View from the Plinth

Peter Abrahams

Written By:
Published: 4th August, 2009
Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

What would it be like to stand on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square?

Jane Scaysbrook decided to find out and applied for an hour slot in the One & Other project by Antony Gormley. To record what she saw and felt she took along her favourite tool, her computer with the voice recognition system Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

Her moment came at 5 AM on July 10 and here is a little of what she wrote: "I'd never have thought that London would be quite so lively at 5:30 in the morning here we are in Trafalgar Square watching the world wake up, the sky is clear but a few clouds over to my left but they don't look particularly threatening. Trafalgar Square has 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 avenues going off it and each one of them leads to a place steeped in history and beauty.".

Jane had tried to prepare for everything especially the rain or the cold, but what she had forgotten was that the wind might affect Dragon's ability to understand her. She normally uses her dictation system in the relative calm of her study. Luckily the wind dropped and then Dragon worked well. She went on to describe what she could see from the top and also her memories of being in Trafalgar Square at other times:

The Olympic celebrations "I came here for the Olympic parade that was amazing I was in London anyway I quickly walked here took me about 10 minutes and I pushed my way to the front like I normally do ! All the Olympians were sitting on the stand over there... "

Diana's funeral "...went down through Whitehall eventually arriving at Westminster and I remember a little way behind her funeral cortege there were her two sons and on top of the coffin there with their tribute and it was signed to Mummy... "

A few days after the event I spoke to Jane about One & Other and her daily use of Dragon.

One & Other is the latest in a series of temporary modern art installations on a plinth in Trafalgar Square that has been empty ever since the square was developed.

In a previous article /business/compliance/content.php?cid=8090 I wrote about Mark Quinn's sculpture of Alison Lapper pregnant. This was controversial because it showed Alison, an artist who was born with only vestigial arms and legs, naked and pregnant.

One & Other continues Antony Gormley's interest in involving the general public in his art. The installation will last for 100 days and every hour a different member of the public will inhabit the space at the top of the plinth and do whatever they wish. 2400 people chosen at random from those who applied giving a wide cross-section of the UK population including of course Jane.

Jane works as an assessor for people with dyslexia. Following an assessment Jane writes a report on their condition and what assistance they need. She first came into contact with Dragon NaturallySpeaking when it was recommended in her school to one of the students. Before passing it to the student she decided she really ought to understand how it worked and therefore how it should be presented to the student. She was so impressed by its ease of use that she decided that it would greatly improve her own productivity and she now writes all her reports using it.

A report starts off as an Excel spreadsheets which she fills in completely just by dictating to Dragon. She has recently started using a radio-mike and is very excited by the freedom this gives her, she can now walk around the room finding information in reports and documents in her library and still dictate the results into the spreadsheet. When the spreadsheet is complete she does a mail merge that creates the final report.

When I asked if there were any further improvements she would like to see in Dragon she said "I am now on Dragon NaturallySpeaking release 10 and I really cannot think of any other improvements I would like to see. The only thing I would like to see is more people using dictation software. I recommend it to everyone, not just to people with dyslexia, it is more productive and enables people to be more creative".

I would like to thank Jane for sharing her experience on the plinth and with using Dragon. If you want to see more of her or any of the other plinthers go to .

Note to the reader: This article was dictated on my Mac using software that has the Dragon dictation engine embedded into it.

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