Monday, 20 April 2009

Come Out & Play

Game submission for NYC's Come Out & Play festival closed yesterday so now the count down is on until we can take over the streets of NYC and turn the whole city into a playground! The festival will run from June 12-14. The Tank, a wonderful non-profit arts space, will play host and serve as the central headquarters.

Lets hope old favorites like Snap-Shot-City and Korean Laserball will return as well as a host of other awesome and exciting games!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Congratulations Six to Start!

I posted a while ago about the awesomeness of Six to Start and their We Tell Stories project.
They have just been awarded the Experimental and Best of Show awards at SXSW for the collaboration with Penguin Books.


Read more here:

Other big winners:

Games: Why So Serious? The Dark Knight Alternate Reality Game from 42 Entertainment
Community and Peoples Choice: Lost Zombies
Activism: Tweet Congress

Full listing here:

Monday, 16 March 2009

Extreme Neighborliness

Local communities are organizing to become stronger together. Described by Allison Arieff as “Extreme Neighborliness” - a concept “so old-fashioned as to seem innovative” - this movement is gaining power as scalable local initiatives are applied to the social web. from San Francisco, and WannaStartaCommune? from LA are leading the way in community organizing for local economic, social and environmental benefit.

So Easy
Carrotmob uses the power of the crowd to effect sustainable change through local shopping. By harnessing an action that people are doing anyway – grocery shopping - and organizes in a way that uses the power of the group to demand sustainable action. One customer, buying one carton of milk, may not be able to influence their local retailer, but 500 customers, buying 500 cartons of milk, have a combined buying power that would make any local store pay attention.

At no extra financial or logistical cost, customers are secure that their purchases are working for local sustainable good. Carrotmog explains it well: Carrotmob simply asks people to coordinate and plan the purchases they are already making. This model is not threatening, not expensive, not time-consuming, not uncomfortable, not “radical,” not confusing, and not negative. It’s the perfect level of involvement for most people.

How Organized Consumer Purchasing Can Change Business from carrotmob on Vimeo.

SoYouWannaStartaCommune? is providing tools for small groups of neighbors to organize the sharing of local resources to save money, time and energy. They provide a downloadable pdf guide that gives instructions for Getting Started, What's in a Commune, a Resource-sharing Guide, Potluck & Workshop Planning Tools, Simple Organizational Documents and Technology Tips to help you manage and grow your commune.

They too harness the assets available at a small community’s disposal when they work together – Linked back yards or disused land? Room for a vege patch. Limited car parking? Try car sharing. Combined energy usage? Solar or wind power becomes a viable option for a group of housing. Varied work schedules? Potential for shared child minding. These assets are already in the community. All it takes is to come together in an organized way to take advantage of them.

win + win = WIN
Carrotmob challenges businesses to compete for consumer loyalty. As a result, these stores get a ready made fan base willing to support them. Though they pledge a percentage of their profit to sustainable improvements, they increase their customer base and increase total sales. By implementing sustainable improvements to their stores, they will also reap the reward of long term cost savings from increased energy efficiency.

Carrotmob can put rewards in place that will make environmental responsibility the most profitable choice. Companies will do what we want, not because of negative pressure, or morality, or a boycott, or a petition…there are enough sticks out there. We need a big juicy carrot. They will do what we say because they won’t be able to resist the profits.

SoYouWannaStartaCommune? challenges neighbors to pool their talents, assets and expenses to find sustainable and communal solutions.

Carrotmob have big plans. They are using the power of the local to effect small changes in family owned businesses. The power of their movement now is firmly rooted in a block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood engagement. With a little organization, they see potential to move up from local grocery stores, to big shiny corporations. As the consumer communities they create grow larger, the more power they wield.

SoYouWannaStartaCommune? needs to be based in smaller local groups. As a community grows, and the less personal contact you have with each other, the less likely you are to go out of your way to compromise or help someone out. Working in groups based around culdesacs or apartment blocks defines a community and connects them with a strong bond of locality. That said, the suburban commune concept is infinitely scalable as communities form block by block, apartment complex by apartment complex.

