ONE OF MY FAVOURITE iOS apps is TuneIt Radio because it connects me to pretty much any place on earth. It does its magic by tuning into radio that is streaming on the internet or by finding audio segments that stations have saved in their archives. I can get hundreds of stations (and police scanners and air traffic controllers) while walking the halls at work or while connected to my Mifi dongle on the road. When I dial into a Chinese chat show, I may not understand the chatter but I feel more connected. Occasionally, I plug the aux audio leads from a six-year-old kitchen radio into the earphone jack of my iPod Touch and that old appliance lets me tune into anywhere that's streaming its signal on the Net. There's something about having a little box on the countertop that connects me to the earliest moments of electronic entertainment. Because radio is the great survivor medium. It's a century old and still occupying more hours in the average Irishman's week than network television. And it's the medium that's most frequently mentioned by every cohort of creative multimedia students in Tipperary Institute. Now that it's pocket-sized, streaming and international, I think it's got a stronger essence than local newsprint.
WHILE SKIMMING THROUGH my Flickr archive I stumbled upon my life from 20 years ago. One of those images is from a negative of a German forest that I scanned and then uploaded to Flickr. It represents a walk in the woods I'd take while thinking about turmoil. It was a time in my life when I well and truly flamed out. I've a half pallet of books and files from that era that sit in an American warehouse, waiting for my bidding to call it across the ocean. It's significant that a single image can cause a wellspring of memories to flood out. I stopped looking at the shots I took in 1991 because I didn't like the mood that they created. I wonder if I'll delete the images from Flickr because of that reaction. I don't think I'll do that because some of the shots have stories itching to be told during a late night session with friends.
UNLIKE RESTFUL PASTURES surrounding most of the Irish cemeteries I've visited, the space immediately surrounding our home is awash with 21st century noise. We wish we could dial it down because we really appreciate the sound of silence, especially at night. I've started exploring these audible cues. A sound mapping experiment, made easy with Audioboo, shows an audio heatmap of the morning. Some mornings you can hear the hot water tank circulating. Most mornings, heavy goods vehicles shift their loads when dropping two inches into a tank trap just outside our front door. Two boy racers parade with signature exhaust boxes precisely three hours before sunrise, giving us a big clue that REM sleep is best snatched by changing our sleep cycles. All these familiar sounds might be marked on an Irish Sound Map, a form of locative media that could link our place and its sonic representations to a community of sounds. Personalized map content has become one of my favourite activities, starting with gold stars for places I'd recommend to blue points of interest on Ovi Maps that surprise me on back roads throughout Ireland. An Irish soundmap could convey our local soundscape, often by offering soundmarks soundmarks of distinct community sounds. So when I'm in Dublin, I try to record the Luas passing by and when I'm walking the Irish coast, I capture the call of seagulls overhead. I think these sounds, when given a cartographic representation, can help me explain to friends why I like the sound of Ireland.
SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE (see photo), anyone expecting to use seamless bus services in Ireland needs to be flexible. I ride Aircoach several times a month and during the past four months, it's obvious that more people are using public transportation. Three times this year, I could not border the Dublin-bound Aircoach service in Cashel because all seats were taken. Normally, you can work around this issue by purchasing your tickets online ahead of schedule. That doesn't work all the time either. I traveled Aircoach today with a paying passenger sitting on my lap. That's more than two hours in a very cramped position. But at least I had a seat, unlike two other paying passengers who were seated in the aisle. So if you're a summer backpacker, have a back-up plan. Ireland's intercity bus services are not what they seem.
ACCORDING TO MY FLICKR ARCHIVE, I'm running around 100 tomatoes ahead of last year. The Irish Spring feels like a mini-summer so we've purchased a few tomato plants and if last year's harvest is any indication, we'll have at least 100 more tomatoes than in 2010. We bought plants from the Clonmel Garden Centre and they sourced them from the Gardeners Kitchen. This year's crop includes Tomato Shirley F1 (sounds like a Ferrari that should stay in the garage until May) and two Supersweet 100s (the one advertised to produce up to 100 cherry tomatoes per bush). For good measure, two Chilli Peppers slipped into the trolley so we should have excellent outdoor patio eating from the second week of May. Planting these crops also means I'll start slowing down my daily tweeting and start talking to plants. You can hear the result on Audioboo if you like.
