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This category contains 47 posts

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

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

Recursion again

In mathematics and computer programming, a recursive definition is one that defines a process in terms of itself: a branch of a tree is a branch that ends in smaller branches. That’s recursive as the definition of a branch in this case refers to a definition of a branch. A program that draws a branching … 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

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

Second Life revisited

It’s eleven years since I explored the shared 3D world of Second Life. The University of Edinburgh owns a virtual island there, and in 2006 I was gifted a small promontory of land on which to conduct some experiments. This playground nook was always a mess. One of our team created a stylised version of … Continue reading

Secret listening: Private, personal, portable podcasts

Podcast listening is a personal and private matter, especially if the listener wears headphones. No one need know what you are listening to. That’s not to say that privacy and secrecy are the same. I’ve been listening to the Podcast Radio Hour published by the BBC. In the 19 October 2018 edition Stephen Fry speaks about … Continue reading

Full indexical jacket

Art in the 1970s shifted to the indexical, according to Rosalind Krauss, and away from the symbolic. “As distinct from symbols, indexes establish their meaning along the axis of a physical relationship to their referents. They are the marks or traces of a particular cause, and that cause is the thing to which they refer, … Continue reading

Whatever works

Pragmatism has a bad name in politics. Whether or not by avowed allegiance many on the political spectrum will claim they subscribe to a no-nonsense pragmatism. Pragmatic politicians advocate practical solutions rather than adherence to an ideology. In more innocent times, 2016, in the lead up to the US presidential election, commentator Christopher Scalia placed … Continue reading

Challenges of the sharing economy

Architectural Research Quarterly just published an article by Tolu Onabolu and me called “Blockchain for architects: Challenges from the sharing economy.” Our tagline is: “Cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and other aspects of the sharing economy offer benefits and challenges for architecture. They also furnish metaphors about urban living.” The article derives from speculations in this blog … Continue reading

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