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

Using the power of the group requires an organizer. Someone who is willing to lead and schedule and mediate. As demonstrated by these two initiatives, there are an increasing number of people out there willing to teach you the tools to organize. To enable you to harness the power of your local groups and challenge communities to effect change. In the words of Carrotmob – to “do it with the carrot not the stick”.

(PS. thanks to Will for the heads up on Carrotmob. x)

Thursday, 5 March 2009

and Zombies

The new book by Seth Graham-Smith is feeding a Zombie frenzy. Just add “and Zombies” to a search and see what you can find.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton--and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers--and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans.

By Seth Grahame-Smith

Road Signs and Zombies

Austin, Texas - Hackers perform public service warning commuters of Zombies in area: "Zombies ahead! Run for your lives!"

Interactive internet movies and Zombies

What would you do? This interactive horror film allows viewers to make their own decision to live or die. Make the right choice, and live on to the next scene. Make the wrong decision and it could be your last. Http://

Banks and Zombies

Zombie Banks is “an apt label, given that zombies are basically "the outer husks" of what they once were, robbed of their inner soul and staying alive by feeding off the living”. Listen to Zombie Banks here at NPR.

Pirates and Zombies - The World's Biggest Show and Tell - engages in a pirate attack on, makers of Whirled, an online game environment.

Three Rings gathers its zombie horde to defend its honor against the nefarious Instructables crew.

Reality TV & the Will to Participate

Is Big Brother responsible for the highest USA voter turnout since 1972?

  • Youth Turnout Rate Rises to at Least 52% with 23 Million Voters Under 30
  • 3.4 Million More Young People Vote than in 2004
  • Young Voters Account for at Least 60% of Overall Increase
  • 18% of All Voters Were Young
From CIRCLE – The Centre for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement

Have reality TV shows like Big Brother or American Idol - which challenge the audience to vote to determine the outcome of their entertainment - trained a generation of Americans to get to the polls?

Has voting for reality TV, trained us to vote in reality?

I went to a Communications Forum at MIT last week that focused on: Popular Culture and the Political Imagination. The panel included Johanna Blakley, David Carr, and Stephen Duncombe, with Henry Jenkins as moderator. The conversation focused on the new political consciousness taking shape in and around popular culture and raised the concept of the election as entertainment.

With larger than life villains and heroes, a classical “sword from a stone” story arc, celebrity cameos, unlimited interactive multi-platform media, and MC’d nightly by Colbert, Stewart, and Fey, the recent election played out like a blockbuster series of American Political Idol.

According to a 2001 survey of over 2000 Americans (aged 8 to 54): "The No. 1 reason people watch (reality TV) is the thrill of "guessing who will win or be eliminated from the show." That thrill is the reason cited by 69 percent of all reality TV watchers, and 84 percent of regular viewers, who make a point to watch. The second and third most common reasons viewers tune in are to "see people face challenging situations" and "imagining how I would perform in similar situations," stated by 63 percent and 42 percent of all viewers, respectively."

It is easy to see how these motivations for engagement could be transferred to the recent election. As the panel discussed, Obama was able to build an engaging and relatable brand that people really cared about, his message of HOPE was able to become a generic vessel for peoples aspirations and he became a symbol for people apply their own beliefs to. Like many reality show contestants, he started out as just a regular guy, he let people imagine how they would perform in his situation.

We have now been exposed to about 10 years of reality TV. As a society we understand the format, the tricks and what is expected of us as an audience. Audience responses demonstrate a sophisticated approach to what they are seeing that has been honed over long periods:
"The fact that audiences apply a sliding scale of factuality to reality programs suggests one of the ways they have learned to live with this genre over the past decade. Audiences watch popular factual television with a critical eye, judging the degree of factuality in each reality format based on their experience of other types of factual programming. In this sense, viewers are evaluators of the reality genre, and of factual programming as a whole."

As savvy evaluators of our media, we are now versed to demand certain things from our entertainment. One of those things is the ability to participate in the outcome of events.

