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Frustration

“Frustration” is the watchword of those at sea with computers. Cumbersome fingers swiping across overly sensitive tablet screens shut down the mail app before the message is finished, windows appear or disappear as if at random, and there are all those irrelevant pop-up messages, obtuse instructions and uninvited features. The physical environment invokes similar frustrations. You know that the architecture of … Continue reading

Re-making the city

Cities play host to a range of spatial activities that are at the edge of civility. Such practices are inconvenient to some, often hazardous, opportunistic, unofficial, and occasionally entertaining. Think of graffiti, skateboarding, rooftopping, parkour, free running, begging, busking, sleeping rough, demonstration, and occupation. Such marginal spatial practices appropriate places and city paraphernalia in ways other than their sponsors, designers, legislators, and polite civilian users intended. … Continue reading

Making nature

Biophilic design is design that is sympathetic to nature. Designers who want their buildings and landscapes to exhibit biophilic qualities have at least 70 attributes to draw on, e.g. use natural colours, water, plant motifs, natural shapes and forms (like shells), allude to growth and other natural processes, introduce natural and filtered light, connect with history, the … Continue reading

Even more radical pedagogy

This week Beatriz Colomina spoke at the Andrew Carnegie Lecture Series at the University of Edinburgh on radical pedagogy. That prompted me to rush to Jacques Rancière’s book The Ignorant Schoolmaster, which she referenced. The book is a satirical quasi-historical account of an actual nineteenth century French schoolteacher who practiced liberal teaching methods, and sought to emancipate … Continue reading

Betwixt and between

Architecture is not a polite discipline. According to architectural theorist Bernard Tschumi, “the ultimate pleasure of architecture lies in the most forbidden parts of the architectural act; where limits are perverted, and prohibitions are transgressed. The starting point of architecture is distortion” (91). Rem Koolhaas asserts something similar. Design is not “meticulous definition, the imposition … Continue reading

Absence of melancholy

The muted joy of autumn melancholy: who can resist the temptation to be lyrical in such a season? By all accounts melancholy is the feeling you get in the event of loss or absence, as in the passing of summer. Melancholy is also absent from classifications of mood and emotion as devised by experimental psychologists. For … Continue reading

Let’s play

If you have a weekend to spare you can while it away watching YouTube video clips accompanying gamesters as they play through, and talk through, every level of Grand Theft Auto IV or Minecraft or Tombraider III, or just about any computer game, old or new. It’s not as easy to return to a computer … Continue reading

What’s wrong with the future

The book The New Digital Age by Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt and director of Google Ideas Jared Cohen was published this week. I’ve been reading the Kindle edition. As with other books of this genre, there’s much we’ve read before, but it’s of interest who is saying it. Google is after all a major … Continue reading

Is the high street ruining the Internet?

Someone asked on BBC’s Question Time this week, “Is the Internet ruining the high street?” as customers abandon retail chains such as HMV, Jessops, and Blockbuster, preferring to buy online. What about the reverse question: Is the high street ruining the Internet? I remember the time before e-commerce when the Internet was a people’s medium … Continue reading

Ambient wit

Film, music and game sales from downloads reached £1bn in 2012 according to a BBC report. Travellers waiting patiently in airport lounges and couples and groups sitting in dulled silence access online news reports. They also stream, download and play movies, tv programmes, and other information content and entertainment on their smartphones, tablets and laptops … Continue reading

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