Have you ever thought of an old friend who you hadn’t seen in years, and then met them minutes later?
As I was writing this post, I was in conversation with my brother while walking down the road in Dublin, talking about this type of coincidence. As luck would have it, we were midway through this conversation when an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years appeared directly in front of us. Coincidence? Read on.
On April 26, 1986, in northern Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, a fire started in Reactor 4 of a large nuclear power station near the towns of Chernobyl and Pripyat. The Chernobyl power station, which had begun operations nine years earlier, went into crisis as the fire spread and soon a small explosion occurred in the reactor. An evacuation was ordered, and fire services entered to attempt to reduce the damage and the spread of radioactive material into the air. However, it was already too late. Irradiated gas leaked into the local area, and within hours people began to feel nauseous and light-headed. Soon both towns were evacuated, and have never been repopulated to the same extent (although some people live there, in a fascinating story uncovered by Holly Morris).
One of the first rules of writing is to open with a catchy line, and never with a technical topic. So I’m going to blow that one right out of the water and start by writing about entropy.
Entropy is a theory in thermodynamics (yes, I’m doing it!) that has also crossed over into the fields of astrophysics and philosophy. It is used to describe a sudden change that causes erratic and chaotic events, often leading to the creation of entirely new objects. Entropy always moves forward with time, and creates events that cannot be undone. A good example is the collapse of a star, folding in on itself and becoming (perhaps) a black hole. Stephen Hawking describes the idea of entropy nicely in A Brief History of Time when he refers to how an “intact cup on the table is a state of high order, but a broken cup on the floor is a disordered state.” (p 161) Continue reading “Exquisite Explosions – The fine art of destruction”
Fadó, fadó in a world not unlike our own, a group of people embarked on an amazing journey through the stars.
Our journey, as Homo Sapiens, started approximately 400,000 years ago. Like all stories, there is of course a long history to our arrival at the start of this journey, but this story is about our collective selves and how we have travelled. Before the castles and the aqueducts, before we farmed animals or spliced atoms, our collective protagonist (we) was about to embark upon one of the most astounding journeys ever taken through the stars.
Once upon a time two armies assembled, opposed to one another on a battlefield. The crystal army, led by a foolish king, charged their king’s guard forward without thinking of the consequences. They left their king open to attack…
In “A Course On General Linguistics“(1916) Ferdinand de Saussure made comparisons between chess and language. Saussure was observing some intrinsic relationship between language and games, showing how changes in the design of pieces from ivory to wood make little difference, but changes in the movement or number of pieces distort the “grammar” of a game of chess. In The Medium Is The Massage, theorist Marshall McLuhan put forward a concept that the messages that we receive are not so much in what is said, but in what is used to say it.
There is a saying in school games, “to have pax”. This reminded me of chasing (tag), and something that we used to say as children, “tax” (probably a distortion of “pax”). The origins of the word pax are in Latin – it means peace. We said this in order to take a break, for example when we needed to tie our shoelace. I posed the question to my Facebook community about what was the common term in their school-yards, and received a spate of alternatives from across Ireland, from “boxed”, “tax” and “pox” to, bizarrely, “keys” and, predictably, “f**k off I’m tying my shoe”. There are many variations (my American and Canadian friends suggested “Time-out”) but the rule is the same regardless of where it is played. When you have pax, you are outside the game. Continue reading “Fool’s Mate – Language and storytelling in games”
It is difficult to deny that Kraftwerk have been an astoundingly influential band since their formation in 1970. Revolutionary at the time, the German quartet incorporated an almost entirely synthesised music in an attempt to foreground the oncoming new media phase. But one of the more interesting quirks about Kraftwerk is not necessarily their music itself, but the idea of time that surrounds their music. With its industrial, drum-machine-driven synth and robotic sound, the music was designed to be “music of the future” in the 70s. However, it has since dated due to the technology that they employed in making it, and has instead placed them irrevocably at a certain point in the past. They are a band that lack a temporal definition, both part of the past and part of the future.
The digital age is popularly seen as an age of infinite information. It is described using terms like “interactivity” and “new media”, and is highlighted as an era that allows for the endless access of customised information at the fingertips of every individual user. The result is often a transient relationship between the user and the information, and as a result the idea of time, and our use of time, is becoming topical in current cultural writing.
“I should like to wake up in a hundred years’ time and to have just a peep out of one eye at what is happening in science.” – protagonist Nicolai Stepanovich in Anton Chekhov’s A Dreary Story
I‘d like to just start with a little piece of housekeeping. I was delighted to learn this weekend that Moon Under Water is a finalist in the Best Arts / Culture category at the Blog Awards Ireland. Thank you to all readers and to the judges of the awards – I will notify through here and through the blog’s social media pages of the final results after the awards ceremony on October 13th. Please click here for a link to all finalists in all categories, and give all the other blogs a look over – there is some terrific stuff in there.
I recently read an article in Art Forum magazine online entitled Digital Divide by Claire Bishop. The in-depth piece deals with the shortcomings of the age of the digital within the world of contemporary art. With sound philosophical and art historical reasoning throughout, the conclusion that Bishop arrives at is rather interesting as it suggests a dichotomy of futures for the world of visual art. Echoing the 1980s doomsday art critics, the piece argues that either the digital age will herald a new dawn in the way art is viewed and produced, or it could mean the end of art altogether.
Something puzzling about the digital age that I often muse over is what trace will be left behind for future historians to mull over. Today our historical record is mostly taken from the artefacts, art, tools and architecture of past generations. It is the little grains of past civilisations that give us some form of understanding of their culture or group identities, as well as their level of technological advancement. Continue reading “Disneyland and Digital Life – What we will leave behind”
The future is coming, or so they say. And as it approaches us head-on, we can do little to avoid collision with its impending certainty. I for one am looking forward to the invention of hoverboards in 2015, but am still nervous every time I turn on my computer of the day when robots rule the earth.