Image of the 2010 planting season.
AFTER TONIGHT'S TWITTER CHAT with Irish educators wrapped up, I started thinking about the technology inside the online conversation. Although it might look like a fast-paced text-only conversation on Twitter, a much more sophisticated set of technologies actually supports the cluster of 60 virtual attendees. The Monday evening conversations last around an hour and they're discoverable with the hashtag #edchatie. Several advocates announce the topic of discussion on the CESI Mailing List, a service powered by Google Groups. Those who participate in the weekly events have to use more than Twitter to stay in touch. In my case, newsfeeds from teachers' blogs and alerts from Boxcar keep me focused on what's being discussed. So although it might look like a simple thing to invite a new participant to watch the #edchatie flow on Twitter, doing a little background research with tools such as those I've cited would help reduce the confusion that new viewers of #edchatie would feel when first watching the Monday evening Twitterstream.
AFTER A 30K on Twitter, I thought I'd ask Google, "What is Twitter?" I got birds. So then I scrolled to the bottom of the first page of results and I got Simply Zesty's answer. In his post, Niall Harbison challenged readers to summarise their answer in a few words. I can: RTi. Twitter is Real Time information for me. That doesn't mean it's the public timeline that newbies see when they glance at the trending topics or stream of information on the front page of Twitter.com. After 33,333 tweets (on my main account), I have figured out that Twitter is worth my time if I manage its flow. So I manage by lists. I manage by time which means I shift a lot of my Twitter time onto newsfeeds and alerts. That means if someone is saying something I have deemed important, I get the information pushed to me relatively quickly via email or via the iOS alert system. I use Boxcar on iOS 4.3.2 and its bells, chimes and foghorns serve up an assortment of social networking alerts that help me through the day. I also subscribe to business intelligence by setting up tag alerts for venues, events, destinations, speakers and nobs.
IF YOU BELIEVE the ratings agencies, Ireland is a bankrupt nation and the country needs to immediately improve its national productivity. In these times of unprecedented financial challenges facing the public sector, I believe the Irish government should row in and delete the May Bank Holiday from the calendar. This would inject an imperative into the discussion with public sector unions about the need to get more productive with work practises. At the same time, there would be an immediate and measureable decrease in the public sector wage bills. In Ireland, especially this year, the May Bank Holiday falls very close to the Easter holidays. Around Easter, it's possible to enjoy several back-to-back four day work weeks which immediately reduces Ireland to a Mediterranean work pattern (without the sun). For those who really want to kick back and enjoy a springtime holiday, there's nothing wrong with using annual leave for that purpose. In the meantime, I think that a marker needs to be put under the national debt and there is no clearer international signal to show Irish resolution than to cancel the traditional May Bank Holiday.
Image from my April garden in County Tipperary.
AN EASTER EGG HUNT has interrupted my normal flow of visual reportage so if you want a 10-minute newsround on Easter Sunday from Ireland, you need to listen on Audioboo. Inside the papers, both Jemima Kiss and John Naughton resonate the loudest. Kiss talks about her digital detox and Naughton about our lax attitudes concerning privacy. With kids running around my elbows, it's time to immerse in the real workd and to let the digital conversations for another week.
Watch the Qik clip: http://qik.com/video/39419869.
Last week: "Sunday Times from Ireland", April 17, 2011.
Last month: "Sunday News after the Big Win", March 20, 2011.
Easter Last Year: "Sindo Plus Three in 10 Minutes, April 4, 2010.
Easter Five Years Ago: Searching for stun guns, April 16, 2006.
NURSERY RHYMES will never be the same. And neither will Cold Play or Snow Patrol after listening to Edward Reid perform on Britain's Got Talent tonight. Edward is a 35 year old drama teacher in Scotland. His stage manner and creativity as a vocalist is as surprising as it is delightful. If I was going to arrange a performer for a Mulleydo, I'd have Edward Reid near the top of my list. He would blow out the best of Irish stage talent. Edward took over the stage at Britain's Got Talent just like he does for birthdays, weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs, and fashion events. But it might be a matter of taste. You have to enjoy kooky cabaret and know the difference between musical theatre and pop. You're certain to enjoy Edward's performance if you fancy being invited to Elton John's parties. I'm ready to buy Edward's album after listening to his performance below.