroom for the date. That was it, taken and uploaded to flickr, pictures of a bike I’d bought for my brother, a check of my text messages later reveals, the day before. So that was it, I’d gone to the studio, as my emails show, worked on mock-ups for a website, (although the only file created that day was a download of a mySql database), visited our upcoming exhibition at This Way Up. Then went home, cleaned the bike, took pictures and uploaded them. I can remember some of the parts, some I’m filling in from habit. The only part that gives me a physical pull back to the moment is uploading the pictures to flickr. Perhaps the most pleasurable part of the day? I thought it would be more immersive but it just felt like pieces that didn’t make a whole. There was no sense of self, no surging back of the past. I just knew what I’d done, plainly, more memorial than a visitable idea.

In all of this it should note that our minds ability to edit and store only the important details is vital to our sanity. The case of Jill Price highlights this. There was an interesting piece on Channel Four recently too.

 

A Definite Trace


All of the above got me thinking about how camera phones have changed the way I use photography. They capture a more constant stream than was possible before, to be searched through later like digital madelines, jerking us back to the unremembered. Before camera phones I hadn’t photographed in this way, forgetting the aesthetic and building a chronology of identity. The feed doesn’t have to be temporal either. It could be location, habit or even emotion based.

 

Tom’s GhostCar, is a FourSquare account that takes his check-ins from a year ago and visits them in the present. His ghost is walking the streets of Britain. It is a beautiful example of location as the relational concept. As Tom puts it:

It gives me a visceral memory: reminds my bones, my heart, what they felt. (That, for reference, is my defence against nostalgia. This isn’t just about nostalgia, because you might not like what it makes you feel. It’s just about remembering feelings; stopping to pause and remember the passage of time).

“It’s just about remembering feelings.” This is a point we always push, it’s not about the best bits, we only know our lives when we sense all of the experiential range. So when looking through my instagram, I felt frustrated by the inevitable positive spin put on my memories by the desire to capture me at my best. I was guilty of doing what Perec criticised the news for doing (taken from Matt’s recent post on Performance).

The daily papers talk about everything except the daily. The papers annoy me, they teach me nothing. What they recount doesn’t concern me, doesn’t ask me questions and doesn’t answer the questions I ask or would like to ask.
What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs every day: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?

Georges Perec, Approaches to What? 1973

Am I aware of the passing of time if I don’t have the tools to acknowledge the habitual?

At the same time as reading this I had set myself a challenge to remember every day. It was surprisingly easy, to take a moment and log a bit of data. It also meant I did more individual things, to ensure days became easier to deliniate. Again, as Tom said,

The moment I fired ghostcar up, I realised I needed to start giving it better data so that it’d continue to have meaning a year in the future. So that’s a strange, interesting takeaway: changing my behaviour because I want the fossil record to be more accurate.

In combing this thinking with my new use of photography, my call to action went from ‘I want to remember everyday’, to, ‘I want to be reminded of everyday’. So I put together the watch camera below. A camera, a timer and a flash memory drive. It takes a picture every ten minutes and it goes everywhere I go. A trace of the mudane, the melancholy and the habitual. A reminder of the passing of time, but also a route back through the sequence.

Wafaa Bilal, the NYC artist did a similar project where he had a camera implanted in the back of his head. He was exploring surveillance (his images were immediately available online) and the things we leave behind (the camera was in the back of his head) and many people have done 1 image a day.

It also works a non-prescriptive documenting of an individual, like Pete’s beautiful map of a year. A graphic of what a you, behaves like. We’ve talk about this element in our work with Lambeth Collaborative recently. This is more side-effect than intention. I should stress, the images are only intended for me. There is no suggestion that a record of persons life is interesting to anyone else. They’re only appearing here as proof.

This is clearly a beta prototype, more about surfacing questions that refining an object. How much of a role should aesthetic and composition play in photos? How aware should I be when the picture is being taken and how aware should others be? Where should the camera be located, clearly watch level isn’t quite right. I’ll deal with these as prototyping continues, glasses seem the the obvious next step. There are plenty of other issues too, such as privacy, editing and how we revisit the images. Is instagram the place where I should naturally be encountering these photos?

For now though, I’m more conscious of how a day is made up. I’m always near a laptop. I go to bed far too late. It’s the routine bits that jump out.

As I was posting this Chris noted the Autographer which looks really interesting.

Proposition: The Anti-Camera

Back Scroll To Media

Proposition: The Anti-Camera

Sam Hill

7th June 2012

(Photo courtesy of Russell Davies)

Cameras as Diminutive Relays

Whilst we’re waiting for Paul to ready himself for the second round of Paul’s Gamble, we’re kicking off a research project based upon a relatively nascent behaviour, practised by many folk to varying extents. It’s become a bit of a contentious bugbear in the studio, but I find myself doing it all the time. To illustrate, here’s a quote pulled right from the bleeding edge of contemporary culture, The Blair Witch Project (1999):

Doomed Teen #1: “I see why you like this video camera so much.”

Doomed Teen #2: “You do?”

Doomed Teen #1: “It’s not quite reality. It’s like a totally filtered reality. It’s like you can pretend everything’s not quite the way it is… It’s not the same on film is it? I mean, you know it’s real, but it’s like looking through the lens gives you some sort of protection from what’s on the other side.”

