Inspiring new forms of creative expression through mobile devices

Or “How I predicted Google Photovine before it was announced”

A few months ago, I shared a research panel alongside one Marek Pawlowski. Marek runs the MEX (Mobile User Experience) conference and is a keen mobile futurist.

He and I had met before but it’s always good to refresh connections and, a month or so later, he asked if I could take part in a new MEX pathway entitled ‘Inspiring new forms of creative expression through mobile devices’.

“Sounds great Marek, but I’m off to Siberia next month and well, I won’t really be around to contribute properly.”

“That’s fine.” he said  “Just present at the event when you’re back in May.”

So I did.

And in fact, I probably gave a better presentation because of it: chilled out (after a whole month away from the internet), wearing a t-shirt and – probably for the first time ever – presenting in trainers.

Getting back to the event, the questions Marek posed as part of the pathway were as follows:

  1. How does ubiquitous access to new sensors such as touchscreens, gestural input and location tracking change the expression of human creativity?
  2. What does artistic experimentation at the boundaries of digital technology teach us about mainstream user experience requirements of the future?
  3. How does mass person-to-person communications facilitate new creative experiences through co-operative working?
  4. Will person-to-person communications enriched with new channels, such as haptics, emerge as a new form of artistic expression in itself?
  5. Are the text-based ‘Status Updates’ espoused by Facebook and Twitter the zenith of emotional expression or can human moods be better expressed?

My presentation (and the ideas around the answers I gave) can be seen in full below but, I implore you, click through to the actual Slideshare page so you can read the corresponding speaker notes. It doesn’t really make sense without them…

#MEX11: Inspiring new forms of creative expression through mobile devices

One thing I do want to focus on, however, is slide 17, MEX Pathway point number three [quick click through]:

How does mass person-to-person communications facilitate new creative experiences through co-operative working?

The answer I gave in my talk (or at least the one word that came to mind when I the question was posed), was ‘Meme‘. The two slides that followed explored the idea of the web-based meme going mobile. To quote:

“What about memes on mobile? I snap this, send it you, you change it, send it back.. An instant meme app? Yes please. Where do I sign?”

That, was May 2011. Two months later, in July, I spot this video from Google, courtesy of The Next Web

Alright, so perhaps it isn’t exactly the meme-based application that I was hoping for and/or predicting, but it’s pretty darn close. Theme-based sharing even. And, if you recall what the original pathway set out to cover – Inspiring new forms of creative expression through mobile devices – this app nails it.

Bizarrely, for an app developed by Google, it’s only available on iPhone right now, but I’m sure this will change over time. And when it does, I’ll be ready and waiting – because having my friends help drive my mobile creativity is something I’m really actually quite looking forward to.

Thanks for stopping by.

UPDATE: the video of said talk is now available –

James Whatley from Marek Pawlowski on Vimeo.


Like I said, go and read that Slideshare deck properly – with the speaker notes.

And when you’re done there, go and read this article on Mobile Industry Review that references some of the above findings. 

Facing fears

I used to hate PowerPoint.

Hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it, HATE IT.

For years, I refused to take part. If I had to give a talk or a presentation of any kind, I used my words and speaking abilities only.

“I don’t need slides” I used to say…
(whilst slightly looking down upon everyone else that did)

That was until my employer asked me to travel to Germany to speak at the annual Voicedays event in Wiesbaden. A presentation was required and well, I didn’t have one.

Procrastinate, I did much.

That was up until my then boss casually mentioned in passing that the only reason I hadn’t started my deck yet was because I was afraid of it.

“You’re afraid of PowerPoint.”

“Am not.”

“Then do it then.”


“If you’re not afraid of it, do it.”

He was right. I was. My fear? Where to start? What if I get it wrong?
I didn’t know what to do.

“Tell a story.” he said, “You like post-its, start with your key points on some post-its. See where it takes you.”

I grabbed some nearby post-its, a black marker and – a few mins later – I came up with this…

Genius? No.
The rantings of a serial killer? Maybe.
Cracking my fear of PowerPoint? Definitely.

I’d found my story, the notes were to be my kickers and this below, was the presentation I eventually gave to a room full of delegates at Voicedays ’08:


That’s how I cracked my fear of PowerPoint; by telling a story using post-its. They became my kickers. I knew what story I wanted to tell and, by using the stickers as great big reminders/cheat sheets, I ensured I didn’t lose my way.

If you’re struggling with a deck yourself, get offline and start playing with paper & pens and just see where it takes you. You never know, you might start here and end up here.

Good hunting.