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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 520 posts for Reflections on Technology, Media & Culture

The culture of the GIF

GIF image files have 8 bit colour for red (R), green (G) and blue (B), i.e. 256 shades each for RGB. Most smartphone cameras currently provide 10 bit colour. So if you convert your photographs to GIF format they will be of lower quality. Apart from that the GIF format provides lossless compression. So GIF … Continue reading

Subliminal messaging

There’s no real evidence that subliminal messaging works. By most accounts, the experiments of the marketing psychologist James M. Vicary in the 1950s were a hoax. The theory was that we pick up words and images presented to us in ways that defy conscious awareness. Audiences in a cinema could be induced to buy a … Continue reading

Hiding one surface inside another

What’s it like to get inside a surface? I’ve been reading Avron Stroll’s seminal philosophy book Surfaces. He exhausts most of the ways people use the word “surface” in everyday speech. E.g. you can be on a surface or under it, but it’s not usual to speak of a surface inside a surface. And some … Continue reading

Ornament and crime

The Austrian architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933) wrote Ornament and Crime. It is a celebrated polemic against the superfluity of ornament in the modern industrial age: “not only is ornament produced by criminals but also a crime is committed through the fact that ornament inflicts serious injury on people’s health, on the national budget and hence … Continue reading

Steganography for architects

Steganography is hiding one picture (a secret or data) inside another (a host or carrier) image. As with cryptography in general, there are several reasons someone might want to hide content in this way. The hidden image could serve as a digital watermark. That’s to assert your claim on a picture. If someone copies it … Continue reading

How to hide one picture inside another

Here’s an anamorphic image of Karl Marx in the aptly named Karl Marx House in Trier, Germany. Face on, the image is a blur. Side on you can see him. That’s one way of concealing an image, revealed only if you know where to stand. Digital images offer other methods as well. Here’s a fragment … Continue reading

Urbanise rasterise

“Raster” is a suitably old fashioned term suggesting the scan lines of a cathode ray television screen. “Pixel” is more up to date. Pixel images have a privileged relationship with architecture. Much architecture is about the grid. Pixel images provide one means of depicting space, i.e. plans and elevations of buildings, zones, regions, city blocks. … Continue reading

Less is more: Signatures, cities and hash codes

In 1997, the Hubble Space Telescope’s Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) picked up the signature of a black hole. Instead of a vertical straight scan line, the STIS showed an S shape. Signatures point to the presence of something (a referent). But you see the thing only indirectly, i.e. you get to know that the referent exists, … Continue reading

Crypto-sceptics

Encryption is an unfortunate necessity to keep our personal information and communications private. While we ponder whether it’s safe or not to Zoom it’s worth reflecting on encryption’s negatives. Critic Shoshana Zuboff writes “encryption is the only positive action left to discuss when we sit around the dinner table and casually ponder how to hide from … Continue reading

Beware of this message

Generals and soldiers must pass messages up and down the chain of command in secret to avoid interception by the enemy. The same applies to cities. Writing in the 1600s, the English natural philosopher (and proto-semiotician) John Wilkins (1614-1672) affirmed that “there are certain ways to discourse with a friend, though he were in a … Continue reading

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