I don’t personally take issue with video cameras being used as creative tools, or to document and share events with others. I appreciate (and actively condone) the importance of creating or finding mementos, which cameras do very well. The relationship between value of experience and the fallibility of memory is something we believe is vitally important to explore. The real issue is in the way cameras are used during salient, important events as a diminutive relay for experience. Camera phones being as ubiquitous as they are, it’s common at any public gathering – firework display, festival, parade or sunset in a beer garden – to see a forest of arms raised above heads, awkwardly waving miniature, two-dimensional proxies of the spectacle ahead. Everyone with their arm in the air is not looking at the point of interest, but their own screen, carefully making sure they are ‘capturing’ every detail for some assumed posterity.

The problem is, we become so distracted, busy trying to record these memorable events, that we’re actually missing out. Ironically, whilst making sure an imagined ‘future self’ has access to a tinny, shaky-cam approximation of what once occurred, we’re actually divorcing ourselves (our ‘current self’) from the moment, and any consequential sensory or emotional attachment.

The question for anyone who takes an interest in human experience is this: how might an individual find a way of living in the moment whilst also fulfilling the need a personal recording device appears to answer? We speculate this need goes beyond a social desire to share; it’s also to assuage a fear of forgetting – a concern that without the right prompts one cannot trust oneself to recall having been in such a place, and time, even when it seems so important.


Percolating Ideas

A few interesting things have come up recently – pub discussions, new applications of technology and ideas from literature, which have fuelled our development of what we’re calling the ‘Anti-Camera’.

Proust’s Madelines

In Swann’s Way, the first volume of Proust’s epic novel In Search of Lost Time, the narrator describes the involuntary memory triggered upon tasting a madeline dipped in tea. He recalls having tasted the same thing in his youth, and this recurrence – like a wormhole through space-time – takes him back to that moment and other memories that followed.

The link between memory and smell/ taste is well researched; the olfactory bulb is part of the limbic system – an area of the brain closely associated with memory. We really liked the idea that a time could be ‘stamped’ in some way by a strong taste or olfactory sensation – and then recalled later by re-experiencing the same flavour.

Black Mirror: The Entire History Of You

A ‘solution’ of sorts was modelled in the third episode of Black Mirror, written by Jesse Armstrong and directed by Brian Welsh. A theoretical passive recording device would allow us live out salient moments without distraction, but still have them recorded to remember – or more correctly re-experience (The distinction between the two is quite interesting).  The program takes a cynical view of such a technology, and how it might have a degrading effect on our lives, but it prompts an interesting discussion on the role of technology in aiding or subverting memory.

Olly/ Foundry @ Mint Digital

The good guys from last year’s Mint Foundry did some nice prototyping to figure out how to interface smell-delivery systems via Arduino. They demonstrated how it was possible to release smell on demand digitally, and their experiments eventually led to Olly.

Piesse’s “Smell Organ”

Annoyingly, I can’t remember the source (a Bruce Sterling tweet?), but there’s an amazing entry in The Dead Media Project about a pipe organ designed by a French chemist in the 1920’s to “translate music into corresponding odors” – essentially an instrument that would play olfactory translations of classical pieces. The most profound aspect of this idea was the careful selection of which smell would represent each note, and how the treble and bass clef would complement each other. There’s a fantastically literal parallel between music and perfume’s high/ top notes and low/ end notes:

Look Outside, Y’all

So says creator Tom Scott:

@LookOutsideYall is a Twitter bot that checks Instagram once a day, a few minutes before sunset. If it sees that a good proportion of photos around London are tagged or described with sunset, then it’ll tell the internet that it, collectively, should go outside and take a look at it.”

All the news surrounding Instagram’s popularity and assumed value illustrates how preoccupied we are with recording moments in time. Tom’s project further demonstrates how often people are using their camera phones to capture beautiful, fleeting moments. The apex of any crepuscular event is short, but this is when we’re bowing our heads and fiddling with technology – choosing filters, finding signal, signing in, writing hashtags…

The subtle difference in Instagram however is it’s quasi digi-folk artistry – we use it creatively to express a sense of something to others, not as a way to jog our own memories.

The Descriptive Camera


We got quite excited when Matt Richardson’s Descriptive Camera began to hit the feeds. Here was a device that took the photo out of the camera – and it was brilliant. Matt’s description of the purpose for such speculative tech was as follows:

“As we amass an incredible amount of photos, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage our collections. Imagine if descriptive metadata about each photo could be appended to the image on the fly.”

This was a smart idea, and such an application of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk was inspired, but we thought the real beauty here was in providing all the qualities of a camera without the photo.

Make-Your-Own-Perfume services

It turns out there is an enormous mass-customisation market in personalised perfumes, which has made the science of fragrance composition accessible to consumers – and more transparent for us.


 


The Anti-Camera

The idea is this: the Anti-Camera doesn’t record anything, nor does it output any simulacra. Rather, it coerces our mind into recollecting the essence of a moment – something less tangible than an image can capture. The device is designed to tag a moment in time with a unique olfactory identifier code – a bespoke smell. Then, when wishing to recall the moment at their leisure, the user of such a device could recreate the unique smell.

Olfactory Composition

Initially, we thought it would be satisfactory to use a binary, 8-bit smell generator – i.e. 8 smells, either on or off, allowing 256 combinations from 00000001 to 11111111. However, this method would provide very little distinction between neighbouring, or otherwise similar smells.

