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Ignite the Good – Lightning Talks

The events at the Bath Digital Festival varied from educational lectures and seminars to more social occasions such as competitions and awards shows. However there was one evening that combined the two; Digital for Good: Ignite was an original talk event that hosted twelve different speakers, all given a five minute limitation to their presentations that helped to ignite discussions and inspire the crowd.

Two talks tackled the subject of the future of technology, the first was Stuart Thompson, who came to talk about how Tint – a new social media platform – helped the New York Climate March reach one billion impressions in September, displaying that social media can help produce global change. The second was Chris McKirgin, who questioned the benefits of wearable technology, stating that although leaps in tech have been positive so far with mobile phones becoming personal computers, wearable tech poses some risks to society and personal security.

Dave Martin gave a stylish and passionate talk on the history of political clothing, citing examples of wearable agendas as far back as 1930. He marks fashion designer Vivien Westwood as one of the pioneers of mainstreaming social signpost T-shirts from her designs in the 1970s. His company Call of the Brave have followed on from these examples; continuing the tradition of ‘wearing the change you want to see in the world’, they have a range of t-shirts available or, alternatively, you can design your own and know that they use the proceeds to help people in need.

Another person attempting to support people in need was Chris Bennett who, after highlighting some shocking statistics on the UK’s exercise habits, provided us with an alternative; bringing together community projects with exercise. Good Gym’s combine giving something back, such as garden projects or befriending an older person in your neighbourhood with keeping fit.

Open Data is information that is available for anyone to use, for any purpose, at no cost. It isn’t utilized as well as it should be, in fact it’s rather unknown to most but when connected with other sources it can be a very handy commodity. Leigh Dodds from the Open Data Initiative explained that Open Data is not your personal data such as your phone number and online accounts but information on schools, businesses and the community. The Bath Hacked event took part in raising awareness of the value of Open Data creating easy to use websites and apps that provide Bath’s community with information they might need. An additional advocate for open data was Andrew Nesbitt whose website 24 Pull Requests has grown from 843 contributing members to 1576 in one year. 24 Pull Requests is an open source community project that was started to encourage developers to contribute software that they’ve used, promoting sharing and open data amongst thousands of people.

The local government budget issues were raised as a revolutionary talk was given by Dan Hilton about the need for change in local government. To keep up with the fast adapting digital procedure of the public sector the local government needs to make the total change to digital, but it doesn’t have the funds to hire new people, underlining the need for new training schemes. In a separate talk Nick Davies revealed that some of the local government budget problems have been solved by involving large companies. He revealed the good in big businesses through the use of Neighbourly Ltd, who connect community projects with companies such as Marks and Spencer, Starbucks and Mazars that want to help make a difference.

If you asked anyone out of Bath about the city they would most likely mention the history, the shopping and the restaurants, but there’s a lot more to this city than tourism. Bristol and Bath have the highest concentration of technological businesses outside of London and Craneworks are planning to expand that. Rhodri Samuel inspired the crown with a plan to build a new technological community in Bath; providing skills and jobs for young people. Proposing to take over the old Stothert and Pitt warehouse on Lower Bristol Road, Craneworks is to be a high tech digital media space.

Danielle Emma Vass from Teach Programming revealed the gender inequality in the computing business. She highlighted some shocking facts such as at Plymouth University there are more people named Michael on the computing course than there are girls, that 75 percent of art students in the UK are female whereas they only take up seven percent of computing students and that by 2015 there will be 900,000 unfilled jobs in technology in Europe. Teach Programming targets primary and secondary students and makes technology more accessible through art. They aim to find out why these inequalities exist and to bridge the gap between art and science. Another push for a more accessible science program in the English education came from Sarah Snell Pym who applies Cuddly Science to help promote science and technology to primary school students using hand-knitted puppets of famous scientists.

Are you aware of how much information you give away online? Even unintentionally? Lia Emmanuel from Bath University gave a disturbing talk on the SuperIdentity Project; a program that works in a similar way to criminal profiling, taking just your username it can predict hundreds of facts about you. Location, employer, personality and age are all factors that can be deciphered from your online presence.  The project helps raise awareness of identity management as well as helping to close the divide between the digital world and the real one.

The evening brought together some fantastic people and revealed issues to be aware of and causes to take part in from the future of local government to the pros and cons of new technology as well as some uplifting facts about local projects such as Neighbourly and GoodGym. The event highlighted the sheer extent of technological business in Bath as well as igniting conversation, inspiration and community spirit.


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