Today I visited FabLab in Manchester. It was a lovely day, and the route from Manchester Picadilly station is very picturesque - along the towpath of the canal. However, on the way back it also felt somehow empty and soulless. Lots of nice enough little flats, all next to the water, but it felt as though it was lovely in the warm sunshine, it would be all rather more oppressive and foreboding on a winter's evening.
Maybe that says more about me than the realities of life in Ancoats. However, it still seems like a lost opportunity - somewhere that a few shops, cafes, pubs or just things other than houses and flats would mean it had some life and animation outside of the odd sunny weekend.
Something that starkly apparent as I read through this fantastic article from Jane Jacobs, Downtown is for People. First printed in 1958, but just as relevant today, which is when I got to read it.
This is an interesting video about the hacker and maker scene in New York
It's from the official New York Internet TV channel. How awesome is that? Wouldn't it be cool if Liverpool had something similar? Maybe it's something that Toxteth TV should be doing. Or linking up with Kensington Vision so they could both branch out and cover the whole city - getting them both outside of their immediate locality. Anyway, that's not what I'm writing this blog post about, interesting as it would be.
The thing that prompted me to write was during the section on hacking X-boxes to stick XBMC (X-box media centre) onto them. It feels like the X-box might be a suitable platform to use as "trojan hardware" to get more creative uses of tech into homes that wouldn't otherwise think of it.
Wouldn't it be nice if some of the How? Why? DIY! / #makernight / GeekUp / DoES Liverpool community ran a hackday out in Kensington or somewhere and let people bring along their X-boxes to show them how to hack them to stick XBMC onto them?
And what if it was a specially built version of XBMC that had a curated set of additional feeds / apps set up, so everyone had easy access to the TED talks, and a Liverpool video channel, and maybe an RSS reader with a set of local feeds as the default starting set. Ideally it would also have some apps to let people, or at least inform people how to, create their own content to feed into the network too. And if you want to get youngsters programming, you could find a programming environment that runs in it (maybe one that makes it easy to write games?) and stick an app-store there too so they can share their creations with others - accessible from the Internet obviously, but also easily found from the XBMC system so their mates can find it trivially.
Anyone want to build it?