Instead, we’ve been looking at creating olfactory identifier codes composed of three parts – a top note, a middle note and an end note. For example, combining three ‘magazines’, each containing eight note ‘cells’, would allow for 512 permutations. Modern perfumers have access to several thousand unique ingredients, so many further magazines could be used in different combinations, allowing practically endless permutations.

Form

At first, we wondered if the anti-camera should still skeuomorphically conform to a camera-esque typology (weight, size, right-of-centre button etc.). There were the usual arguments for and against…


… at this stage we’re leaning towards making something completely different. Here’s an early concept sketch:

Next Steps – Prototyping

It’s early days and we’ve got a lot of theory floating around. Moving forwards we’re planning to get a few proof-of-concept models under way, testing to see if the idea will withstand some critical interrogation.

Sensory Deprivation Experience

Back Scroll To Media

Sensory Deprivation Experience

Sam Hill

7th February 2012

Last week I made use of my first ever Groupon purchase – a one hour session in a floatation tank.

My understanding was that such experiences centre around sensory deprivation – no sight, no sound, no smell… the body is kept buoyant by a salt solution, heated to human body temperature, which nullifies the effects of gravity and creates a sensation of weightlessness.

The value of sensory deprivation is very interesting from a theoretical perspective. After all, if the theories we’re exploring suggest rich experiences are ultimately dependent on sensory input, and implicitly improved by greater intensity of sensation, then what would it mean to completely deny oneself of sensation as a route to experience? Can experiences be internalised? Would attempting to do so validate or invalidate our argument? Promotional literature for floatation therapy seems to suggest it is an enlightening, zen-like experience – placing the individual in a quasi-meditative state. It raises some fairly difficult issues regarding the experiential benefit of meditative thought. Obviously, this one-off event was always going to be novel in any case and would so be an enriching experience regardless of how little sensation was technically delivered – but are there long term experiential benefits to dedicating time to meditative thought (when time is such a precious commodity)?

Using the Floatation Tank

As it happened, the experience wasn’t a completely perfect case for analysis. Though it was more than adequate for it’s intended uses (relaxation, physiotherapy, catharsis) the tank did not truly deny all sensation – a tiny amount of light leaked in through the fixings, nearby traffic was just audible through the ear plugs, the water was slightly warmer than body temperature. Though this seems like nit-picking, there is a world of difference between fractional sensation and none whatsoever. In addition, this was the first time I’d done anything like floatation therapy so, as the instructor expected, it took (me) my mind quite a while to adjust to the change – I felt like my brain was urgently firing off a jumble of thoughts for the first quarter of an hour to compensate for the strange environment.

Having said all that I did, I think, get into a different mindset about half way through the hour. I felt calm, adjusted and numb. I lost track of time. The tension melted from postural muscles I didn’t realise I was knotting.  A few joints had popped and snapped in very satisfying ways. My consciousness had exhausted it’s analysis of the context and was looking inwards.

I’ll be very honest with you. I actually felt incredibly contented. Not happy, necessarily, but just very comfortable with where I was. Doing nothing. The immediate future did not matter, nor did the world outside the water tank. Then inevitably the discussion I’d been having with Ben a few weeks ago percolated up through my subconscious. I remember we discussed what it means to limit oneself from interacting with the surrounding world. I realised I was (with no melodrama implied) closer to “death” than I’d ever been. That’s not to say I was in any real way close to dying, of course, but I was removed from existence as much as a rational and lucid mind could be – I had severed any real link with (weasel word) ‘reality’ and was inhabiting an abstract non-context.

I then did a very stupid thing and rubbed my eyes. My fingers were covered in the magnesium sulphate solution and it caused a fairly nasty stinging sensation I couldn’t escape from. It probably wouldn’t have been that bad normally but this was the only thing I could feel, which meant it was the only thing I could think about. I snapped out of any kind of state that I might have been in and was jerked back into reality. It was difficult from that point on to return to any kind of meditative or theta-level state.

The idea that pain can bring an individual from a state of detachment to feeling alive synchronises well with a ‘pure’ experiential viewpoint, which suggests that all sensations (good or bad) have a richness of value. However I was startled by a more sinister parallel – using pain to feel connected and alive is sometimes cited as one psychological explanation for self harm. This should be acknowledged, I feel, but it should also be noted that emotional detachment and sensory detachment are two very different fish kettles.

Conclusion

Research into sensory deprivation appears to show there are cognitive benefits associated with occasional use but as with anything, prolonging sessions provides diminishing returns, eventually becoming counter-productive.

Returning to the difficult question ‘is there an experiential value in meditation?’, the issue is clearly more than a little complex. Unfortunately I’ve not much personal experience to draw from, other than this isolated event.

There are many interpretations of what meditation means and what purpose it serves. A cynic might claim it is mostly a waste of time – certainly an individual engaged in meditation is ‘doing’ nothing, so how can it be seen to be productive?

Is this fair? We might say one of the many interpretations is that meditation is a process conducive for focused thought. If this were so, then perhaps yes, it could be perceived as experientially rich, because concentrated enquiry can help us to rationalise, conclude and review – to make knowledge from data.

Applications

Knowledge is a critical element of experience value. This implies that an appropriate meditative session should be undertaken soon after any experientially rich happening in order to help exploit the maximum experiential potential from it. If this were the case, how would that effect the closure of experience-services, such as the credits to a film, or the returning flight from a holiday?

