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covid-19

This tag is associated with 8 posts

Beware of this message

Generals and soldiers must pass messages up and down the chain of command in secret to avoid interception by the enemy. The same applies to cities. Writing in the 1600s, the English natural philosopher (and proto-semiotician) John Wilkins (1614-1672) affirmed that “there are certain ways to discourse with a friend, though he were in a … Continue reading

What a calamity!

Calamity, cataclysm, catastrophe, crisis, catalysis and cacophony bear no common etymology as far as I can see, though they sound as though they should. A calamity derives from the idea of a corn harvest gone bad. A cataclysm is a deluge. A catastrophe is an overturning. A crisis is a moment of decision. A catalysis … Continue reading

Too cool for video

The camcorder was the quintessential consumer product of the 1980s. I recall the presence of this compact video recorder at a friend’s wedding. People would glance nervously at the camera when it aimed in their direction. Only later when we played the tape did we notice a curious behaviour. People would flick a hand in … Continue reading

Architecture post-COVID

What are the spatial implications of social isolation? Demonstrators arranged themselves on a social-distancing grid at the Athens May Day gathering, conjuring up a scenario of a gridded world, where citizens move about as if on a chessboard or an early version of SimCity. Architects gravitate towards extreme conditions as a way of unleashing new … Continue reading

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

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

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