Hello!

Hello and welcome. My name is Stephen Black and I work with media, words and art. Media: VR, computer-generated environments,video and photography. Words: articles and books, including Bali Wave Ghost,  I Ate Tiong Bahru (a national bestseller in Singapore), Tiong Bahru Mouth, Obama Search Words and a few others. This post gives you some idea of my current projects. Thank you for stopping by. Stephen Black physical laborers
black and white image of man dropping vase

Ai Wewei, Yesim Agaoglu, Stephen Black, Eugene Soh collaboration in gallery.sg

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in SPOKEN

Nhung: Floating

low tech in hi tech

Works created with ink

two men smiling

If one person can be said to symbolize the Tiong Bahru Market, it might be this guy in the hat...

SB & 3D (Why I’m excited to be in Eugene Soh’s virtual gallery project)

THIS post was written before SPOKEN started. SPOKEN is a project I am doing with Eugene Soh, an experiment in which art, text, virtual reality and social media intersect. Learn about SPOKEN here.

To enter gallery.sg and experience SPOKEN, click here.

Here is the extremely short version: from 2002 until 2008 I was involved with a visionary virtual reality project that combined educational practices with gamemaking and multimedia. However, the spiritual captain of the project was part Disney, part Microsoft and part Sex Pistols. An unexpected death, treachery, incompetence, inexperience, bureaucratic boondoggles and more made my life "interesting"... I have pages of notes about the events and the spirit of the times. We were doing things like Youtube and Second Life before they started. The project was so close... and yet so far away. (Actually, now that mobile technology has settled down, I hope that the lessons and products of that experience can be revitalized. But that's yet another story.)

In 2006, as a way of showcasing our technology,  I entered a gamemaking hackathon. A theme was given on a Thursday morning and the next day at five the results were judged.The theme was something about healthy eating, I think. Working with my programmer in Hong Kong, we made a game in which the viewer learned about the calorie count of certain foods. The player competed with an AI character.  It was fun to do. However, what I remember most was a team that made an incredible flash game. I don't remember if they won or not, but I do remember two guys on that team very well. George Parel and Eugene Soh were full of energy, knowledge and bursting with creative ideas. They still are.

I've been lucky to work with George and Eugene on a few projects since then. In 2008 I finally had to put the educational gamemaking project on hold while I waited for a programmer and the mobile device situation to stabilize.I put more time into writing and art projects. George and Eugene (that dude from Singapore) however, have kept on doing remarkably creative things with IT, art, design and more.

Virtual reality may seem to be an artificial place, but the gallery Eugene has created fills me with memories and hope. I am honored and very thankful for I Ate Tiong Bahru to be on display in gallery.sg

IATB in virtual gallery Cheers, Eugene! Cheers, George!

Ebooks: Born to Click (1 of 3)

Preface

This informal essay is my way of marking the end of a certain era in ebook history. It's part snapshot, part reference materials, part journal.At the end of this post are notes about me, my experiences and my books. Thanks to Doug Rolph for his insights on economics, Eric Hellman for his input and my dad for having taken care of our family by selling books.

το πνεύμα του Ιανού

After I finish writing eight books, I will begin marketing. Until then, I'll probably study the ebook world less and hopefully do more writing, arting and engaging with Life. When it does comes time for me to contribute to the marketing conversation, I hope I have something to say. For now, I present the following notes, quotes and thoughts as a means of punctuating a phase in the development of ebooks as I have seen and experienced it.

This is an exciting time. The ebook delivery platforms are finally stable, self-publishing has proven to have great value and a number of services have recently appeared that shorten the distances between readers and authors. It seems to me that indie ebooks and ebook marketing are about to enter a new era.

This blog post makes little mention of traditional publishing. This is simply because, as much as I would like to enjoy the benefits of being a Big 5/6 author, that fruit is not now within my reach. I am however, considering joining the Author's Guild.

Although I've done almost no marketing, I have studied the environments in which ebooks are created, presented, bought and sold. Some observations:

1. Except for uploading, nothing about ebooks is easy. Writing is the anti-social social media, full of long, long hours of pressure-filled solitude. Assembling an error-free book is never simple. The social part, finding an audience, is an immense challenge. I respect all of the authors mentioned in this post for they have successfully met these challenges and more.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. Stephen King

Based on my experiences, the work breakdown of an 88,000 word novel looks something like this: 1000 words a day (88 days) or, more likely, 500 words a day (176 days). Call it 200 days to prepare something for a proofreader. Two months for corrections, art, and ebook conversion. So, a book takes about 300 working days to finalize. About... And then there are the thousands of actions needed to connect with readers... The title of Guy Kawasaki's excellent book says it all: APE, meaning Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

This document, by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, is a data-based analysis of the ebook market. Highly recommended, it covers topics important for newbies and veterans. It touches upon issues like word count, pricing, marketing and more. For instance, his research shows that the average bestseller on Smashwords is 100,000 words, and the average romance is 112,195 words. (There are more links to resources at the end of this post.)

