Birmingham City Of Culture

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Birmingham City Council to be be part of a young people’s steering group for the City Of Culture bid for 2013. I was really quite pleasantly surprised and happy to be asked, though essentially it is a bit of free work consultation to see what young people want from the city.

At first it involved a group of us meeting to discuss what we like about our city, but moreso to try and identify things that related to these three categories:

Culture on Your Doorstep – exciting cultural activities delivered outside of the City Centre (including local streets and parks)

Next Generation – small and large scale cultural projects and programmes of work led by children, young people and young adults (to include personal and professional development opportunities, mentoring and shadowing)

A Great International City of the Future – cultural projects which celebrate our past, present and future and raise the profile of Birmingham internationally (including creating large scale works of art in and around the City and a potential Autumn Festival).

Now they’re looking to the wider, under-25’s audience for their opinion. There is a three-page questionnaire that young ‘uns can fill out, but more interestingly I think it’d be better to get involved in the discussion on the Facebook Group (liek wot all da cool kids iz doin)

City of Cultre - Have Your Say

Interestingly enough, even though it asks for people under 25 to contribute, Martin Mullaney has gotten involved in the discussion. Errr, thanks!

Answers on a post card by 4th December!

fizzPOP presentation at Brumcon 9

Brumcon 9 LogoBrumcon 9 is coming up this Saturday and I’ve been asked to give a short talk about fizzPOP and hackerspaces.

BrumCon is a regular event organised by Brum2600 regulars, featuring a wide variety of talks, discussion, demos and most importantly, alcohol. Incorrectly but neatly dubbed a ‘blackhat thinktank’ by NTK, The Register – ‘We have your water supply, and printers’, BBC Midlands Today – ‘Spooky’, By you lot as the UK’s biggest underground Hacker con, By hotel staff as ‘scary’ but nice people and I’m scared I’d get my ass so electronically kicked.
We welcome all kinds of phreaks, geeks and other technologically interested people from all sides of the fence (as long as hats, badges and warrants are left at the door).
The entrance fee this year is 8 UK Pounds per delegate. Corporate packs are available that includes entrance, T-shirt and receipt contact us at to book.

Entry from 11am Talks Start 12 noon.

I think it’s interesting that I will have delivered a talk on the same subject but to two different groups. For example, for the talk at Eastside Projects I talked about it more as an artist led space wheras at this talk I’ll more than likely talk about it more as a hackersapce.

Anyhow, my presentation is from 12:45, the full schedule is available on the Brum2600 website

fizzPOP presentation at Eastside Projects

Last Thursday I gave a short presentation at Eastside Projects about fizzPOP. There were a few presentations on the night, all of which focussed on what artists have been up to since their studies. Although I’ve been out of university since July 2007 fizzPOP has really been my main activity since then.

fizzPOP (by Nikki Pugh)

Photo by Nikki Pugh

What’s interesting about fizzPOP is that in many ways it relates to one of the aims of artists/art groups, which is to be part of/build a community and acquire their own space or studio where they can explore their practice.

Although fizzPOP did start off as being nomadic and taking place in pubs, bars and even around people’s houses we’re now in the much more fortunate position of being hosted by Friction Arts. Whilst not all hackerspaces would consider this an ideal situation what it does is give us that all important space for us to hold our activities and a central place for the community to meet.

From conversations with other artistic friends I’ve heard that one of the potential hazards of forming a collective in order to acquire space is finding committed people who are willing to put money and time into making the space viable. fizzPOP is no different. Regardless of the current economic climate there will always be problems in finding enough people to pay the rent, heating and electricity bills! However, the fizzPOP Howduino on Saturday proved that there is a community and interest in things like this.

We had a wide variety of people attend, some of whom knew very little about technology.

Some may consider making lights blink or generating random noise to be simple tasks, but for a beginner it opens a door to a whole new approach to their work. Being able to build a device from scratch or knowing how one works bring massive benefits to anyone.

You can read my slides below. There’s lots of stuff, including credits, in the notes.

Video conversion glitch

I made this video at a training day in using Macs/video editing software with children and community groups. I completed the task as asked but then switched to my laptop, fired up kdenlive and tried to see what it was capable of. It was upon exporting to ogg that I got a nice surprise.

Whilst this kind of glitch is rather nice one must be careful not to be reliant on it for production as at any time it could be fixed. Effects such as this Photoshop truncating glitch are now only possible in Photoshop 6 as the bug that caused it has been fixed. This is why I’m now more on the lookout for programs/scripts and guaranteed methods for reproducing glitch effects. The ones that tend to be best at this are ones that can import any data, an example of this being Audacity’s ability to attempt to load any file you load into it.

Is there a list of software out there that can interpret and load any data?

Databending using Audacity

Thanks to some help on the Audacity forum I finally know out how to use Audacity to databend. Previously I’d been using mhWavEdit, which has its limitations and just doesn’t feel as familiar as Audacity. From talk on the various databending discussion boards I found that people would often use tools like Cool Edit/Adobe Audition for their bends. Being on Linux and restricting myself to things that run natively (i.e. not under Wine) presented a new challenge. Part of my task was to replicate the methods others have found but under Linux. My ongoing quest is to find things that only Linux can do, which I’m sure I’ll find when I eventually figure out how to pipe data through one program into another!

