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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 517 posts for Reflections on Technology, Media & Culture

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

COVID couture

Why cover your nose and mouth with fabric during an epidemic? Apart from any practical advantages, and disadvantages, a face mask is a sign. Whether or not they are effective in blocking viruses, (non-surgical) face masks transmit messages. Before the current crisis I wrote a book on the founder of semiotics Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914). … Continue reading

Patholopolis

The metropolis is about as good as a city can get. As “the mother city”, it combines the best of its predecessor types: the family-based village community (eopolis), and that mutually supporting defensive community known as the polis. The metropolis is that stage in the evolution of the city where labour skills divide. Specialist workers … Continue reading

The third great confinement

As I’m considering this for part of a future publication, I thought I should write the following in the past tense. I wonder if it will stand the test of time. I wrote most of this during the third great confinement, the global shutdown during the pandemic of 2020. Cities had to marshal their resources … Continue reading

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

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