Very few traditionally published authors became bestsellers; the same is true for ebook publishing. My goal is not to become a bestseller, but to connect with the largest possible community of people who enjoy the art of reading.

2. A great writer or a great marketer...

....or, the frustration of being caught between not doing enough writing and not doing enough marketing. A writer writes, a salesman sells.

Self-publishing does not equal self-marketing. Spending money wisely on promotion money means income and time to write. (See the links below)

Twitter, Goodreads, FB, LinkedIn and blogging? All have their advantages and disadvantages...

3. There are no independent, hugely successful ebook-only self-publishers. Note: Two days after this post went up, I became aware of this great piece by Dana Beth Weinberg on Digital Book World. Thank you Jacqueline Church!

Amazon is huge, Apple is huge, Kobo and Smashwords are very big. Unless you are selling from your own website or the back of your car, you're not truly independent.

OK, A bit of an attention grabber there...but the author's need for a partnership with Amazon and ebook distributors is a dependence that cannot be overlooked. These "automatic partners" will always protect their interests first. They call the shots. Amazon is a business, not an author.

Amanda Hocking is a hugely successful author. At one point, the average daily sales figure of her self-published ebooks was 9000. Again: average DAILY book sales: nine thousand! Her success was based on hard work, technological first mover advantage and an indirect tie-in with Hollywood.

Consider: -the successful and pioneering integration of ebook readers into tablets and mobile as well as the launch of the Kindle (2007) and the iPad(2010)

-the large demographic of young women who bought readers and tablets - the fact that, having written many books, Hocking could quickly provide a new and large market with a variety of new titles - writing books about the paranormal when Hollywood is pushing the same cannot hurt. Twilight, the hugely successful series of movies about teen vampires began in 2008. Hocking's first book, My Blood Approves, began selling in 2010.

E.L. James' book phenomenon began in the fan fiction chat rooms for Twilight. The characters in Fifty Shades of Grey were originally the characters from Twilight. Could Master of the Universe, as her series was originally called, have achieved its success without an existing network of thousands of Twilight fans?

These two women made their mark upon society in two different ways. As shared, collective book-based experiences: WOW! However, the writing is..."not terrible" or worse

I remember SF/F authors complaining (back in 2011) that their readers hadn’t switched to e-books yet, casting jealous eyes at the outsized romance audience. But as readers did move across, we saw people like David Dalglish and BV Larson breaking out, and the rest of “genre” fiction soon followed. http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/amazon-makes-life-easier-for-authors-of-historical-literary-fiction/

There are "indie success stories" about authors who "rode into town" on the backs of traditional publishing. Funded by Big 6 money these "indies" were advertised and publicized, sent on book tours and given things like business cards. Possibly, audiobooks were made. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their books were given away, many to reviewers. As the 'first mover'possibilities of the ebook market became clear and realistic, these authors, knighted by the Big 6 and armed with credibility and connections, rode onto a battlefield with little opposition... Undoubtedly hard work was involved, but to label them as indies brings to mind the quip about George Bush: "...was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple."

There certainly are "ebook only" indies connecting with many readers and enjoying sales. I just don't know of any. (FOUND SOMEONE: LINDSAY BUROKER Please tell me about others! them! Somewhat related to this, are there any "ebook only" awards?

Here, authors talk about their sales experiences.

4. The ebook world evolves to reward the reader; the prepared author benefits from this. Fan fiction. Goodreads. Ebook readers on mobile phones. The mashup between big data and metadata. Entrepreneurs with vision who see ways to connect authors and readers in a new ways.

It is an exciting time.

Ebooks: Born to Click, Part 2 of 3 visit www.blacksteps.tv for parts 2 and 3 of this post, as well as information on art, books and ebooks

 

Alphabet Spikes P-S (notes from July 2018, Hong Kong)

Alphabet Spikes is a collection of stories, essays and experiments created from February 2017 until now--and in the future! The core of the book is here, on Amazon, but this ebook project is actually something like crowdfunding.

Once you buy the book, send me your email and you will get an updated ebook with new stories, as I add them. Right now, the version on Amazon includes stories about a game developer, Antigone Cloud and my brief encounter with Anthony Bourdain. Next will be journal entries from the Bubiko Orwell Tour, which voyaged through Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong. The purpose of the tour was to research food, to create a network of people interested in AR, and two work on two books.

