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Surf, scones… but no homes: the battle for the soul of Cornwall | Cornwall

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It’s the last day of free parking at Porthtowan beach on Cornwall’s wild Atlantic coast before the summer charging season begins. Plenty of people are making the most of the sunny but cold day. The steep hills surrounding the cove are bright yellow with gorse in full bloom, framing the brilliant turquoise sea against the cobalt sky.

The wind is up, and white-peaked waves roar on to the sand and cliffs. There are some holidaymakers around, with children bundled up in hats and gloves along with buckets and spades – but most are locals enjoying this quieter time before the tourist season kicks off once again.

Porthtowan will be the backdrop to a not-so-picture-postcard scene this weekend, however, when it hosts a rally of rage against the tide of second home ownership that is threatening to wash away the very soul of Cornwall.

The county has been romanticised as a dreamy destination for decades. Television schedules are full of programmes on Cornwall, espousing its long walks and pub lunches. Centuries of remoteness, and a life once dominated by farming, mining and fishing, have given way to Instagrammable photo opportunities and aspirational ideals of life by the sea. But locals are increasingly fearful that it has become over-exposed, overpriced and in danger of losing the essence of what makes it such a unique place.

Gordon Ramsay, who has a second home in Cornwall
Gordon Ramsay, who has a second home in Cornwall, stoked anger when he said he loved the county but hated the Cornish. Photograph: Neil Mockford/GC Images

The pandemic has stirred up these tensions by further fuelling a property boom, with locals finding themselves priced out by housing wealth from up country that Cornish wages can’t compete with, while at the same time record numbers of visitors use Cornwall as a holiday playground and then leave.

The divisions are evident – graffiti was daubed on a holiday home in St Agnes last month. Days later, comments by the chef Gordon Ramsay, who has a second home in Cornwall, about “loving” the county “but hating the Cornish” stoked the fires further.

Given that £2bn of revenue comes from tourism, up to a fifth of all private sector income in the county, some say that Cornwall shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds it. But for many who live there, it’s as much about incomers and visitors showing appreciation and consideration as it is about money.

A nurse walking on Porthtowan beach, who didn’t want to give her name, turns to look back at the sea before getting in her car. “It’s so beautiful, it’s such a special place. Look at what we have. Who am I to say that someone from Liverpool or Huddersfield or any town anywhere can’t come here and enjoy it too? We are so lucky to live here and we want to share it with others, but we do want Cornwall to be treated with respect,” she says.

“I grew up here, I’ll never leave. Some people say Cornwall should just be for the Cornish – I don’t agree with that sentiment at all. I mean, what does it mean to be Cornish? There are people who live here who’ve come from all over the world, and they have every right to make a life here and be part of communities here. I don’t even have a problem with second homes in principle – but people who live and work here should be able to afford to live here too.”

Retirees John Adey and Penny Avant have also been enjoying a brisk walk on the beach. They moved from neighbouring Devon to be nearer their daughters, both of whom live in fields, one in a caravan, one in a cabin, because of lack of housing options.

“There is a myth that Cornwall is totally dependent on tourism. It’s not. It’s full of lots of people who have normal jobs. And those that do work in tourism need jobs that are all-year-round. We can understand why people come, why it’s so attractive. But it feels like Cornwall is on the edge now. It can’t exist just as a holiday destination. Once communities are gone, then the whole place becomes a theme park,” says Adey.

Kim Conchie, who runs the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, admits tourism has put the county close to breaking point. “Visitors provide a lot of colour to Cornwall, a lot of custom, and have driven a rise in standards in restaurants, food offerings and accommodation. If people are coming here and paying for services that Cornwall has to offer in a vernacular way that suits the Cornish psyche, then I’m all in favour of them.

Jess Ratty with her daughter.
Jess Ratty with her daughter. She runs a PR agency that works with global technology and space industries. Photograph: Rachel Stevenson

“But there were visitors last year who hadn’t got any feel for the soul of Cornwall, and I think that upset locals a lot – especially those with brand new Range Rovers that won’t pull into the hedge because they might scratch the side. Those attitudes create conflict,” says Conchie.

“The second homes debate is a real one, and anyone denying it is burying their head in the sand,” he says, adding that he would like Cornwall to have the power to do the same as the Welsh government and heavily tax second homes.

He wants to see a much more balanced economy. “There is more to Cornwall than tourism. We want a thriving hospitality sector, but one that works alongside other industries, like technology and renewable energy. If Cornwall’s future is based around those things, then it could be quite a rosy one – we could be on the cusp of a new golden age for Cornwall.”

