Evolution of LittleBigPlanet

With so much discussion in creative education about the barriers between arts and science work such

This is what a modern creative industry looks like.

A few weeks before the global release of LittleBigPlanet, their much anticipated Playstation 3 project, the artists at Media Molecule have released a fascinating piece of process film for those who need their faculty of wonder stimulating.

You’ll know that software is made up of thousands of lines of code. In order for teams to collaborate effectively and for large projects to be managed, everytime a line of code is altered these changes are checked into a central repository. The evolution of LittleBigPlanet documents the development of the project through entries in its source-control repository. All of these entries have been visualised using codeswarm software, which results in a hypnotic piece.

Some explanation. Each of the dots in the film represents a piece of code, which swarms toward the team member who is editing it at that time. Watch the film with an eye on the ticking calender at the bottom right, and you have a document of both sheer effort of the company and the steady staff growth of a start-up as names are gradually added to the chart.

With so much discussion in creative education about the barriers between arts and science and the drop-off in foundation science skills, work such as that by Media Molecule is hugely invigorating. With a total disregard for any divisions of specialism, the scientists are the artists are the scientists. Why isn’t this on TV?

Watch The Evolution of LittleBigPlanet in HD

Iain Simons writes, talks and tweets about videogames and technology. His new book, Play Britannia, is to be published in 2009. He is the director of the GameCity festival at Nottingham Trent University.
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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.