Monday, 19 July 2010

Shoot nine: Aleks Krotoski

Technology is obviously a big part of geek culture and plays a big part in bringing geek communities together. When we started planning Geek Calendar, this was one of the first areas we wanted to represent, and who better than Aleks Krotoski.


Dr Aleks Krotoski is a journalist and academic interested in technology and interactivity. Her recently completed PhD was on the impressively titled 'Social Influence in Second Life: Social Network and Social Psychological Processes in the Diffusion of Belief and Behaviour on the Web' and she is currently Researcher in Residence for the British Library's Growing Knowledge project.

On the media side, you may remember her from the classic gaming TV shows Bits and Thumb Bandits. Today you may have seen her on the recent BAFTA award-winning BBC documentary series, The Virtual Revolution, or heard her in her regular role as host of the Guardian Tech Weekly podcast.

(Fact: Aleks was also once named one of the Top Ten girl geeks by CNET, above Paris Hilton, but below Lisa Simpson).

Our idea for this shoot was to use somewhere tech-heavy, but related to Aleks's many professional roles. So what better (and convenient) place than The Guardian podcast studios?

Aleks K's glamour shoot

Thanks to The Guardian's Alok Jha and Andy Duckworth, we gained access to one of the studios for an afternoon. For the record, the Guardian has about five audio recording studios, though sadly the big one where Tech Weekly is usually recorded was in use -- unfortunate, as we were looking forward to meeting its resident Sarah Palin ;)

Aleks carries a tremendous number of exciting gadgets with her: daily equipment includes her iPhone, Macbook and SLR camera, making for a good weight-lifting workout just carrying her handbag! But this all provided useful props for the shoot.

Taking the mic(s)

Our idea was to photograph Aleks surrounded by microphones and tech to capture her Tech Weekly role. We tried a few variations with different headphones and impersonations of Geordi La Forge and Minnie Mouse. This was her point of view.

Our other, crazy, idea was to show Aleks' 'wired' brandishing two interconnected iPhones and decorated with a variety of colourful cables borrowed from the Guardian's multimedia storeroom.


Yes, Jesus did cross our mind, an irony that was not lost on us when Aleks told us of her Catholic upbringing!

In-between shoots, we kept our subject fueled with Haribo and talked Twitter, iPhones (there were no less than five in the room at one point) and Dopplr.

Camera, varnish, Mac

We also discussed the mysterious lack of clocks on The Guardian's 'multimedia' floor and King's Place's terrible wifi (seriously, what's up with that?).

This was also the first Geek Calendar shoot for our other photographer, Greg Funnell, and he and Aleks bonded over their love of photography, SLR settings and who had the better camera. Who won? I think Greg (he does this for a living, after all ;) ).

Shoot off!

In her video interview, Aleks named Simon Pegg (for geek favourite Spaced), Cory Doctorow ("the man so prolific he puts us other geeks to shame") and fellow Geek Calendar-er Ben Goldacre ("He has great hair") among her favourite geeks. I also liked her description of a geek as "someone who wasn't in the in-crowd when they were younger, but is now changing the world and making it a better place".

Aleks was a really good sport, going along with all our zany ideas, and it was a real pleasure to work with her. You can see more behind-the-scenes pics of the shoot on our Flickr page.

*UPDATED 19/7/2010 10.47. Corrected title and link to Aleks's PhD thesis.