Jess Ratty is part of that vanguard fighting for a future far removed from the perception of Cornwall as nothing more than holidays, cream teas and pasties. The 37-year-old grew up in St Austell and never left. She began as a waitress at the Eden Project and now runs a thriving PR and communications agency, Halo, which works with global technology and space industries.

“We have soul, culture, history – and opinions – here in Cornwall,” she says. “I think problems lie in the lack of communication, which many of us are trying to fix. We actually have one of the best tech scenes in the UK – marine tech, rocket science, agri-tech, health tech, clean tech. And we’re working on new skills, powered by bodies like Cornwall’s Digital Skills Partnership.

“The space sector alone is going to bring the types of jobs our engineering and mining ancestors would give their back teeth for, and opportunities for young people that just don’t get talked about enough.”

“I have a young daughter and I want her to grow up here and feel like Cornwall is a place where she belongs. It is her home and it should also be her place of work as well as a playground for all,” she says. “I think we can do that – with ambition, support and understanding of the true situation many people face.”

The Story Of A Satellite exhibition hosted by Spaceport Cornwall.
The Story Of A Satellite exhibition hosted by Spaceport Cornwall. Photograph: Jonny Weeks/The Guardian

She has offered to have a friendly pint with Gordon Ramsay any time. But it’s not just Ramsay who has raised hackles. The co-founder of the Eden Project, Sir Tim Smit, recently suggested the Cornish are prone to harking back to imaginary “good old days”, and moaning about their lot while not being “articulate enough” to speak up for themselves.

Smit was speaking in a podcast made by the comedian and musician Seamas Carey, who grew up in and lives in Cornwall. After tuning the piano of a second-home owner while struggling to find somewhere to live himself, Carey, 28, decided to make a podcast exploring the issues he was facing. From gentrification and second-home ownership to nationalism and Cornwall’s cultural heritage, he went on a personal journey through Cornwall’s soul.

“I wanted to spark conversations and debate,” says Carey. He worries for the future of Cornwall, but as he finishes editing the last episode of his series, ultimately feels more positive about Cornwall than when he started. “I worry massively about where I am going to live. But the narrative is changing, and it’s wrong to put the blame on certain scapegoats.

“The Cornish can be grumpy, although people do come here and trample all over the place. But look at the history of Cornwall – it’s been a global trading hub for thousands of years,” he says.

“I think some of the traditionalists are holding on too tightly to what they think is Cornish culture. The spirit of Cornwall, well – it can be anything and can be embodied by so-called newcomers as much as anyone. Things always change. I remain hopeful about life here – it’s frustrating and challenging. But totally worth it.”

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Zig Serafin, CEO of Qualtrics

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Qualtrics CEO Zig Serafin sat down with Silicon Republic editor Elaine Burke to discuss his leadership style as an expert in experience management.

It has been an eventful few years for US tech company Qualtrics, and not least because of the pandemic.

The company founded by a family out of Utah was bought by SAP in 2018 for $8bn. It then went public in January 2021 with a successful IPO that valued the company at $15bn. That same year then saw Qualtrics earn $1bn in revenue for its experience management technology. But what is experience management?

CEO Zig Serafin says it’s the “ultimate advantage” for modern businesses. It’s about tuning in to the needs and desires of customers and taking action on that knowledge “with empathy, with speed and at scale”.

Serafin was in Dublin recently while on a tour across Europe meeting with Qualtrics clients. He spoke with SiliconRepublic.com for our Conversations with Leaders series shortly after checking in on the company’s new office in the Irish capital.

Qualtrics’ already substantial footprint a stone’s throw from St Stephen’s Green is expanding in response to the company’s global growth. “Dublin is the epicentre of how we operate across Europe,” said Serafin, and this European HQ is fully equipped with all the fixings of the modern tech office and more – including its own pub.

But Serafin said Qualtrics, a company obsessed with creating optimal experiences, knows that these days workplaces need to offer flexibility and the ability to work from home as well as a workspace that provides a “home from home”.

“Both experiences are important,” he said. “That digital experience and the physical experience, and how they come together.”

Qualtrics’ own research shows that it can take just one negative experience to lose a customer, or an employee, and with the sheer array of tools available to businesses today, it is possible to continuously track and improve experiences. But possible doesn’t mean easy.

There’s plenty of data available – from user analytics to customer support chats to online sentiment analysis and everything in between. And while Qualtrics has all the software and AI capabilities to parse this information and make it not just digestible but actionable, Serafin said the secret sauce is something altogether more human.

“At the end of the day it comes down to this notion of empathy,” he said. And that’s the throughline of Serafin’s leadership, too.

