Thursday, 22 February 2018

Ask A Techie 20 Questions – Liam Walsh - Creative Technology Director

How would you define a techie?

I'm not sure, it's a pretty big tent. People making things with technology is literally everybody now. Maybe they don't always know they're techies but they are.

Tell us about yourself (short bio)?

I'm the Creative Technology Director for Nexus Studios (Interactive Arts) in London. The team at Nexus Studios is dedicated to understanding and harnessing emerging technologies in service of engaging story experiences. For over 15 years, I've worked with research, ideas and coding work across the motion graphics, product design, video games, toy and publishing industries.

Tell us about your connection to the Caribbean?

My mum is Dominican, I was born in London but spent a couple of years in primary school in Dominica and then spent every summer at my grandmother's in Dominica and my Auntie's house in Barbados. My parents are retired now and have a house in Dominica and split their time between London and there.

Describe the tech space in Dominica?

In all honesty it's been pretty banged up by Erica and then Maria - just like the rest of the island. The infrastructure will take time to rebuild, the tech scene will follow but right now it's hard to even do video calls with my parents.

What do you think the Caribbean has to offer the tech world?

I think a different voice. The Caribbean has different ways to solve problems and different problems to solve. One of the real shames about the lack of diversity in tech is we end up with a lack of diversity in products. When everyone is the same they try and solve the same problems in the same ways.

Tell us about your participation in #ImpactJam?

I was invited by Jean-Michel Blottière of 'Games for Change' to take part. Games for Change is dedicated to using Video Games as a vehicle to promote social change. I really believe in the power of videogames to change people's behaviours.

I was there to give a talk about Augmented Reality storytelling and to mentor and support the particpants in the 'game jam'.

A game jam is when a bunch of creators (artists, programmers, writers, etc) get together in small groups and try and make a game in about 48 hours.

Your professional profile has "Creative Technologist" and "Creative Coder", tell us about those?

My job has always been about having ideas and making things. I have an arts and media background and fell into computer programming as another means of Creative expression. I get to make all sorts of things, sometimes your standard websites and apps but also data visualisation, generative art, museum and gallery installations, animations, UI, games, toys, books and physical products. Code is everywhere now an my job is to understand code well enough to have a creative idea and then figure out how to execute it.

How has tech improved your life?

It's easy to take it for granted but tech has given us all super powers.
It's like living in a magical realist novel. We're basically all telepathic, we can summon food and transportation. It's not all good news but on the whole it's a net positive I think.
On a personal level, technology basically is my livelihood. I fell into this in the late 90's - it wasn't something I'd even considered before.

What technical websites do you follow?

The only place I go every day is prostheticknowledge - prostheticknowledge.tumblr.com - it's full of interesting creative tech curiosities, creativeapplications.net is good too. After that I follow creative coders on Twitter and am in a few private slack and email groups for people like me.

How do you imagine the world would be in 50 years?

I don't know - I think it will be very, very different.
We have definitely seen technology outpace etiquette and it will shake up a lot of jobs soon, and the impact will be worldwide.
I hope we end up with Fully Automated Luxury Communism or something in that vein, but I really don't know what will happen or how turbulent the journey will be.

Mark Zuckerberg has said ‘We want to get a billion people in virtual reality’. Your thoughts on this?

I do a lot of work in Virtual Reality, and I think the billion people will probably use VR. But not all of the time. VR requires 100% of your attention and as such the thing you're doing in VR really is asking a lot from you, so it better be worth it. I like it for art experiences tools but as adults we rarely give anything 100% attention and VR asks for that so it sometimes feels lonely to me. Maybe I'm just too old for it.

Forest is to tree as tree is to?

Node. Sorry to respond with a lame graph theory joke. I tend to only deal with logic questions in tech interviews.

The best advice you have received?

Keep making stuff. Just have fun and keep making things and it'll work itself out. I've been fortunate enough to work with some of my creative coding and interaction design heroes and I wish I'd written everything down but nearly everyone tells me to focus on making things, make lots of things and eventually you'll be good at it.

What sports teams do you support?

Tottenham Hotspur. I play basketball but don't really follow the NBA or any team. I watch every single Tottenham game.

Where can I go in London to get good Caribbean food?

Tottenham and Dalston is where I go. I go to Brown Eagle in Wood Green a lot, for proper Creole soup I mostly I go to Mum's house.

How do you deal with disappointments?

Not as well as I should or could. I try and learn and grow from them and not give up. Working with computers you get a lot of negative feedback. Compiler errors, bug reports - most of the focus is always on what's wrong, I try and not take criticism personally.

Be an entrepreneur or work for a company?

I've been a freelancer / contractor and that was fun but I never planned on scaling up the business. Right now I work for Nexus Studios and I'm very happy. Running a business is a different job and it doesn't really appeal to me, I just like making things.

Android or iOS?

iOS - I make apps for both and use both but I prefer iOS

What tech event would you like to attend?

I get invited to a lot of these but I actually like being home with my family. I have always wanted to go to Eyeo festival or Inst Inst but the creative coding community is very small and very inclusive - people have been really accessible whenever I've reached out so I've not needed to go to the festivals to meet my heroes.

What question would you ask the next techie?

What have you seen recently that you wish you had made?

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