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Richard Coyne

The cultural, social and spatial implications of computers and pervasive digital media spark my interest ... enjoy architecture, writing, designing, philosophy, coding and media mashups.
Richard Coyne has written 493 posts for Reflections on Technology, Media & Culture

Surveillance capitalism and its discontents

Social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff’s book on surveillance capitalism reveals the perils and menace of the digital age. I’ve now read all 535 pages, or at least it was mostly read to me in urgent tones as an audiobook at 1.5x speed. The content was so useful to me as I contemplate the implications of the … Continue reading

Sociable encryption: The secret of the five keys

Will encryption save us? Social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff explains in detail the methods employed by Google and other digital giants to track our clicks, sell our data, and auction targeted advertising slots to monetise our private on-screen experiences. Our online behaviour is the resource. We are the product, not the consumer. Google’s clients are advertisers … Continue reading

Glitch demons

Tutivillus was the original glitch demon. He caused scribes to write the occasional wrong character in a manuscript. He would also collect a record of people’s sins, or would record the idle gossip of churchgoers. The word Tutivillus (or Titivillus) appears in the online OED, with its variant spellings. It seemed to originate from Latin, … Continue reading

Whispirators — In praise of whispers

The popularity of whisper videos (e.g. ASMR videos) demonstrates the longstanding fascination we humans have with the voice. Steven Connor has written extensively on the cultures of the voice. He says in his book Beyond Words: Sobs, Hums, Stutters and Other Vocalizations. “The whisper signifies intimacy and secrecy. It is the mode in which I … Continue reading

Dark whisperers

“Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares! …” I wrote about relaxation videos based on ASMR in the previous post — peculiar videos featuring whispers, combinations of phonemes in succession (t t t t), and non-oral substitutes: fingers tapping, fabric brushing, scraping, etc. At the right time and place such sounds can be relaxing and mesmerising for … Continue reading

The pleasures of the mouth

The soft human voice signifies comfort. Some would say that parental cooing and burbling sends babies to sleep. That affinity with the voice persists into later life. Thanks to telephones and mobile phones, the voice-in-your-ear is ubiquitous in contemporary life — compounding opportunities for the voice to do its work. The soft voice, breath, the … Continue reading

The word on the street

You may wonder at the affinity amongst rich, famous, powerful and (mostly) white men — and hip hop. We may have expected an affinity between Barack Obama and rappers such as Jay-Z and Kanye West, but not Donald Trump. To those in the know, rap gives expression to social conditions where there’s “unemployment, violent crime … Continue reading

Perspecticide

The concept of defence is not so far from the idea of architecture. Vitruvius made that clear in his Ten Books on Architecture, the last of which is devoted to siege engines and ballistae. Security and defence are amongst the benefits, then and now, that draw people to live together and form cities. Sound the … Continue reading

Bulk data collection and privacy

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said that when crossing a busy road he instinctively looked away from oncoming traffic for fear of having his image captured on a dashcam. People are more easily recognised face-on than in profile. That short observation from his book Permanent Record delineates some salient themes in the so-called smart city: risk, … Continue reading

Offensive media

Television started to make its way into people’s homes in the 1950s. There were very few channels. Audiences shared roughly the same news, commentary and entertainment outlets. By most accounts such unitary media sources helped reinforce social habits and opinions. Amongst its many effects, mass media tended to put citizens on the same page, with … Continue reading

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