In 2005, the Super Girls phenomenon hit mainland China. Super Girls is a pop star making program modeled on American Idol where contestants sing and are voted off by the audience. The final episode of the 2005 season was one of the most popular shows in Chinese broadcast history, drawing over 400 million viewers.

"One of the main factors contributing to the show's popularity was that viewers are able to participate in the judging process by sending text messages with their mobile phones to vote for their favorite contestants. During the 2005 regional contest in Chengdu alone, 307,071 message votes were cast for the top three contestants, each vote costing 0.5 to 3 yuan. This was considered as one of the largest "democratic" voting exercises in mainland China."

Audience participation has been cited as the most crucial factor in its success. As winners were determined by cellphone short messaging votes... the show "blazed a trail for cultural democracy," said Zhu Dake, a renowned critic of cultural matters. "It's like a gigantic game that has swept so many people into a euphoria of voting and selecting, which is testament of a society opening up," Zhu argued.

A further comment: An even more noteworthy thing is that the Super Girls have stimulated the will to participate. The SMS voting seems to have introduced a new form for direct election. It is direct, it is convenient, it is fast and it works. It can simplify the voting process. It can be done in a few minutes' time. It seems to be just a technical problem to make it become the main means of voting.

Politics as entertainment has the potential to both open doors to engagement and also trivialize important and serious issues. The key driver I see for encouraging a blend lies in the comment above – Stimulating the will to participate. If politics is entertainment, and people are taught to engage with their entertainment in a meaningful and critical manner, then people will learn the tools to increasingly engage in the debate, in the creation, and in the management of their society.

As we move towards increasingly interactive and pervasive entertainment, and audiences progressively demand the ability to influence and author the outcomes of events, it seems inevitable that we will learn to become more socially engaged in our communities.

Note – I would love to find some more recent data to dis/prove this. Who can help?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Recently I’ve been posting a lot about growing trends for pop-ups and guerilla activities. Increasingly, these niche events are gathering operational momentum through the development of online communities accessed predominately through Facebook, blogs and mobile organizing tools. Secret-ish societies are forming to host underground events that are available only to a select crowd of people in the know, and are providing personalized individual experiences just for you and a select group of friends.

Not always entirely legal, in that they don’t always comply with licensing and fire code legislation, or are cash only, they are becoming an increasingly popular option for a good night out or intimate online experience.


Kilburn The Underground Restaurant is a popup restaurant in London that has just caught my attention. Held in the chefs house, her blog acts as menu and chronicles the trials and tribulations of running a fine dining establishment in your front room. The blog is a great read, and based on reviews/photos, a pretty decent meal. Quite interesting that her paypal account, originally used to process guests payments, has been blocked – but luckily has taken over this service. Now that it has started to get a bit of mainstream press I can only hope the exposure doesn’t kill it off. If you are in London, you better get in quick to experience the next Mexican themed meal.

(Note - You could also try a similar set up at the Secret Ingredient on Facebook)


Secret Cinema started up in 2008 as a way to view films in a themed location with a select group of people. Quickly sponsored by Nokia, the group is now staging monthly film extravaganzas in secret locations around the UK. Sign up for updates, but Tell No One!


Black Cab Sessions puts your favorite musicians into a black cab to record a song. They are simple and intimate moments with incredible artists as they sing their way through a city. This session with Brian Wilson is a must see. (Thanks Annette!)

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Before the economic collapse of the world as we knew it, there had been a little early freakshow interest and media coverage on the growing Freegan movement in the UK. Freegans are urban foragers who stalk the overflowing bins of supermarkets searching for tasty food just past its sell-by date.

Though they share some values, Freegans are not to be confused with Urban Foragers, who hunt through parks, gardens and roadsides for edible plants and berries to make a meal.

Sky Full of Bacon 07: Eat This City from Michael Gebert on Vimeo.

Once held up as radical examples of alternative lifestyles, they are now part of a growing movement of people seeking separation from the mainstream capitalist market economy. They join a growing group of people who are living a lifestyle based not on buy buy sell sell, but on barter and trade, on skill share, and on a currency of goodwill.

Called a Shareconomy, a Goodwill Economy, a Moneyless Economy, or Freeconomy, these people are forging a new way of living more communally or “off the grid”.

