Beginner Thoughts on Economics (and the future of our planet)

Economics are usually not on my hot topics list to write about or even think about, however recently I came across too many too good articles on the discrepancy between “free” and “open” content (find an incomplete list in the references at the bottom of this post) that make me want to join the conversation.

There was a time, ages ago, when everything was offline and if you want to read an article you buy a newspaper and if you want to listen to music you buy a cassette (or a CD if you are that cool). People were actually much poorer then than we are today and yet they were crazy enough to spend money on things like art or culture.

Not paying for art and information is a big problem in a world where everyone can post information and there is no one to curate it. Curation is something we need more than ever today and yet noone is ready to pay for it. Nevertheless, I fear this is just one symptom of our big big problem.

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The Mortifying Powers of Tourism

More people travel for pleasure today than any other time in history. Mass tourism is not a new term anymore and it seems it is not one we are going to forget any time soon either. The number of tourist only increases from year to year, everywhere around the world. Due to overcrowding however, the most beautiful and spectacular places of the planet become unpleasant to visit. With their presence, too many people turn a unique place into a deserted and meaningless territory. Since in recent years the digital domain becomes ever so large and all-encompassing, speculations suggest that it might in the near future be able to substitute many physical environments and needs such as shopping or communication. This post focuses on the link between the digital and physical in travelling and tourism – what are the dependencies between the two domains and how do they influence each other.

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On the Evolution of Ideas

How does an idea go through a tool to become a project

Thinking is the most complex cognitive mental process, which consists of reflecting essential properties, features and regularities from reality. Through this process we can create models of the world and represent it according to certain objectives, intentions and desires. The main forms of thinking are observation, analysis and synthesis (rational discourse).

In those three forms certain knowledge also goes through different kinds of consciousness or media and with every step it is abstracted and therefore gains a different kind of meaning.

In the paper Entering a Risky Territory: Space in the Age of Digital Navigation Bruno Latour1 analyses the evolution of mapping and it’s radical transformation since the digital age. The reason for depiction, the means of gathering data and their representation has developed over time  parallel to our society. Typically, following a scientific discovery, the newly aquired knowledge shifts the general understanding of our place in the world and artists are fast to grasp those new notions and interpret them subjectively. Later that change further reflects also on our everyday life. So if in his work Bruno Latour is focusing on the shift of pre-digital and post-digital age and the different notions it gives, the text The New Plasticity by Sanford Kwinter2 from 1986 follows much deeper the transition of knowledge from one area to another. The process starts with the publishing of the relativity theory and the revolution it caused in terms of new understanding of time and space followed by the interpretation in the arts, described by the paintings of Boccioni and the Futurists, and ends in architecture with the project for La Citta Nuova by Antonio Sant’ Elia and his visions. In both texts, as well as in many other interpretations, it is easy to follow the tendency of knowledge to morph its concept as it transitions through different medium. As Marchall McLuhan  famously concluded – The media is the message. However, this conclusion leads to the question – now that we are equipped with such powerful tools, tools which are creating themselves just as actively as we are, how does that change our designs and understanding of our environment?

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Ghost in the Smart Home

The new movie by Rupert Sanders, based on the hugely popular anime Ghost in the Shell by Musamune Shirow opens with a haunting preface. It is set in 2029 and observes as the boundary between human and machine becomes more and more blurred. In the time it has become customary for people to choose to “enhance” themselves by replacing a limb or an internal organ with a synthetic one, therefore also one with many new high-tech features. In that context, one private company works on blurring that boundary even further by creating the first “synthetic full-body prosthesis augmented-cybernetic human” – Major Mira Killian. She has an entirely robotic body except for her human brain. Therefore the story argues that by keeping the brain the soul, or the ghost, remains unaltered independent from the body, or the shell.

Now the obvious question this setup poses is where the boundary between human and machine really stands – how far can one go on altering and enhancing  before one turns to a cyborg? All that further leads to the discussion what is it that defines a human at all.

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Cities and Memory

One of the most peculiar and mysterious features of a city has to be the way it collects, stores and shares its memories. Memories of big and small events, moments of  personal drama or of national upheaval, someones and everyone’s stories seem to intertwine in the curious fabric we call a city’s identity.

A city’s memory can be its greatest charm. Walls soaked up in love and romance smell of perfume and lure lovers century after century. Memory of power empowers and memory of courage inspires. Other times this memory might be the one poison slowly draining the life out of a city until it remains all but a memory itself. Some city’s strong and glorious past prevent them jealously from having a future while others, heavy under the weight of their history seek for a different tomorrow of forgetfulness and hope, thus risking their identity and purpose. And then there is the third type – the cities with artificially induced memory. Those cities which were built to represent something they are not. They stay frozen in time as in a never ending coma and leave their visitors with a sense of unease and confusion – for even a beautiful lie remains a lie and it is very difficult to built a future upon an unsteady ground.

Studying cities I am studying the ways a past can define a present or how it can forbid it. How something so temporary as a feeling can become something as eternal as a city and how it is the small stories that contribute to the big history of us.

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With a Scent of Tobacco : A Story of Plovdiv’s Tobacco Factories

Buildings denote space. They give it meaning and fill it with function and life. Interestingly though, sometimes buildings come to describe not only space, but also time. They become symbolic for the people and the events they lived through. Breathing in history firsthand, buildings sometimes mean so much more than their function and design. This story is a part of a series, dedicated to such buildings and the fascinating way in which they remember, inspire and describe us.

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Connecting Music and Architecture

In a 2010 TED Talk on passion and creativity David Byrne draws an interesting connection between architecture and music. Through the ages, he argues, it was the change in architectural style that induced progress in composing music and stimulated the birth of new genres and musical structures. Each new space has different acoustics and therefore needs a different sound. This direct connection between the two arts, which seemingly have nothing in common, made me wonder if this connection works the other way around as well. Has music influenced and inspired the development of architecture in history? We do know that of all the arts, architecture is the one, which develops the slowest, so whenever a new movement in philosophy, painting or music arises, buildings are the last to catch up and therefore receive heavy influences by all other arts. But music… how?

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Lessons from the Past of the Future

“Who can still believe the opacity of bodies, since our sharpened and multiplied sensitivity has already penetrated the obscure manifestations of the medium?”¹

Nowadays it is common to talk about the revolution that technology caused in our lives and its profound influence in every field. Of course we mean mostly the digital technology and the revolution that happened in the last decade – the unique circumstances and consequences that surround it. However this is by far not the only technological revolution that our civilisation has seen and neither are its consequences unique.

When in the beginning of the 20th century railway and motor cars entered our lives for good, the entire perception of space, time and mainly speed changed. Science explained it, but it was artists who first expressed the altering sensitivity and worldview that was soon to infect us all.

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