Our virtual house with its own venue is now operational, and people love it! We are open for viewing. Come and glimpse the future.
The virtual Fourth Portal Lucia House is on the leading edge and employs state-of-the-art technology. It uses a combined semantics/physics engine to create an online social experience corresponding to real-world expectations, including interactions with books, records and other objects.
Guests move freely around a shabby-chic virtual 2D environment at will, allowing for richly rewarding social interactions. Each room has sound isolated from the neighbouring room. While a guest is in a room, audio attenuation permits voices to fade as the person moves away from other users – as happens within a real-world space.
There are presently 28 unique virtual rooms live across four floors. More floors and rooms, including a pub and tunnels, are being added during 2023. All programming is done in-house. The team has decades of experience building complex programs and can swiftly decorate and adapt spaces to individual client requirements. The Creative Director is credited with 70 major VFX productions across cinema and television. Fourth Portal Lucia House is presently in beta mode as we scale capacity. We welcome all visitors to our open house viewings and appreciate all feedback.
Click here to see when we have our next open house viewing.
Season 3 of the Discussion Festival begins in January 2023 with the theme of developing connections that build meaningful relationships. The new Fourth Portal Lucia House is totally different from the Airmeet venue from Seasons one and two. Easy-to-navigate furnished rooms allow fun interactions and even more random conversations and connections.
Season 3 Theme
The theme for Discussion Festival Season 3 will be creating connections that lead to lasting relationships.
A selection of the rooms available for hosts to present a topic, hold a discussion or class, sell a product or service, and almost anything else.
Hosts are requested to embed this theme into their chosen topic or activity. The theme does not change what a host intends to do and is not compulsory. In a time of polarisation exasperated by social media, the theme might assist in revealing new avenues to developing meaningful connections through an online setting.
By the end of Season 3, we may understand more about how online connections extend into a real-world environment.
The previous Discussion Festivals have highlighted the potential for real-world relationships to blossom out of online connections. Relationships here are different to meeting a person through a dating site. On dating sites, the sole intention is to find a meaningful, often romantic, connection. For the Discussion Festival, people were joining for a myriad of reasons, only one possibly being to meet someone romanticly.
Screenshot from Discussion Festival 026, tables had different topics, began at various times and guests moved freely between each table as they pleased.
People do develop relationships through Zoom-type online platforms. However, these connections are generally managed, to some degree, in advance; the Zoom organiser directs proceedings. The Discussion Festivals have been much freer. Visitors wander around without hindrance and drop in on topics that have some appeal. Organic conversations emerge with connections forming.
Random selection of tables from Discussion Festival Season One and Season Two
Building real-world relationships
The evidence to claim firm real-world connections have developed out of the previous Discussion Festival seasons is soft. Season 3 is to gather more concrete examples of new firm relationships forming.
This evidence will feed into the new Fourth Portal real-world location, due to open in 2023. In the meantime, we will continue to develop how visitors to the real-world Fourth Portal and our virtual Lucia House can have a seamless hybrid experience.
Writing the paradigm
The evaluation process of season 3 will draw upon work by Professor. John Wood (Goldsmiths, University of London), particularly his work on mapping paradigms.
We will be looking beyond human-to-human relationships. What factors trigger people to make a connection? How do these connections move on to become a meaningful relationships or not? What role does the relationship between people and pets, people and objects, objects and the environment, environment and mood, mood and decision-making, and decision-making and language all have in forming a meaningful connection?
What people say
Click here to find out what hosts and visitors thought of Discussion Festival seasons one and two by clicking here.
Want to host?
Discussion Festival Season 3 runs throughout January and into February 2023 and is free to host and visit.
We have a new venue, our homegrown Fourth Portal Lucia House, built by John Kozak, Val Wardlaw and the wider Lucia collective. It is very different to the previous Discussion Festival space and will offer more opportunities for random conversations and connections to form. Check out the 28 rooms now available, with more coming soon.
The Mind Room was the unexpected star of the Fourth Portal stage 2 testing. Exhibited on the walls were paintings by Kevin Gavaghan. In this 15-minute video, Kevin speaks candidly about his mental health struggles and discusses the relief painting can bring and why visitors engaged as they did with the Mind Room.
