Tuesday, December 18, 2018
We have become more social than ever, in a digital speaking way. On average we spent around 120 minutes per day on social media. Facebook and Instagram are the favourite platforms, but are we social? Countless articles speak about the real problem about social media, and how, far from connecting people, these platforms promote psychological states of distress, anxiety and depression. We tend to show rather than the real lives we have, the ones we aspire or desire, or also feeling frustration seeing the ‘success’ that our peers accomplish in life by judging the pics they post on their social profiles. But the truth is that just a few people speak openly about real emotions or how we feel, or even worse many people do not face the fact that there is an emotional problem that needs to be addressed.
Last Friday I went to Regent Park, with the specific purpose to visit the exhibition ‘Let’s Talk’, a photography project campaign that aims to open the conversation about mental health. The idea was to put literally in words the most dreadful thoughts of people in their faces. The photographed people are persons who have passed mental health difficulties. Charlie Clift, the photographer, worked with the people who volunteered for this project. He interviewed them and selected the words that best described their feelings. Lettering artist, Kate Forrester, has the assignment to transfer these sentiments in their bodies. She spent at least two hours of hand-lettering these words onto the people’s faces. Then Charlie photographed them in a session full of openness and conversation about the struggles of life, their passions and hopes.
The result is a series of beautiful and honest big format portraits photography. The exhibition looks to inspire other people to talk openly about mental health. It now has become an itinerary exhibition that travels around different areas of London spreading awareness, encouraging people to speak out and to get help.
The project contemplates all the aspects that make it a successful campaign. The exhibition in Regent park consisted of a group of big format panels of photography allocated in a way that people would transit around the installation. A video production that records the process of painting the volunteer’s faces and their opinions about mental health perpetuates in the website specially created for the campaign.
The successful campaign is the result of a collaboration between the two artists and the support of Mental Health UK which is taking the exhibition to different open spaces where more people will be able to appreciate this work.
Friday, December 7, 2018
A couple of days ago, when arriving at my apartment, I took my MacBook Pro out of my bag only to discover that the screen got broken. Cause: a stuck pen between the screen and the keyboard. Level of damage: very high, level of desperation: even higher.
The next morning, I approached the nearest Apple store to my place. GPS coordinates dictated: Apple Store Covent Garden.
I have been many times in an Apple Store before, but every new Apple store is always like the first time. The recently renovated store combines the modern style of Apple (spiral glass staircases, brown leather upholstered benches, giant television screens) with the classic architectural 19th-century building features, the exposed brick and the archways.
But probably what it takes to live the Apple experience is its customer service approach. There is no doubt Apple has mastered this formula, they not only sell their products but engage with its customers with very effective communication, building relationships and delivering the experience.
When arriving in the store ‘an Apple expert’ immediately approach to me with a warm welcome and a smile. I explained the problem and the ‘expert’ told me to way for five minutes, and after that, the same person took me to the third level where they will be receiving my laptop for examination. The process was quite simple, they examined the device carefully and then explained process of repairing, possible risks, timing and cost. Also, they listen to every question I made and respond in a clear, easy way. Before you agree to the service, they make sure you understand and are comfortable with all the process. My laptop would be ready in the time-lapse of 4 days: ‘but maybe you might receive a call sooner’ the expert explained.
The next day I received an email from Apple, my laptop was ready to collect. Five minutes later, I received a call from Jack, (the Apple expert) giving me similar news. An hour later Jack received me in the store and invited me to take a seat and wait in the store’s central atrium and enjoy a music performance happening at that moment while he brings the laptop.
Carmine Gallo, the writer contributor of Forbes, describes Apple’s Customer Service formula as follows:
A: Approach customers with a personalised, warm welcome
P: Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs
P: Present a solution for the customer to take home today
L: Listen for and resolve issues or concerns
E: End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return
Apple certainly trains its employees on how to engage and to make feeling special to each of their customers, by delivering a unique and personalised experience. The communication is not based on what they want to sell but on building relationships with the customers and meeting their needs and desires, making the whole process and enjoyable experience.
How the Apple Store Creates Irresistible Customer Experiences
Thursday, November 22, 2018
Today in the class of academic development we covered a bit more about critical thinking, which involves a complex process of questioning and analysis, answering the basic questions: what, when, who, why and how. But then the last question came up; so what? No research would be complete without asking this question; to evaluate, to understand and to question again the core purpose of what is investigated.