Besides the tour journal, there are, and will be, short stories, interviews and essays about Southeast Asia and people, events and places connected to it.

Alphabet Spikes: Art and entrepreneurship go on a road trip in Southeast Asia. Lots of eating, a few meetings, and nonstop ups and downs.

In reverse alphabetical order, the following are some of my experiences in Hong Kong; these will become stories and essays. Questions? Leave in the comments section, as well as any info you'd like to share. Thanks!

The Z-T sections are here.

S

Searching

R

Rise

Bubiko Foodtour @ Rise. Rooftop gardening @ HK PolyU.

Q

The footage was taken with a Qoocam, which was part of a demonstration by Kandao at an event at HK PolyU, as part of the Maker Faire event.

After a Q and A session with Marco Pierre-White. Other Rise Q and A sessions: Metta World Peace, Brad Smith, and Mike Massimino. I shook Mr. Massimino's hand.

AR, VR and Every R in Between (July 8, 2018)

(The first day photos are here.)

Taking place during the Maker Faire Hong Kong, was AR, VR and Every R in Between, organized by Dr. Ludovic Krundel, of the Digital Entertainment Lab, School of Design at HK PolyU. Here is a link to bios of some of the people who made the day so interesting. Plus, there was Kandao and SnapPop. Photos by Stephen Black and Bubiko Foodtour.

(The first day photos are here.) A 360VR clip of the event is here.

AR, VR and Every R in Between (July 7, 2018)

Taking place during the Maker Faire Hong Kong, was AR, VR and Every R in Between, organized by Dr. Ludovic Krundel, of the Digital Entertainment Lab, School of Design at HK PolyU. Here is a link to bios of some of the people who made the day so interesting. Plus, there was Kandao and SnapPop. Photos by Stephen Black and Bubiko Foodtour. 360VR video of the event is here!

360VR video of this is here.

Day 2 is here.

AR, VR and Every R in Between

Hello...

Saturday was an absolute blast... and it seems like the best way to "schedule" things for today (Sunday) is to just listen to you(whenever you show up), and then see who is the most appropriate person for you to speak to! SO stop by the Dome and play around with AR, VR , music and the Dome itself. Ask me or Ludovic about anything and we will be happy to share what we know and put you in touch with others who can share as well. Here is what we are about:

The Dome!

神奇的圓屋頂

Located on the 4th floor of Innovation Tower, The Dome features a 360 degree sound system, hand-made speakers and a light show. The Dome is a place of art, technology and communication. Welcome!

剩余字数: 圓屋頂位於創新大廈4樓,擁有360度音響系統、手工製作的音響和燈光秀。它是一個藝術、科技與交流場所!歡迎您的到來!

AR, VR and every R in between!

增強現實,虛擬現實與混合現實!

Experience interactive art, attend short lectures, listen to the blues and spend as much time as you like on computers loaded with a variety of AR & VR software. Coders,"noncoders" and those interested in digital entertainment are welcome. On the fourth floor of Innovation Tower.

體驗互動娛樂,參加講座,聆聽藍調音樂並且並盡情在電腦上體驗各種不同擴增實境和虛擬實境的軟件。無論您是否會編程,只要您對數碼娛樂感興趣,我們都歡迎您的到來!

Stephen Black: AR and VR in 2018, from a maker’s perspective

從製作者的角度看2018的增強現實與虛擬現實

Examples and discussions about AR and VR creation softwares, some of which attendees can experiment with in class and on their own. Plus Beach Road, his VR film and a surprise or two!

在這裡,參加者可以認識并討論製作增強現實和虛擬現實的軟件,更有機會可以親自動手製作一個你自己的作品!

Provide a short profile of presenter... Ex-Cartoon Network, CNN, Fuji TV. Next: a book about AR/entrepreneurship/the food of SE Asia. Then Bubiko Foodtour and Secret Donut World!

之前就任于卡通網絡、CNN、富士電視臺,緊接著成為增強現實/企業家精神/東南亞視頻書籍的作家,最後探索Bubikon美食之旅和秘密甜甜圈世界!

food in Ipoh

Bubiko Foodtour is AR's first superstar.

http://www.deltabluesaudio.com/

Tony Tam: Talking About Speakers, Playing the Blues

Tony Tam makes distinctive, award-winning audio speakers. His company is called Delta Blues Audio.) His speakers are featured in The Dome. This is a rare opportunity to share Tony's knowledge and love for sound, music and the blues.