Window to an inner emotion
When asked why people open up so quickly about their mental health issues on entering the mind room, artist Kevin Gavaghan responded, ‘because it probably opens a window to their own inner emotions.’
Kevin has been asked by the Wellcome Trust to write a piece on his work for an upcoming issue of their magazine. This piece will expand on the motivations of the work and the varied reactions of the viewer.
Watch Kevin Gavaghan discuss his work
Artist Kevin Gavaghan discussing the Mind Room with Fourth Portal’s John McKiernan
Mind Room Surprise
The purpose of the Mind Room was to introduce some freely available technologies that can have a positive impact on people suffering from mental health issues.
The success of the Mind Room was the biggest surprise during test 2 of the Fourth Portal popup in Great Yarmouth. It was composed to experiment with ideas that might initiate conversations around mental health issues without being too direct. In designing the Mind Room, it was essential to create a sense of relaxation while gently challenging visitors. Displayed on the walls were a series of paintings by artist Kevin Gavaghan. Kevin suffers from Tourettes Tics, anxiety and an acute eye issue that causes vision distortion. In the video, Kevin discusses his conditions and how he embraces them in his art.
The paintings resonated with people of all ages. NHS employees and mental health practitioners commented on how the Mind Room could benefit clients and the potential for it to expand. People who had suffered a mental health episode told of how they could relate directly with the artist through the paintings. We had a number of returning customers who had received an ADHD diagnosis. They found the space calming. The most surprising reactions were from people not presenting any mental health issues or having any diagnoses but who shared quite personal information about themselves within moments of walking into the Mind Room. Although these conversations cannot be documented for obvious reasons, they did boost the scope of what technologies can be included in future Mind Rooms.
Future Mind Rooms
The intention of the Mind Room was to host a number of technologies focused on the mind. Time constraints and internet infrastructure issues restricted the ability to install the first series of apps. In hindsight, this may prove beneficial, as we now have a better insight into the range of challenges people face in daily life. Discussions on how best to embed this learning from test 2 into future Fourth Portal Mind Rooms have begun.
More about the video
This video was filmed in one take on an iPhone14pro, with no editing, by John McKiernan, Founder of the Fourth Portal. Narrator: John McKiernan Interviewee: Kevin Gavaghan Recorded at the Fourth Portal, 2 Stonecutters Way, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England
The feedback from people visiting the Fourth Portal in Great Yarmouth has surpassed expectations. This second test stage focused on whether the real-world layout would stimulate conversations on the likelihood of technology improving people’s lives and reducing human impact on the planet.
Stage 2 complete
The second test stage of the Fourth Portal ended on Sunday, 4 December 2022. We began to ask visitors to share their thoughts on camera. The comments were almost universal in recognising a need for such spaces where in-depth conversation and understanding of technological change can occur.
The following is a selection of videos recorded in the last weeks of November 2022 and photos of customers throughout the two test periods. A write-up on test two and the next stages will follow.
Future of the High Street
Keith and Paul from Birmingham came into the Fourth Portal with their partners on the last weekend of test two. Paul declared that it was the future of the High Street. Keith stated he was ‘gutted’ at the closing, as it was the kind of place he adores. Along with his partner, Keith moved to live in Great Yarmouth two months previously. Paul and his partner were visiting for the weekend. (Film: 40sec)
Keith and Paul from Birmingham define the Fourth Portal as the future of the High Street (40sec)
The word gutted was used by many visitors when hearing that the Fourth Portal test was coming to an end. Jaye and her sister stumbled on the Fourth Portal and became hooked on the coffee. As a qualified mental health practitioner, she found the Mind Room fascinating and recommended Fourth Portal to colleagues, who also began to visit. (Film: 35sec)
Jaye reflecting on the end of test two of the Fourth Portal
Understanding the concept
Both Fourth Portal test sessions confirmed the art interventionist approach and layout works. Developed by Platform-7 Events, the method involves creating intrigue and curiosity. It can often be difficult to attract people into any building unless the person has entered previously – tempting people over the threshold is why shop windows play such an important role in retail. The Fourth Portal was not in a retail space and only had small domestic sash windows. To be inviting for people of all ages and backgrounds is a vital component of the Fourth Portal. Without actually walking through the door, understanding the concept can be mystifying. In this video, JP came in with his wife and provides an insight into how most people enter an unfamiliar space. (Film: 1m:45sec)
Long time Great Yarmouth resident JP reflecting on the Fourth Portal
Sharon and Brian began regularly returning to the Fourth Portal. The video captures how the layout draws in visitors and develops the conversation around technology and lifestyles. (Film: 1m:15sec)
Sharon and Brian discuss their attraction to Fourth Portal and the end of test two.
