Throughout 2018 I’ve been working on a collaborative project about interactive media and technology and public engagement with climate change. An artwork that has resulted from this collaboration – here and now – was shown as part of the Great Exhibition of the North during the summer. There will be another opportunity to see here and now at the Great North Museum: Hancock on the evening of 28th September, as part of their European Researcher’s Night that has the theme of Planet 2.0. Admission is free so, come along to see our work and many other interesting projects.
This is an interactive artwork I made with Tim Shaw and was one of the several pieces that resulted from the Sound Spaces project with John Bowers and Stefan Kazassoglou. Sound Spaces was an investigation, through making, of various intriguing locations across Liverpool in 2015. One of the places we visited was Liverpool’s Old Dock, which is largely unseen to passersby being underground in the foundations of the Liverpool ONE leisure and retail development. Anyone can visit The Old Dock by booking onto one of the free guided tours offered by National Museums Liverpool, but I wondered whether 360-degree spherical photographs, layered with images and sounds evoking the site’s past and present, could engage passersby above ground. I worked with Tim Shaw to create a first prototype, which attracted sponsorship from Liverpool ONE to develop and install the piece for two years. The artwork went live in April 2017, some of the first visitors being a convention of Lord Mayors!
The piece is intended to be viewed on location in Liverpool ONE. But the image below gives a flavour of it.
Aside from this site, I’ve set up a WordPress site for my research colleagues and I to share references, events, ideas, project progress and so on. We use a combination of posts and pages with numerous comments on each. So, we generate a lot of new content that we all need to keep on top of. I’ve installed the Subscribe 2 plug-in, which enables the site to send daily emails of updates, however it does not include amends to pages and some of our team would prefer to see a summary of the recent items on the site rather than via email (already having bulging in boxes). A search for plug-ins or widgets to display “recent updates” or similar on the WordPress site was proving fruitless and I thought the task impossible without resorting to coding my own solution, until I dug a little deeper on using RSS.
WordPress produces two RSS feeds out of the box, one for entries (‘blog posts) and one for comments (on both posts and pages). However the entries feed does not include new pages and page updates. Step forward another handy plug-in RSS Includes Pages which does exactly what it says on the tin. The team could now use their favourite RSS reader to view the feeds, including web-based tools such as Google Reader*. However it’s possible to go one step further and include the feeds on their source WordPress site itself. By adding RSS Widgets to the sidebar of the site with the URLs of the site’s own feeds. (WordPress eats itself?)
*Google reader isn’t without its limitations. In particular it cannot read feeds from password protected websites (as ours is). No problem as another useful and free web application, Free My Feed, will generate new URLs given the feed URL and password details (which aren’t stored and are encrypted in the new feed URL).
A couple of months ago I took the plunge and moved back to using an Apple Mac computer at home after seven years using various machines running Microsoft Windows (notwithstanding a Sinclair ZX Spectrum in the 1980s, a funky blue PowerMac G3 was my first ‘proper’ home computer). In the main, this has been a positive experience and I’ve more often found myself grumbling about handy Mac features I miss when using Windows than the other way around. However one tool I’ve really missed is the Windows briefcase. My professional life is such that I’m sometime working at home, sometimes working at my University desk and sometimes working on the move. Windows briefcase allowed me to keep copies of all my work folders on a USB stick that then synchronised with folders on my home computer. But briefcase only works with Windows and there didn’t appear to be a viable Mac alternative, until I discovered an even better way of doing things. Continue reading
Moving to a completely WordPress-driven site has many benefits but a minor downside is that the WordPress pages that replace my previous static pages now have different URLs. For example the “About me” page used to have the URL www.simon-bowen.com/aboutme.php but now has the URL www.simon-bowen.com/?page_id=2. To prevent frustration for those literally tens of people who might’ve bookmarked or linked to my website, I needed to put redirects in place. The easiest way to do so would be to create short pages that immediately re-directed people’s web-browsers to a new address using a meta refresh tag (tutorial here). However, this isn’t an ideal solution as it creates an extra step that both slows things down and causes confusion when someone uses their browser’s back function. I.e. the process to get to the page is: click a link/bookmark > receive redirection page > go to new page, so one step back is always the redirection page that then moves you forward again to the new page (and so on ad infinitum).
A much more elegant solution is to do the redirection server-side. Continue reading
The much-needed re-vamp of my website has finally made it to the top of my to do list. Although, with other demands on my time, I’m going to have to do it in stages.
First step is the background technology that runs the site. Previously this site was a hybrid of static pages together with a ‘blog powered by WordPress. ‘Back in the day’ I had time to fiddle about hand-coding PHP and HTML but my time is rather more limited now and I’m often working at disparate locations. I need a system that enables me to update the site quickly and easily from anywhere. Step forward the increasingly marvellous, extendable and customisable WordPress. Continue reading
One of my photographs of the impressive marble staircase in Glasgow’s City Chambers has been included in the latest Schmap Glasgow Guide. The company that produces these guides uses Flickr to source its photographs and Yahoo and Google to produce its maps. A nice bit of web cross-fertilisation.
And this is it. After a day of fiddling about with WordPress themes, my first post. Blogger was great, but I needed something with more functionality and the ability to customise further. There are, of course, a plethora of features to tempt me – RSS feeds, search forms etc. – but first things first. Plus it’s worth avoiding the ‘doing it because I can’ in favour of the ‘doing it because I should’.