Lego logics

There’s been a lot on reddit lately about Lego bricks: How many Legos, stacked one on top of the other, would it take to destroy the bottom brick? There’s lots to learn from toy construction sets, not least how creativity happens … or doesn’t. In the first flush of enthusiasm for artificial intelligence and automated…More

What does it all mean?

Art provides a soft target for opinion and prejudice. I recently read a comment at the end of a Huffington Post blog about the 2012 Turner prize winner (Elizabeth Price): “most of the stuff is self-indulgent nonsense that couldn’t possibly mean anything to anyone other than the artist.” Meaning is tricky. Think of meaning as…More

Universities as interpretive communities

If Thomas Eddison thought that the phonograph “could keep the voices of the dead alive,” then what about those new photocopiers that enable you to feed in stacks of A4 sheets of type and deliver PDFs to your email address, ready for processing via OCR, and re-publishing. Dormant publications on lost or unreadable storage media…More

The bliss of ignorance

It’s old news now, but Prime Minister David Cameron was asked on a late night US tv show if he knew what Magna Carta meant in English. He didn’t and had to bluff (Guardian). An acquaintance told me about an overseas visitor who thought that Magna Carter was the lady in the green dress in…More

Interpretive communities

It’s so easy now to disseminate ideas on the Internet, and to broadcast your own particular claim to being the originator of an idea. On the other hand, the sheer scale of online textual and pictorial profligacy diminishes the authority of claims to originality. Digital social networks amplify the difficulty we have in identifying the…More

Urban occupy

The term “Occupy Movement” is more powerful than “Occupation Movement,” even though it’s less grammatical. Some text editors have automatic proof-reading functions that warn writers against using “hidden verbs.” The verb “to occupy” is more direct and active than the softer noun form “occupation” that conceals the verb. Verbs simply expressed are the language of…More

Conservative hermeneutics

What can architecture and design learn from theology? Rowan William’s announcement last week that he will step down as Archbishop of Canterbury has revived discussion among activists within the Anglican Church and elsewhere as to whether Williams is in fact a liberal or a conservative. He’s certainly not an “ultra,” or what he describes as…More

Architectural unconscious

The unconscious is one of those great architectural metaphors. It suggests a layer beneath the visible edifice, a foundation that supports the parts above ground. The unconscious (sometimes referred to as the subconscious) is also the structure, mostly invisible, residing behind the cladding. The unconscious is the incomprehensible complexity concealed by the smooth veneer of…More

Mystery philosopher fakes own death

Everyone loves a good mystery. Artists Gilbert and George’s latest exhibition, called “London Pictures,” at the White Cube Galleries, features displays of newspaper sellers’ posters from around London, organised thematically (Guardian). One of the artworks features a collage of headlines such as: “Driver’s mystery death”; “Search for mystery naked reveller”; “Arrest as cops probe mystery…More

The reception of architecture

Meryl Streep’s embarrassing acceptance speech at the Golden Globe awards reception this week didn’t go down all that well, but the pistachio-crusted pistou ravioli was very well received. (She acknowledged everyone except the Iron Lady herself, and only apologised for “trampling over England’s history.”) Reception is a major issue in the arts. Talented artists receive awards, lavish events…More