Blogging as reflective practice

You are reading a blog that started off about art practice-based research charting
the journey of doing a phd. It explores alternative ways of using hand held devices
to create print-based interactive artworks using graphical tagging such as QR-codes.
Art, design, technology and craft were the main themes in writing. But life gets in the
way, and over this journey the story takes unexpected happy twists along the paths
of having a baby, going on a UK Digital Economy Sandpit, meeting fanstastic people,
and subsequent group success in funding for a large multidisciplinary research
project called TOTeM.

Entries in TOTeM (21)

A nice surprise

Last year I worked with Maria Burke from Salford University on a paper for the Information Systems Journal, about the case studies that they had been doing at Salford for the TOTeM project. The work at Salford had concentrated on the business contexts in which Tales of Things could be applied and they had done extensive work with real estate agents. I was invited to join in writing the paper because I could add to the theorhetical and conceptual aspects of the paper in the areas of presence and connectivity. We'd submitted the paper last year and had it knocked back because the epistemological aspects were not clear, so we had reworked it a bit before other priorities put in it on the backburner. About 3 months ago, we finally got round to resubmitting, but because it had been so long in the process and there had been so  much to-ing and fro-ing, I forgot about it. So it came as a lovely surprise to get an email from ISJ to say that the paper has now been published! 

The paper is called The Business of Digital Storytelling - abstract to appear in the abstracts section of this website very soon!

Posted on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 09:09PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

New Year, New Activities

Now that I’ve finished my PhD and the TOTeM project has also come to an end, I find that I am still as busy as I even was! Jon Rogers who I worked with on TOTeM is on research leave this semester, so I am taking over from him, just until May, as the Acting Course Director for the MSc Product Design. For the past 3 years I have been telling Jon that I’m not a product designer, but now I finally get it! I don't have to be a product designer to be of use to a product design department in an art school -  the skills I have in interaction design, usability, creative visualisation and the way I approacj about my art are of valuable to a wide range of disciplines across digital media: Why did it take so long for the penny to drop?

I should have realised it last year when I was mentoring last year’s cohort of MSc Product Design students about their interactive plinths.  I’ve really been enjoying working with the students so far. They’re a great group of people with some interesting ambitions. I had missed student interaction when fully on research, and at the moment this post is good because it is not that demanding, so I can balance research, art making and my responsibilities to my students.

Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 02:56PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Burning the candle at both ends 

Just because I've submitted my PhD doesn't mean I've had time to rest of my laurels: 

Lately I’ve been really busy with TOTeM, working like crazy on 2 exhibitions: One where I’ve been  editing vides and audio for interactive plinths and mentoring MSc Product Design students in reinventing ideas surrounding the physicality of plinths in the gallery space. This is for a TOTeM exhibition I’m Seeing Things taking place in the 26th of October 2012. It’s part of a symposium we’re running on the internet of things, and to disseminate our research outcomes since TOTeM Is coming to an end. The worst of it is though, that it clashes with my PhD viva, so I won’t be able to attend  : (.  I get all the joy of organising and making, but none of the joy of experiencing the final outcome! *sigh* More info about the event is here.

The other exhibition I’ve been working on is  From the Western Arctic to the Bay of Bengal  for the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther . For this exhibition, the Dundee team are exhibiting the work we’ve been doing in Trout Lake with the Canadian First Nation Community, as well in India, Portugal and Scotland.. All three communities are based on fishing so the exhibition explores stories around cultural objects, artworks and fishing. We’re looking at how remote communities are bourght together through mobile tagging technologies and online social networking tools. The exhibition is on until the 13th of February 2013, and more information can be found on the Scottish Fisheries website.

The 11th hour

The 2nd draft of my PhD is in, all 75,000 odd words of it! Its been in for a few weeks now, and I’m just waiting on feedback to do the final touches then submit. But there are more delays – one of my supervisors had to be changed at the 11th hour just before things were quite complete. Had I not been sick, the timing would have maybe worked and there wouldn't have been so much time with one supervisor… but we agreed it would be better to take a bit longer and get things right than try to rush things and then have to do a resit. But, oh how frustrating it is!

 I was given the choice of having my new supervisor do speed read of my 2nd draft and then hope for the best to fit in with my original timeline, but we talked about it, and I didn’t really want to put that kind of pressure on him, when he needs time to get up to speed with where things are at.  So that’s all taking a bit of time and things have been pushed back another month. Its like the sword of Damoccles hanging over my head – I’m ready to move on, and I can’t until this is all done, and done well!

