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Lego logics

There’s been a lot on reddit lately about Lego bricks: How many Legos, stacked one on top of the other, would it take to destroy the bottom brick? There’s lots to learn from toy construction sets, not least how creativity happens … or doesn’t. In the first flush of enthusiasm for artificial intelligence and automated … Continue reading

Individual-1: Kompromat 101

I’ve been trying to understand how Russia and the Kremlin are reputed to exert their soft-power influences on other states. I’ve seen plenty of films about espionage, blackmail and corruption, but I usually miss the twist in the plot that explains the hold that one state agent has over another — perhaps because such misdemeanours … Continue reading

Reverse analytics

Can you infer a person’s politics from their online footprint? Let’s start with something less contentious: a person’s nature preference. If you were raised in a school and home environment that encouraged you to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature pursuits, then it is highly likely that in later life you will respect the environment, … Continue reading

The well tempered intellectual

I was pleased to read Alberto Perez-Gomez’s recent book Attunement: Architectural Meaning After the Crisis of Modern Science which endorses the pivotal importance of attunement, emotion, mood and Stimmung in architecture. In fact Alberto’s book came out at the same time as my Mood and Mobility: Navigating the Emotional Spaces of Digital Social Networks, both with MIT … Continue reading

Only design will save Europe’s future

This was the agreed title of my 10 minute polemic at a debating session at the Design Research Society Conference (DRS2016) on Tuesday 28 June. Here’s the transcript. You may think it odd to burden design with the responsibility to redeem anything, let alone to save Europe. But that’s by no means a new role. The … Continue reading

What’s wrong with the force

It’s nearly Christmas, so it’s time for stars, and movie releases timed for the Christmas season. But I’ve always had trouble with Star Wars and religion. Apparently the ubiquitous and omnipotent force has a good side and a dark side. Yoda: Remember, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware. Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side are … Continue reading

The big book of hermeneutics

“[U]nderstanding is always a standing somewhere, and it is this standing somewhere that underlies understanding itself” (355).That’s a clever statement by philosopher Jeff Malpas describing the circumstances of interpretation. We always interpret a book, painting, play or a building from some position or other — within a horizon; and so Malpas links hermeneutics (the study of interpretation) to … Continue reading

The hook

The world is not assembled from blocks. The way we make things such as buildings is more “like weaving a pattern from ever unspooling threads that twist and loop around one another, growing all the while without ever reaching completion.” That’s Tim Ingold‘s account of the process of making. It’s about knots rather than building blocks, an appeal … Continue reading

The cult of the book

What’s the use of books, … or libraries, in the information age? Libraries now offer themselves as tributes to the book, entertaining the fantasy speculation of librarian and novelist Jorge Luis Borges: “I know of districts in which the young men prostrate themselves before books and kiss their pages in a barbarous manner, but they do not … Continue reading

Buying time

I stumbled across wikiHow‘s advice to students who need to buy extra time to complete an assignment. You upload a corrupted MS Word file to the online assignment submission system. Eventually someone will get round to asking you to submit it again, by which time you might just have it finished. There’s an art to eking out … Continue reading

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