Sensory deprivation can also be very useful when used in combination with any tele- or pseudo-sensory application. That is to say, if there is a desire to have an individual be completely immersed in a non-local experience then they should be sensationally divorced from their immediate context. Some culturally close-to-hand examples include the ubiquitous goo baths of Minority Report, The Matrix, BSG and Avatar.

goo baths – from various sci-fi sources

Another more tangible example is Auger & Loizeau’s Isophone – paired communication devices that ensures the individuals using them have each other’s undivided attention.

Auger-Loizeau’s Isophone  – original source here

Define Intervention

Back Scroll To Media

Define Intervention

Sam Hill

30th January 2012

Experiential interventions (systems designed to improve the quality of experience for an individual) can essentially be split into two groups. One is an event – something that occupies a specific period in time and most likely a particular place, or context. The other is a passive effect and can change an individual’s perception of their circumstances, and thus the actions they commit.

Experience Value

The below graph is an illustration of ‘Experience Value’, a concept we often use to explain the benefit of applying experience-design thinking. Experience Value is what an individual retains from ‘events’ (moments of time), in the form of memory; a mental record of how they felt, both emotionally and sensationally, as well as the knowledge they acquired. The more intense the experience, and the longer the period over which it is sustained, the more experience value that is accrued and the stronger the memories that will be retained.

Experience value is essentially an intangible commodity that represents richness of life. By visualising it graphically we can explain how to generate experiences through a design process.

Intervention Type #1 – time and context dependant

The first way to enrich someone’s life is to create an event with a beginning, middle and end. This event will typically be a break from normal routine. It could last an indefinite amount of time – seconds or years – but it is probably not sustainable as a constant way of being. Many formats for this kind of experiential interaction will already be familiar to most people – watching a film, a day at a theme park, playing football, eating a chilli pepper, going on a cruise, being surprised by a car back-firing etc. These events can be something that is paid for, but this isn’t necessarily always the case. They can be planned or accidental; man-made or natural.

Intervention Type #2 – perception augmentation

The second type of intervention is a change to what already exists. It affects daily life. It is applying a lens, or filter, in order to enhance or recontextualise (refresh) experiences of the otherwise mundane. It catalyses salient events. It might literally be a pair of rose-tinted glasses. Or perhaps it is the period of reflection that occurs after a near-death experience. It might be the psychological effect of wearing expensive clothes, or having one’s prejudices challenged during an argument. It could be an effect from the use of narcotics. Perhaps it can also be retroactive – such as having a camera recall and reinforce one’s memories. The Proustian madeline serves a similar purpose.

(More information on Experience Value theory can be found here)

You Me Bum Bum Train

Back Scroll To Media

You Me Bum Bum Train

Sam Hill

24th January 2012

 

YMBBT_2_cover

The extended 2011-’12 run of immersive theatre experience You Me Bum Bum Train (YMBBT) has now finished. This means it’s now pretty much okay to talk about what happens during a show. Whilst it was still running it was definitely, definitely NOT okay to talk about it. If you’ve plans to attend a future performance and don’t know anything about the overall format you may not want to read on.

The name doesn’t really mean anything, by the way.

The event was started in 2004 by artists Kate Bond and Morgan Lloyd. This is how they describe it in their own words:

You Me Bum Bum Train is an experiential form of live art that will leave you completely overwhelmed. As a sole participant, you are taken in a wheelchair on a bizarre voyage … Unlike any other theatrical experience, the show is based around you: the only audience member throughout the entire journey. The intense nature of the ride makes You Me Bum Bum Train a most unique, unforgettable adventure … You are continuously catapulted into unimaginable situations”

YMBBT is sort of like a haunted house ride taken to the extreme. However, instead of focusing all immersive activity around one theme – as seen in parallel productions from  Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema – the energy of YMBBT comes from the deliberately jarring nature of each successive scene – the experience is similar to walking through an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. What’s lost in cohesive narrative is made up for in variety and intensity – some scenes are very quiet and intimate, others fleeting, and some requiring literally crowds of actors.

The show has steadily grown in the last seven years and has received increasingly more acclaim and attention. Critics and fans such as Steven Fry received it very warmly, tweeting:

“Holy hound dog! “You Me Bum Bum Train” the theatrical experience of my life. Exhilarating, scary, brilliant, breathtaking and SO original <3″

This year it occupied much of Holborn Tower’s cavernous interior – a former postal sorting office on New Oxford St. An audience member (or ‘Passenger’) wouldn’t have known this however, as within the aircraft hanger-sized space the ride/ show took the form of many variously sized rooms, connected by a series tubes and corridors like a giant hamster playpen. The sheer scale of the production was staggering – There were about 20 different environments, each one meticulously designed and built from scratch. Some scenes were enormous. Every night required a cast of 200, performing 70 times to as many audience members. Including stage hands, technicians, set-builders and administrators the contributors list quickly escalates into something like 2-3000.

This creates a very interesting situation. More people worked on the show than those who ended up consuming it. Or to put it another way, more people were experiencing the show as a contributor than as a passenger. Tickets were almost impossible to come by – the original 800 sold out within 10 minutes (and the site suffered over 80,000 hits during that time). As an odd consequence, many of the actors and other volunteers that became involved did so because they weren’t able to source tickets themselves.

