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The Kinder Way To Enjoy Hacking

This morning I gave the opening address at the annual conference of ALIA Queensland. The theme this year was “Library Hacks”.

Hacking’s such a funny term, still threatening and techy and futuristic, and yet also so familiar; the stuff of cheesy mid-90s techno-thrillers as much as today’s headlines about Wikileaks and massive DNS attacks.

The New Yorker tells us that the word originates in the house slang of MIT, way back in the 1950s:

The minutes of an April, 1955, meeting of the Tech Model Railroad Club state that “Mr. Eccles requests that anyone working or hacking on the electrical system turn the power off to avoid fuse blowing.”

Taking “hack” to mean tinkering with machines and procedures, not following the manual, I wanted to both hack the keynote and offer attendees an opportunity that wouldn’t exist at M.I.T.

So, we gave them craft materials, tinfoil and paperclips, food decorating kits, a basic electronics set…

…and Kinder Surprise Eggs.

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What are you playing at? Digital comics at the Writing Platform

Why would an Aussie library get its designers to build a drag and drop comics website?

Aren’t there already plenty of free comic makers online?

What are you even playing at?


The Writing Platform, a joint venture by Bath Spa University in the UK and QUT in Australia, has my latest piece, on the new remixable comic maker from State Library of Queensland.


Read more about the State Library’s Comic Maker at The Writing Platform.

Marvellous, Electrical and the Black Prince

Sidewalk in the Brisbane suburbs

What does a man have to do to be accepted as a true Australian?

We took a walk through the suburbs to Brisbane’s Toowong Cemetery, exploring the legacy of the 19th century champion boxer – and adopted Aussie – Peter Jackson.

Read more at Marvellous, Electrical: Sweet Science.

Revenge of the Model Railway Club

I’ll be speaking at ALIA Queensland‘s mini-conference “Library Hacks” in a couple of weeks.


American-style model railway. Photo by Graham Causer, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 Licence

My keynote’s called Revenge of the Model Railway Club and it takes the form of a hands-on workshop. It should be fun – if you’re in the area, you should come!

Library Hacks runs 9am to 5pm at Brisbane Square Library on Wednesday 26th October.

Marvellous, Electrical: Forms of Myth

This week, in Marvellous, Electrical: storytelling, town planning, sculpture, and the smell of first rain on dry stone.

Read ‘Forms of Myth’ here.

International Harvester: The Ozofarm Game

Today sees the official release of the Ozofarm game and game development competition for Queensland’s public libraries.

As I discovered on my visit out to the cotton fields of the Darling Downs, digital technology is changing the way we farm. Cows are milked in robotic dairies. Drones are herding and surveying cattle from the skies. Self-driving machines are steering across Queensland’s fields, tending crops and baling cotton.

I worked with Eva Ruggiero and Tammy Morley of the State Library’s Regional and Public Libraries Team to devise a game which explored robotics in agriculture.


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You Have Been Upgraded

The British Library has bumped me up from a “project worker” to Creative/Researcher at British Library Labs.

Just words but it’s always nice to have a punctuation mark in your job title. You can take it out and use it to defend yourself in single combat if need be. Especially as it turns out the “/” mark is called a Solidus.


Read about my dual role over at the British Library Labs blog.

Marvellous, Electrical: This Means War

What’s it like to cook and clean for the soldiers and hospital patients of Brisbane?

How do you cope with split shifts on the city’s south side when you live in a northern suburb?

There’s evil eyes, paperclip pranks, and butter on the windows in Marvellous, Electrical: This Means War.


The Scrub Turkey Sessions

Tomorrow, Saturday 1st October, we’ll be playtesting the Scrub Turkey Sessions game (PDF download) devised as a collaboration between State Library of Queensland and Griffith University.

Urban ecologist Professor Darryl Jones and I made a cheap and simple game which lets people step into the role of a male scrub turkey trying to build a nest and attract a mate.

Librarians across Queensland have been experimenting with the game for weeks now, adjusting the rules and resources – now it’s your turn to get involved. Read more

Queensland Fun Palaces 1-2 October

The long-awaited Fun Palaces weekend has arrived.

Fun Palaces illustration

After months of planning and preparation, communities across Queensland are gearing up to celebrate the arts and sciences in all their forms, partnered with a range of libraries and other institutions.

From the islands of the Torres Strait to the cotton fields of the Darling Downs, plus every library in the city of Brisbane, and of course our own State Library on the city’s South Bank, the first weekend in October will see a swathe of venues open their doors for community-led events celebrating the Fun Palace motto “everyone an artist, everyone a scientist.”

We’ve come along way since Parkes Library hosted Australia’s first ever Fun Palace back in 2014.

I’ll be with the State Library team on Saturday, supporting events including our Scrub Turkey Sessions devised with urban ecologist Professor Darryl Jones of Griffith University.

Wherever you are in the world, check the Fun Palaces website for your nearest event, or join in online with the Comic Maker built for Fun Palaces by the State Library. (We’ve also put the code behind the site online, if you feel like a bit of digital tinkering).