Ocarina iPhone app by Smule and exploding interface design

My iPhone has shifted into a new space with the download of a very cool little application, that is simultaneously totally useless and completely wonderful.


The ‘ocarina’ app developed by smule allow me to play my phone. To quote their website:

“Ocarina is sensitive to your breath, touch and movements, making it even more versatile than the original. Unlike other musical applications, there are no pre-compiled riffs so musicians will find unlimited opportunities for self-expression. Advanced options allow you to choose between diatonic, minor and harmonic scales. Or channel your favorite video game adventurer with Smule’s Zeldarian mode.”

This is rather groovy and all good fun but the bit that I like the best is the interface to view the music of other iPhone players around the world, which are geocoded and visualized onto a rotating image of our planet. The effect is magical and reminds you of how small our world is, how insignificant our individual voices but yet how meaningful to us as human beings.

This kind of visualisation of data that is being collected for ‘other’ reasons is I believe the start of something big. Exploding interface design is the thing that will finally transform the way technology can touch our lives in unexpected ways. This kind of mash-up thingy, useless exploration, is on the right track.

If you have an iPhone, I suggest you try it and look at the user generated sheet music that you can play.

It is called Ocarina as the sound is like the real world instrument, as in the picture below.


Working internatioanally with other non-profit cultural publishers: Culturemondo 4th Roundtable

This December will be the 4th international roundtable I have been involved in initiating and delivering as part of our rather romantically named Culturemondo project.

We now have a pretty serious three-day agenda full of keynotes, conversations, master classes and case studies covering issues from the UK and Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Africa and a diverse mix of Asian countries. I am travelling out to chair the event and present a case study about Culture24 that tracks our evolution from “portal to publisher”. We are lucky to have sponsorship from TELDAP part of the Academia Sinetica and supported by the Taiwan government) and the event is being held in a rather beautiful and nostalgic Culture park in the heart of Taipei that used to be a wine factory.


Being part of this informal network has been a real inspiration for me. The exposure to real international differences and intellectual perspectives always has something new to show me. I have also been the guests of Japanese, Canadian, Croatian, Cuban and Taiwanese hosts and know all about the value of some good face to face conversation and cold beer (not to mention the odd moment on a sun blessed beach).

To coincide with the roundtable we are reinvigorating the networks Google Group and our website and sending out the first in a series of regular posts (beginning w/c 17th Nov 08). If you would like to join the Google Group, you can find out more here.

We have also gone live with our third international survey of cultural portals and it is now open for completion by anyone who is running a cultural portal of some kind. You can find it on survey monkey here.

The survey will continue to benchmark the size, scope and development of our sector internationally but will also, for the first time, be collecting statistical information from which comparisons can usefully be made. This is because this is the first time we are only collecting stats from the same system – Google Analytics.

The survey will stay open online until after the roundtable in December and the results will be incorporated into the next published report summarising the roundtable that is being written by Katherine Watson from Lab for Culture.

One of the good things about watching something grow, organically from individual peoples passions, is that you have no shame about seeing it for what it is. Warts and all and if nothing else, Culturemondo has allowed me a perspective on the failures of Culture24 as much as it has helped our successes to shine brightly.

One thing that sticks out like a broken thing, is our use of the word portal. Intuitively, I always hated it (maybe it sounds better in French or Italian?) but it is a struggle to find a word that accurately describes the new model of cultural online publishers that some of us are becoming.