Two members of PAN were amongst that number. We volunteered ourselves as designers and actors and had an amazing time. I did have some photos of the stuff we worked on but was asked to delete them to retain an overall element of secrecy. I suppose you have to respect that.

(One scene from a previous year of YMBBT – you can see how well each scenario is fleshed out)

The economics and logistics of an endeavour like this deserve some scrutiny, because it would be great if there was more stuff like it out there. YMBBT is not-for-profit, but it relies so heavily on goodwill that it could hardly exist in any other way. Generally, for a project of this sort, income opportunities would come from ticket sales, sponsorship, investors and governmental arts funding schemes/ grants. The tickets could have been prohibitively expensive and still have sold, but they were deliberately kept accessible and democratically available (having said that, at ~£35 a ticket, they would seem expensive if you didn’t know what to expect).

Typical expenditure for a project like this would include production, location hire, organisation and talent. For YMBBT, many of the materials and props were skilfully begged, borrowed and scrounged; amazing considering the attention to detail. The cast and crew were the real saving grace however – everyone I met appeared to be volunteering their time for free, with many people dedicating whole months to make sure the show went on. Within the community that developed the dedication to the cause seemed practically fanatical.

The most inspiring thing for us was seeing the potential of a good idea being scaled over several years to create something extraordinary. Many of the passengers have called the 40-minute show “the best thing they have ever done”. That’s not just their favourite theatrical experience, but the best possible experience of their lives’. To know that designing and engineering such events is possible is more than a little bit motivating.

(edit: To further retain secrecy, mentions of specific scenes have been removed at the request of YMBBT)

This Is Why You’re Festive

Back Scroll To Media

This Is Why You’re Festive

Sam Hill

1st December 2011

Today we launched This Is Why You’re Festive, a combined advent calendar and high-street sandwich review blog. Updates’ll be posted daily on @PAN_studio. The project leads on from some exploration we’ve been doing into experience and food. The premise is as follows:

“…For the grown adult sans offspring, the wonder and nostalgia of a childhood Christmas really only lives on through the tastes, sights and smells of a decent Christmas Dinner – a magical combination of sausages wrapped in bacon, cheese wrapped in bacon, roasties, sprouts and turkey.

Many supermarkets, coffee franchises and fast food establishments have cottoned on to this gustatory link to the past and have attempted to commodify it, portioning out festive joy in the form of pre-packaged, mayonnaise saturated turkey sandwiches.

Which begs the question: which off-the-shelf festive foodstuff best conjures up an authentic and sincere *Christmassy* feeling?”

What constitutes a “Christmassy feeling”?

Feeling “festive” (in the platonic sense) is obviously going to be subjective and varied. So to be a bit more specific – how do you describe that typical cocktail of emotions felt as a young (santa fearing) kid, in the west, in the run up to Christmas?

There are two parts – the anticipation, which starts around about the first of December (or after Guy Fawkes/ Thanksgiving) and builds until the frenzied insomnia of Christmas eve, and the climactic release on Christmas morning, with the opening of presents, chocolate, visiting of family, dinner and other rituals.

Arguably, the cocktail is greater than the sum of it’s parts: the “Christmas feeling” is a hybrid of excitement, anticipation, wonder, receipt of attention and family love and a faith in magic. It’s enforced by natural cues (darker nights, frost, fog, occasionally snow) and cultural ones (advertisements, decorations, school holidays, religious activity etc.). It’s difficult to imagine a parallel state of mind, it might as well be a discreet emotion in it’s own right.

Designing the Feeling of Christmas

It’s no wonder then that we make efforts to recreate this state as adults, even through the paltry gestures of packaged sandwiches. Unfortunately conditions change – the faith in magic is lost; expectations are lowered and tempered by the politics and etiquette of gift-giving; prolonged family interactions can cause stress; we worry about what we eat; social expectations must be met – there is an obligation to perform in certain ways.

It’s curious then, to imagine how an emotional state as powerful as a “Christmas feeling” could be authentically induced in adults. Not a rehash of jaded childhood values, but something adapted to subvert the socially matured and pragmatic mindset. Schmaltzy festive cinema does this to a small extent, but as a medium it’s hardly engaging enough to illicit a lasting effect.

Janet Cardiff: The Missing Voice (Case Study B)

Back Scroll To Media

Janet Cardiff: The Missing Voice (Case Study B)

Ben Barker

25th November 2011

It might be ten years old and I’m definitely guilty of being that amount out of date, but Janet Cardiff’s audio tour at the Whitechapel gallery, The Missing Voice (Case Study B), is an enchanting aural dream through the back streets of Whitechapel and Brick Lane. In no way obsessed with historical details but instead a journey into the memories of the female narrator and the sounds of East London.

Cardiff’s work is filmic. The girl with the red hair, the overtones (and they are overtones not subtle or implied) of crime and romance. The beauty lies in the tension between the visual, which is real and makes physical demands on you and the audio track which is poetic and pulls you out of reality then dumps you back in with street names and warnings of danger. There are jokes that knock on the fourth wall (or one of the walls anyway) too, like a warning to cross the road carefully which is followed by the sound of a motorbike accelerating past.

James, not doing it for the first time, assured me that the experience hasn’t lost anything, even if it has spanned the change from diskman to iPod. It might even have gained a detective element given the many changes to the area in the ten or more years since it’s recording.