Visitors Emma and Phil met while in the Fourth Portal. Emma moved to Great Yarmouth to create a business – Airbnb and artspace within her home on the seafront. Phil was born in Great Yarmouth and is embarking on a history degree. Emma and Phil discuss the attraction of the Fourth Portal and why such spaces are vital for the town. (Film: 10min)
Phil and Emma discuss why Fourth Portal is needed in Great Yarmouth
Engineering the future
A Norwegian choir came to Great Yarmouth during the last weekend. Three members found their way to the Fourth Portal on Friday, returning on Sunday. Four of the choir, who are professional engineers agreed to be interviewed. The men were struck by the power of the Fourth Portal to bring different people together to create new ideas, businesses and solutions. While in the Fourth Portal, they observed how the space attracted a diverse customer base. The interview touches on how technology should solve some of the climate issues and why humans need to change their behaviour. (17m:55s)
Norwegian engineers discuss the importance of space like Fourth Portal and technological advances in the fight against climate change (17m:55s)
Stage two testing was to ascertain how people would engage in an unfamiliar concept and whether the objects would stimulate conversation around new technology. What surprised us was the breadth of people engaging, and across all age ranges. We will be taking this learning into our (online only) stage three testing and then into a new real-world site in early 2023.
Students from The Bartlett, UCL’s Faculty of the Built Environment, spent four days at the Fourth Portal. Using emotional mapping software, students engage people in Great Yarmouth to gauge body reactions to the built environment when walking around the town.
Unit 8, Engineering and Architectural Design in Market Row, Great Yarmouth
Day one: Students and lecturers arrive in Great Yarmouth
The group began their stay with an enjoyable visit to the Time and Tide museum before walking across Great Yarmouth as darkness fell. Arriving at the Fourth Portal, they met Gillian Harwood, owner of the buildings where the hub is situated. An overview and introduction to Great Yarmouth followed.
Catch The Tide Museum. Read about this important Great Yarmouth asset here
Day two: Guided tours and meeting local people
Students had two guided tours of historic Great Yarmouth before gathering at the Fourth Portal for an evening event. In the weeks leading up to the visit, the Fourth Portal team had been contacting local businesses, institutions and groups with an open invitation.
Fourth Portal invitation October-November 2022
A range of local people came to discuss the town, including the principal of East Coast College and the chair of the Civic Society. The locally made short film, Love Letter to Row 116 was shown followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, Karl Trosclair. Enjoyable conversations continued late into the evening. The feedback from attendees and students was positive.
Students and local people discuss Great Yarmouth at the Fourth Portal
Day three: Emotional mapping
Students employed the open-source electronic prototyping platform Arduino to construct emotional maps of Great Yarmouth. The Arduino proved fascinating to everyone coming into the Fourth Portal; even the students seemed excited.
Arduino emotional mapping devices
What is Arduino?
“Arduino designs, manufactures, and supports electronic devices and software, allowing people around the world to easily access advanced technologies that interact with the physical world. Our products are straightforward, simple, and powerful, ready to satisfy users’ needs from students to makers and all the way to professional developers.”
Two finger sensors connected to the Arduino were attached to the volunteers. The sensors measured how the body reacted to different urban environments as the volunteer walked around Great Yarmouth. Students set a pre-defined destination and followed the volunteer, who chose the walking route.
