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Second Life revisited

It’s eleven years since I explored the shared 3D world of Second Life. The University of Edinburgh owns a virtual island there, and in 2006 I was gifted a small promontory of land on which to conduct some experiments. This playground nook was always a mess. One of our team created a stylised version of … Continue reading

Haze

I can search the photographs on my smartphone based on key words. I’ve activated automatic upload of all photos to iCloud. So, if I search on “haze,” I get all pictures that I’ve taken over the past 15 years that have a haze component. Unknown to me, some algorithm has been at work tagging my … Continue reading

On being a detective

As evidence of crimes and misdemeanours mount and circulate around the US president and his entourage, attention turns to matters of fact. Fact-checking is a major media sub-industry. See factcheck.org, politifact.com, and fullfact.org. It’s also an exercise in semiotic indexicality. I’m investigating how C.S. Peirce’s theories about signs relate to his theory of abduction, i.e. … Continue reading

Encrypted city

Urban metaphors are powerful in the world of computing. The reverse is also true. Computing brings metaphors to bear on how we think of cities — as flows of data, networks, circuits, grids and an Internet of things, as if cities are made up of bits, memories (RAM), sensors, actuators, and with communication systems, inputs, … Continue reading

Unaugurate

To inaugurate is “to take omens from the flight of birds.” At least, that’s how the OED explains the word’s derivation — from the Latin inaugurāre. Nature as a source of signs related to events that might affect human beings comes under the category of what the American Pragmatic Philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) called an “indexical … Continue reading

Slime and goo

Nature and health are closely aligned, but not always positively in the case of buildings. Left unchecked, nature delivers invasive plant life with root systems that unseat brickwork, and break through water barriers. Fungus, mould, lichen and other spore-producing organisms (cryptogams) invade architectural cracks, pores and surfaces. Invasive nature invokes a kind of “disgust” according … Continue reading

Lifeless architecture

Architecture has more in common with geology than biology. At least this is one of the conclusions I take from a series of interesting articles from a special issue of Arq (Architecture Research Quarterly) on architecture and biotechnology. More accurately, it’s the skeletons, hardened excreta, dead tissue, and shells that provide the structural support for … Continue reading

Zeitgeist busters

“Turn on, tune in, drop out” — that was the spirit of the late 1960s, the mood of those times, their Zeitgeist. What about the current age? Everything is a copy, so turnitin replaces “turn on,” itunes is the new “tune in” and dropbox replaces “drop out.” At a time where everyone would rather be elsewhere, turn off, drop everything, and turn up late, also serves as a mood … Continue reading

Vitruvius does steampunk

Steampunk is an aesthetic movement that visualises the future as predicted during the Industrial Revolution … or as we imagine it might have been predicted. Think of flying to the moon in a space vehicle clad in steel plates and sliding windows held together by heavy bolts and rivets, and propelled by the properties of … Continue reading

Data waste

Four years ago when excitement about the 3D role-playing environment SecondLife was in full frenzy, a group of us constructed a playground promontory on the edge of the University’s main island. We built walls that changed their surface patterns and moved about in response to signals from mobile phones (in physical life). It was a … Continue reading

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