Cardiff makes you look in the streets for protagonists to play the roles in her switching narratives. Then serves memorable observations for you to attach to them, an idea that stuck with me went something like: ‘I look at the builders and wonder if they know that they are the creators of the city.’

At one point on the route I unknowingly dropped a lens cap. A man saw and was calling for my attention, but so good is the sound that I dismissed it as part of the experience. Only at the end of the street when I turned and saw him waving at me did I realise that Cardiff had completely woven me into her London.

The earphones empower too. They take you down streets you might otherwise avoid, into churches you did’t know you could enter and have you staring at strangers you would otherwise avoid.

The Whitechapel gallery describes the experience as a ‘twilight zone of aural hallucination’. It is.

Earphones and Selective Reality

Back Scroll To Media

Earphones and Selective Reality

Sam Hill

20th November 2011

It’s feasible an average commuting city worker might wear earphones between 5 and 12 hours a day. In some places they’re ubiquitous – on the train, in the office, on the high street – so much as to have become invisible.

This is fine of course – it’s not a criticism, just an observation. Personal experience reveals journeys are less stressful if the sound of a baby crying can be blocked; work is achieved more efficiently without the ambient distractions of an open-plan office.

But the observation does come with a hefty question in tow. It’s equally typical that the aforementioned worker might spend up to 15-16 hours a day looking at screens, but there is a significant difference: screens are not all encompassing. They can be looked away from, or around, and we can shut our eyes. Conversely, personal headphones are supposed to be all encompassing; they are supposed to override all ambient noise.

What does it mean then, to block out the world around you: to usurp an important link to one’s environment for so much of the time?

Context

The personal stereo is about 25 years old and has gone through multiple format changes. Significantly, the MP3 player massively opened up the potential for people to carry their “entire” music collections with them. Another (slightly overlooked) innovation has been Spotify for mobile, which allows someone to listen to any song they can call to mind from practically any location through their smartphone, 3G and ‘the cloud’. Even making allowances for licensing and signal strength, that’s an incredible thought isn’t it? Any song, any place, any time. From prehistory up until 150 years ago, the only way to hear music was to be in the same space as the instrument. There is an incredibly liberating cultural power that comes with the tech we now wield.

Voluntary Schism from Reality

To take a critical sensation like hearing and hack it’s primarily informative/exploratory role to instead supply entertainment will certainly have a significant effect on one’s perception of reality. Granted, ‘reality’ is a weasely, subjective term, but the choice will still affect an individual’s capacity to perceive their immediate environment. Critically, the user of earphones has made a choice: they are listening to what they want to, regardless of whether it’s what she should listen to. They have been granted the power to exert an amount of control on sensory input, and how they engage with their environment. Whether or not there is an experiential  ‘compromise’ going on is contentious.

For example, consider a typical 40 minute train commute. Coincidently, 40 minutes is the approximate length of time of an average album. So within a week’s commute it might be possible to listen to roughly 10 new albums. Doing so would impart a constant, fairly rich supply of fresh experience. On the other hand, listening instead to the daily sounds of a train carriage would probably be emotionally and sensationally lacking, most of the time. However, occasionally the ambient noise of a journey might yield (experiential) gems: eavesdropping on an argument, a phone call or the ramblings of an alcoholic.

Most likely, the album-listening route would be more rewarding in the long term, and so within this context could be considered experientially condonable. But is this true beyond the commute?

Boundaries

Has society had time to adjust to the power of being able to limit depth of engagement with the physical world? Do we understand the point at which the benefit becomes a hurdle – when a delivery mechanism for experience becomes an obstacle? The thought first occurred to me when I saw a father carrying a toddler in his arms through a park. The father had white earphones hanging from his ears and a vacant expression. The kid was babbling and humming and blowing raspberries at his dad but he was completely oblivious. The sight, an abuse of technological power, made me instantly uncomfortable. The fact this man had wilfully placed a barrier between himself and his son, to the detriment of them both, made me incredibly angry, actually. In this instance it wasn’t strangers on the tube being phased out of attention but immediate family. It seemed wrong by every measure of quality.

I’ve also been amazed to see cyclists weave through traffic whilst listening to music. In my experience it seems necessary to dedicated every possible faculty to cycling in a built-up environment. Granted, there might be marginally more experiential value in cycling to music, but is the pay-off worth the risk of failing to identify peripheral hazards? After all, a premature death will reduce an individuals net lifetime experience acquired, quite drastically.

By Analogy

In a recent workshop we held at Goldsmith’s College, a design student ran a quick experiment to limit their exposure to unpleasant smells. They subverted their olfactory sense by keeping a perfumed cloth over their nose whilst walking through bad smelling places.

The student realised within a few hours that living with a single abstract ‘pleasant’ smell was less desirable than having access to countless neutral and unpleasant odours – odours which were still relevant and contextually grounded.

Augmented Cinema

Back Scroll To Media

Augmented Cinema

Sam Hill

24th October 2011

Last night I saw The Matrix Live at the Royal Albert Hall – a showing of the original 1999 motion picture, but with a live orchestra performing the score. It was phenomenal. The NDR Pops Orchestra perfectly captured the epic melodrama of Don Davis’ original soundtrack, with it’s relentless use of violins, and the big brass/ timpani crescendos. The venue was perfect for it and the film itself had aged quite well for such a stylised piece of science fiction.