Volunteers and students set off on different walks
Analysing the data
Students worked late into the evening on the data they had gathered. Not all the Arduino boxes worked as was hoped. Data was interrupted for several reasons, including loss of GPS connection. As frustrating as it was for the students, enough data was collected for the exercise and to present results on day 4.
Students analysing data from the emotional mapping walks
Day four: Presenting results
Day four saw the Fourth Portal mind space transformed into a room for student presentations. Each student group presented their findings to professors back at UCL in London. The 3D models provided a fascinating insight into how people react when walking around Great Yarmouth.
Presentations and 3D emotional mapping visualisation of Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth would benefit from an extensive study using such technology as Arduino. Engaging a large sample of local people and those new to the town could provide a deeper understanding of what the citizens of Great Yarmouth feel about their hometown. Such an undertaking could be a positive step toward addressing some of the many issues the town suffers.
The UCL students also had a direct beneficial impact on the income of local businesses, particularly accommodation, restaurants and gift establishments. The Fourth Portal will encourage more academic partners to visit Great Yarmouth over the coming year.
The first real-world hybrid live event using the developing Lucia House online platform took place at the Fourth Portal. Four years in development, the event highlighted the challenges of merging virtual and physical spaces.
The Fourth Portal was, from the beginning, envisaged as a hybrid working and social space. A place where a person can sit at a table and meet others in the virtual and the real world. Hybrid meetings in public settings will become normalised and the experience seamless. Fourth Portal is at the cutting edge of developing such spaces. On 4th November 2022, we curated our first live test event.
Lucia House is a four-floor virtual home developed by the Lucia Collective in response to the first pandemic lockdown. The Lucia Collective is a loose gathering of programmers, engineers, mathematicians, philosophers and visual artists.
The Lucia Collective came together with Fourth Portal via Platform-7’s Discussion Festival events. The Discussion Festival was a weekly open-house occasion. Visitors moved about, without hindrance, between virtual tables hosted by experts on various topics. Engagement in a virtual environment is different to being in a real-world occasion. These evenings sought to observe how people interacted, moved about and communicated in virtual space when undirected. The learning feeds into the design parameters of the Fourth Portal and the online equivalent.
Open-mic poetry evening
The open-mic poetry event was on a Friday evening, hosted by Platform-7’s Bristol-based poet, Isabel White. A mixture of local poets and non-poets came along. Online were members of the Lucia Collective and other guests, including poet Andrew Duncan with his Ai nomenclature, R Andru Dunkn (a homage to Asimov robot stories).
Poetry host, Isabel White and local Poets Jason Parr and Clare Currie
Lucia House’s virtual theatre beamed into the Fourth Portal via WiFi. Surround sound provided an immersive feeling inside the space. For guests in the room, the event was a new kind of experience. Although most people were familiar with Zoom, the Lucia House’s eclectic virtual furnishing and moving face tiles were unexpected.
There was no wide-angle projection of the Lucia House floorplan in the venue. This meant the layout was unclear for those in attendance to understand how the theatre was part of a much larger online environment. The Fourth Portal is awaiting the installation of a dedicated 1Gb fibre cable, leaving the event operating on a slightly erratic internet connection. Occasional weak signals caused breakdowns in the audio, leading to some chatter coming from the online guests while the real-world poets performed. The venue arrangement meant the performer could not see the online guests. In response, poets would move out of the camera shot to view the online audience, who then could not see the poet.
A simple website front page asked for a name and email address to gain free online entry to the event. A link was posted to Facebook and Instagram. As the event was due to go live, it became apparent that the Facebook link would not work. Post-event investigation discovered the issue; Facebook attribution parameters stop logged-in users from reaching the webpage. A solution, found via Seb’s IT blog, will be implemented for the next event.
The affected application would return a 404 The requested URL was not found on this server message when accessed from logged in facebook users. That is because the link facebook presents to its users contains their fbclid URL parameter:
Internet connection issues aside, the online visitors who did find their way had a reasonably smooth experience. With no cameras facing the real-world audience, online guests felt denied the opportunity to feel fully involved in the real-world venue.
