5 February 2013

tenantspin have a history of developing community broadcast projects and are now experimenting post-broadcast media in collaboration with Re-Dock. 'Advice Portal' builds on residents' ipad learning sessions to facilitate creative exercises discussing the impact of technology, possible uses and restrictions of telepresence, and the importance of the message itself, for both sender and receiver. 

Advice Portal is inspired both by historical technological innovations and their impact on society, as well as fictional devices such as time-travel and visitations. With telepresence technologies now ubiquitous, it is also interested in the importance of the messages, and the different uses of telepresence that may be possible. We use the iPads as part of this process - making notes, doing research, or as tools to compose messages and communicate directly - but our focus is to encourage critical and creative thinking about the technology. 

In early sessions we have collected and discussed the residents memories of new technologies in their lifetimes, and their experiences of new tools such as ipads and smart phones. We've also explored ideas of 'portals' in culture - from science fiction to traditional folk tales - and the role of the 'messenger from beyond'.

We've also asked the residents to think about the messages they would send back in time to themselves, composing character-restricted missives for LED apps, and creating some extremely concise, heartfelt and urgent dispatches to the past.

In recent sessions we've been having fun with Skype, encouraging role play (we've reunited long lost relatives, and celebrated Christmas twice in one day!), and also introducing the residents to some remarkable people. Skype is the ubiquitous telepresence device that sci-fi promised, and is all the more powerful for the fact we perhaps already take it for granted. The residents have been hosting some interesting discussions with scientists, illustrators, freelancers, set designers, musicians, as well as playing a bit of bingo with Sam's dad (a pensioner and born-again skype evangelist).

It's not all been plain sailing, the reality of getting wifi into the homes has been beset with niggles, but we're at an interesting stage now where tech problems are ironed out, we've got to know the residents, they're getting more confident with using ipads (thanks to Jon Turton's regular lessons) and they're up for exploring the ideas around 'portals'. We've got a few more sessions, where we'll explore different ways to use skype as an advice portal, and also record our own video messages of advice for the future.

We will also be working with associate artists to develop prototype sketches for new kinds of PORTALS and screen / communication interfaces, which will be tested and further developed with the residents.

The project will be presented in an exhibition in the FACT Connects Space in May 2013. The final exhibition will feature the various portal interfaces, alongside research from the workshops. The aim is to allow visitors to explore a range of approaches to telepresence, but also question how these could impact on the everyday lives of the residents. 

Watch this portal!