A Goodwill Economy can work in a number of ways. The simplest is through basic barter and exchange – I need a cake and I have a pair of shoes, you need some shoes and have a cake. We swap. We are happy. Hooray.

This is a long proven model that works in localized and engaged communities worldwide. In co-operatives and community farms food is often exchanged for physical labor. Between groups of friends clothing is pooled and exchanged to update wardrobes. What limits this as a more formal economic model is the direct relationship between the two parties – if our needs don’t align, then it doesn’t work.

As societies become larger and more complex, the model of barter and exchange limits expansion and growth. The introduction of a standard measurement or currency allows for greater scope for exchange of goods and services. Once we measured the worth of goods and services in gold weight – for example, a pair of shoes is worth so many grams in gold. Over time, this has evolved into our modern system of currency. Though modern paper money and coinage is, in itself, practically worthless, it is given value through the belief of that which is represents. So a five dollar bill is merely the idea of something given the value of five dollars.

What goodwill economists are experimenting with is changing the ideology of the currency. Instead of paying for a cake with dollars and cents, or trading it for a pair of shoes, the cake becomes worth a value of goodwill. This goodwill can be traded for other goods and services, or stored and accumulated for later use.

This still sounds like money right? Well it is, kind of. It performs the function of currency, but also has a collective effect of working to build social capital.

Robert Putnum, expert in social capital and author of Bowling Alone, writes about how more socially engaged communities perform acts of kindness and community action with a trusting belief that these gifts of goodwill will be returned at some undefined point in the future. Not valued in monetary terms, the act of giving time to community pursuits and taking part in communal activities are critical ways to sustain a more healthy and engaged community.

In a goodwill or share economy, these acts of kindness and generosity generate status for the individual, and contribute to a more efficient community. In a goodwill economy, wealth is redefined through active participation in your community, being rich means accumulating goodwill status through your engagement with others. These are communities defined by trust, participation status and personal experience.

Wikipedia works on the principles of a shareconomy rewarding the community as a whole for the input of individuals. Web based recommendation and rating models, as popularized by Amazon or Ebay, reward engaged users with higher status and build connection and trust among the community.

Goodwill economy websites have potential to combine similar status models with online banking hybrids to track personal progress. People are rewarded with greater opportunity the more they meaningfully participate, to create insular economies of highly engaged individuals on a broad and complex global scale.


The hub for international Freeconomists is – you go to the site to give and get given – build up goodwill, engage with a global community of like minded individuals, and feel good about spending up big! is a site that uses community status to generate an economy of sleepovers and short stay accommodation. Couchsurfing founder Joe Edelman has recently launched his new venture, a mobile tool designed to mobilize crowds with individual missions and messages. Joe has aims of using Groundcrew to create a new goodwill economy of mobile experiences generated by a community of engaged individuals. is a highly anticipated new site from the Portable Content crew that acts as
“an online fashion portal and brand that takes designers, stores and consumers online. As an entry level it allows style and eco-conscious people to upload their clothes and swap them with other people from around the world.”
Even the Freegans, early radical activists against over consumption and economic excess, are now touching a mainstream audience more broadly concerned with living a socially engaged and sustainable lifestyle.

Who would have thought that digging around in bins would be a precursor to a new age of social engagement and enlightenment!

Monday, 16 February 2009


Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the creativity and genius - Essential viewing for anyone involved in the creative process - thanks Andy and Chris for the heads up!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Fairey Tale

Shepard Fairey, the creator of the Obama HOPE image, and artist behind the OBEY street art, was arrested in Boston on Friday night at the opening of his new exhibition at the ICA.

He was arrested for outstanding warrants for damage to public property, a charge he has already faced 15 times. In addition to his arrest, a new concern must be his attorneys ongoing discussions with the associated press over the use of their image as the inspiration for the Obama poster. They want credit and compensation.

