We’ve now had around 12,000 player messages come through on Hello Lamp Post. The website randomly cycles approved questions and answers, but we thought it might be interesting for you to see what our favourite responses are – the ones that have made us smile the most while moderating content.
The three main themes behind our enquiry are around shared observations, memories and opinions – we’re trying to give people a context and platform to be more mindful of the environment around them, to trigger their most salient memories of the places they live in, and to communicate these things, along with their perspective and learnings, to each other.
With that in mind, have a look at these…
If you listen carefully, what’s the quietest thing you can hear?
Via parking meter #2995: “Fingers clenched to moving parasols”
Via lamp post #21: “The wine sloshing in my back pack”
Via lamp post #3: “I’m blasting drum and bass through my headphones, nothing is quiet…”
Can you smell something?
Via lamp post #103: “Fresh broad beans – I’m podding some now and can’t resist popping one or two from each pod in my mouth raw. Yum.”
Via bench #6bs: “Ice cream and dry kebab fat”
Via lamp post #1: “The fresh scent of the rain and the earth – the scent of the outdoors!”
I can’t turn. Can you tell me what’s behind me?
Via parking meter #2717: “Bristol Library. A most beautiful library and one of my favourites.”
Via station #bri1: “A man in a yellow Jamaican shirt with a pot plant in a plastic bag. But he’s more ‘in you’ than ‘behind you’.”
Via green box #6: “You are in front of Colston Hall, you must enjoy listening in on the concerts”
Tell me a childhood memory you remember well?
Via post box #bs4127: “I remember a very snowy day when we made a sledge to go and get some milk from the shops.”
Via bus stop #11020515: “Walking through Broadmead after watching a Doctor Who story about showroom dummies that come alive. Very scary.”
Via bridge #per1: “I remember when Peros bridge was built, people said the horns were ugly but they just fit in now.”
What’s your favourite memory of Bristol
Via Harbourside #hrb5: “Taking my son to see the Balloons take off at Ashton Court Balloon Fiesta for the first time. He was 4 years old ‘Come back balloons! I love you!’ ”
Via station #bri1: “My favourite memory of Bristol is celebrating St Pauls carnival 2010, it was my first after moving from London and I loved the energy and the jerk chicken!”
Via Harbourside #hrb5: “Surviving 2.8 hours later!”
How has Bristol changed, in the time that you’ve known it?
Via City Hall #ch1: “I’ve lived here for 25 years, and one really noticeable thing is the increase in COLOUR! I love how street art is flourishing here…”
Via City Hall #ch1: “Park St has less shops of interest but Stokes Croft on the other hand is now brim full of boutiques so maybe it’s a location thing?!”
Via City Hall #ch1: “Stokes Croft has gone from uninhabitable to somewhere I never want to leave.”
Are there any rules that you live by?
Via lamp post #hrb3: “The rules of the game. I just lost the game.”
Via bridge #per1: “Always hold hand when we cross the road.”
Via lamp post #350: “No I’m limitless”
If I was yours for the day, what would you write on me? (Asked by a billboard)
Via billboard #cabt: “Everything will be ok”
Via billboard #cabt: ” “I love you!” so that everyone who went past would think it was for them XD. ”
Via billboard #cabt: “I think I’d write ‘be excellent to each other’.”
What would be your super power? (And why?)
Via parking meter #2721: “To be able to grow money out of my belly button”
Via crane #29: “The ability to float above water – because we could make some side cash”
Via Biggles #2688: “Super beak that can tap tap tap on the top of peoples heads… Why: pick peoples brains”
We’ve had the camera dolly for a while now and it’s been really useful in film work, helping to achieve interesting cinematic results. We wanted to add a motor for longer time-lapse panning shots and eliminate any undesirable vibration. This was a good opportunity for us to tinker with motors, as well as explore the ferric chloride etching process for making circuit boards. The first test is below.
We took a 21.2W 156:1 geared DC motor which we’ve had on our shelf for a while and added a T5 timing pulley and belt combination.
One of our aims was to be able to control motor speed and direction. Luckily we already had a PWM motor regulator module which helped to solve variable speed problem.
To be in control of the direction in which the camera moves, we decided to use a ‘DPDT'(ON-OFF-ON) switch and two LEDs indicating direction in which the dolly is moving
The ferric chloride etching process proved to be quite effective for making a simple circuit board. After printing out the design, we ironed the transfer toner onto a copper plated board. Then with a fifteen minute ferric chloride bath and a tiny bit of careful drilling, we were left with this:
And here’s how it looks, soldered and boxed up:
We hope to share some more footage soon and get some nice applications out of it.
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.
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’.
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:
“@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.
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 idea is this: the Anti-Camera doesn’t record anything, nor does it output any simulacra. Rather, it coerces our mind into recollecting theessence 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.
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.
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.