Good things done by good people, change driven by art and creative labs where anything is possible. This week’s edition of LCN explores all this, as well as how citizen science combined with modern tech might just save the bees and more. Short, sweet and worth a read on the way back from work as you slide into the weekend.  



Ramsay & Chris


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The hidden lab combining age-old ancestral knowledge with advanced tech


What? Valldaura Labs, located in an old masia building near Barcelona, is on a mission to radically change the way our food is produced and create a completely self-sufficient “new global human habitat”.

Explain. “We are trying to complete the cycle”, says Jon Minchin, Valldaura’s Green Labs co-ordinator. “The forest provides us with materials like resin and wood that we use to build tools through advanced software, and with these tools, that are naturally and locally sourced, we can cultivate food, produce energy and generate a global dialogue that will help us improve the ecosystem and the materials we derive from it.” That is the essence of Valldaura’s project, one of creating sustainable ways we can continue to sustainably create.

How do they do it? Valldaura’s estate comprises three labs; the food lab, the energy lab and the Green FabLab, which is the centre of the whole enterprise’s aim to become self-sufficient in the coming years. All of the labs use resources from the immediate environment and are aimed at creating “a new global human habitat”. The energy lab’s pioneering Energid research project is implementing a smart energy management system that it aims to introduce in the city — all energy is sourced from a biomass plant that uses local resources, as well as solar and wind. The food lab’s Bio-gastronomy School is collaborating with top chefs to spread the word on sustainability through the zero-mile diet, where food is 100 percent locally sourced.


Why have we never heard of it? So Valldaura is part of a wider network, its Green FabLab is a partner of MIT’s FabLabs international network. But organizations like these should undeniably be higher up on the media agenda. It is funded through its Fab Academy student programme, with hundreds of students a year.


The LCN Take: “Completing the cycle”. For an unassuming group of researchers — their neighbours barely know global firms hold seminars in the premises — to have such ambitious aims for a sustainable future, is essential news in our books.




The clothing line that will hide you from facial recognition


What? A clever software engineer, and clothes printer, has created Hyperface, a clothing line that can trick facial recognition software.

Explain. An intrusive sci-fi tech needs a sci-fi solution, and that’s what AH Projects has come up with. It's HyperFace line of clothing, not yet commercially available but which includes scarves that scramble facial detection, is run by Adam Harvey, a Berlin-based American artist and researcher who specialises in privacy, computer vision and surveillance.


How does it work? HyperFace’s clothing tech works by “providing maximally activated false faces based on ideal algorithmic representations of a human face”. In other words, the patterns on the clothing copy the angles and outlines of a human face as they are represented in, and detected by, facial recognition software (take a look at the render above). Even if your face is on show, the many matching false face patterns on the clothing, which are optimised for detection by the software, take advantage of the facial recognition tech’s limitations and redirect the software’s attention. As Harvey, who talks in detail about the subject in this Ted Talk, puts it, the tech is “overloading an algorithm with what it wants, oversaturating an area with faces to divert the gaze of the computer vision algorithm.”


We need this because... The use of facial recognition by companies, and by the police, is largely unregulated. British police are spending millions on testing the tech, in hope of deploying it, despite the fact that systems have been shown to have an error rate of over 90 percent. Though big tech companies, like Amazon and Microsoft (who have their own stakes in the tech) are joining public calls for new legislation, and San Francisco have banned it, we don’t know when regulation in other parts of the world will catch up.

The LCN Take: If we value our privacy we need to combat the continued erosion of our right to it. And if it’s going to take tech-proof clothing to protect us so be it. Because where there’s detection there will always be disguise.




The most powerful and socially conscious theatre you will ever experience created and led by women


What? UK immersive theatre collective telling hard-hitting, contemporary stories performed by the people who’ve lived them. This is Common Wealth Theatre.

Explain. Activist collective theatre group Common Wealth Theatre, founded by dramatists Rhiannon White and Evie Manning, make theatre for people who don’t usually think it’s for them; site-specific, collaborative and politically charged events addressing the here and now with the ambition to shift things and promote change. Most importantly, the people who actually experienced the stories tell them. So a play about war and refugees will feature former soldiers and real refugees. A play about female Muslim boxers breaking stereotypes features real female Muslim boxers. A play about steel workers threatened by mass unemployment features real steel workers. You get the picture.

Why is this important? Ever been to a play and come out a little under-awed? Immersive theatre may have been around for a while but it’s often preferred brilliant, thrilling yet indulgent entertainment to radical and relatable stories that mean something. Perhaps the plays you watch speak about people you don’t recognise or cover worlds far from your own. Common Wealth’s work is one with an unashamedly working class message with the aim of entertaining but also educating, making you think and see the world differently and perhaps even spur you to try to change it for the better and the common good.


And? And it puts the people who have lived the story at the heart of the creative process, not just in the performance but also in the writing and creating, rooting the theatre in the values of specific communities and always seeking solidarity and truth. It gives people who’ve traditionally had no voice a voice.


The LCN Take: Creative radical women making diverse political theatre so powerful it will bring tears to your eyes in extraordinary venues, and open to all at affordable prices. You don’t need us to tell how timely and necessary this is.







Two Sustainability Tips




We’re all about good news, saving the planet and using future tech, citizen science and the tools at our fingertips to do so. As are this week’s two lifehacks.


Make a beehive, save the bees


Bee populations around the world are at risk. Scientists, activists, technologists, engineers are all trying to work out exactly why and how to save them. But save them we must. For the planet (and the honey!) Which is where OS Beehives comes in.


A super cool global collective (OS stands for Open Source ie. free), they’ve come together so you can become a beekeeper in your own back garden. Their beehive designs, software, apps, and monitoring equipment are all free to download and order, enabling anyone to make their own smart beehive and join other citizen scientists collecting data and promoting international bee recovery.


How? The Colorado Top Bar Beehive and the Barcelona Warré Beehive can be cut from plywood using a CNC router machine and snapped and slotted together, no screws, no glue. Couple your hive with a Buzzbox Mini sensor to monitor the important stuff uploaded via the OSBeehives app and you’re in business. All for free. So download your beehive design, the OSBeehives app and get the Buzzbox Mini and watch the bees come. BTW who knew honeybees could do math as well as provide delicious free honey?


Go on… join the hive.


Use this straw, then eat it


It’s made from seaweed, it’s edible, compostable, marine-degradable, non-toxic and can be fused with flavoured and nutritional benefits. If you must use a straw, stop using plastic ones and use this the Lolistraw, made by two brilliant industrial designers, to help save the sea from a plastic apocalypse. Oh and they make edible cups too. More weapons in the fight against plastic waste. We love Loliware.





Ramsay Short & Chris Young



Chris Young, Macrovector -, HyperFace rendering by Ece Tankal




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