CryptoArt 101

Now that the worth of my Bitcoin wallet has risen to double figures (in £s) I’m ready to invest in some digital art. Digital artworks are static or moving digital pictures, such as animated GIFs, though the category could include any digital asset: video, sound file, music score, computer code, 3D computer model, etc. In…More

Digital cash 101

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, i.e. it is digital money that purportedly carries some of the benefits of cash. You can buy things with it, give it away, invest it, and stash it without involving a bank. But unlike cash, there’s no physical paper or coinage. You could try to design your own banknote, or make…More

Pseudo-crypto currencies

I heard about onecoin through the BBC Podcast called The Missing Cryptoqueen by journalist Jamie Bartlett and producer Georgia Catt who investigated the scheme and the damage it has wrought to individual lives. As I listened to the first episode of the podcast I thought I was hearing a mockumentary, or a mystery story in…More

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…More

Cooperation and complicity

The Barras is a market in Glasgow that is (or was) notorious as a site for hustlers. It attracts both bargain hunters and spectators. Ten years ago a group of us conducted a study of the area, mainly to consider its soundscape. On more than one visit we observed a familiar scenario involving the sale…More

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…More

What’s wrong with the sharing economy

The so-called sharing economy has come under a lot of criticism lately. Think of the apparently (almost) unregulated and unfair practices surrounding Uber, the global car hire (taxi) firm that designates its drivers as self-employed. Passengers like Uber. Once subscribed, you book a car and driver via your smartphone. You track your nearest available ride…More

Encrypted city

Urban metaphors are powerful in the world of computing. The reverse is also true. Computing brings metaphors to bear on how we think of cities — as flows of data, networks, circuits, grids and an Internet of things, as if cities are made up of bits, memories (RAM), sensors, actuators, and with communication systems, inputs,…More

Romancing the blockchain

The blockchain idea is addictive for some. It’s technically fascinating, mysterious and counter-intuitive. It depends on cryptography to function, and inherits the fascination many of us have with cyphers and codes. Who can resist the lure of a secret message? The way blockchain platforms function also mystify with their abstruse methods and terminology: proof of…More

Share city

In his book on the “sharing economy,” Arun Sundararajan maintains that commerce is shifting “away from traditional corporations and toward a crowd of entrepreneurs we find through a digital marketplace” (6). Within the constellation of these new (shared) business models he places Airbnb, a platform that allows individuals to capitalise on their own under-utilised domestic…More