So what?, the question came at my mind again, while watching ALPHAGO, a documental film about a computer program that replicates the game board GO, designed and developed by a group of scientist and programmers from the artificial intelligence company Google DeepMind. It took two years to build this program based on complex AI algorithms. But why creating this perfect AI program? Pong, the first video game was created in 1958. Since then many other electronic games were developed with a specific purpose: to entertain, but also to challenge the players. Of course, most of the video games are designed with different levels of expertise so amateurs could start from a basic level and improve their skills by succeeding the various stages of difficulty. The user gains knowledge and reaches a level where beating the machine becomes the real challenge (and fun). But far to be a mere game to entertain, ALPHAGO was created with a different specific purpose; to beat a professional player at game board GO. Being ALPHAGO an artificial intelligence program designed for this particular aim, it doesn’t seem to be a game anymore. It was the human against the machine.
First; Fan Hui, a Chinese born Go player, was challenged. He lost five times against the computer in a row of games he thought before would be easy to win.
Then, Lee Sedol, the South Korean professional Go player, accepted the challenge. With high confidence, he stated that human intuition was still too advanced to be caught up by Artificial Intelligence. He wanted to protect human intelligence. Sedol was sure he would win four out of five games, at least. But the story was different; he was defeated on the first day of play. The Google DeepMind team celebrated the triumph. In a row of five consecutive days of games, Lee Sedol was beaten in the first three. When Sedol loses the third game, everybody could see the struggle, the disappointment, the sadness. One of the brightest minds in the world was defeated repeatedly by a machine. Public and media share the feeling of melancholy and upset. Even the people from ALPHAGO team didn’t feel to celebrate anymore.
Lee Sedol, South Korean professional Go player
The long-standing grand challenge of Ai research of beating a professional player was accomplished. It was a triumph of artificial intelligence generated by humans. But as complex as artificial intelligence is, the game started “thinking” and processing the information received, calculating and making algorithms that mimic what human do with their intuition. Was it still human generated?
Lee Sedol won the fourth game over ALPHAGO. Everybody celebrated the triumph; people felt like there was still hope and faith in humanity. Then he lost the fifth game.
There is no doubt about the advantages and possibilities that Artificial Intelligence, especially in medicine can offer, but when it serves only to expose supremacy or control of a few makes us wonder and ask again: What are the limits of artificial intelligence? It should help humanity, but when developed to make humans powerless, to feel fragile and weak, it loses its purpose. As Gary Kasparov said in a talk: “a good human plus a machine is the best combination”. Let’s not forget that.
Friday, November 16, 2018
Underground stations in London are quite exciting places. This statement might sound mundane for many people as if you think about these areas, they usually are too crowded on pick areas, or you pass by quickly, focus on catching the next train, and most of the times do not bother about observing what is happening around there. But to the eyes of an expat –and artist- metro stations possess a charm and become an exciting place to observe what happens around. The architecture, the spontaneous music performers, graffiti, theatre and movie posters, cafes and stores, even the fashion style of the London commuters, everything contributes to the experience.
A weeks ago, while making connections to arrive at my destination, without a plan, I found myself at Gloucester Road Station, and notice right there a huge installation consisting in graphics drawing panels, large-scale sculptures including giant fried eggs and an automated whisk, video screens and light effects. I knew later that the artwork was British artist Heather Phillipson’s creation and her work, with the title: ‘My name is lettie eggsyrub’ was part of Art on the Underground and initiative of Transport for London that aim to change the way people experience the city. Her work represents the nucleus of conflict, a big operative machine. The intention was to generate a parallel ‘scape’, a disturbance. People interact with the large scales eggs and encounter a similarity, we too begin as eggs. The artist exposes people to this representation that questions about fertility, strength, production, consumption and fragility.
Along Phillipson’s work Art on the Underground displayed other artists artworks around the city like:
The Bower of Bliss an 85-metre long street-level billboard by artist Linder at Southwark station.
Remain, Thriving, series of mural s by Njideka Akunyili Crosby at Brixton Underground Station
The presence of art in public spaces supported by the government, contribute significantly to the idea of the democratisation of art, making it accessible to all, creating a sense of community, identity and presence by enriching, what an everyday experience as the act of commuting every day seems to be.
This initiative, established in 2000, invites artists to create works to be then displayed in London’s Undergrounds where can be seen and experienced by millions every day.