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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 443 posts for Reflections on Technology, Media & Culture

Executive secrets

Who doesn’t want some unstructured time, especially at work! The gaps in the US President’s daily schedule surfaced again this week. 60% of his time is labelled “Executive Time.” Like many others, I’m content to attribute his work patterns to sloth, contrarianism, disorganisation, and tv addiction. (See Axios article.) The main defence from his PR … Continue reading

Improper arrangements

There’s a long tradition that thinks about architecture as the art of arranging things — according to Vitruvius, “the putting of things in their proper places” (13). According to architectural theorist Mario Carpo, that architecture is an art of arrangement reached some kind of epogée with the invention of the moveable type printing press, developed … Continue reading

Iconophobia

The OED says iconophobia is a hatred of images, though I think a fear of images conjures up a more vivid picture. Avoidance of images would probably be more accurate, and by image we mean pictures, diagrams, illustrations, drawings and other visual representations. There are technical reasons for iconophobia. Here’s one story I’ve picked up from reading … Continue reading

No interpreter required

If only people speaking different languages could communicate without the need of an interpreter. I’m thinking of the Trump-Putin encounters with translators present. Only unscrupulous leaders would bar their translators from disclosing to other trusted officials what was said. But I’m also thinking of Leon Battista Alberti’s justification of his cipher technique, which was to … Continue reading

The immoveable typist

Johannes Gutenberg’s (1400-1468) printing press allowed knowledge to accumulate — and contributed to the idea that knowledge accumulates. But there were other benefits as it released energies from the laborious task of copying and transcribing texts by hand and other cumbersome and unreliable processes for reproduction, such as woodblock printing. According to social geographer and … Continue reading

The memory wheel

By most accounts, at least in Europe, the Gutenberg printing press ushered in a revolution. Printing firms would deploy individual, durable typographic elements (letters and punctuation marks) manufactured in metal and arrange them in rows to produce a page of text, the inked imprint of which was transferred to sheets of paper, over and over … Continue reading

Architecture and espionage

The Spy Museum near Potsdamer Platz in Berlin features cumbersome cold-war surveillance and bugging devices, and retells the story of spying and secret communications dating back to Ancient Egypt. Architecture is always there as a stage setting for covert operations. After all, spies inhabit the shadows. I recall from previous reading that Odysseus disguised himself … Continue reading

Organic cyberwars

The respectable sounding Internet Research Agency (IRA) is a media organisation that was started by the Russian government in 2013, initially to exert influence over Ukrainian and Russian citizens. Some time before the 2016 US election the Russian IRA directed these operations to influence online political discussions in the US, with further influence in other … Continue reading

Families and crime: Kompromat 102

“My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” said convicted felon Michael Cohen, “I put family and country first” (ABC article). This is clearly no legal defence, but an attempt at public sympathy at least. He loves his wife and kids. How bad can he be? Loyalty to family … Continue reading

Individual-1: Kompromat 101

I’ve been trying to understand how Russia and the Kremlin are reputed to exert their soft-power influences on other states. I’ve seen plenty of films about espionage, blackmail and corruption, but I usually miss the twist in the plot that explains the hold that one state agent has over another — perhaps because such misdemeanours … Continue reading

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