All posts by Dan Sumption

Fisch wird Mensch. Mensch wird Fisch! Mörder!

A Middle-Aged Man Returns to Viriconium

Vrico. Pastel City. The City, and the city, and city …of dreams.

I first came here as a young man. Seventeen. Through a portal in one of those London termini, I’d almost swear it was St Pancras. The old one of tunnels, caves, and condensation in huge waiting rooms. Except there was a bookshop, selling sci-fi.

Simon said “M John Harrison: he’s friends with Michael Moorcock. Or something.” I bought the book, we boarded a train. We crossed the sea to Amsterdam.

Uroconium. The City on the edge of the Western Sea. Canals, and pools, and streets with strange, familiar names. Genever in coffee shops and women at windows. Scarlet, black, neon. A city that wears its heart on its sleeve, but plays cards close to its chest.

I dreamt so many dreams, those seven Viriconium Nights.
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What is the “Refugee Crisis”? And why should you care?

AKA: why are there suddenly refugees everywhere, and when are they going to go away? (Hint: never)

This is a summary of the notes I took on the first day of the effect.org “Hacking the Refugee Crisis” expedition in Athens. More on that in a bit, but first…

Crisis, What Crisis?

Today, globally, there are 65 million displaced people. More than ever before.

Refugees have always existed. In the past, a country would go to war; people would be displaced; they’d spend a year or two as refugees; and eventually return home.

Today though, the problem is chronic. Global warming and permanent instability means displaced people no longer have homes to return to. Folks are born and grow up as refugees.
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Second-Hand Time

When I was small, I owned a plain-covered hardback book of Russian folk-tales. It was my most terrifying possession. It scared me, just to be in the same room as this collection of child-eating stepmothers, Baba Yagas, and terrors beyond imagination.

Second-Hand Time, by Svetlana Alexievich is that book, grown up. Alexievich transcribes the words of dozens of Russian and former-Soviet citizens she has interviewed. The result is a complex tapestry, with moments of beauty and joy, but overwhelmingly it tells of terror and torture and oppression and regret, played out over a scale of entire lifetimes. It is the most terrifying thing I have ever read.
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Thinking Digital Newcastle, 2016

Last year, I remember talking to Chris Dymond and Saul Cozens just after they returned from Thinking Digital conference in Newcastle/Gateshead. They raved about how good it was. So did others I’d seen mention it online. I decided to go the following year and, as the 2016 tickets were already on sale, I booked one more or less straight away.

It was as good as I’d hoped. And so, partly to remind myself of all I learned, partly to share it with colleagues and friends, and partly to persuade you to go in 2017, here are my notes on #TDC16:
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Vibrant Sheffield

I recently attended Grant Thornton’s Sheffield “Vibrant Economy” Live Lab at the Millennium Galleries.

This day-long workshop was intended to “bring together key leaders and influencers … to co-create a visionary identity for Sheffield and the wider city region”, posing the question “How can Sheffield become the innovation and creativity capital of Europe?”

It’s easy to by cynical (many of my friends are) about a swish event, laid on by a big financial consultancy firm, around a woolly, warm, fuzzy-sounding topic. But I like to approach things with an open mind. I have heard good things about Sacha Romanovitch, Grant Thornton’s new CEO, and the kind of right-thinking policies she’s implementing. I was sure it would at least be an interesting day.

It was. And it was inspiring. It generated reams of ideas — good, bad, intermediate, and plain silly — for the betterment of Sheffield. And, coming to it fresh from Thinking Digital conference in Newcastle/Gateshead, my mind was fully fired-up for some brainstorming and refining of big audacious plans.
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Small Things

Last week, the area around the Students Union at Sheffield University became littered once more with banners and posters, indicating that student elections were about to take place. It reminded me of something from my past. Something very small, but which changed my life. Something I had long forgotten, but am eternally grateful for.
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