Biofeedback: Before and After Music

Before listening to music, the participant has a bio-rhythmic record created. Then, after listening to calming music, another record is created. The before and after results are then analyzed.

參加者將被邀請聆聽令人平靜的音樂,同時將被記錄前後兩次生物節奏。我們將帶領您分析這兩項數據!

AR/VR: Artworks and Noteworthy Projects: Curated by Stephen Black

虛擬現實與增強現實:藝術品和令人矚目的作品

On Vive headsets and mobile phone viewing devices. Films and projects by the United Nations, National Public Radio, Stephen Black, Poly U students, Eugene Soh and more. Featuring Storyhive, a new method of VR presentation by Hiverlab.

佩戴Vive頭盔和手機觀影設備;由聯合國、國家公共廣播電台、Stephen Black、香港理工大學學生以及Eugene Soh 等製作的電影和項目。Hiverlab將提供一種新的以Storyhive為特色的虛擬現實的展現形式!

Thanks to Giovanni Lion, for technical support. Gio's on this team: 3dsnd.

Kandao Obsidian Publicity!

Life is exciting sometimes: opportunities suddenly appear: opportunities that can vanish unless we act decisively.

Yesterday, Viki Yuan from Kandao sent me an email outlining the great features on the Obsidian 360 camera, "a beast of quality and speed".

A few months ago, on Facebook, I e-met Laura Lieu from Kandou.

The following is from an an email I sent to Laura a few hours ago. It is Friday night. One week from now, everything must be secured for a successful VR workshop. I hope this great opportunity does not become lost.

Following are excerpts from my email to Laura:

Hello...

This email is about our small world and a huge opportunity for Kandao.

Next weekend is the Maker Faire at HK PolyU.

With Dr. Ludovic Krundel and his team of students, we are doing a two day AR/VR event.

This would be an excellent showcase for the Obsidian. The number of people who can be reached via the internet could be 100,000. Maker Faire predicts 40,000 attendees over the two days. Of course, we are documenting everything: live broadcasts, social media posts and making documentation for reference and promotion purposes.

Kandao would be promoted at a top university, at an international event, with a huge reach. At no cost.

Plus, for several months, Dr. Krundel has been communicating with Jack Tan about using KanDao products at PolyU.

Showcasing the Obsidian next week will be a great opportunity.

We are also premiering Hiverlab's Storylab (full approval and support) and showcasing Styly.

It would be great to have KanDao on board for this dynamic and popular event. Again, no charges... just bring your camera(s)!

Thank you VRy much for your help in trying to make this happen!

Stephen Black

PS I am now contacting media of all kinds. Additionally, I have been in communication with the Hong Kong Virtual Reality Network, who have been interested and supportive.

PSS FWIW, Beach Road, my 360 VR video has been featured at festivals in Las Vegas, Singapore and Brisbane.

Alphabet Spikes Z-T (notes from June 2018, Hong Kong)

Alphabet Spikes is a collection of stories, essays and experiments created from February 2017 until now--and in the future! The core of the book is here, on Amazon, but this ebook actually something like crowdfunding.

Once you buy the book, send me your email and you will get an updated ebook with new stories, as I add them. Right now, the version on Amazon includes stories about a game developer, Antigone Cloud and my brief encounter with Anthony Bourdain. Next will be journal entries from the Bubiko Orwell Tour, which voyaged through Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong. The purpose of the tour was to research food, to create a network of people interested in AR, and two work on two books.

Besides the tour journal, there are, and will be, short stories, interviews and essays about Southeast Asia and people, events and places connected to it.

Alphabet Spikes: Art and entrepreneurship go on a road trip in Southeast Asia. Lots of eating, a few meetings, and nonstop ups and downs.

In reverse alphabetical order, the following are some of my experiences in Hong Kong; these will become stories and essays. Questions? Leave in the comments section, as well as any info you'd like to share. Thanks!

Zorn. Click to hear the HK/Macau/CBGB story.

Yam cha and dim sum

Yam cha! The literal translation is "drink tea". However, yum cha usually means eating a meal of dim sum. Dim sum are the foods served in the round bamboo containers. Dim sum restaurants are everywhere in Hong Kong.

Xu Xi at the launch of Insignificance

“An audacious, inventive and original collection: these ‘Hong Kong’ stories are full of clever energy and lively strangeness.” - Gail Jones On Amazon.

Walsh, Joe. Performing with Shear, Jules and John, Doctor.

VR HMD ad on a tram.

Uniworks, the display of students' work, near the entrance of the Jockey Club Innovation Tower on the Hong Kong Polytechnic campus.

