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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 516 posts for Reflections on Technology, Media & Culture

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

What a calamity!

Calamity, cataclysm, catastrophe, crisis, catalysis and cacophony bear no common etymology as far as I can see, though they sound as though they should. A calamity derives from the idea of a corn harvest gone bad. A cataclysm is a deluge. A catastrophe is an overturning. A crisis is a moment of decision. A catalysis … Continue reading

Too cool for video

The camcorder was the quintessential consumer product of the 1980s. I recall the presence of this compact video recorder at a friend’s wedding. People would glance nervously at the camera when it aimed in their direction. Only later when we played the tape did we notice a curious behaviour. People would flick a hand in … Continue reading

Architecture post-COVID

What are the spatial implications of social isolation? Demonstrators arranged themselves on a social-distancing grid at the Athens May Day gathering, conjuring up a scenario of a gridded world, where citizens move about as if on a chessboard or an early version of SimCity. Architects gravitate towards extreme conditions as a way of unleashing new … Continue reading

Living with virions [and Ro]

Smartphones can’t yet take your temperature and diagnose if you are carrying an infection. But developers are designing smartphone apps to trace if you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. The most promising contact tracing apps enable smartphones to exchange short encrypted messages when they are within range of one another. That happens … Continue reading

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