November 23, 2012 7:23 pm

The List: The art of boredom

From self-service checkouts to how the refrigerator got its hum, here are four lowlights of the Boring Conference
Tesco self-service check-out

The Boring Conference will, as its name suggests, be rather dull, says James Ward, the visionary behind the event taking place in London on Sunday. Here he selects his four lowlights.

1. ‘Unexpected Item in Bagging Area’, Self-Service Checkout: A User’s Guide

Lots of people have problems when they use a self-service checkout (one of the most common being the “Unexpected Item in Bagging Area” message) despite the fact that the self-service machine was introduced around 2002. This is unforgivable. People have had a decade to learn to use these quite simple machines yet they still struggle. My multimedia presentation (including recordings of the noises self-service machines make) will be a step-by-step guide to how to use them effectively and efficiently.

2. Some of My Collections in Roughly Chronological Order

Roo Reynolds will talk about his collections. He has a collection of Lego, he has a collection of different collections, he has virtual collections. For instance, with the help of others, he has assembled a collection of photos of the inside of other people’s fridges. Roo will talk about why people collect things as well as the importance of hobbies that don’t seem to lead anywhere. His collections are always ongoing; you’re never going to get to all of the insides of people’s fridges. But then again, normally you see fridges from the outside; you never get to see them from the inside out.

3. How the Refrigerator Got its Hum

Science writer Alice Bell will be continuing the fridge theme. When the refrigerator was first invented, there were two types: electric and gas. There was nothing much to separate them, except for the hum of the electric fridge which, of course, ultimately won out. The humming noise of the fridge is a by-product of this battle between two competing forms of technology. Alice will discuss how the objects that surround us all the time have unforeseen side effects as a result of choices made years ago.

4. How I Like My Toast

This presentation will probably be one of the most exciting. Illustrator Ed Ross will demonstrate how he likes his toast. He’s going to bring in his toaster and make some toast, live on stage. Not all of the particulars of the presentation have been shared with me, but I know that the toast-making process is highly specific: once toasted, he leans two pieces against each other forming a pyramidal structure. This allows the toast to cool before he butters it, ensuring crispiness.

The Boring Conference 2012 is taking place on Sunday, 10.30am-5.30pm at York Hall, 5-15 Old Ford Road, London; www.boringconference.com

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