digital travel – Band4Hope

One of my research interests is the connections between the digital and physical world, and I have just come across Band4Hope, which is both a lovely example of this and a wonderful project.

The idea is that you get a band with a unique ID encoded on it.  You then enter the code into the Band4Hope website and after a few days pass it on to someone else.  They do the same in turn.  Overtime you can track the band as it makes its way across the country or around the world.  Before you pass it on you are also encouraged to do some small act of kindness and record these at Actions4Hope so that a record of this also spreads around the world.

It is strange how things come together. Actions4Hope is a very different project, but also makes me think of One Million Lovely Letters that I blogged about recently (Wonder Women). Both are about making small but significant differences; big differences are made by many tiny acts and each act may make a big difference to those it affects.

Band4Hope is a project of Lucie, Lachlan & BowWow (Vagabond Adventures) who travel the world in a Land Rover doing interesting and worthwhile things.  It reminds me a bit of my own idea as a teen to travel when I left school .. but with a trek cart full of my DIY tools and basically tramp doing the odd house repair for an old lady, small acts to improve things with minimal impact.  So, while things didn’t quite work out that way for me, maybe now my ‘tool chest’ is my computer.

I was also reminded of two people I met during my February travelsLeanne at dot.rural in Aberdeen and Dimitrios at Horizon in Nottingham.  Leanne’s PhD work (in architecture, before she was at dot.rural) looked at the lives of objects in the home (I hope I have got that right Leanne).  Dimitrios is nearer the beginning of his PhD journey, but also interested in objects and their digital traces.  It is one of several introductions that I have found myself making in connection with the Wales walk between people I had not encountered before. This includes two academics in different departments at Bangor who had never met.  It is as if my own intellectual and spatial travels are starting to make threads between people afar — very exciting.

I found a map

Sometime soon I need to check which maps I already have and fill in the gaps.  My OS maps are ordered on my shelves roughly by region, and the Welsh maps sit together in a few geographic groups.  Only then I spot, in the middle of a shelf, after the last of the Welsh maps give way to Stafford and the Peak District, just beyond the Isle of Man, an old, cloth map, stained by age, the cover long lost, and only a tattered bleached red remnant, suggests it is of the old one inch OS series.


Opening it up, I find it is of Cardiff and Glamorgan, the valleys black spider webs of railways before Beeching, a dark brown stain (water or campfire? odd that the two are indistinguishable with age) obliterates an area north of Barry Island.


My eye and finger trace old places walked, one day up beyond Caerphilly, rain-soaked amongst the coal tips; and places of childhood, Dynas Powis for the Whitsun sports, Ogmore for the dunes.  Some I’ll pass through again in a few months, others who knows?  But the map, a thing of magic, sometimes taking you away in your imaginations to places you have never seen, and sometimes back into your past.

February travels

I am back at home now after two weeks travelling up and down the country (see talking about Wales from south to north).  Gave five talks, visited seven cities in three countries; some fantastic conversations with old friends and new.

At Birmingham I was taking principally to MSc students.  At the end of the talk the questions were mainly from one of the academics, but afterwards as we walked across the campus, then the questions came and ideas flowed.  The Aristotelian school of philosophy is also called The Peripatetic as they pondered and taught while walking round the colonnades of the Lyceum in Athens.  There is something about walking …

At Brunel in West London I went to an Italian restaurant … in the UK with an Italian!  High praise indeed.  I forget the name, but ask Alessio!  They have an enormous indoor running track and athletics centre where Usain Bolt trains.

At Cardiff I had no talks, but lots of talking!  In the morning I was able to visit Ramblers Cymru, tucked down behind the station towards Butetown … I had never been in that part of Cardiff before.  Gwenda and Elly gave me a warm welcome with cups of tea and while I was there @jacswork rang Gwenda and she passed him over to chat about SeenSend.  Due to familiy and work commitments, he can’t get out to the hills so has become a virtual walker: he invites others to post photos of places they are walking and he chooses some as inspiration for paintings.  SeenSend is looking for more artists to join in, so if you are a walker and want to inspire or an artists and want your own virtual tours, check it out!

As I walked through Cardiff city centre (familiar and yet so different), I dropped off at the tourist information to get some of the Wales Coast path leaflets (you can download the PDFs, but the long multi-folds print too small to be readable) and also into St David’s Hall to see the Short Memory Stick (Ffoncof Fer) part of the Triad exhibition by Gareth, Morgan and Ioan Griffith.

Aneurin Bevan (1897 - 1960)

Aneurin Bevan (1897 – 1960)

Chatting to a Big Issue seller while his oh so patient (and well wrapped up against the cold) dog rolled over inviting passers-by to stop and tickle, I remembered that many in the UK and across the world walk and sleep out not through choice.  After Christmas when I wrote about Epiphany, I was focused on the journey of the magi, but after the Magi leave in the Christmas story there is the long journey into Egypt to flee Herod, the tiny baby Jesus a refugee, asylum seeker.  Then as you turn into Queen Street the statue of Aneurin Bevan, architect of the National Health Service, one of the glories of Great Britain … all from a Welshman brought up in mining family in the valleys.

The city centre campus of Cardiff Metropolitan University is set in Howard Gardens … on the site I think where my mum went to school in the 1920s.  Steve Gill showed me round, always so many interesting things lying around in a product design department, before lunch with Olivia Kotsifa, who runs the FabLab at Cardiff, to talk about the potential for a mobile FabLab to tour Wales, rather like the FabLab Truck in the Netherlands.  Also talked to Claire Haven-Tang about digital tourism and she gave me so many contacts, that I have still to follow up.

Monday saw me down in Southampton (deep semantic web territory) visiting Claire Hooper and mc shraefel and others.  Talked technology and education with Mike Wald and Yvonne Howard and technology for walking wales with Hugh Glaser (creator of and Andy Sanford-Clark (creator of the house the twitters) — loads of ideas … just need another six months to prepare … but yikes, six weeks :-/

Wednesday and Thursday had successive talks in Horizon (Nottingham) and dot.rural (Aberdeen), two of the EPSRC funded Digital Economy hubs … just a bit of a long drive apart.  The long drive was broken by a night at Annandale Water Days Inn as lovely a view to wake up to as Killington Lake on the way down, and even a little balcony.  Days Inn certainly know how to pick good motorway service stations!

At both, especially dot.rural I felt I was preaching a little to the converted as I discussed issues of physical, social and economic marginality and the way this is often exacerbated by digital exclusion.  As with other places a mixture of rich conversations with old friends including Genovefa, Tom, Steve and Alan at Nottingham and Konstantinos at Aberdeen, but also met so many people and learnt a lot including serendipitously someone at Notts who did her first degree in Aberystwyth.  I know the work at Nottingham well, but not dot.rural and realise there are so many points of connection, both for the Wales walk and also projects on Tiree.

Finally on Friday I met Philomena de Lima in Inverness to hear about to some of the work  at UHI on social and policy issues for the rural economy at UHI Centre for Remote and Rural Studies.  And after leaving Inverness then a beautiful drive down the Great Glen back to Fort William and Oban … But what was that thing like giant hippopotamus in the water?  I guess just normal highland wildlife.