Skip to content

Sean Kingsley – Thoughts from the hiCraft launch event – Part 1

  • by

Mini dramas, excitement and anticipation are always part of travelling, accommodation, eating, meeting new people and embarking on new work. Personal interests are reflected in some of the photos taken – combined here in the splendid railway hotel (Royal Station Hotel, Newcastle), and details of tiles in the foyer. (The interests being railways, architecture and ceramics).

The evening search for authentic Indian food as a nod to preferred flavours and time spent in India with shortly to be rejoined colleagues. Internal dramas involve alternative mask-wearing rules in England to Scotland, giving the feeling of being overdressed. A close scrape with covid doesn’t help.

Knowing the project’s bigger picture, IoT comes more into focus. The combination of Apple Watch and iPhone has been an unexpected pleasure, but this first morning the pairing seems to start to fail. Or is it me? Trustingly, I walk down streets unnamed in real life, to the directions indicated on the Watch. Yet, it starts to feel as if this is not the right direction. Check on the iPhone. Mind working faster. Maps app. Is Maps as good as Google Maps? That’s a thought. Surely it only has to be good enough; it is only a 25 minute walk at the most. That isn’t logical. Time is marching on; don’t want to be late. Have I just been re-routed? Why does the connection between the two devices keep dropping out? I haven’t ever known that before. Does one need restarted? Or both? How long will that take? Does Apple know I am getting to be in a rush? Look at the Northumbria University graphics map captured earlier on the phone. Start to use my own senses to look at my environment a bit more closely. I hear the busy road, on the map and in my memory of being here before. I know I have to get over that dual carriageway. The iPhone, the Watch are confirming that. That’s… re-assuring, or is it? Is this an example of Sensors versus Senses?

I ask an actual person if I am in the right place to confirm what I think from information on my phone. Yes. Some new introductions, gathering together. Friends. Covid report. Then a plant. Does this need a sensor? Trying to think in IoT ways.

We introduce ourselves mainly through showing what we do. Discussions are captured as much as possible in a lovely fold out sketchbook. Work by the others is startlingly good. The broad framework of the project is discussed. The core team have been thinking of this for a long time, so the frameworks are in depth and provocative.

I have the sense of seeing the big picture fairly clearly, such as data security issues and the commission to think of IoT being created and used locally. The phrase used in discussions that is paraphrased here and may not be entirely accurate: ‘instead of 10s of companies making millions of things we look to have millions of people making 10s of things’ is useful to lock the concepts of the project in my mind.

With that comes the drama and stress of figuring out how to contribute, since my viewpoint is inevitably small. It reminds me of discussions from years ago about pulsing and lensing, which I frankly might well have misunderstood, but contains the idea of being able to focus on the macro issues and then refocusing on micro issues. In focussing and refocussing the issues should stay or become connected. It is a necessary way of working as a craftsperson – in order to make anything bigger one needs to focus closely on the details (how wet is that clay, how fast is that wheel) and then focus yet further out to see how and where this piece of work is going to sit in the world.

There are discussions using analogies to our own crafts and making things in IoT. I wonder what the starting point for a person would be in IoT that is like opening a bag of clay and showing someone how to cut it, stretch it out and join it together into forms. What is the analogous process in IoT of learning to throw by sitting at the wheel with 50 balls of clay for weeks on end? This is what I resolve to find and do, since the IoT is too abstract for me and I need to get my hands, metaphorically, dirty.

I wonder if recording my introduction to IoT as a craft would be useful. Then making suggestions for simplified ways in. I do this in ceramics, but then I know my way around clay pretty well and the methods have taken time to evolve.

During our walk on Hadrian’s wall, Justin reckoned he could feel the rain coming, in his body. I’d already posted to myself that Sensors alert Senses. Is it possible to train up human senses by the use of sensors. For example, if there is an increase in wind, or a change in wind direction, a slight drop in temperature, an increase of moisture in the air or other weather changing events, these could be picked up by local sensors which could then alert a person to take note of their senses. Through repeated use a person might learn to become extra sensitive to their environment, in the way a farmer might already be.