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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 503 posts for Reflections on Technology, Media & Culture

Pandi noir

Pandemic and panic look a bit the same. A pandemic is a characteristic shared by everyone, in this case a disease or its threat. Panic pertains to Pan, the god of wild nature. To panic is to go wild. According to etymonline.com pan can be taken to mean “all” in both cases – i.e. all … Continue reading

Quarantine and geometry

This forced quarantine should last forty days, and forty nights. “Forty” is apparently the highest number ever reached in Sesame Street counting lessons. It’s also the number of squares around a Monopoly board. Forty years is a good biblical number, not least as it gives a clear sweep between generations. It was 40 years before … Continue reading

China’s oceans of everyday data

A book by Kai-Fu Lee called AI-Superpowers outlines what’s needed for the current generation of artificial intelligence (AI) to succeed, and why China has the necessary ingredients to lead in the area. Lee is CEO of Sinovation Ventures, a firm that finances Chinese high-tech startups. Prior to that he was president of Google China, and … Continue reading

The dissimulated city

As anyone who plays video games or works with digital media will tell you, a simulation of a city is a model or image of a city. A simulated city (as in SimCity™) is similar in some respects, but not the same as a brick and concrete city. Now consider the related word dissimulation. Something … Continue reading

Write me a city

I’m interested in cryptography and the city, as a way of thinking about the supposed smart city. The graphic part of cryptographic might make us think of drawing, but it has most to do with writing. Etymonoline.com describes the common abstract noun ending -graphy as a “word-forming element meaning ‘process of writing or recording’ or … Continue reading

Flightless cars

Who wants a car that drives itself? The Tesla car epitomises the ambition for electric-powered self-drive cars. The tesla.com website explains that the hardware (i.e. sensors, controls, etc) is in place. It will soon be safe enough for a driver to recline in her seat and fall asleep while the car does the rest. “All … Continue reading

Digital cash 101

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, i.e. it is digital money that purportedly carries some of the benefits of cash. You can buy things with it, give it away, invest it, and stash it without involving a bank. But unlike cash, there’s no physical paper or coinage. You could try to design your own banknote, or make … Continue reading

Pseudo-crypto currencies

I heard about onecoin through the BBC Podcast called The Missing Cryptoqueen by journalist Jamie Bartlett and producer Georgia Catt who investigated the scheme and the damage it has wrought to individual lives. As I listened to the first episode of the podcast I thought I was hearing a mockumentary, or a mystery story in … Continue reading

The future of prediction

Google and other digital masters have the capability to capture, store and process the content and meta-data of our communications, movements and interactions. At least, that’s according to Shoshana Zuboff’s argument about life and power in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Aided by algorithms that sort, categorise, and make inferences, Google can predict our desires … Continue reading

Shock and plunder

In her recent book on surveillance capitalism Shoshana Zuboff explains how digital corporations exploit our data, and us, just they claim that their products meet our needs and help us realise our dreams. “our lives are plundered for behavioral data, and all for the sake of others’ gain. The result is a perverse amalgam of … Continue reading

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