SWITCH 2016, New South Wales

I’m in the coastal town of Ulladulla to talk libraries with people from across the state of New South Wales at the SWITCH 2016 conference.

You can catch up with my keynote “Science Fiction Double Feature” from lunchtime (AEDT) Wednesday – try the #switch2016 hashtag on Twitter – and read the keynote paper on the SWITCH website (PDF download).

The paper will be up on the SWITCH website shortly after the event.

Marvellous, Electrical: …and, kill Hitler!

I visited South Australia last week, so of course I had to say hi to the Adelaide-based creators of Danger 5, one of the most unusual and provocative Aussie TV shows of all time.

The action comedy pits five Allied agents against the forces of Nazism in a warped version of World War II incorporating mind-controlled dinosaurs, a seagull-headed military officer, and the lost city of Atlantis.

In its second season, the show takes a dark and dramatic turn, becoming a serialised revenge epic set in a strange version of the 1980s, ripped from the shelves of a VHS rental store.

The whole project is the brainchild of filmmakers Dario Russo and David Ashby. I talked with them about their surreal brand of action adventure, the need to laugh at Hitler, cosmopolitanism, fascism, and the glorious world of B-movie pulp.

Read Marvellous, Electrical: …and, kill Hitler! here.

Crawford Awards, South Australia

On Friday, I was guest speaker at South Australia’s Crawford Awards for Library Innovation.

It was a chance to explore how Aussie libraries ensure that they create services for and with their communities – and acknowledge the specific colonial history of this land.

It was also an opportunity to celebrate many of the friends and colleagues I’ve worked with during my residency at the State Library of Queensland.

The Award was given to the rural South Australian city of Murray Bridge for a project working with local Aboriginal elders, introducing the Ngarrindjeri language to a new generation through stories and song.

Congratulations to Tim Law, Georgina Trevorrow, and all at Murray Bridge who are working to acknowledge the traditional owners of the Murraylands and support their community.

Brisbane Deathfest 2016


This weekend sees the launch of Deathfest, Brisbane’s week long microfestival which explores, challenges, and celebrates our understanding of death, dying, and bereavement.

I sat down for a special panel discussion with three guests to discuss grief, death, and end-of-life care in modern-day Queensland.

Joining me were Fiona Hawthorne, general manager at Hummingbird House, Queensland’s first children’s hospice; Ian Mellor, who manages body bequests for Queensland University of Technology; and Dr Sarah Winch, healthcare ethicist at the University of Queensland and author of Best Death Possible.

We talked about green burials, rituals of death in the 21st century, and the largely hidden processes, procedures, and institutions which deal with death in our society.

In an age when literacy has come to mean so many things – always with a sense of empowering people to read or make sense of some new terrain, topic, or experience – what would it mean for us to become truly “death literate”?

Our discussion will be online soon.

For more on healthcare and wellbeing work during my 2016 Queensland residency, read  “On Health and Wellbeing” and “Giant Robots Need Therapy Too“.

The Kinder Way To Enjoy Hacking

This morning I gave the opening address at the annual conference of ALIA Queensland. The theme this year was “Library Hacks”.

Hacking’s such a funny term, still threatening and techy and futuristic, and yet also so familiar; the stuff of cheesy mid-90s techno-thrillers as much as today’s headlines about Wikileaks and massive DNS attacks.

The New Yorker tells us that the word originates in the house slang of MIT, way back in the 1950s:

The minutes of an April, 1955, meeting of the Tech Model Railroad Club state that “Mr. Eccles requests that anyone working or hacking on the electrical system turn the power off to avoid fuse blowing.”

Taking “hack” to mean tinkering with machines and procedures, not following the manual, I wanted to both hack the keynote and offer attendees an opportunity that wouldn’t exist at M.I.T.

So, we gave them craft materials, tinfoil and paperclips, food decorating kits, a basic electronics set…

…and Kinder Surprise Eggs.

Read more

Revenge of the Model Railway Club

I’ll be speaking at ALIA Queensland‘s mini-conference “Library Hacks” in a couple of weeks.


American-style model railway. Photo by Graham Causer, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 Licence

My keynote’s called Revenge of the Model Railway Club and it takes the form of a hands-on workshop. It should be fun – if you’re in the area, you should come!

Library Hacks runs 9am to 5pm at Brisbane Square Library on Wednesday 26th October.

You Have Been Upgraded

The British Library has bumped me up from a “project worker” to Creative/Researcher at British Library Labs.

Just words but it’s always nice to have a punctuation mark in your job title. You can take it out and use it to defend yourself in single combat if need be. Especially as it turns out the “/” mark is called a Solidus.


Read about my dual role over at the British Library Labs blog.

The Scrub Turkey Sessions

Tomorrow, Saturday 1st October, we’ll be playtesting the Scrub Turkey Sessions game (PDF download) devised as a collaboration between State Library of Queensland and Griffith University.

Urban ecologist Professor Darryl Jones and I made a cheap and simple game which lets people step into the role of a male scrub turkey trying to build a nest and attract a mate.

Librarians across Queensland have been experimenting with the game for weeks now, adjusting the rules and resources – now it’s your turn to get involved. Read more

Marvellous, Electrical: Substance

This week’s Marvellous, Electrical explores the Brisbane drug scene of the early 2000s.

Fortitude Valley by Wikipedia user lilywatanabe, used under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 licence

Image by Wikipedia user lilywatanabe, under a CC BY-SA 3.0 licence

A drug support worker who worked a beat in Fortitude Valley, the historic hub of Brisbane nightlife, joined me to talk about the rhythms and routines of heavy drug use in Queensland’s capital.

Read Marvellous, Electrical: Substance here.

Download the Code: Fun Palaces Comic Maker

State Library of Queensland’s Online Comic Maker returns for the 2016 Fun Palaces event celebrating the arts and sciences in communities across the world.


I devised the Comic Maker for Fun Palaces 2015; it was designed and built by Talia Yat and Phil Gullberg of the State Library of Queensland, where I’m currently Creative in Residence. (You can read the story of its origins in this Comics Grid interview).

The deceptively simple site encouraged users worldwide to surprise us with non-narrative comics, cheeky horror storiesand even comics in Te Reo Māori.

This year the Comic Maker has been fully integrated into the Fun Palaces homepage, but we’ve also released the code behind the site as a Github repository.

If you’d like to use the Comic Maker code to design and devise your own website – to reimagine, remix, or adapt the State Library’s work into a whole new online offering – visit the Fun Palaces Comic Maker page at Github.