Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Yesterday I screened Forbidden Planet & got a colleague to do a talk on robotics

I have been wanting to put on a film festival, or at least screen a film and have it accompanied by a research talk FOR EVER and yesterday, with the help from my friend and colleague Prof Peter McOwan of QMUL I finally made this happen! Couldn't be happier! About 20 people arrived which was a pleasant surprise (tickets were free so I was expecting people to be less invested in coming along) and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. And they didn't leave a mess. It all went like clockwork :)

Whenever I'm on bus journeys I tend to ponder film festivals I'd create / curate and there's nearly always one in there for Brendan Fraser films, also something that would showcase different types of music and sound design used in composing for film. I'd also rather like to screen an outdoor showing of Jurassic Park.

My most work-related film 'festival' idea centres on films where a colleague can link their research to some aspect of the film. I'm hoping to get my boss Prof Paul Curzon to do a talk about human factors, as it applies to medical device safety, linked to a film like The Dish or Apollo 13 which highlight the importance of human factors / ergonomics and human-computer (or device) interaction in achieving complex and risky tasks. I'm a big fan of the 'film plus science talk' or more generally 'film plus talk' genre.

Peter's talk before Forbidden Planet was lovely, he talked about Robby the Robot and how he looked like a robot while being roughly humanoid-like. We're largely indifferent to devices and robots that support human beings in industry (remember the advert with the robotic devices that repaint a line of cars?) but as they start to become more human-like, or more animal-like, we begin to imbue them with emotions and start to respond to them quite differently, with affection. We think they're cute. What we don't find cute are robots that move from being humanoid to becoming much more visibly, and almost behaviourally, like humans. Almost, but not quite. We find that a bit creepy.

Peter's research with colleagues has looked at finding ways of getting robots to be appealing and engaging without unnerving us. He gave an example of not giving a robot ears to avoid trying to explain to people that they couldn't just talk to it in normal English, or instead getting people to use iPads or other touchscreens to interact, instead of trying to communicate with a spoken language where the robot might miss nuances.

The film was also lovely and even though I've never seen it before it took me back to being a small child, enchanted by the music from The Clangers. It was a charming film, quite dated in places - Peter highlighted the damsel-in-distress trope and pointed out that the poster (see below) bears very little relation to the film!

I pinched the film poster from Wikipedia and added a bit of info.

Learning points
It's much easier than I thought to get a 'single title license' from FilmBank. True their website is fairly baffling but once I worked out that you first have to pretend you're screening a film to get an example license before you can register (why? why!) all went well. I registered, then booked the license. You can get a DVD sent to you, or use your own, license is the same.

I put posters up around campus (license means I can't advertise beyond it) but I think I need to make it clearer that getting a ticket is what I want people to do. My poster below probably implies that anyone on campus can just turn up (which is sort of true, but better to have an idea of numbers).

The building where I had the screening shuts at 6pm and the event started at 6.30pm. While I have card access many of the new students wouldn't, and they might not know about the main entrance which is very open and has a porter to sign them in, so memo to self is to highlight the entry point as well as the general location and the need for tickets.

I was happy with the advertising, though we didn't tell a soul about it until the Monday afternoon before the Wednesday evening event. It would be interesting to see what effect a longer advertising time has - I suspect it wouldn't make a huge difference and a few of those attending had only heard about it on the day or had been dragged along (willingly!) by a colleague.

It was initially aimed as a 'thing' to welcome new students, to highlight that we do lots of cool research where I work and that we also do outreach where we tell people about our research in interesting ways - however other work got in the way and I just told a bunch of people about it.

Also, I genuinely had no idea how proud of myself I'd be for sorting it all out. It's not particularly difficult but there's a bit of a psychological barrier / faff in dealing with licensing, sorting out security / porters, advertising - even though I do plenty of that sort of thing for work this was for fun so felt a bit different - but everything worked well.

Next time I'd quite like to see if one of the English department might like to give a talk about men playing women in the theatre in Elizabethan times alongside Shakespeare in Love, or something like that. And Paul's talk of course.


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