Cracks and flaws

I enjoy Keith Olbermann’s weekly YouTube tirades against the US presidential incumbent, who he describes as “f*cking crazy.” See The Resistance with Keith Olbermann. Crazy is what you say about old ships “Full of cracks or flaws; damaged, impaired, unsound; liable to break or fall to pieces; frail, ‘shaky’” (OED). The metaphor translates to a state…More

Pointlessness

“What is the average weight of residents of Vienna with telephone numbers ending in ‘3’?” In arguing for clear logic, the prominent philosopher and logician Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) cited the question above as pointless (p.61). Who cares, and who really wants to know anyway! Of course, with the data deluge of the digital age, even…More

On being clear and distinct

Who would not advocate for clarity and distinctness in communication? It’s a big deal in American politics at the moment, as pundits wrestle with the president’s messages that are anything but. The opposite of clear and distinct is something like obscure and blurry, like being in a cloud, where you can’t see properly and forms…More

Biocentrism

Nature, the organic and the biological exhibit growth, decay and disorder, or at least an order that is outside of human mastery. Technology equates to function, control, precision, efficiency and factory production. It’s easy to place modernity at odds with nature, and on the side of technology. But as any student of architecture knows, there was a…More

Whatever happened to architectural semiotics?

Few would deny that architecture communicates, and in that sense is a language, or at least like a language. As pointed out by the philosopher and semiotician Umberto Eco architecture does something else as well: it functions. So a substantial tiled roof not only communicates protection from the elements, but functions to provide such protection. Occasionally the two become…More

Video game semiotics

Many video games require the player to investigate and solve mysteries, to read the signs, gather evidence and follow leads. I think this is the area in which semiotics can be applied most usefully to computer gaming and game design. Semiotics is the study of communication from the point of view of signs and symbols, and how…More

Forests that think

The “science of signs,” semiotics, provides valuable insights into the relationship between the highly artificial world of networked computers and the world of nature. First, we have to abandon the idea that at the core of artificial, animal and plant communication systems we have data. According to a common computational typology there’s data (just 1s and 0s, or…More

Reading the book of nature

“Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.” How do you read nature? Nature is a system of signs after all. The theory of signs (semiotics) is interesting not least as it repositions the discussion of nature away from the reductive notion of data towards the totality of experience (see post One…More

Internet as evidence

“The Internet is a petri dish for the growth and spread of misinformation” warns Anne Mintz. People search the Internet for health advice, to refute what they get told at school, to find out what’s “trending,” and to seek out support for their particular point of view. In other words people will use the Internet…More