In between the poetry performed by humans, the audience was treated to some poetry from an AI. Created by John K, from the Lucia Collective, the AI constructed its poetry by scanning the works of poet Alan Duncan. The poem was somewhat odd and caused unintended amusement in places, however, the audience was reasonably impressed by the poem recited. (Can an AI recite? One of the many debates yet to be had!)
R Andru Dunkn, Ai. performs reconstructed works of poet, Alan Duncan
The hybrid open-mic poetry night was a culmination of many years of work. The evening felt momentous for us involved in developing the Fourth Portal and Lucia House. Bringing together a real-world audience with a virtual audience was a milestone. It was all done in proper DIY style. The virtual and physical spaces are cobbled together using hanging cables, available kits and, of course, the ubiquitous old ladder.
During the first half, the poets were a little disorientated by the experience, as were some of the real-world audience. The second half was more relaxed and people became accustomed.
For the team, plenty of learning was gleaned, which will feed into the next event on 2nd December 2022.
Was the hybrid open-mic night a World’s first? Probably not! However, not many hybrid open-mic poetry nights can claim poems performed by an artificial intelligence performer.
Fourth Portal Hybrid Open-Mic Night
Friday, 2nd December 2022, 7pm – 9pm, UK time (19:00-21:00 BST)
To attend the real world event: Fourth Portal, 2 Stonecutters Way, Great Yarmouth, England, NR30 1HF
We have now completed our 6-week Fourth Portal popup test in Great Yarmouth. The reaction has been positive despite not completing all the tasks we set ourselves. Testing the business model will extend for two further months over autumn 2022.
We began implementing the Fourth Portal business plan at the beginning of August 2022. Without fanfare, the doors opened to an unexpecting public. The erection of a temporary banner above the entrance announced our presence. The wider world was made aware through a small number of social media posts. It was an intentionally low-key affair.
There is a large team feeding into the Fourth Portal concept. Lauren Lapidge, a Platform-7 colleague, flew in from Greece for two months to help set up the popup. Lauren has years of experience in events and public interventions. She has worked on several Platform-7 interventions, including Margate 2011. We began setting up the physical space and liaising with the broader team and suppliers.
Much of the team is remote. We have technicians, technologists, engineers, artists, academics, researchers, builders and retail specialists. It’s incredible to have such impressive expertise feeding into the business.
Developing the space
The business plan describes the physical space of the hub. It is geared to ensure flexibility while providing some consistency. Each Fourth Portal requires its own identity while sharing a similar vibe. Writing this on paper is one thing, developing the physical space is quite another. Only when people enter is it possible to know if the plan is on the right track.
The feedback from people who have wandered in has been excellent. The interventionist approach developed by Platform-7 is proving successful. It provides a sense of involvement for visitors and gives them a voice in how the space develops. People’s views are listened to and taken into account. These conversations often furnish a sense of ownership and belonging from the outset. It is real-time feedback.
Blending Cafe, Retail and Technology
The 6-week test period was to try out different strands of the business model. Having a physical space allows the wider network to see what a Fourth Portal looks and feels like in reality.
Bringing different experiences and services together under one roof is not unique. It’s commonplace to see cafes, retail and workshops in one place. The difference with Fourth Portal is adding technology, arts and learning to the offer.
The positive public reaction was a bit of a surprise if being honest. The space was not much more than a building site when opening and was still not tidy by the end of the 6-weeks. People seeing the space change each day generated intrigue. It attracted people who would otherwise not have noticed. With the gloomy political and economic climate, the popup brought a sense of positive change and fun.
Suppliers, furnishing, and art
Since Brexit and the pandemic, supply chains are under strain. Reestablishing relationships with previous suppliers and building new relationships was a priority. Observing the reaction to the eclectic furnishing was important learning. Hanging artworks to create a stimulus, as well as having them for sale, has proved popular.
Our hardware guru, James Stevens managed to secure an internet connection while we wait for an optical fibre internet connection to be installed. He also brought a raspberry pie for the internal network. Lauren spent several days preparing this for visitors to use. We did not manage to test our provenance system or the hybrid space; both are the priority for stage two. Building the structure to surround the tech took precedent and longer than expected.