In our interview, he expressed how empathy (and a helping of TACOS) is at the core of Qualtrics. He also shared what he learned about leadership from his early years on the family farm through to 17 years at Microsoft, where he faced a review with Bill Gates in his first week on the job.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

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Pushing Buttons: Happy 50th birthday to Atari, whose simple games gave us so much | Games

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Welcome to Pushing Buttons, the Guardian’s gaming newsletter. If you’d like to receive it in your inbox every week, just pop your email in below – and check your inbox (and spam) for the confirmation email.

Sign up for Pushing Buttons, our weekly guide to what’s going on in video games.

This week marks a truly important video game anniversary: it is 50 years since Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney incorporated Atari Inc, the company that laid the foundations for the video games industry. There have been many appraisals of the company and its landmark achievements in the games press over the past few days – from the arrival of a Pong machine in Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California, in 1972, through classic titles such as Breakout, Asteroids and Missile Commands, to the iconic home consoles. So many moments of creative genius, so many genres, concepts and conventions bursting into existence at the hands of scruffy engineers and designers such as Ed Logg, Larry Kaplan and Dona Bailey.

But one element that often gets overlooked in these nostalgic reveries is the way in which Atari taught the first generation of electronic gamers how to think symbolically. With two rectangles and a square, Pong invited us to visualise tennis, while Night Driver’s series of moving rectangles convinced us we were driving a car. Some will point to the 1972 console the Magnavox Odyssey as the originator of these concepts, but it was Atari putting them in arcade machines – and later consoles –all over the world.

It was also Atari that generated a whole universe around its simple games. Through beautiful cabinet designs, expert use of iconography and graphic design, and the gorgeous illustrations on its Atari VCS cartridges, the company sought to simulate the imagination of players before they even held the controller. The boxes for titles such as Berzerk and Defender, all highly abstract and visually simple games, were alive with drama; they showed human characters, explosions and colours that were impossible to achieve on screen at the time, quietly providing players with the imaginative tools they needed to become immersed. Would we have cared so much about the fate of the lifeless rock at the base of the screen in Missile Command if it hadn’t been for George Opperman’s package art? The tense commander at his desk, the explosions, the missiles seemingly scorching out of the box itself …

It was George Opperman who also designed Atari’s now legendary logo, consisting of three simple lines, the two exterior shafts curving inwards toward the peak. Over the years Opperman claimed many influences for his design – Mount Fuji, Japanese alphabet symbols, Pong itself – personally, I’ve always viewed it as a spaceship. But it’s how the image seems to sum up the excitement and futuristic promise of the company that really matters. When we see the logo flash briefly on the screen in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, it’s a quick visual signifier that this is a highly technological landscape. It fits in perfectly with a world of androids and flying cars.

Nolan Bushnell saw how video games could naturally bleed from the screen into real space, meat space. During the 1970s, the industry started in pubs and taverns, then moved into arcades and eventually the home, and they had effects on all of them: they changed behaviours and got written into our lives in subtle ways. His introduction of the Chuck E Cheese pizza restaurant chain, which combined family eating with a video game arcade, brilliantly monetised the ways that games, although graphically simple, had worked their way from the TV screen to dinner table conversation. We laugh about how the original VCS console had wood panelling, but this was a deliberate attempt to ape the aesthetics of the 1970s living room, with its wooden furniture, TV and stereo cabinets. Atari understood that assimilation would be a vital element of success.

Even now, in this age of near photorealism, video games rely on the kind of abstractions that Atari perfected. The heart symbols to denote the number of lives we have left; the heavy use of icons and exterior narratives; the endless references to familiar cinema tropes. We saw Atari being played on TV shows and films, we saw Atari in comics. While its games were still being drawn with two sprites each a single byte in size, the iconography of Atari was out there in the world. It’s something Nintendo would learn from, and later Sony, with its cultural melting pot of a console: the PlayStation. Atari was a myth maker too: from the Easter egg hidden in Adventure to the buried copies of E.T. in the California desert, the company itself became a source of digital folklore that took on meanings beyond anything portrayed on your TV.

50 years ago, Atari began to show us that games exist in a strange liminal space between the screen and the brain, and they are constantly able to escape. The dots on the screen are only ever part of the picture, and the picture never stops moving.

What to play

This week we recommend the knockout Capcom Fighting Collection.
This week we recommend the knockout Capcom Fighting Collection. Photograph: Capcom

While we’re in a nostalgic mood, I’m really enjoying Capcom Fighting Collection. You’d probably expect a dozen famous titles from the Street Fighter series, but that’s already been covered by Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection. Instead, we get five games from the spooky, goth-infused Darkstalkers series, the mid-1990s fantasy-themed Red Earth and a bunch of offbeat Street Fighter dalliances including the ridiculously compelling Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, which brilliantly combined fighting game dynamics with … Tetris. The games are filled with blistering attacks and truly imaginative character designs, all lovingly updated for the modern era.

