Rhythmanalysis – work life balance

A short piece about a research project I was involved with, comparing the biometric measures of workers in the digital industries with a more traditional industry

At the start of the project a central theme brought us all together. We all became keenly aware within our separate areas, (Art, academia, creative industry and arts organisation) that over time our working and personal lives have merged. This was polarised most clearly when compared with the traditional 8 hours work, 8 hours play and 8 hours sleep model – mentioned frequently across the different projects within Time & Motion: Redefining Working Life.

Our thoughts quickly turned to how these changing working methods could be affecting our health and natural rhythms, then to how the tools required to measure and monitor these rhythms are increasingly to be found in cheap consumer products and apps

This led to the central core of our research in comparing the biological rhythms of workers in the digital industries to those in a more traditional workplace. What really struck me was how outdated the legislation behind our 40-hour week is becoming. Can we draw any comparisons between workers rights, successfully fought for during the industrial revolution and the changing working practices of the digital revolution?

The main difference is that it is no longer obvious when and where we are working and it is the individual rather than the state whom now makes this value judgment. “I must finish that report before i go to bed!”

We are fortunate that the same technology behind our new rhythms and behavioural patterns can also be used to test their physiological affects. So for me the big questions that Rhythmanalysis raises is.

As technology allows us to profile and monitor our health, wellbeing and productivity in real-time and at an individual and corporate level, is new legislation necessary for the state to protect workers and provide for a non-linear and healthy work – life balance?

Artistic approach to a commercial brief

Can ‘suits’ and ‘creatives’ come together in a meeting of minds?

In addition to MeYOuandUs I also work part-time as a creative consultant for digital agency Amaze. So I like to dream that occasionally the two arenas can come together, and that there is a common ground that allows for artistic authorship and vision combined with a tangible benefit for a commercial partner or client.

Over the years, creativity in digital media has become more and more of a democratic process with input from information architects, strategists, analytic consultants, user and client workshops. Creativity and design should in theory be based on a top-down, empirical and measurable return on investment. This is a positive and necessary step back to the older days of relying on the instincts of a single creative.

I am a strong advocate of design based on research, prototyping and testing. At the same time, I also treasure the ‘big idea’. The single precise vision that comes from an individual pondering on a line of thought, even better if that line of thought isn’t following a client brief but on something more universal or existential.

Focus on small things

The preamble behind this thought piece is a presentation I gave at a client workshop showcasing the creativity of my agency, Amaze. This provided me with an opportunity to promote my thoughts on the business benefits of an artistic approach to marketing, branding and PR and how art can have a place at a deep level within a business.

In a nutshell, the proposition in my talk was that small initiatives, if rooted in a simple artistic idea, can have an effect greatly disproportionate to the effort.

Rory Sutherland explained at TED how simple (and cheap) ideas are often the most effective
I started off with an excerpt from a TED talk given by Rory Sutherland. He spoke about Virgin Upper Class and two beautiful silver aeroplane salt and pepper dispensers. He pointed out that the universal response to such items is, “ooh I could pilfer those” – until you turn them over and engraved under each one are the words… “stolen from Virgin Upper Class”.

Another example is a lift in a Swedish hotel that has the normal lift buttons but when you press them they play different music.

In the elevator at Stockholm’s Lydmar hotel, by choosing your floor, you set the music genre
The point of these examples is that from a branding perspective, comparatively inexpensive simple ideas live long in the memory – much more than the millions of pounds businesses spend making themselves identical to their competitors.

Bottom-up approach

The other key element that I focus on in my own practice is a ‘bottom-up’ approach, adding some theatre to the most basic human interaction. My catchphrase in my experiments with public art is: “Never underestimate the supposedly reserved British public, who happily express themselves when given the opportunity”. It’s not easy getting the balance between forcing a message or conceit onto an unsuspecting person and creating an enjoyable or thought-provoking diversion and counterpoint to their normal day.

I think another cornerstone to the experience is originality, in the sense that you remove as much reference point to the interaction and the context. So it could be an unoriginal idea presented in a completely original context or vice versa. The key is to disarm the participant, to clear the decks of preconceptions and allow the idea to be approached at face value.


I’m looking to highlight the obvious elements within an art practice that bring depth and integrity to work, mostly authorship and independence. This is in the hope that the artist will bring fresh eyes and a very individual lens to a project, will take more risks and more personal responsibility and become less embedded in a corporate process.

Originally published on creativebloq


Brazil residency

So how did i get here, a 5 week residencyPere Maguella, Brazil?
Originally this project was based around a reworking of Handprint (a previous project of mine), which after months of dialogue had finally been approved and contracted as a major commission. I was consulted on the potential to extend Handprint, working with an established Brazilian artist to create a dual installation in UK and Brazil.

The real start of this project was six days of workshops split between Liverpool and London in November, where a number of artists and organisations came together to try and plan the project. We quickly realised Handprint was too defined a project for a genuine collaboration, so after a lot of discussion and brainstorming “Humble Market’ was born.

What I love about this project is that it is a genuine collaboration between new media Artists (me and Jimi) and contemporary dramatists/ performers (Jade and Jorge from Zecura Ura). And the key to all of us is placing the audience/participant at the centre of the work.

“Humble Market” will start as the summer exhibition in FACT before expanding into more of a performance piece in Preston for the NW Cultural Olympiad finale. It will then hopefully become a catalyst/platform for more collaboration between UK and Brazilian artists leading up to the 2016 games in Rio.

The first few weeks were spent really trying to nail the core idea behind “Humble Market” so we can apply it to the formats we have been developing.

We also spent four days working over the carnival period (not in Rio but the town I am staying in), filming from a car in the main drag out of all the windows as the carnival pours past.