Shepard Fairy talks about his poster for Obama

His work is all over the streets in Boston and Cambridge, in a combined gallery/stealth/sponsored street campaign – similar to the Tate Modern exhibition of street artists last summer. My understanding is there are commissioned works on the streets of Chinatown sponsored in part by the gallery and part by the local business association as well as a number of major pieces that have gone up in secrecy over the two cities in the last few months. One giant piece I noticed on construction hoarding in Cambridge was taken down the next day – my assumption was that it was removed due to its controversial imagery – I have since heard rumor that the owner of the construction site was notified that it might be worth something...

I’m not sure how I feel about that guy profiting from what was meant to be a public piece of art. Yet I see that it was clearly his property to do with what he chooses.

The value of street art as a commodity raises an interesting conversation - The infamy of Banksy, his recognition as a mainstream artist and a cache of celebrity buyers, has pushed street art into legitimate and sellable art form. This has had a game changing effect. No longer is a mural seen as a nuisance to be washed off, now its seen as a gift to be protected (many Banksys across London are protected by sheets of plastic screening), a value add (in the case of the Liverpool pub a Banksy mural was auctioned with the building thrown in!), or an opportunity to pilfer and profit (pieces of wall removed with angle grinders and the stolen piece auctioned on ebay for twenty thousand pounds). They have become tourist attractions with Banksy tours and guidebooks to the city available.

Yet the location of these pieces, outdoors and all weather, painted and postered and usually publicly accessible, make them at their core, transient and temporary. Somehow the protection of these public pieces seems false, and people profiting from them seems unfair. That said, the Last Supper was painted on a wall made, in part, of beaten earth, and if that hadn’t been protected and maintained, we would be missing one of the worlds great artworks.

So what’s best? Protect and preserve the works artificially? or let them fade, be defaced, and lose them to the rigors of the public realm?

Now, in addition to stealth bombing works, there seems to be growing opportunity for artists to partner with local governments, business associations and developers to place artworks in public open air galleries and sanctioned spaces.

The Brisbane City Council Electricity Box program has been running since the late 90’s/early 2000's (?) and is a great example of local government providing a public gallery space for artists that has been a launching pad for many rising Australian art stars.

Mentioned above, in Summer 08, London’s Tate Modern partnered with Nissan Quashqai to host a group of international street artists in an exhibition that extended beyond the gallery to the facade of the building and the surrounding streets. Like the current Fairey exhibition, the artists extended their reach even further out into the city with pieces located all over the city.

A short film by one of the featured artists: Muto by Blu

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Quashqai Ad

The Quashqai campaign claimed the urban environment as its playground – an increasingly common theme in advertising – see anything by Sony Bravia, or just about anybody working in mobile. As mobile and locative applications increase in usability, the extension of new and interesting urban applications is enormous.

As an urban designer and community builder, I am super positive about any message that challenges people to more meaningfully engage in the world around them, that challenges citizens to use the public spaces of our cities, and that engages in active political discussion about how our urban environments grow and evolve.

With ongoing cooperation between artists and designers, big business, local governments and business associations there is great opportunity to implement exciting collaborations that challenge people to adventure and exploration. The chance for artists to access meaningful funding opportunities is also an added and often overlooked necessity.

With creative visionaries like Sheppard Fairey exploring new ways of working across industries and funding platforms he is leading a charge of artistic enterprise and political dialogue. By engaging artistically, politically and publicly he is reaching out to a more engaged world. Lets hope he can sort out his legal issues asap!

Saturday, 7 February 2009


The craze for pop-ups has spawned temporary restaurants, stores, cinemas, landscapes, magazines and hotels.

A recent evolution in New Zealand saw YellowPages team with local businesses (all listed in YellowPages obviously!) to create the Yellow Treeehouse – a pop up restaurant located 10m up a tree.

All in all it seems to be both a terrific example of a branded popup, interesting design exercise, and good restaurant: Word of mouth buzz – check! Architecturally inventive – check! Decent food – check! Like Melbourne’s’ Greenhouse by Joost or Londons Flash by Bistroteque , it is the popular new kid on the temporary block.

However, as an interesting twist on the traditional popup, Yellow Treehouse also offered a popup job. A job to present the process of design, construction and running of the restaurant through video and daily blogging.