The experience was similar to a treatment of 2001: A Space Odyssey by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices, which I caught last year at the Royal Festival Hall and was absolutely bowled over by. It was brilliant and haunting and an unparalleled sensory experience. Loads of other films (Star Wars in Concert for example) have received a similar treatment, and cinematic performances have diversified in many other ways too.

This brings to mind a number of questions about what makes the cinematic experience brilliant, as it is, and when it’s appropriate to toy with the format.

It might be helpful to analyse what the two film have in common to see why they were chosen:

  • To start with, 2001 and The Matrix are both excellent, popular movies with incredible scores.
  • They have a large replay value.
  • They are oscar winning classics and have endured long enough to remain relevant.
  • They are both unashamedly ostentatious and ambitious works of cinema.

I doubt this style of adaptation would work for films that do not obey theses criteria, as good as they still might be. Shrek (2001) for example, is a perfectly good film – funny, innovative and enduring, but it probably lacks the gravitas to warrant a full blown orchestra. Though new, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is, at the time of writing, a critically acclaimed release; but to build a proximate intervention between it and the audience would be a disservice: the movie-goer has not yet seen it as it was meant to be seen, so it shouldn’t be tampered with yet.

A rough logic is beginning to fall in to place.

Already Good

Going to the cinema is a fairly unique activity: it can only really be considered a semi-social event, seeing as talking is actively discouraged. Despite this, it’s one of the most popular public leisure activities of the last century. In a way, it’s incredible to think that though we can spend most of our working day looking at screens, and have the opportunity to go home and watch anything we want off more screens from the comfort of a sofa, we consider it a treat to instead occasionally leave the house and view another, bigger screen, at a relatively premium rate. There must be good reasons for this, surely?

Progress in delivering new experiences is important, but if the following assets of cinema are undermined too far then any intervention will be rendered distracting rather than immersive; a diminishment of the cinematic experience, not an augmentation.

What makes cinema great? –

  • First off, there is the complete, unavoidable immersion – the film stretches to the edge of the viewer’s peripheral vision and the audio overrides all other noise.
  • It’s romantic – the ritual of the popcorn, the trailers, the sense of shared experience and the analytical post-drinks.
  • It’s an easy, comfortable and passive activity to take part in, the viewer need only sit, look and listen – sometimes that’s all we want to do.
  • Finally, there’s the quality, of both narrative and production. Cinema is arguably the king of story-telling and continues to remain at the very frontier of our qualitative expectations in so many respects.

Future Cinema

(photo credit: Saulius Patumsis via Flickr)

I mentioned cinema performances have diversified in other ways. One group that seem to consistently nail immersive, film-centric nights are Future Cinema. As their site reads:

Future Cinema is a live events company that specialise in creating living, breathing experiences of the cinema…Future Cinema aim to bring the concept of ‘experience’ back to the cinema-going world.

Specialising in bringing events to life through a unique fusion of film, improvised performances, detailed design and interactive multimedia, Future Cinema create wholly immersive worlds that stretch the audience’s imagination and challenge their expectations.

The activities they organised for Blade Runner, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Top Gun and Watchmen have become somewhat legendary in London. Future Cinema are currently the authority on cinematic experience.

What Else?

As well as use of theatre to blur the edges of the screen, there are further tools both upcoming and established, that are employed to affect our cinema experience. 3D glasses for example, faced their first seriously commercial acid test with Avatar (2009), but seem now to be well established. The super-wide IMAX screenings are arguably even more immersive than conventional cinema and showings are often very popular. New and unusual locations for temporary cinemas are always cropping up, which provide a break of style from the multiplexes we’re used to. Olfactory stimulation (“smell-o-vision”) is a gimmick occasionally used with films for kids (see Spy Kids 4 in 4-D Aroma-scope(2011)) and in a dozen or so theme parks internationally they go a little further with a show called Pirates 4-D, a slightly cheesy film (starring Eric Idle and the late Leslie Nielsen) with “4-D effects” involving water cannons, bursts of air, vibrating seats and wires which push against the viewers feet

A friend described once how he went to the cinema to see a preview of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (2007), a film set on a space ship heading towards the sun. He saw it in the middle of the 2007 summer heatwave, and the cinema’s air conditioning broke down. Sweating as he sat, he didn’t know if he was a victim of a PR stunt or was suffering an onset of psychosomosis caused by the film. In any case, the experience stayed with him.

Edit (I): London Dungeon have further strained the idea of extra-“dimensional” cinema by introducing a 5D ride – ‘Vengeance‘. This includes 3D vision, a number of techniques similar to Pirates 4-D (air blasts, water sprays, vibrations etc.), and laser-sighted pistols which allow the whole audience to play a cooperative, interactive game onscreen.

Edit (II): Another phenomenon that deserves looking at is audience-initiated or cinema-facilitated activity associated with certain cult films. The Room (2003), often cited as the “best, worst film ever made” serves as a really good example. A ritual has grown around the film – the audience join in with the dialogue, greet the characters as they appear, shout satirical comments and throw plastic spoons at the screen. The effect is that one of the worst films ever produced allows for one of the most energetic and entertaining cinematic experiences possible. In a similar vein, Grease, Rocky Horror and Sound of Music are often shown in independent cinemas on special sing-a-long nights, and tend to feature a degree of cosplay.

