Hello friends. My name is Duncan, and this is my newsletter - Hello From Duncan. I send it every ten days or so, and it’s basically things I’ve been working on and things I’ve found interesting. You’re getting it because you signed up for it, and you can unsubscribe with no hard feelings using the link in the footer.
With that out of the way, let’s get started.
Loud Numbers, my data sonification podcast, is out! It has been a long journey up to this point, and I’ve talked about it quite a lot in the past, so I won’t go into too much depth here, but suffice to say that I was really happy with how our launch event went and the reception of the first episode so far.
If you missed the Loud Numbers Sonification Festival, there’s a recording on YouTube with handy chapters so you can skip to the bits that are most interesting. You can skip to Alli Torban interviewing Miriam & I about the first episode with this link.
Or, perhaps you just want to listen to the first episode of the podcast - which is about a small Alaskan town betting on climate change. You can listen at loudnumbers.net, or by searching for “Loud Numbers” in your favourite podcast client and hitting subscribe.
Finally, you’ll find our climate-techno banger from the first episode, “The Natural Lottery”, on all good streaming services. Here it is on Spotify. Add it to all your summer playlists, and when people say “what’s this?”, you can use it as an excuse to talk to them about climate change.
If you’ve listened already, and want to do us the biggest favour, you could send a link to a friend who you think might enjoy it. You get bonus points if that friend might be able to share it with a lot of people!
Episode two, Tasting Notes, will be released on 21 June.
Actually, I do want to share a few extra liner notes on the festival thing, because honestly I think it was one of the smartest things that we’ve done on the Loud Numbers project.
From the very beginning of Loud Numbers, we’ve been interested in the sonification community. That community doesn’t seem to really live anywhere specific - parts are in academia, parts in journalism, parts in art. There’s no one “home for sonification” on the web.
But over the course of our research, we got a glimpse into many of those areas and saw all the cool stuff going on and thought - why don’t we try to bring those people together? The obvious solution would have been a Slack or a Discord or something, but everyone’s in too many of those already and I’ve got too many to manage. So instead we thought - let’s put on a festival.
A festival was perfect, because it concentrates that community on a single place at a single time, it doesn’t try to replace what others are doing, it lets ideas cross-pollinate, and it has nice connotations to the wider world of music. It also allowed us to talk about our podcast without dominating the discussion - we were one of many people presenting, not the focus. It was a bit of work to organise and put on, but actually less than I was expecting, and certainly much less work than maintaining a Slack workspace would be over the long term.
I do hope that someone else starts up a Discord or Slack instance around sonification, so I can join it and not have to run it. But much more than that, I hope that we’ll be able to hold another Loud Numbers Sonification Festival in due course - perhaps later in the year - and also that our festival could become just one of many festivals on a sonification/sensification/viceralization/doing unusual things with data circuit.
If you’d like to spend 20 minutes watching something very calming, here’s a video of a French man making vacuum tubes. It’s very nice.
Less calming, but no less worth watching, is this one-minute video that explains, through the medium of an enormous hamster, why endless economic growth is nonsense.
My Possible work lately has been focused on the upcoming launch of our Parklets campaign. For the uninitiated, parklets are tiny parks that fit in a parking space - setting aside the space for people, rather than cars. We think there should be more of them.
For the campaign, I’ve developed a little “design your own Parklet” toolkit, with little cut out plants and benches and so on, which you can print at home and then cut out and arrange into the parklet of your dreams. It’s really cute. That’ll be released on Clean Air Day - 17 June. Keep your eyes on the Possible Twitter account for more.
I’ve also been working on a little mapping tool that lets people find good places to put a parklet. It shows access to private and public green space, cars per household, and deprivation by flipping between different map layers. You can also jump between different cities, and zoom to your own location. It’s not very complex code-wise, but it works nicely on both desktop and mobile. That should be released a few weeks after the print-and-cut-out Parklet designer.
I woke up this morning with a strange sentence ringing in my head. I had to get my phone from the other room to write it down before I forgot it. The sentence was:
“I was ennormalled and aggrecious.”
I don’t know what those words mean but I rather like them.
There are a handful of reasons people give for not doing anything about climate change despite accepting the science behind it.
This Twitter thread, from transport researcher Giulio Mattioli, goes through all of them - rebutting them in the process.
It’s a great read if you’re looking to counter arguments about why there’s no point doing anything.
Finally, I really enjoyed this fascinating analysis of how rap has changed over the years, from a rap tutor and a language expert. I’ve always liked late 70s/early 80s delivery the most, just for how fun it is, but this helped me appreciate other, more modern eras.
That’s all for this time. See you again soon!