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

 

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)

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)

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

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.

AR HKPOLYU Followup 2 (Students Work +)

As I began to prepare for the events, I soon discovered a fantastic problem. Three huge AR events had very recently occurred:

- Google held its Developer's Conference on May 8.

- Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference ended on June 8.

-The biggest announcements in AR were made at the Augmented World Expo, which was from May 30 to June 1.

Because my presentations were meant to reflect the State of the Art in AR, I had to organize lot of information in a short period of time. Plus, the materials I had gathered previously had become out of date.

The good news is that nearly all of the materials presented were less than a year old, some just a few days old! The bad news is that in the rush, I had to de-prioritize student's work and ended up not showing any. With this post I remedy that, and am thankful to the teachers and students involved with the work below.(Any students, anywhere: I will be happy to post your AR-related work!)

First is the "home team", the Hong Kong Polytechnic University of Design. Dr. Ludovic Krundell helped secure these images, and he was a most helpful resource and source of welcome advice during my time at PolyU. His support, as well as the guidance of Gino Yu, made my time here an unforgettable experience. OK; the work...

Meow Meow AR Cat Game by HK Poly U Students

AR Game by: LIU MingYi, Kelly
ZHANG Zhenyi
LIU Xiaoyu, Sherry

Meow Meow AR Cat Game by HK Poly U Students 2

Poster for Sound Visualization, an AR project by Zhuang Mengzhou, Dai Mingyi, Dong Genggeng, Hu Xianzhi

Thailand: the Institute for Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology has incorporated AR into junior high school science textbooks.(Info kindly provided by Trasvin Jittidecharak/Silkworm Books.)

The following were kindly provided by Fabian Winkler, the Associate Professor of Visual and Performing Arts, at the Electronic and Time-Based Art Program of Purdue University. Professor Winkler's own work can be seen here.

The following presentations were developed within a short period: less than two weeks. They are about the relationship of the markers (image targets) and the AR content they activate.

The following is by Dr. Tomas Laurenzo, who is Assistant Professor at the School of Creative Media of the City University of Hong Kong.

from Singapore

Debbie Ding (http://dbbd.sg / http://openurbanism.blogspot.com

Lecturer, Interaction Design

Module Leader for Final Year Project 1 and Final Year Project 2

Publishing as a Discourse Marker

From Wikipedia: In Practical English Usage, Michael Swan defines a discourse marker as "a word or expression which shows the connection between what is being said and the wider context". For him, a discourse marker is something that either connects a sentence to what comes before or after, or indicates a speaker's attitude to what he is saying. He gives three examples: on the other hand; frankly; as a matter of fact.[5] Ian McCormick's The Art of Connection[6] outlines nine classes of connectives based on their purpose:

to provide a sense of where something is in relation to something else;

to supply a sense of when something is happening;

to compare two ideas and express similarities;

to contrast ideas English provides many examples to signal the notion of difference;

to present additional or supplementary ideas;

to indicate that a point in a discussion has been conceded or already taken into account;

to demonstrate a sense of logical sequence;

to offer an illustration or an example;

to deliver a summary of the ideas discussed.

McCormick points out that "FANBOYS" is mnemonic to recall co-ordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

5.30 – 7.00pm

Publishing Independently

What is the potential of self-initiated publications as a form of artistic collaboration? What are the benefits and pitfalls of self-publishing versus traditional publishing, and how does it contribute to the cultural field? This panel will explore recent developments in self-publishing and what necessitates these forms of independent production.

Speakers:

Ringo Bunoan (Philippines), artist and co-Founder, Art Book Philippines

Savannah Gorton (Germany/Denmark), curator and co-Founder, Friends with Books

Beatrix Pang (Hong Kong), Founder, Small Tune Press

Stephen Black (Around China) artist, writer and Founder Book Merah

Moderated by Shubigi Rao (India/Singapore), artist

AR HKPOLYU Followup 1 (HMDs)

This is the first of several posts related to the two workshops and two presentations that I recently gave at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

(The second post is here.)

Discussions with attendees, combined with research, made it clear that HMDs (wearables) are already a significant market, and moving fast. No need to hold anything, when your eyeglasses are computers. Mobile phones are outdated.!?