An infamous clip from "The Room":

 

A Brief Musing On Theme Parks

Back Scroll To Media

A Brief Musing On Theme Parks

Chris Waggott

29th August 2011

I’m fascinated by theme parks. Not because of the roller coasters or thrill rides, I can take or leave them…

What gets me going is the childish delight from entering imagined spaces, with their caricatured constructs of fibreglass rocks and hessian sacks.

Image taken from http://www.cwoainsider.co.uk

Images taken from http://www.chessingtonbuzz.co.uk and http://themeuk.net

One of my personal favourites is the Transylvanian area of Chesington world of adventure, with large cartoonish Germanic half-timbered buildings, gargoyles, bat motifs and eerie organ music wafting out of cobwebbed windows.

When walking into one of these areas reality becomes suspended, and a fictional scenario is played out around you through every device possible;

The physical constructs of the space and layout; the sounds that are pumped out of small speakers hidden in the rocks; the strange musty smells; they all add together to create a multi-dimensional story that you can interact with. What’s especially interesting is when this narrative bleeds into the rides – this is something I think deserves looking deeper into.

Image taken from http://www.altontowers.com/

The best example I can think of is ‘Hex’ at Alton Towers.

On it’s own, it’s a rather mediocre ride, but incorporating the queue into the experience takes the visitor on a trip through a  semi-fabricated history full of witches and cursed trees. The attention to detail is amazing, with film, sound and set dressing all coming together to give the audience a complete narrative experience.

Over the next couple of months I’m intending to look deeper into the subject of theme parks as examples of multi-dimensional narrative constructs and experience, and discuss people using similar ideas in their work such as Brendon Walker and his Thrill Laboratory, but for now I’ll leave you with the radness of the film from Hex:

Playmakers

Back Scroll To Media

Playmakers

Sam Hill

8th August 2011

Playmakers is a film on immersive gaming – a collaborative project between Hide & Seek, NESTA and ThinkPublic.

It features a good range of speakers from the sector and contains some interesting insights. It also demonstrates (in a surprisingly frank way) the ad hoc and experimental nature of immersive game development, illustrating why it’s important to remember the KISS principle when orchestrating events that are designed to be engaging and fun.

Some of the other difficulties and objectives of experiential events are outlined – the need to avoid esoterism, the importance of having objectives and narrative seamlessly work together and the psychology of keeping players immersed. Interesting parallels are drawn throughout to other social activities that “share DNA” – protests, carnivals, parkour and theatre. Obviously, theatre is a biggy. Computer games are slightly conspicuous in their exclusion.

An interesting idea is presented near the beginning of the film [01:50] by Hide & Seek’s Alex Fleetwood. He appears to be describing the four quadrants of their interest. Here it is visualised:

It’s a really nice territory for enquiry. What’s more, Alex’s criteria reveal a robust set of parameters when extrapolated:

Immersive gaming incorporates a dedicated core of researchers and creative thinkers. The industry seems to be gaining plenty of momentum and makes an excellent case study for the development of a broader experience culture. A lot can be learned from a decade of keenly analysed experiential events and the potential within the sector remains huge and continuously changing.

Pipe Dream Restaurant

Back Scroll To Media

Pipe Dream Restaurant

Sam Hill

24th July 2011

“A pipe dream is a fantastic hope or plan that is generally regarded as being nearly impossible to achieve. At Pipe Dream we don’t believe in the impossible!”

Pipe Dream Restaurant, which is based in Southgate, takes a novel new approach to selling experiences. It serves two distinct but reciprocating clientèle:

  1. restaurant goers willing to take a risk on their dining experience;
  2. people who dream of running, or cooking in, a professional restaurant.

The concept is brilliantly meta – a case of business-as-entertainment come full circle. It appears heavily inspired by programmes such as The Apprentice and Four in a Bed, but mostly the glut of competition cookery shows such as Masterchef and The Restaurant which have become a staple of British television. Pipe Dream gives participants the opportunity to live-out the “if you can’t stand the heat” drama that they’ll recognise from Ramsay-esque bootcamp quest-u-mentaries. Perhaps for an additional cost the facilitators provide realtime sarcastic narration in a Come Dine With Me style.

It’s not clear from the website how the model is financed. Do the have-a-go chefs pay for their experience (something Gilmore and Pine would condone), or share a cut of the evenings profits? Do the restaurant’s guests have their bill subsidised to compensate for the jeopardy? Or is there a no-quibble returns policy on the food?

It’s seems like a very British, foodie take on ARK Music Factory. ARK are best known for being the vanity label that produced Rebecca Black’s notorious pop song Friday. From our perspective the criticism they received always seemed a little unfair. It’s arguable that rather than working as an “independent label” as they maintain, ARK are actually providing a bespoke premium experiential service, an immersive fantasy, for which the market is in fact the ‘talent’, not the prospective audience (Rebecca’s mother paid $4000 for the release).

Pipe Dream might be seen then, in other words, as a “vanity restaurant”. This isn’t at all a bad thing. They should be congratulated for being an adventurous enterprise and we wish them all the best. If delivering a compelling service means occasionally learning lessons from the entertainment industry, then why not?

Perhaps we could see Ice Road Trucker For The Day or Pipe Dream Alaskan Fishing within the year.