Brighton Digital Festival: Robots, Art and All Things Futuristic

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Traditionally, if you wanted to get together for the free exchange of ideas and developments within your particular industry of work you held or attended a conference. Naturally, plenty of these still happen during the calendar year but once in a while a little innovation can be an event manager’s best friend especially if their aim is to shake up the industry.

Held every year since 2010, this year’s Brighton Digital Festival is coming to its end, having been in full swing across the city for the past month as a hearty celebration of digital culture. Exhibiting a flavour of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, increasingly eclectic venues (such as pubs and pop up tents) are used to host events, the majority of which are organised and produced by individuals rather than companies or conglomerates. That’s not to say larger organisations haven’t been involved, plenty of marketing heads have headed southwards, and not just to take in a little bit of sea, sun and stony beach. For instance Brighton SEO has been a must attend event for many technical marketers since its inception several years ago.

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The events have ranged far and wide: workshops on Minecraft for children, online marketing technologies, and even a beginners session on circuits; pop up arcades; launch parties; an open night for the local 3D printing club; quizzes. Whether it’s social media advertising, online marketing, art, music or video games, Digital Brighton has something for everyone. There are even performances such as the secret life of your mobile phone, where audience members had to consider beforehand whether or not they really wanted to know the people, places and companies their phones were communicating with and what it was telling them. Helping to highlight the ongoing data privacy issue.

The Waiting Wall, inspired by author and philosopher Alain de Botton and brought to life by Alan Donohue and creative partner Steven Parker, is an attempt to translate the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem into the digital world. Displaying anonymous messages in bustling Brighton train station, commuters can take comfort in the public affirmation that they are not alone in an attempt to break away from the loneliness and silence often experienced in a monotonous commuter lifestyle.

Apps like Whisper, the anonymous secret sharing platform, have shown the popularity of such unbridled candour. Confessions have been far-reaching from existential crises to relationship issues and heartfelt messages. A few minutes on the website www.thewaitingwall.com throws up posts as disparate as ‘I’ve got a problem with my uterus and I’m scared I won’t be able to have children’ and the relatable yet enigmatic ‘Stay’.

Other installations have included the science fiction experience “How to Live Forever” held in a specially made tent. Positing a near future where we can extend our lives indefinitely thanks to brain digitisation, participants are invited to investigate the idea of perpetual existence. Another exhibition collates data from shipping, railway and aviation activity within a 100km radius. This information is then translated into an audio-visual display inside a darkened chamber. Then there were the ornate Victorian street lamps with stories to tell. That actually went on to tell them.

With the world evolving into a more digital state, this festival is a joyful demonstration of this universally acknowledged fact. With the incredible developments in technology, any industry would be foolish to lag behind. Already medical communications agencies are upping their game with digital offerings from websites to apps to games. Although with advancements occurring at a fast and almost alarming rate it is enough to make you wonder what technology will our children and grandchildren sigh dramatically and roll their eyes over our inability to use?

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