To keep up with the latest developments, the following are highly recommended:

The Ghost Howls

ARIA (Augmented Reality in Action)

and a Youtube Channel called Augmented Reality in Education.

https://next.reality.news/news/vuzix-smart-glasses-getting-major-upgrade-2019-with-light-engine-from-plessey-0185050/

The sales projections in the following report don't feel right to me. For one thing, I don't think it is a good idea to lump the two together. 19 MAR 2018 Demand for Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Headsets Expected to Rebound in 2018, Says IDC

At 5:50 there is an example of a very large amount of data being displayed within a HMD. Undoubtedly there are newer and better ways to display very large amounts of data.

Here is the next post, featuring the works of students from Purdue University (U.S.A), Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the School of Interactive and Digital Media at Nanyang Polytechnic in Singapore.

Responses to Workshop 1 (Hong Kong PolyU State of the Art of Augmented Reality 2018)

Yesterday, in both the workshop and the presentation, there were questions regarding HMDs and AR’s relationship to design, art and disaster relief.

Some links and brief responses:

AR and Emergency Response

How Augmented Reality can change how we navigate a natural disaster, an article on Medium by Nicolas Fierro.

Crowdsourcing a Safer Future for First Responders

Announcing the Winners of the NIST Virtual Reality Test Environment Challenge!

Advances in Next Gen SMART First Response | Kirk McKinzie | ARIA

AR and Design + Art

Eon Reality LKDF Interact – Diesel Engine Operation

Eon Reality

Augmented Reality ARtworks | Tamiko Thiel | AR in ACTION

HMDs

Mix AR Glasses – The New Google Glasses?

Plessey shines in the spotlight with its globally unique monolithic MicroLED technology

Epson Moverio BT-300 Smart Glasses

https://next.reality.news/news/epsons-moverio-smartglasses-line-gets-major-upgrades-with-new-sdk-and-web-based-publishing-0185023/

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

Go to Augmented Reality - the 8th Mass Medium: Tomi Ahonen at TEDxMongKok. At the 12:24 mark is proof that we are living in the future.

There were other topics , and I will respond to these in another post.

And don't forget: Book Merah is giving away/discounting my ebooks NOW!

Fintech: (Supercharger HK Demo 2018)

Yesterday I went to a fintech event with my feet dragging; expecting to drop off some flyers and then leave. However, I stayed for five hours, to the point where I almost missed a historic art event!

I stayed for two reasons.

As I began to take in the exhibits and meet people, I began to feel that I was witnessing a watershed moment in financial history. Learning about the achievements that were showcased, I sensed that the digital revolution has now advanced into an area that was considered to be an impenetrable fortress: the interaction between government regulators, financial institutions and SMEs. The fewer difficult and time-consuming transactions SMEs have, the better their chances are for survival. SMEs are what makes the world go round! This event was for everyone, actually, not zillion dollar companies.

The second reason I stayed was that, simply, everyone I met seemed to be genuinely trying to help others. There was a good feeling at the event.

I learned many things about how the delays and complications associated with starting and/or operating an SME are being reduced. My small way of thanking these unsung heroes is to list them below. These people and companies should be celebrated for their perseverance, attention to detail and their accomplishments.

Enforcd Regulatory Intelligence (RegTech)

mindbridge Financial Auditing with Artificial Intelligence

gini Personal Financial Management

AIZEN Credit Scoring and Management with Artificial Intelligence

fundpark Trade Finance for SME

Know your customer Client on-boarding

Investment Navigator Wealth Advisory

exate technology Data Privacy Management (RegTech)

cyberProductivity SME Accounting with Artificial Intelligence

Plus, as a writer, I found Phrazor extremely interesting!

All of this awesomeness was showcased and supported by a company whose name says it all: SUPERCHARGER.

PS My "writer sensibilities" started flashing when I learned this phrase: the right to be forgotten. To the contrary, this event was unforgettable.

Questionnaire for Those Attending AR Workshops at HK Poly June 11 and 13

Hello!

The workshops are being fine-tuned,but here is the basic structure. You are welcome to attend both, though the first is already full.

Related to the event,Book Merah is giving away and discounting Stephen Black's books during this event. Click here for details.