Ain’t Soft Cities brilliant

I can’t even begin to explain. On the web, as elsewhere, presentation of photography is everything and John Bennett, celebrated author, blogger, has opened my eyes to new possibilities.  He’s created a fragment of a poem, that goes by the name of SOFT CITIES … its not perfect yet, but masterpieces and a spot at TED will follow.

Start here and then go here.

You can read John’s thoughts at the bottom of the page.

Afterwards come back and tell duckrabbit what you think?

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REACTION:

MIKE HOLLEY is not so impressed:

This is an excellent concept that unfortunately for me fails in its delivery. The idea of portraying the diverse aspects of life in a city such as London using different themes and perspectives is indeed just brilliant. It has so much potential and should be really powerful, even passionate, building over time into fascinating insight into the city.

But… As you say presentation is everything and clicking on an image should take you to a gallery or slideshow of the images in that category, say People. I was really disappointed to see the gallery home page is just a front end to Flickr, which I have never rated as the best medium for displaying images. The quality of images on Flickr varies immensely and therefore so do the images that feed Soft Cities. I would much prefer to see a single, high quality body of work than a random collection of variable quality and relevance.

A great concept? Yes. But a masterpiece? I’m afraid not. While Soft Cities may be a good demonstration of Pipes, the enormous potential of this concept is completely lost in the presentation and variable content.

duckrabbit

Thanks Mike.  As I said in my post this is a fragment, a window on possibility and I guess my excitement is stretching it out into the future and yeah its a bit dissapointing going to Flickr … however I like the variable quality of the images because its not about the image its about the city and what people want to say about that city.  Lots of people have been trying to do this about cities but honestly speaking this is the best yet. John is really on to something.

John Bennett

thanks for the lavish praise Benjamin, though I have to say I agree with Mike a little.

Soft cities was just a little experiment with Pipes (it’s still prototypical) and Mike’s quite right to say that the material on Flickr is of variable quality. However, one of the advantages of Pipes is that you can filter out users – there’s a fair amount of tag spam in Flickr – and I had to ‘clean’ a number of the feeds.

However, I disagree with Mike about the nature of the content. I like that it clicks through to Flickr. I like that you can find the context of the individual user. I like that the material is ‘user generated’. I think it displays the diversity of the city better. Multiple different viewpoints, etc. That is, of course, a matter of personal choice.

On a more general note, I know from work on previous projects that commercial access to the Flickr api can cost a lot of money. However, if you used this idea for campaigning work, they might give you a free pass. If you set up the appropriate groups and separate tags, then I think you could do something really interesting.

Anyway, thanks again for the praise, but I’m not sure I’ll hold my breath for the TED invite just yet.

Author — duckrabbit

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White. We specialize in digital storytelling.

Discussion (2 Comments)

  1. Mike Holley says:

    This is an excellent concept that unfortunately for me fails in its delivery. The idea of portraying the diverse aspects of life in a city such as London using different themes and perspectives is indeed just brilliant. It has so much potential and should be really powerful, even passionate, building over time into fascinating insight into the city.

    But… As you say presentation is everything and clicking on an image should take you to a gallery or slideshow of the images in that category, say People. I was really disappointed to see the gallery home page is just a front end to Flickr, which I have never rated as the best medium for displaying images. The quality of images on Flickr varies immensely and therefore so do the images that feed Soft Cities. I would much prefer to see a single, high quality body of work than a random collection of variable quality and relevance.

    So having clicked on an image all you get is that single frame displayed in Flickr (sometimes with those annoying comments pasted on the picture). This leaves you wondering where to go for the next image in that topic. The photographer may or may not have uploaded other images relating to that theme. After clicking on one image I was taken to a Flickr page with some great work but not related to Soft Cities and I found myself looking at these other images instead.

    A great concept? Yes. But a masterpiece? I’m afraid not. While Soft Cities may be a good demonstration of Pipes, the enormous potential of this concept is completely lost in the presentation and variable content.

  2. John Bennett says:

    thanks for the lavish praise Benjamin, though I have to say I agree with Mike a little.

    Soft cities was just a little experiment with Pipes (it’s still prototypical) and Mike’s quite right to say that the material on Flickr is of variable quality. However, one of the advantages of Pipes is that you can filter out users – there’s a fair amount of tag spam in Flickr – and I had to ‘clean’ a number of the feeds.

    However, I disagree with Mike about the nature of the content. I like that it clicks through to Flickr. I like that you can find the context of the individual user. I like that the material is ‘user generated’. I think it displays the diversity of the city better. Multiple different viewpoints, etc. That is, of course, a matter of personal choice.

    On a more general note, I know from work on previous projects that commercial access to the Flickr api can cost a lot of money. However, if you used this idea for campaigning work, they might give you a free pass. If you set up the appropriate groups and separate tags, then I think you could do something really interesting.

    Anyway, thanks again for the praise, but I’m not sure I’ll hold my breath for the TED invite just yet.

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