Shifting from a business plan on paper to real-world testing provides excellent insights. Throughout the popup test stage, we had building issues (no power), sickness and supplier delays. Such issues help build resilience. It allows for robust systems to be established in the future business model. When operating at capacity, it becomes difficult to adapt processes within a business.
The fourth Portal is novel, making it a complicated business model.
Each Fourth Portal needs to be sympathetic to the neighbourhood where it’s located. The local community needs to be intrigued, feel welcomed and know the business is for them. Over this first test period, we appear to have achieved this in Great Yarmouth.
Although we did not complete all the tasks we set ourselves, we did get the place open and operational. Feedback from the people coming in has been invaluable. The reaction has given a boost to what is possible and how the Fourth Portal can grow. Generating income in a town suffering deprivation remains a challenge.
Stage two is focused on installing technologies and making the business financially sustainable. Creating a sustainable business in Great Yarmouth may encourage others to open up in the town.
Also, see other Haphazard posts of the journey to creating the Fourth Portal.
Week 4 (of 6) at the Fourth Portal Great Yarmouth popup. These weeks are to iron out the wrinkles in the business plan and to reconnect with suppliers and the broader P7 network. Things are going well, and most importantly, it’s fun!
Welcome Drinks Invite | Thursday, 8 Sept 2022 from 6pm
We are on week 4 (of 6) at the Fourth Portal set-up stage. It is going as much as I was expecting. Some things are going smoother than anticipated, in other areas we have encountered challenges. We have nothing bad to report. In fact, it has – mostly – been fun. We are attracting attention and already have some cheerleaders. Our coffee is roasted in HMP Mount prison. It is going down very well and bringing people back. It looks likely we will have a really cool pizza popup from week 6 outside. Yet another business working with released prisoners.
Our attention this week shifted back to the hybrid Liftpod. The concept is challenging but also hugely enjoyable. I am annoying Lauren, my long-suffering occasional colleague who has to endure me each day! This week I am being deliberately too vague on what hardware we should use in the Liftpod 🙂 🙂 :). John and Val, developers of the Flatlands part of the LiftPod, are a real giggle to work with. Lauren is close to having the local network (our own internal Google drive) up and running. Once done we can then pick up the chat about the next stage of our internal network with guru James Stevens. A large chunk of the prep work for our provenance Annalist system is complete. Now Graham, the developer of Annalist, is back from holiday we will continue with stage one.
On Thursday, Peter Rodulfo brought his first painting of Stonecutters Way to the Fourth Portal. The artwork juxtaposes nicely with Kev Gavaghan’s work in the Mind Room next door. Local artist Lisa came in with some work to show us. We liked it and plan to display it soon.
Moonbow Margate 2011 Feel
There is a Margate 2011 feel developing. I can sense the slow build-up of positive energy. The Fourth Portal is inspiring confidence in locals. Already some are taking the plunge to ask to become involved.
Several couples from the Roma community have been popping by to try and buy a particular chandelier. I have resisted selling for two reasons. 1) the offers are too low and 2) it is a real attractor. The chandelier is forming relationships. Whereas at the beginning of this popup there were stern faces, now we receive big smiles and hellos. Despite language barriers, a sense of fun is building around who will manage to buy the light – if anyone!
There’s a different atmosphere in GY from the previous time I sought to open Fourth Portal. I cannot nail what it is, all I know is it is just a different feel. Maybe the unfolding economic crisis is focusing minds on what is important. Maybe it’s just because it is sunny and lovely weather this summer. No doubt we will find out soon enough.
Fancy some Prosecco?
If you fancy a glass of Prosecco on Thursday 8th September 2022, after 6pm then come down to the Fourth Portal at 2 Stonecutters Way, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, HR30 1HF. You’ll receive a warm welcome.
The Semantic Web is an extension of the World Wide Web (www). Whereas the www has been built for humans to read, the Semantic Web is for machines to read. The Semantic Web works by using Linked Data. The Fourth Portal will introduce Linked Data concepts to encourage members, clients and suppliers to consider how the Semantic Web could apply to their work.
The Fourth Portal is a new kind of hybrid cafe-bar work and meeting space that introduces the opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The locations will have several innovative tools that visitors and members can access. One such tool will be Annalist, developed by computer engineer Graham Klyne. Annalist will be used to introduce Linked Data, and the potential it offers.
