Interesting 2016

Lots of lovely talks at Interesting this year. Glad Russell Davies has started doing it again.

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1) Abbey Kos
Her talk rallied against wine culture, Ann Noble’s tasting wheel and the Court of Master Sommeliers. I liked the anti-snobbish premise. But I suppose its part of a wider debate about whether taste is objective or subjective. Whether you like the taste of a wine is one thing. But having watched Somm (the wine documentary), it seeams most of a sommelier’s training is concerned with locating a wine to a region and vintage. Rather than judging it as tasty or not. She gave us free wine. A winning approach to any talk in my book.

2) Rachel Coldicott
I’ve seen her speak before. She was hilarious as ever. Talked about the shady eye-make up and hair of the leading character in The Good Wife.

3) Lucy Blackwell
Lucy creates and sends out a calendar to her closest friends each year. A lot of her work centred on beautifully complicated ecosystem art. I particularly liked 2013’s calendar – which involved her getting to work in different ways. And then creating an illustration to commemorate it. One trip involved calling friends from phoneboxes along the route, and playing them Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You. And another saw her draw a straight line from work to home, and then endeavour to walk that line as accurately as possible. Whilst making that journey, she marked the route behind her with chalk.

4) Mags Blackwell
Lucy’s mum. Via video, she spoke poetically about the links between failure and creativity.

5) Rujuta Teredesai
Interesting talk about her experience running a gender equality programme in India. And how there are significant parallels between that and agile method.

6) Ella Fitzsimmons
Funny talk about swedish law relating to sex with supernatural beings. Enjoyed hearing that it’s common practice for swedish people to provide porridge for house trolls.

7) Nat Buckley
Great talk about flyknit innovation, which offers a dramatic reduction in waste vs cut and sewn garments. Nat likened the innovation to 3D printing, but stated it wasn’t perceived as that cool yet. Personally I think knitting has had a bit of a renaissance of late (with Pom Pom, and Wool And The Gang) but I know where they were coming from. Beautiful hand-drawn slides too.

8) Ade Adewunmi
Enjoyable talk from a self-professed TV fan. Centred around the idea that TV remains one of the most low risk ways of exploring difficult ideas. I like that. She also talked about how it allows us to find a common vocabulary: when someone says ‘he’s such a Ross’, you know exactly what they mean.

9) Kim Plowright
Outstanding talk. One of the best I’ve ever seen. Kim set her presentation to autoplay, and timed it to perfection with her script. Her talk was about looking after her parents with dementia, and how she used social media as an outlet. I’d love to see this talk again, I can think of so many people that would benefit from hearing it.

10) Tom Whitwell
Fun talk about synthesisers. Tom talked about the development of synth, all whilst putting together a synth on stage. Impressive work. He talked about Hex Schmitt triggers. And the inventor of the transistor, William Shockley. Who apparently wasn’t a particularly pleasant man. When he started a company, almost all of his management team walked out on him. They were dubbed the Traitorous Eight. And included in their numbers Gordon Moore (author of Moore’s Law).

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11) Tim Dunn
Tim’s talk was about extreme trainspotting. A self professed trainspotter, he has recently been helping on a project launching the national train project in Sierra Leone. When the country’s railways were closed down, the trains were boarded up in a warehouse and were only recently rediscovered. Many people in Sierra Leone have never seen a train. So they decided to open a train museum there, along with a whole program of events to help the local community. Nice.

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11) Lisa Rajan
Lisa was talking with her five year old son one day, after dropping their car at the garage. He’d asked who would be mending the car, and Tara had said perhaps it would be a female mechanic. And her boy had replied ‘But mummy, ladies can’t be mechanics’.
After researching books for girls vs boys on google images, she saw a startling difference. So she’s started writing books with strong female leads, doing all sort of jobs. And she kindly gave a free copy to everyone who attended Interesting.

12) Diego Maranan
I’d love to see Diego speak again, and hear about what else he’s worked on. He named his talk at Interesting’Why I’m Making Vibrating Underwear’. It centered on the idea of embodied cognition – that the brain doesn’t directly equal the mind. But rather that the entire body shapes the mind. He referenced some useful studies. The first was Grin and Beat It: the influence of manipulated facial gestures. By holding a pencil between your teeth, you feel happier; via the smiling action. The second was Being Barbie: the size of ones body determines the perceived size of the world.

Most recently, he’s been working with the Feldenkrais Method, which uses small body movements to create massive emotional shifts. From moving your shoulder blades back, to stretching your hips. And so he’s developing HAPLOS, a piece of vibrating clothing (created with phone motors) that runs patterns and sensations down the wearer’s back. At a recent hackathon, he incorporated it into a dress and linked it up to an EFG headset. The clothing made different patterns until it found the pattern that elicited the biggest shift in a person’s EFG data. Very interesting. There are more details here: cognovo.eu/project-8

13) Alby Reid
Alby is a science teacher, and decided to talk about the Litvinenko poisoning. His talk was full of amazing stats. He explained just how dangerous Polonium 210 is; a piece the size of a single grain of sand could kill 6000 people. And rather disconcertingly, you’d only need a piece the size of your hand to wipe the human race off the earth.

14) Helen Castor
Helen is a medieval historian. She talked about her life digging up dead people for a living. It made for a fascinating talk. Particularly liked her bit about William Shakespeare’s grave, which has no name or dates. Instead just a poem that ends ‘curst be he that moves my bones’.

Using deep radar analysis, they’ve concluded that Shakespeare’s grave has been disturbed at some point in history. At the head end. Several historians believe his head may actually be missing. But the church won’t allow them to dig the grave up, so they can’t confirm it.

15) Alice Barlett
A fantastically energetic talk to finish. Alice talked about Tampon Club; a project she started that offers free tampons to women in the GDS toilet. As she said, women don’t choose for periods to happen, so tampons should be as accessible as toilet paper is. Since starting the club, she now runs a scheme whereby you can get a branded sticker set if you set up your own tampon club at your work. Nice.

Brilliant evening. Bring on next year.

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