a two day conference resulting from a five year programme to investigate the future of creative tech. This was the culmination, the final report back and showcase. It was an intriguing two days examining and reflecting on where we are and where we are going.
The conference was held over two venues: Bath Spa University - Locksbrook campus and the Watershed media centre, Bristol. I suspect this was to satisfy the sponsors, although to be honest I would have preferred just the one venue, as no doubt would have the exhibitors who had to haul their equipment between the two locations. At least in Bath, parking for the campus is relatively easy. While I'm mentioning set up, lunch was served at both locations, great, but only veggie vegan food. I don't mind veggie, we have it at home all the time, but I do object to vegan fake meat.
The highlight for me was seeing the small press/digital zines on display. I spent some time talking to various people involved in these activities. Having been involved in small press/underground press since a very early age, it was interesting to reflect on the changes and also on progression over the years. I started when letterpress was just ending being the 'usual' method of producing print. I have been through the litho and Letraset years; and been at the vanguard of the transition to digital.
Shelby Studios were running an interactive magazine project at the conference. One of the conference questions was "XXXXXXXXX". We were given a drawing of a window and asked what we thought would be outside. I'm not that optimistic. Here's my drawing:
Shelby have produced a printed zine. Short run I understand, 100 copies, sells for £5.00. Interesting contents. Printed digital.I brought a copy.
Also got handed a blank piece of cardboard in the size and shape of a smartphone. Was told to write my thoughts about a mobile phone. A sore point at the moment, I have an inexpensive, but working perfectly Motorola phone, but it's not getting any updates and the battery is pretty bad. Goes for about 5-6 hours. Of course, the battery is non-replaceable by me and getting a new one fitted is a third-party mine field. These things should be repairable. Of course, if they are then the water resistance goes down. So it will get replaced.
My other detailed conversations was with people promoting and using VR/Metaverse. They were all enthusiastic and shiny-eyed about the possibilities of VR. I'm afraid I differ. I have been interested in stereoscopic imagery since I first encountered a victorian 3D viewer. Here's the remains of one I had as a child, somewhere I have some of the pictures...
Back to VR. I see parallels between 3D and VR, although I acknowledge the technical sophistication of VR make it more immersive (a 2022 buzz word). However, I also think that like stereoscopy as a mass media technology it will all decline.
In the cinema there have been repeated waves of 3D. From red and green* 3D in 1930s, polarised light in the 50s (The Mask, Creature) , waves of 3D in 70s (Stewardesses, Jaws 3D) and then the emergence of RealD and digital cinema which have solved many of the issues surrounding film based stereoscopic systems.
Bottom line, people don't like wearing headsets, spectacles, holding up cardboard masks and so on. For some it's OK for a viewing of a special movie, but for others it's headache inducing. It's also not very comfortable for a long time. VR headsets are expensive as well. One thing suggested at the conference was that meetings could move from Zoom/Meet/Teams/etc to a VR system. Personally, I don't think that many people in a meeting like a 'normal' business meeting, especially those who struggle with technology anyway, will want to create an avatar and then hold a meeting in a virtual environment. I also think that the tech will quickly date.
History is dotted with stuff that didn't catch on, or only for a short while, outside of gaming I suspect VR will be the same.
*Red and green give a much better image than red and cyan in my opinion. I won't bore you with the technical reasons - but get in contact if you want.