 Not to mention, things are getting busy with TOTeM again, so my head space in that area as well. I’m trying to carve out time to write papers, while being involved with organising 2 exhibitions that are taking place at the end of October, supervising some Product Design MSc students on reinventing the plinth, and co-ordinating the collection of stories from some really interesting First Nation people in Canada.

Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 06:33AM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Nice to know : )

Just stumbled upon the Internet of Things, Top 100 Thinkers on the Postscapes Internet of Things website, and have just discovered that they rate the TOTeM team at number 68 in the Top 100 thinkers. Nice to know that people like us. I was surprised to see Rhizome at 89, who I have always had huge respect for, but maybe that's because it is more art and less specifically aimed at IoT.

Posted on Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 04:13PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment

TOTeM and Oxfam's Shelflife

Today the TOTeM team and Oxfam launched their collaboration Shelflife. It will be rolled out in 10 Oxfam shops around Manchester. Oxfam's press release:

Ever wished an object could tell its story? That’s the idea behind Oxfam’s unique pilot scheme, Oxfam Shelflife, launching on 27 February in 10 Oxfam shops across Manchester. The Oxfam Shelflife app uses QR codes to enable the public to discover the stories behind Oxfam’s donated, ethical and Unwrapped products, and even share their own stories for the items they donate.

The project is the latest innovation from Oxfam which promotes sustainability by encouraging people to look beyond disposable consumerism. The stories behind vintage and second-hand items are all part of their desirability. At the moment these stories can be lost when an item is acquired by a new owner but Oxfam Shelflife enables the stories to stay with the items in a more long-lasting way.

Oxfam’s Sarah Farquhar, Head of Retail Brand said: “Every item has a story to tell and Oxfam Shelflife enables people to share these stories. We’ve found that items with an interesting story behind them are instantly more appealing to our customers so we hope Oxfam Shelflife will encourage people to love items for longer. This commitment to sustainability is an important part of what Oxfam shops bring to the high street.”

The scheme allows donors to ‘tag’ a QR code to their donated object, using the free Oxfam Shelflife app on their iPhone and share the story behind the item for the next owner to discover. Shoppers who visit the participating Oxfam stores can then scan the QR code on the item, via the app, which will take them to the unique story behind the object. Usually QR codes direct users to a website or URL but the Oxfam Shelflife app enables users to engage and interact with the technology, taking QR codes on to a new level.

The concept behind Oxfam Shelflife is based on an original idea developed by the Tales of Things initiative (TOTeM: Tales of Things and Electronic Memory), a collaboration between five British universities: University College London, The University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh College of Art, Brunel University, the University of Dundee and the University of Salford. The TOTeM initiative was funded by a £1.4m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Dr Chris Speed from the Edinburgh College of Art and part of the TOTeM team said: “Oxfam Shelflife has the potential to transform shops from places of consumption into places of stories and reflection. Shopping is no longer about buying things from unknown people in unknown places, instead the Oxfam Shelflife app will allow people to ‘write’ their stories on to products and help prevent them heading for the landfill.”

To find out more about the Oxfam Shelflife project and find a participating shop visit

Its been a long time in the making and Chris Speed tells the tale  of how it all came about on his blog.

Posted on Monday, February 27, 2012 at 10:00PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

TOTeM wins £10,000

In early November the TOTeM Research Project Team submitted an application to the "Telling Tales of Engagement" Competition 2011. The competition was aimed at capturing the impact that our digital economy research is having. Three prizes of £10,000 were available to support researchers to write about the stories of impact and how we had engaged in interesting ways to a wide audience. And we won one of the three prizes! We’re going to use the money to fund an exhibition of TOTeM’s work, which will take place next summer, possibly in Glasgow or Manchester.

Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 04:21PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment

20:20 at Dundee Science Festival 

Last night I took part in the pecha-kucha event 20:20 that I had been invited to present at for the Dundee Science Festival. There I talked about what we’ve been up to on the TOTeM project. Chris Speed, our Edinburgh College of Art Co-Investigator was also there, so we focused on different parts of the project. His was a fun piece on the notion f Posssions and the work TOTeM have been doing with Oxfam, while I showed what we’ve been up to tagging artists works here in the UK and also working with a remote First Nations community in the North West Territories of Canada. Overall it was a fun evening, chatting with some really interesting people from Culture Lab in Newcastle. It was also good to catch up with old comrades from the original Digital Economy Sandpit that was the birth of TOTeM and other exciting projects such as Digital Sensoria and VoiceYourView

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