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Nature versus smartphones

People are eager to extol the benefits of fresh green vegetables, education, marriage, and a walk in the countryside, but are instinctively suspicious of new technologies.  That’s the tagline selected by the editors for the cover story I wrote for Interactions Magazine published this month. Interactions is a bimonthly publication of the ACM, and sees itself … Continue reading

What do maps do?

Maps come in many forms, including their online versions: Google maps, Ordnance survey maps, historical overlays (Walking through time), crowd sourced maps (Open Streetmaps), with GPS features, alerts, spoken directions, and provision for selling and sociability (Foursquare). Maps show us where we are, help us to get where we want to be, and they represent something. This much … Continue reading

Time and tide wait for no one

“Rhythm is one of the most fundamental formal means of composition in classical music, poetry, and architecture,” according to architectural lore. Think of colonnades, window placement, stacked office floors, fence posts and pilons. Repetition provides a tool of spatial organization. This much is obvious. Is it repetition that animates people’s lives, or rhythm? In his book Rhythmanalysis,  philosopher Henri Lefebvre … Continue reading

Music makes it better

“A child in the dark, gripped with fear, comforts himself by singing under his breath.” This is the opening sentence of an essay by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari called “1837: Of the Refrain.” Then follows an exposition on the power of rhythm and melody to mark a territory: “The song is like a rough sketch of … Continue reading

Turning the corner

“…a turn in the drive; and suddenly a new and secret landscape opened before us.” This is Evelyn Waugh’s account of arrival at the Brideshead estate in Brideshead Revisited. I recall something similar when I once approached Blenheim Palace from the narrow streets in the village of Woodstock. Turning the corner from the Market Square … Continue reading

The benefits of walking

“Walking cuts risk of stroke in men.” Scarcely a day passes without official confirmation of the health benefits of walking. ‘Why does one walk?’ we say; ‘that one may be healthy’; and in speaking thus we think we have given the cause. This is a direct quote from Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book 5, Section 2. Interestingly, he … Continue reading

Howling at the moon

Google have launched 15 m wide helium balloons into the stratosphere to extend the Internet to remote areas. It’s called “Project Loon.” According to Google engineer working on the project Cliffe Biffle, “Balloon-powered Internet sounds positively mad” (Youtube).  “Loon” is clever branding. The association with lunatic and the extra terrestrial is obvious. According to the OED lunatic … Continue reading

Ambience on demand

The way we watch television, listen to the radio and generally consume media has changed radically since the advent of the Internet and digital broadcasting. We now have user-generated online video (eg YouTube and Vimeo), broadcast and online television services (Sky, Tivo) that enable you to view movies and programmes on demand and on different … Continue reading

Haunted by media

This is Dying Matters Awareness Week in the UK. We are a “death denying” society inept at dealing with bereavement, planning for the end of life, and making arrangements for after we are gone. On the other hand, thanks to television, films, video games and the Internet, we confront our mortality every waking moment of … Continue reading

Circles and how to get out of them

“There are weeks when it can sound as if the European sovereign debt crisis is going around in circles,” according to a NYT article on problems with the Euro. Problems that can’t easily be solved lead you in circles, even a vicious circle. Resolving the Euro crisis is also like “trying to square the circle,” a reference to … Continue reading

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