The Rest Is Noise: immersion in learning

I’m inspired, energised and brimming with ideas after attending another Rest Is Noise weekend at London’s Southbank. The Rest Is Noise festival (inspired by Alex Ross’ book) is running throughout 2013, and so far I’ve managed to make it to three of these superbly curated weekends of talks, debates, films and performances which “help to explain the relationship between classical music and the social and political changes of the last century”, allowing us “to see the music of that period ‘in the round’ – bringing in the history of science, technology, philosophical and political movements”.

While that (possibly) sounds a little weighty, the programme is so brilliantly put together and accessible that it’s far from elitist. All presentations are engaging, often with some weird and wonderful titbits of information that stick in the mind (“Nazi Porno Kitsch” anybody?). Expertly overseen by the wonderful Jude Kelly, who has an obvious passion not only for the audience experience, but also a deep grasp of the diverse range of topics in the programme, The Rest Is Noise is without doubt my favourite way to spend a weekend in the UK.

There are usually around 5 parallel sessions every hour, but to give you a flavour, highlights so far (for me) have included:

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Aaron Koblin: Artfully visualizing our humanity

“An interface can be a powerful narrative device. And as we collect more and more personally and socially relevant data, we have an opportunity, and maybe even an obligation, to maintain [our] humanity and tell some amazing stories.” (Aaron Koblin)

Not sure how I managed to miss this when it came online back in May 2011 – but thankfully came across it this weekend: a brilliant presentation from the artist Aaron Koblin, who specialises in data and digital technologies, using real-world and community-generated data. You may be familiar with his work from The Johnny Cash Project and the Wilderness Downtown music video. In this talk, he presents these along with other projects – all stunning examples of crowdsourcing, collaboration and visualisation. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s definitely worth checking out.