Inside the Dome

Tony Tan, Delta Blues Audio

Tai Kwun Art Complex, just down the road from where I used to live.

Alphabet Spikes: Q-S is here.

another book by Book Merah

2018 AR/Augmented Reality: State of the Art

I recently did two workshops and two presentations about AR at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. This post summarizes what I presented, or wanted to present. Just before the presentations started, there were so many new announcements from Google, Apple and the attendees at the AWE, that not all of the following info was presented. And, a few tweaks and additions will be happening in the next few days. I would again like to thank Phil Morgan, Gino Yu, Dr. Ludovic Krundel and Hong Kong Polytechnic for their support.

AR Reference Materials

Descriptions of Workshops and Presentations

Questionnaire For Those Attending Workshops

Responses to First Day Topics: Emergency Response and Urban Planning

Followup: Head Mounted Devices

Followup: Students' Work

Followup: Food and AR

Followup: Apps and Software

Bubiko Foodtour with coconuts (an AR test)

A large part of the Bubiko Orwell Tour involve networking with AR practioners, individuals as well as companies.

Also, during the events, my ebooks were either free or discounted.

AR HKPOLYU Followup 4 (Apps and Softwares)

MUCH MORE INFO ABOUT THE MATERIALS PRESENTED IS HERE.

The first in this series is here.

In no particular order:

http://fragmentedreality.net/

Amazon Sumerian

Mapbox

HP REVEAL

Project MARTA by Hitesh Malik , a lawyer who is developing his own projects to help teachers. MARTA = My Augmented Reality Teaching Assistant. Project MARTA is free to use.

ARMix

.........................

3dbear.io

http://3dbear.io/blog/2018/2/21/3-easy-ways-to-bring-3d-tech-to-your-classroom

...............................................

zappar

Wikitude

https://www.wikitude.com/blog-now-available-studio-ultimate-code-free-ar-platform/

...................................

ARKit

..................................

ARCore

Images and 3D models were available if anyone wanted to experiment with the software. The image was from the cover of The Silent State album. The 3D model file was kindly supplied by Scaffold Studios, who are now preparing their game for Steam. Their game is about the Walled City of Kowloon.

Magic Leap. I said little about it except that Singapore has given it many millions of dollars. Here is the latest info on magic Leap.

AR HKPOLYU Followup 3 (Food and AR)

MUCH MORE INFO ABOUT THE MATERIALS PRESENTED IS HERE.

The first in this series is here.

Food-related projects and resources:

Chowhound: Will Virtual and Augmented Reality Change the Food Industry?

The chef above and the banoffee pastry below exemplify the possibilities of 3D models now available. Like VR, AR is a medium in which 3D models play a huge part.

This is Unity + Kinect installation was created by the team of Celine Tuazon, Russell Tan, Chen Jia Wen, and Carolyn Eppy Koh. They are Interaction Design students at the School of Interactive and Digital Media (Nanyang Polytechnic, Singapore.) Instructor: Debbie Ding

Coffee and AR: Prepare for Impact!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/zarastone/2017/12/12/19-crimes-wine-is-an-amazing-example-of-adult-targeted-augmented-reality/#675dbac947de

An article I wrote for Coffee Traveler magazine(Thailand)

FOODHACK! HK Poly June 15-17

EELCOIN! (The foodhack was a weekend full of hard work and hope. I was on a team with Beeno, Ann, Sayuri and Kerong. We worked and ate amongst talented people who shared ideas and experiences related to fixing global food challenges.)

Welcome HK Foodhackers!

My name is Stephen Black and I have worked with food as an artist, as a photographer, a videomaker and someone with an interest in AR. Following are introductions to some of my food-related projects, including books.

Bubiko Foodtour is on her way to becoming an AR superstar! This week I just concluded workshops and presentations about AR, here at HK Poly.

Presentations and workshops by Stephen Black

Bubiko Foodtour is on Instagram.

A summary of the AR presentations at HK Poly

My experiences on a permaculture farm in Bali.

I am an unofficial representative for sustainable organic coffee and tea from Northern Thailand.

http://www.blacksteps.tv/anthony-bourdainstephen-blackstreet-foodan-embarrassing-encounter/

photography as part of book cover design

Furikake: japanese rice seasonings. Food-related short stories.

miso!

A national bestseller in Singapore

i ate tiong bahru on Goodreads.

i ate tiong bahru on Amazon

i ate tiong bahru audiobook

Check Amazon for other food-related books by Stephen Black.

And this book features a protagonist who is an amateur chef specializing in molecular cuisine.