Available on: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Approximate playtime: As long as you want

What to read

  • Eurogamer is running a whole series of features for Pride, including this piece talking to Captain Fluke about being the first openly trans esports commentator and this one on the joy of gay fan faction and mods. Elsewhere, IGN has listed its favourite ever LGBT+ characters in video games.

  • Verge has a really interesting piece on a group of creatives making branded worlds for big companies in Fortnite. Everyone talks about Facebook when referencing the coming era of the metaverse, but I’m pretty sure Fortnite is going to be just as important as an explorable shared space for interconnected worlds – and the advertising potential therein.

  • We also found out this week that Hidetaka Miyazaki, the creative genius behind Dark Souls and Elden Ring, is almost finished on his next project. This is good news for me as, after 225 hours, I’m nearing the end of Elden Ring and would be very happy to slide straight into his next game if possible.

  • If I’ve got you interested in Atari’s design and illustration philosophy, The Art of Atari by Tim Lapetino is a gorgeous book. For a more technical analysis of the company, try Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost.

What to click

‘A little bit addictive and the right amount hard’: new video game is based on poems of Emily Dickinson

Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest review – lovable gamers on mission to break record

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review – wild battles liven up a familiar anime franchise

Melbourne startup raises $9m for mental wellness game based on tending houseplants

Question block

This week’s question comes from Tim and his daughter Caitlin, and is answered by Keza:

“We got really into Hades over lockdown, loving the ‘it’s the same each time but really different too’ concept as well as the lore and the artwork. Can you recommend a similar game that we could play together?”

Hades is what’s known as a roguelike – one of those games where you have to start again from the beginning each time, but each playthrough throws different challenges at you – and, happily for you both, this genre has been having a moment over the past few years. Hades is a contender for the very best game in this genre, so it’s hard to rival, but here are some others to try.

Dead Cells is a kind of cyberpunk-fantasy action game where you gradually explore a shapeshifting castle; Spelunky 2 has you delving down below the Earth through caves full of amusing hazards, and has a great sense of humour (you can also play co-op); Into the Breach is something a little different, a strategy game where you have to defend the world from hostile invaders, travelling back in time after each failed attempt. And for a story and art style as good as that of Hades with a different gameplay feel, try developer Supergiant’s previous games Pyre, Transistor and Bastion, if you haven’t already.

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China says it has photographed all of Mars from orbit • The Register

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China is claiming that as of Wednesday, its Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter has officially photographed the entire Red Planet. And it’s shown off new photos of the southern polar cap and a volcano to prove it.

“It has acquired the medium-resolution image data covering the whole globe of Mars, with all of its scientific payloads realizing a global survey,” state-sponsored media quoted the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announcing.

Among the images are one of Mount Askra with its crater, shots of the South Pole whose ice sheet is believed to consist of solid carbon dioxide and ice, the seven-kilometer deep Valles Marineris canyon, and the geomorphological characteristics of the rim of the Mund crater.

Mount Askela

Mount Askela. Click to enlarge

Mars South Pole

Mars South Pole. Click to enlarge

Valles Marineris

Valles Marineris. Click to enlarge

Geomorphology of the rim of the Mund Crater

Mund crater. Click to enlarge

Tianwen-1 had been in orbit around Mars for 706 days. The orbiter circled Mars 1,344 times, as of an announcement from CNSA. The space org said Tianwen-1 has completed its scheduled missions.

In conjunction with its rover Zhurong, Tianwen-1 amassed 1,040 gigabytes of raw scientific data through 13 onboard scientific payloads.

The mission has allowed CNSA to observe solar occultation and solar wind together with international observatories – including those in Russia, Germany, Italy, Australia and South Africa – to improve the accuracy of space weather forecasts. Good news for Matt Damon.

CNSA said it will share more scientific data with the international community in due course.

In December, Zhurong and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft performed an in-orbit relay communication test to demonstrate it was possible to relay data from Zhurong back to Earth via Mars Express. The demonstration was successful, if a bit complicated – Mars Express had to “listen” for Zhurong since the rover was unable to communicate directly because the frequencies used don’t match.

Even though the mission is officially over, the orbiter and rover are still in working order. The orbiter will stay in orbit and continue its remote sensing and data relay activities while Zhurong will hibernate until weather conditions improve – likely in December. ®

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