The island of Tiree with its sheep, wind surfing, and limited physical connection to the mainland seems like an unlikely place for a ‘tech’ conference. TechWave’s vision is to consider the social and philosophical challenges of technology by engaging directly with it but without specific objectives. Alan Dix, a mathematician & computer scientist founded the Tiree TechWave workshop. One theme that does recur in the workshop is the place of technology in peripheral, marginal, or disavantaged situations. The relative remoteness of Tiree, situated in the Inner Hebrides emphasises the specificities of deploying hi-tech in an environment. I attended the 8th TechWave and was able to discuss my dissertation and gain valuable insights into the questions of theories of mind.
A group of Fellows from the UK-based innovation Charity NESTA worked on developing an AI application that predicted whether the weather would distrupt the sailing of the ferry that is the island’s life-line to the UK mainland at the port of Oban. I was priveleged to participate in their discussions and made a small contribution to their conceptualisation of the problem. This transdisciplinary approach is part of what makes these workshops so compelling. They don’t stand on disciplinary ceremony, but encourage a sharing of ideas and methods from the participants.
Part of this sharing is based on a policy of no specific outcomes. The argument for this is that by avoiding preconceived goals, this “open agenda does lead to remarkable things happening”. A kinect and arduino arrived in my bags but they were tools I offered, rather than part of a pre-conceived project. In the end I worked with David Morrison, a NESTA Fellow and graduate of Abertay University’s degree in computer games technology, and Mohamad Salimian, a PhD student and GRAND HQP from the Computer Science department of Dalhousie University. We worked together on getting David’s art game, based on a kinect-based body movement pachinko machine off the ground. You can get the code here:
Equally interesting were the conversations where ideas were explored with a view to future development. Stephen Forshaw, a PhD candidate in the High Wire program at Lancaster University http://highwire.lancs.ac.uk/ critiques the “linearity” of education in the face of an icreasingly non-linear society. http://lancaster.academia.edu/StephenForshaw
He argues for social systems where the individual moves freely rather than having a fixed staus and role. Foresham argues modern tech can facilitate this social fluidity, IF it is designed that way. He says “I think by making, playing and doing” which has a resonance with my dissertation work.
A chat with Alan Dix raised a new question about the theoretical basis of my research: rather than assuming that theories of mind begin with an individual assuming that their experience is mirrored in others, Dix suggests that we learn to think about our own minds by watching others as that who acts. This is highly relevant to investigating phenomenological theories that explore child development, and hence to how we come to understand ourselves and others as agents.
A group of students sponsored by Samsung attended along with their colleagues from the School of Design at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Andrew Sage, another NESTA Fellow, brought his board game Sheepy Sleepy. It included 3-D printed sheep. No sheep were scanned for this project.
My take-aways- I would jump at the chance to go to future TechWaves. This is a great environment to share, explore and develop ideas. You will make things you did not anticipate, and possibly develop a deeper habit of creativity. I very grateful for GRAND-nce, TAG research Center and Lynn Hughes for encouraging and funding me to go.