Tracy Collins was selected from a pool of applicants with experience in presenting, project management, restaurants and piano accordion and her job has been central to the message of the campaign. Tracy gives a very likable 2.0 face to the campaign, in a professionally structured and edited way.

I heard about this amazing project when my flatmate Matt spotted it in the Rodney Times. I’d set the goal of challenging myself this year and thought ‘why not?’. I auditioned, then got a call a couple of days later saying I was shortlisted. I turned up thinking there would be ten of us and there were only three. Wow. Two days later I got the job. Yay!

The timing was great. Just the other week I was sitting in an Indian restaurant thinking I really need more work before Christmas as money was a bit tight. Obviously someone is smiling on me. Otherwise I’d be playing my accordion which I do professionally (honestly) which is great but has its ups and downs. I also do a bit of presenting and have trained in Film and TV make up. This project couldn’t have come at a better time but is definitely going to be a challenge. Not only do I have to find all of the people we need on Yellow but once the restaurant is built, I’ll be helping run it. Brilliant eh?

In another pop-up job opportunity, The Queensland Tourism Board has recently launched The Best Job In The World Campaign.

They are calling for applicants for a job to live on Hamilton Island (above the Great Barrier Reef) for six months. The job carries a salary package of AUD$150,000 for a six-month contract.

They are looking for someone:
with an adventurous attitude, passion for the outdoors and good communication skills. A broad range of experience is considered and Tourism Queensland will be selecting applicants based on: - Enthusiasm for the role, Entertainment value (personality and creativity), Presentation skills (being media-friendly), At least one year's relevant experience.

If you think you fit the role there is still 14 days before application close.

You will however be facing competition like Osama Bin Laden – The Guardian reports - The people at Queensland's department of tourism were still a little taken aback when the world's most wanted man sent in a video explaining why he was the perfect candidate to act as caretaker of Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
In the 30-second clip, which is available on YouTube, a prankster with a questionable sense of humor has overdubbed footage of Osama Bin Laden and used subtitles to make his case for the job. "I enjoy the outdoors and sandy areas," the subtitles read. "I've got experience with videos, delegating tasks and experience with large scale event co-ordination."

Osama has been showing up in other strange places recently – most notably joining Idi Amin in a (risky/questionable?) campaign for the Samsung i450 Music Phone.

The association of Osama with these campaigns – both unexpected and intentional – shows an interesting shift in his pop mythology as he continues to elude capture for his crimes. Like the Branson/Guevara pairing, its sure to be controversial.

Now it will be interesting to see who and what pops up next!

Data Representation

I like data. And really like it when cold hard fact is represented in engaging and inventive ways. Like any story well told, the representation of data is key to getting a message across.

Once of the most powerful ad campaigns of recent years was the 2005 “Meet the World” flags campaign - created by FCB for Grande Reportagem. The concept uses flags of different nations to visualize data relating to social and political issues of that country.

Recently, Microsoft have released a new music package called Songsmith.Songsmith generates musical accompaniment to match a singer’s voice. Just choose a musical style, sing into your PC’s microphone, and Songsmith will create backing music for you. Then share your songs with your friends and family, post your songs online, or create your own music videos.

Johannes Kreidler has used Songsmith to derive melodies from Stock Charts.

In an oldie but a goodie from TED – (Thanks Andy!) You've never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called "developing world."

With more and more sense data (GPS, mobile, wifi, RFID etc) becoming available, the ability to track flows, movement and transfers in real time is becoming increasingly significant.

I worked with the SENSEableCity Lab at MIT last year on a project to engage people in real time representations of movement tracking data for bicycle use in the city of Copenhagen. Below, WikiCity Rome, one of the labs earlier projects uses cell phone and other sense data to make meaningful real time representations of what’s happening in the world around us.

In the brilliant BBC series, Britain From Above (Thanks Davey!), GPS data traces are used to track shipping and flight paths across the country. The striking visuals used in this program demonstrate the charming qualities of data to meaningfully engage people with the world around them.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Call to Action

You have the power to make a difference. Yes You.

All around the world, individuals and organizations are making it easier for you to get engaged and get active in making the world a better place.