Here’s some of my current results using Audacity:

Gabe, Abbey, L and me (by hellocatfood)

Liverpool (by hellocatfood)

Just so you don’t have to go trawling through the posts on the Audacity forum here’s how it’s done. It’s worth noting that this was on using Audacity 1.3.12-2 on Linux. Versions on other operating systems may be different. Before I show you this it’s probably better if you work with an uncompressed image format, such as .bmp or .tif. As jpgs are compressed data there’s always more chance of completely breaking a picture, rather than bending it. So, open up GIMP/your faviourite image editor and convert it to an uncompressed format. I’ll be using this picture I took at a Telepaphe gig awhile back.

Next, download Audacity. You don’t need the lame plugin as we wont be exporting to mp3, though grab it if you plan to use it for that feature in the future. Once you have it open go to File > Import > Raw Data and choose your file. What you’ll now be presented is with options on how to import this raw data, which is where I would usually fall flat.

Import Raw Data

Import Raw Data

Under Encoding you’ll need to select either U-Law or A-Law (remember which one you choose). When you choose any other format you’ll be converting the data into that format. Whilst you want to achieve data modification this is bad because it’ll convert the header of the image file, thereby breaking the image. U/A-Law just imports the data. The other settings do have significance but I wont go into that here. When you’re ready press Import and you’ll see your image as data!

Image as sound

Image as sound

Press play if you dare, but I’d place money on the fact that it’ll probably sound like either white noise or Aphex Twin glitchy goodness. This is where the fun can begin. For this tutorial select everything from about five seconds into the audio. The reason for this is because, just like editing an image in a text editor, the header is at the beginning of the file. Unless you know the size of the header and exactly where it ends (which you can find out with a bit of research), you can usually guess that it’s about a few seconds into the audio. The best way to find it out is to try it out!

Anyway, highlight that section and then go to Effect > Echo

Apply the echo

Leave the default settings as they are and press OK

You’ll see that your audio has changed visually. It still wont sound any better but the magic happens when you export it back to an image file, which is the next step.

Once you’re happy with your modifications go to File > Export. Choose a new location for your image and type in the proposed new file name but don’t press save just yet. You’ll need to change the export settings to match the import settings.


Change the file format to Other Uncompressed Files and then click on the Options button.

Export settings

Export settings

Change the settings to match the ones above (or to A-Law if you imported as A-Law). With that now all set you can now press Save! If you entered a file extension when you were choosing a file name you’ll get a warning about the file extension being incorrect, but you can ignore it and press Yes. If you didn’t choose a file extension, when the file is finished exporting, add the appropriate extension to the file. In my case I’d be adding .bmp to the end.

Here’s the finished image:



There’s of course so many different filters available in Audacity, so try each of them out! If you’re feeling really adventurous try importing two or more different images and then exporting them as a single image.

The Family lives!

On Thursday 5th November I was once again part of The Family for The Event. There’s something I really like about dressing in dungarees – which I haven’t done since I was about 10 – and marching around Digbeth! Other highlights include dropping in on an event about saftey in the community where we rescued some puppets and eating blue food, which tastes loads better than its plain counterpart

You can read more about my day with The Family on their website

fizzPOP Howdunio

fizzPOP Howduino

The fizzPOP crew, in particular Nikki, GBulmer and Charlie Pinder, have been hard to bring you the fizzPOP Howduino hack day at VIVID, which is supported by Hello Digital as part of Fringe Events programme.

Photo by Nikki Pugh

fizzPOP joins forces with Howduino to host a room full of people sticking together electronics, computer programs, cardboard and discarded junk items to make cool stuff do cool things in ways you never imagined. Join us and be part of the growing hacker and maker scene emerging around the UK.

Tickets for the 40 available places will be released on Friday 6th of November on a first-come first-served basis. Likewise for the workshops, which have 8 places each. Sign up here for notification when the tickets are released

Go to the fizzPOP Howduino wiki for full details of the event and to find out more about who’s coming.

All skill levels welcome – there will be something for everyone.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to learn the basics of electronics or just wanted to in a room full of people hacking away at devices sign up and be part of the action!

The Family at The Event

Tomorrow I’ll be joining The Family at Birmingham Backpackers in Digbeth to take part in the activities as part of The Event. Ana summarises it all rather nicely:

…we’ll be spending the next 5 days changing our name every 6 hours, wearing hand decorated dungarees, playing thought-stopping games, eating brightly coloured food, asking questions, strengthening our Dantien, collective dreaming, strumming red, yellow, green and blue ukuleles, finding portals, calling rainbows, going to the top, chanting punk meditation, making friends, sleeping in pods, giving out flowers, love-bombing, and having all the fun we can cram into the day.

(Not a cult)

If you came to The Family Fun Day in September you’ll know what we’re all about, but either way come on down!