Annalist is a software system for individuals and small groups to reap the benefits of using Linked Data. It presents a flexible web interface for creating, editing and browsing different types of data without requiring the user to understand computer jargon or perform any computer programming. It has been particularly effective in exploring and rapid prototyping designs for linked data on the web, covering science and humanities research, creative art and personal information.
For Fourth Portal, we will experiment with Annalist using different approaches. Experiments will include developing a stock provenance system and providing information on famous inventors and social and business innovators.
What is Linked Data?
The text below is the words of Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, written in 2007. It provides a simple introduction to what the Semantic Web is and how it works. Descriptions of the abbreviation with a link to more information are included for ease of reading. Press the link for the full text: https://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/LinkedData.html
Linked Data by Tim Berners-Lee
‘The Semantic Web isn’t just about putting data on the web. It is about making links, so that a person or machine can explore the web of data. With linked data, when you have some of it, you can find other, related, data.
Like the web of hypertext, the web of data is constructed with documents on the web. However, unlike the web of hypertext, where links are relationships anchors in hypertext documents written in HTML, for data they links between arbitrary things described by RDF (Resource Description Framework). The URIs (Universal Resource Identifier) identify any kind of object or concept. But for HTML or RDF, the same expectations apply to make the web grow:
Use URIs as names for things
Use HTTP URIs so that people can look up those names.
When someone looks up a URI, provide useful information, using the standards (RDF*, SPARQL)
Include links to other URIs. so that they can discover more things.
I’ll refer to the steps above as rules, but they are expectations of behavior. Breaking them does not destroy anything, but misses an opportunity to make data interconnected. This in turn limits the ways it can later be reused in unexpected ways. It is the unexpected re-use of information which is the value added by the web.
Linked data is essential to actually connect the semantic web. It is quite easy to do with a little thought, and becomes second nature. Various common sense considerations determine when to make a link and when not to.
The Tabulator client (running in a suitable browser) allows you to browse linked data using the above conventions, and can be used to check that your linked data works.’
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring many challenges. As the world goes virtual, the role of public gathering places will need addressing. The Town Square must again become the centre of local discourse. If not, the 4IR may become known as the Period of Polarisation.
Town squares will become contested during the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Technology will permeate every part of daily life. As it does, the need for physical gathering places will rise. The risk is that such public spaces become battlegrounds.
Urban planners need to pay close attention, particularly in England. The virtual world is changing behaviours. These changes are spilling out into the real-world streets. 
Since the Edwardian period, England has neglected public spaces. Public squares that encourage the mixing of cultures are rare. The Georgians began the trend to fence off public spaces and streets. The policy was steeped in the British class system. In recent years, the privatisation of public space has accelerated.
Sample of English public spaces
In Southern continental Europe, the opposite is the case. Town squares are the centre of the entire community. The design, construction and purpose are all geared towards civic pride and participation.
Sample of Spanish public spaces
In Spain, all urban planning revolves around public space. There are plenty of elaborate squares and boulevards to be happened upon. Most though are of simple design and materials. They work for all occasions. Organised events, family gatherings, meeting friends or eating a sandwich. Finding a public space with a fence or a locked gate will be a challenge in Spain.
Some squares have a cafe or restaurant bordering the parameter; many don’t. It is unusual to see a cafe in the middle of a town square. Modern Spanish libraries and museums spill out onto public squares. Public spaces in Spain are welcoming and well used because of their simplicity. 
The two photo galleries above show the public realm where people live. These are not tourist areas or places of commerce. Public spaces are there, in theory, for the local community and visitors to use and enjoy. The public realm in Spain sits at the very heart of a community. Unless there is a commercial reason, public space in England is a low priority.
Town Squares can be a metaphor for what is happening in the virtual world. Some people wish to see them controlled with restrictions on who has access. Others want them completely open, freeing and welcoming to all.   
Recent history has demonstrated how the virtual world can spill out into the real world.
Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, is the most prominent example. Protests in 2013 began online, discussing government corruption and policies. WhatsApp groups and Facebook posts began to grow and to spread. Soon these virtual spaces were not enough. People had to come together. Tens of hundreds of thousands of people started filling Tahrir square. Night after night protests continued until Egypt’s President Mubarak toppled.
Similar scenes with different results played out across the Arab world. These 2013 protests became known as the Arab Spring.
Although not on the same scale, most areas of the developed world have seen similar protests. The rise of the online protest hashtag has been instrumental. #MeToo and #blm (#blacklivesmatter) are the most successful to date.
Britain’s exit from the European Union was a direct result of online campaigning. What followed has been years of disruption, strife and polarisation. The struggle between the Leave and Remain camps manifested physically in London’s Parliament square. The argument has continued right up to the present day. 
Brexit supporter carrying Great Britain cardboard cutout, Parliament Square.
Rise of technology
As life moves further online, the need for real-world gathering forums will increase. Failure of authorities to not plan for this change could lead to dire consequences.
Reasons for people to engage within the physical world has been declining since the 1990s.
The internet changed the world of work, allowing employees to be more distributed. The onset of the pandemic brought a further scattering of the workforce as people work from home. Retail has been shifting steadily online. Restaurant food can now be delivered directly to the family dining table. The world of supermarkets without cashiers is upon us. Online gaming transformed from a table gathering to global competitions. The gaming industry now dwarfs, by revenue, the movie and music industries combined. 
There are plenty of Apps that anyone can access for free. However, to receive the full benefit requires buying a subscription. Public squares in England surrounded by cafes and shops are similar. To fully partake in the space requires a certain amount of purchasing power.
Above photos from the Argent development, Kings Cross, London (2020). Below, public squares managed by Great Yarmouth borough council (2021).
In Spain, public squares are places where people congregate, play and celebrate. The public realm encourages the community to come together for serendipitous moments. Spending power is not relevant except in the most exclusive of shopping areas.
Public forum, with permanent outdoor screen, multilevel seating, no barriers. Eivissa, Ibiza, Spain, 2022. 
In England, the opposite is too often the case. There is heavy reliance on the private sector to create public amenity spaces. It is another aspect of Britain’s two-tier society. Money buys access.
Fenced public spaces, ‘Keep off the Grass’ signs and other rules are commonplace around England.
Public space needs to become the bridge between the virtual and physical worlds. Some may believe this is about introducing VR – virtual reality. VR will soon be playing a much larger role, but this is more about the physical spaces themselves.
The layout, ambience and purpose of the public domain in England should be along Spanish lines.
Free to access town squares must have 5G connectivity. Multipurpose seating and tables that encourage gatherings, games, meetings and work. Architectural flair can overcome issues around Britain’s inclement weather. The public realm needs to be attractive to all cultures, ages and abilities.
Without change, England risks further polarisation. Addressing the poor quality of places for public gatherings is now urgent.
The internet has slowly eroded the need for people having to meet fellow citizens. The pandemic has further reduced real-world interactions. Technology seeping deeper into everyday life raises the potential of a more isolated society. Free to access public spaces is critical for communities to stay in touch in the real world.
The political discourse around local issues cannot be online alone. To allow this will lead to unhealthy debate and will undermine stable democracy. Views are best challenged and debated in the open, in places where alternative voices can be heard.
Open, free, real-world forums, like town squares, are the best spaces for such discussion to happen. Being open will also allay some fears around privacy, censorship and freedom of expression.
Britain is in the grip of a mental health crisis, with loneliness and a sense of isolation increasing. Social media gets some of the blame. Not much is written about the lack of public amenity spaces.
England needs to rethink its approach to the public realm. Design should encourage serendipity and random conversations. Learning from Spain’s public spaces would be a good start.
We are in the fifth decade of the internet. It will be one that will see the virtual world and the physical world merge. Successful societies this decade will be the ones with the most engaging public realm.
Introducing technology into these spaces is the next phase around the world. Creating buzzing ambient public spaces will be essential for community lifeblood. Animated public squares will also attract the next generation of innovators.
England needs to rethink the public realm urgently! This is where ‘levelling up’ has to begin.**