A great big call to action has gone out to the world - In fashion, music, education, gardening, public space, art, politics etc. The concept of user generated experience (or just getting out and doing stuff), of volunteering time, energy and innovation has re-infiltrated our everyday lives and people are getting together online and on the ground to make incremental changes to their communities in fun and adventurous ways.

Now is the time to take matters into your own hands. Are you ready to get involved?

The Call To Action: Crime Fighting - Mexico City

Mexico called, and Super Barrio answered. Maybe a little to much action for most, Super Barrio is the real life masked crime fighting hero of Mexico City’s working class.

He can be seen in the 2007 feature documentary film Super Amigos where he is joined by companions Super Gay, Super Ecologista, Super Animal and Fray Tormenta as they fight against evil slumlords, corrupt politicians, homophobia, pollution, animal rights abusers, and poverty.

Wearing the traditional Lucha mask of Mexican wrestlers, the heroes patrol the streets of Mexico city fighting injustice. The masks are magical devices that represent the community. With them, the superheroes can be everyone and no one at the same time. The masks are symbols of collective hope.

How You Get Involved: Go see the film, Buy a Tshirt - $8 from every sale goes to help their causes, get inspired into action by their theme songs, or don a lucha mask of your own and go bust some injustice! Kapowee!

The Call To Action: Art - Montreal

Actions: What You Can Do With the City presents 99 actions that instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world. Held at the Canadian Centre for Architecture between November 2008 to April 2009.

The CCA is challenging citizens to be part of the movement and take actions big or small to change the everyday life of their cities. Whether old or new, submit your photos or videos and share the story. All entries will be displayed on the website and reviewed by the Actions team. Only a handful might make it to the CCA’s Shaughnessy House.

An example of a submission is Michael Rakowitz's paraSITE project using ventilation shafts to create inflatable temporary shelters for the homeless.

How You Get Involved: Submit an entry. Submit a Challenge.

The Call to Action: Fashion – New Orleans

Prom Dresses For New Orleans has a simple goal – help the young ladies who lost everything in Katrina get to the prom.
Many of the residents of New Orleans lost everything... Help make prom possible for the young ladies in Louisiana who no longer have a dress to wear to prom. Share your past prom and party dresses, so that others can experience the joy these dresses brought to you. They still need our help! Your generosity is greatly appreciated!

How You Get Involved: Give another girl the chance to regret wearing puffed sleeves and pink satin. Send your worn prom and party dresses to a new home and another night of self conscious dancing.

Call to Action: Politics – Australia
Get Up! is an independent Australian political action group aiming to build a progressive Australia.

GetUp! brings together like-minded people who want to bring participation back into our democracy. is providing Australians with the tools to fight back, and take innovative and effective action on important issues facing our country. GetUp members are building a ground-up movement of real people who are putting the participation back into our democracy. members take action. By signing up for updates, members receive emails alerting them to new campaigns and providing ways of affecting positive change. Whether it is sending an email to a member of parliament, engaging with the media, attending an event or helping to get a television ad on the air, GetUp members are always only ever asked to take targeted, coordinated and strategic action.

How you get involved:
sign up, participate in campaigns.

Call To Action: Education - USA

Once Upon A School is the result of Dave Eggers’ 2008 TED Prive Wish. It is a collaborative online initiative developed to inspire and collect the stories of private citizens engaged in their local public schools.

How you get involved:
Tell stories, Get involved in your local school.

Call to Action: Music – USA & UK... more to come

I should just come out and say that I love Rock Corps. It’s a terrific balance of social action, good solid community work, high profile engagement and damn good fun.

RockCorps harnesses the power of music to inspire volunteering. We produce concerts for which the only way in is to volunteer 4 hours at a project we organize with non-profit partners. You can't win a ticket; you can't buy a ticket; you have to earn a ticket to a concert that becomes a celebration of giving back.

In 2005, we launched a national movement and since that time, more than 30,000 young people have been directly involved in one of our projects. Millions more have heard the message that "Volunteering is Cool".

Rock Corps is partnered with BoostMobile in the USA and with OrangeMobile in the UK. Stay tuned – I’ve heard rumors of new collaborations coming in China and Australia in the next year.

