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Obfuscate!

Why do zebras have stripes? The stripes aren’t very successful as camouflage. If anything, a stripy lone zebra stands out against the grassland. But any single zebra will blend in with the herd when they stand together. It’s harder to tell where one zebra ends and the next one starts. As they approach the herd, … Continue reading

City on a hill

The maze serves as a metaphor for the city. People get lost in the streets, corridors and communication systems of the city. Cities give the appearance of regularity, symmetry, and order, at least on a map. In his description of cities and places, the writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) affirmed that a maze is a … Continue reading

What a mess!

Anyone with a sense of order can’t help but notice that problems frequently occur at the seams, where things join, or don’t join, or don’t quite align as they should — where the joins don’t survive successive adaptations. Sociologist Richard Sennett illustrated the demoralized state of crafters in the former Soviet Union. Once when shown … Continue reading

Signs in architecture and music

Architecture is an art of signs. C.S. Peirce introduced the idea of the sign vehicle, that encourages the architectural scholar to think beyond standard architectural elements as channels of communication. The communicative elements of a building are not restricted to components such as columns, chimneys, windows, staircases, and doors, but the aspects and qualities of … Continue reading

Peirce decoded

Whether or not you agree with C.S. Peirce’s semiotic system, there’s something about his diagrams. A search on Google Images for “Peirce sign categories” reveals an industry of diagrammatic interpretations and reinterpretations that would appeal to anyone with an interest in the cryptographic. I’m going to add to that collection some further abstract diagrams, or … Continue reading

Sentient spaces

Sentient spaces are simply spaces containing sensors: registering heat, light, sound, impact and other signals derived from movements, properties, and other aspects of the environment. After all, the Latin sentīre is to feel (OED). Spaces saturated with CCTV coverage also contribute to spatial sentience, and spaces laced with networks, software, and storage media through which these signals pass. Add to … Continue reading

Flipped classroom 103: Engagement

What do you do with 100 students for two hours after they’ve watched your lecture as a video before coming to the class? In our case the aims were to reinforce the lecture content, facilitate discussion on the lecture themes, encourage participation and presentation, encourage academic reading and writing, develop critical reading and comprehension skills, and … Continue reading

Frustration

“Frustration” is the watchword of those at sea with computers. Cumbersome fingers swiping across overly sensitive tablet screens shut down the mail app before the message is finished, windows appear or disappear as if at random, and there are all those irrelevant pop-up messages, obtuse instructions and uninvited features. The physical environment invokes similar frustrations. You know that the architecture of … Continue reading

Windowphilia

Windowphilia is a fondness for windows —  or fenestraphilia, or parathyrophilia. A Google search doesn’t reveal much about either term, but biophilia is in common usage, and in the OED. I’ve been reading the book by Sue Thomas called Technobiophilia: Nature and Cyberspace. (Technobiophilia hasn’t yet made it to the OED.) Her book endorses the role of digital technologies in expanding … Continue reading

Deconstruct that!

Fish pie essentials include leftover cooked fish mixed with bechamel sauce covered in creamy mashed potatoes and baked in the oven. For a deconstructed fish pie on the other hand the chef prepares the dish so that the main ingredients are cooked and put on the plate individually. The eater can see and taste what the “pie” is made of and savour the components … Continue reading

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