How you get involved: Sign up with friends, work for 4 hours, party.

Call to Action: Leisure – San Francisco/Global

One of the earliest action games, SFZero is a Collaborative Production Game. Players build characters by completing tasks for their groups and increasing their Score. The goals of play include meeting new people, exploring the city, and participating in non-consumer leisure activities.

How you get involved:
Sign up, join a team and get started.

Call to Action: Gardening – London and beyond...

Guerilla gardening is an emerging form of public space reclamation using plants in illicit cultivations on publicly owned land. Lead by Richard Reynolds, author of Guerilla Gardening – A Handbook for Gardening Without Boundaries, this growing global movement encourages you to get out a trowel and plant a few seeds in any space that needs a little herbaceous helping hand.

How you get involved:
Check out Guirilla Gardening tips at any one of the growing number of specialist blogs, make a seedbomb for some planting pandemonium, grab a trowel and some seedlings and set out on a landscaping mission.

Call to Action: Volunteer – Global

A few years ago I was talking to a friend about how she wanted to volunteer to help out some sort of nonprofit organization. She didn’t know what she wanted to get involved in, but knew that as a financial analyst she had some critical skills to offer. However, as a busy professional she had no way to she could find no way to find out who needed her services. We decided that there needed to be some kind of dating agency for volunteers and organizations that could match skills, locations, availability etc. Unsurprisingly, someone else had the same ideas and created the extremely excellent Volunteer Match.
It does what it says on the tin. It matches volunteers to organizations.

How you get involved: Check out and find an opportunity that’s right for you.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Up Up and Away!

Years ago a friend gave me a hot tip – When traveling, always carry some party balloons.

This seemed like rather odd advice at the time, but has since proved invaluable. On my travels I have used balloons as emergency water bottles, rubber bands and pillows, but have found that they are most valuable as a way of engaging with people.

As a joyful gift to a begging child, as a welcome diversion for a whole carriage of people playing “keepy uppy” on a crowded train, as a distraction for a crying baby silenced by a magic ball of color floating through the air, as a make-do for a spontaneous game of beach vollyball.

Balloons embody a sense of wonder and magic that doesn’t diminish with age, wealth or geography, and enable people to come together in a somehow neutral way to share in a fun and magical experience.

The magic of balloons was harnessed for a large collaborative performance piece in Singapore and later for London by Haque Design and Research.

The Burble is held down to the ground by the combined weight of the crowds holding on to the handle bar. They may position it as they like. They may curve in on themselves, or pull it in a straight line - the form is a combination of the crowd's desires and the impact of wind currents varying throughout the height of the Burble.

As people on the ground shake and pump the handle bars of the Burble, they see their movements echoed as colours through the entire system. Part installation, part performance, the Burble enables people to contribute at an urban scale to a structure that occupies their city, albeit for only one night.

Burble London from haque d+r on Vimeo.

The Atom Performance from Electric Moons, Christopher Bauder and Robert Henke builds on the concept of Baloon Ballet and creates a moody performance using gas balloons, lights and sound.

“A room is filled with deep, evolving noises from a four-channel sound system. An eight-by-eight array of white, self-illuminated spheres floats in space like the atoms of a complex molecule.”

Like this somewhat sinister performance, clearly balloons aren’t always benign - as demonstrated by the recent Superbowl Coke commercial - these guys clearly have their own agendas.

They’re not really balloons, but the menagerie of inflatable sculptures from Joshua Allen Harris, seen recently in the streets and subways of New York, share similar characteristics. Created mostly from garbage bags, his works are tethered to vents and fans, and lie dormant until the shifting air currents of the city breath life into them - then they come alive with movement and action as they draw attention to the hidden systems of the city.

A similarly elegant and organic sculpture debuted recently at the R/C airship regatta in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

Air Art from flip on Vimeo.

FinFish seems like it might be an early version of a new version air ship as envisioned in Manned Cloud by Jean-Marie Massaud (as seen in Dezeen) - Perhaps showing greater opportunity to not just travel the world with balloons in the future, but in them.