Tags: building

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Monday, May 21st, 2018

Tending the Digital Commons: A Small Ethics toward the Future

It is common to refer to universally popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest as “walled gardens.” But they are not gardens; they are walled industrial sites, within which users, for no financial compensation, produce data which the owners of the factories sift and then sell. Some of these factories (Twitter, Tumblr, and more recently Instagram) have transparent walls, by which I mean that you need an account to post anything but can view what has been posted on the open Web; others (Facebook, Snapchat) keep their walls mostly or wholly opaque. But they all exercise the same disciplinary control over those who create or share content on their domain.

Professor Alan Jacobs makes the case for the indie web:

We need to revivify the open Web and teach others—especially those who have never known the open Web—to learn to live extramurally: outside the walls.

What do I mean by “the open Web”? I mean the World Wide Web as created by Tim Berners-Lee and extended by later coders. The open Web is effectively a set of protocols that allows the creating, sharing, and experiencing of text, sounds, and images on any computer that is connected to the Internet and has installed on it a browser that can interpret information encoded in conformity with these protocols.

This resonated strongly with me:

To teach children how to own their own domains and make their own websites might seem a small thing. In many cases it will be a small thing. Yet it serves as a reminder that the online world does not merely exist, but is built, and built to meet the desires of certain very powerful people—but could be built differently.

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

Moving Slowly and Fixing Things / Paul Robert Lloyd

Although design gets conflated with creation, its the act of improving what already exists — organising a room, editing a text, refining an interface, refactoring a codebase — that I enjoy the most.

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Google Maps’s Moat

A fascinating bit of cartographic reverse engineering, looking at how Google has an incredible level of satellite-delivered building detail that then goes into solving the design problem of marking “commercial corridors” (or Areas Of Interest) on their maps.

Friday, May 12th, 2017

The cost of change | The White Site

Ben points to a new product aiming to ease the pain of connected devices bumping up against the harsh realities of shearing layers:

By exposing the ‘hardwiring’ of our electrical systems, Conduct emphasises how much we rely on existing systems to power our ‘new’ technology – the rate of change and advancement in our traditional technologies moves at a much slower pace than our mobile app-based world and there are physical limitations as a result of this hardwired legacy.

I am—unsurprisingly—in favour of exposing the seams like this.

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Empire State

I’m in New York. Again. This time it’s for Google’s AMP Conf, where I’ll be giving ‘em a piece of my mind on a panel.

The conference starts tomorrow so I’ve had a day or two to acclimatise and explore. Seeing as Google are footing the bill for travel and accommodation, I’m staying at a rather nice hotel close to the conference venue in Tribeca. There’s live jazz in the lounge most evenings, a cinema downstairs, and should I request it, I can even have a goldfish in my room.

Today I realised that my hotel sits in the apex of a triangle of interesting buildings: carrier hotels.

32 Avenue Of The Americas.Telephone wires and radio unite to make neighbors of nations

Looming above my hotel is 32 Avenue of the Americas. On the outside the building looks like your classic Gozer the Gozerian style of New York building. Inside, the lobby features a mosaic on the ceiling, and another on the wall extolling the connective power of radio and telephone.

The same architects also designed 60 Hudson Street, which has a similar Art Deco feel to it. Inside, there’s a cavernous hallway running through the ground floor but I can’t show you a picture of it. A security guard told me I couldn’t take any photos inside …which is a little strange seeing as it’s splashed across the website of the building.

60 Hudson.HEADQUARTERS The Western Union Telegraph Co. and telegraph capitol of the world 1930-1973

I walked around the outside of 60 Hudson, taking more pictures. Another security guard asked me what I was doing. I told her I was interested in the history of the building, which is true; it was the headquarters of Western Union. For much of the twentieth century, it was a world hub of telegraphic communication, in much the same way that a beach hut in Porthcurno was the nexus of the nineteenth century.

For a 21st century hub, there’s the third and final corner of the triangle at 33 Thomas Street. It’s a breathtaking building. It looks like a spaceship from a Chris Foss painting. It was probably designed more like a spacecraft than a traditional building—it’s primary purpose was to withstand an atomic blast. Gone are niceties like windows. Instead there’s an impenetrable monolith that looks like something straight out of a dystopian sci-fi film.

33 Thomas Street.33 Thomas Street, New York

Brutalist on the outside, its interior is host to even more brutal acts of invasive surveillance. The Snowden papers revealed this AT&T building to be a centrepiece of the Titanpointe programme:

They called it Project X. It was an unusually audacious, highly sensitive assignment: to build a massive skyscraper, capable of withstanding an atomic blast, in the middle of New York City. It would have no windows, 29 floors with three basement levels, and enough food to last 1,500 people two weeks in the event of a catastrophe.

But the building’s primary purpose would not be to protect humans from toxic radiation amid nuclear war. Rather, the fortified skyscraper would safeguard powerful computers, cables, and switchboards. It would house one of the most important telecommunications hubs in the United States…

Looking at the building, it requires very little imagination to picture it as the lair of villainous activity. Laura Poitras’s short film Project X basically consists of a voiceover of someone reading an NSA manual, some ominous background music, and shots of 33 Thomas Street looming in its oh-so-loomy way.

A top-secret handbook takes viewers on an undercover journey to Titanpointe, the site of a hidden partnership. Narrated by Rami Malek and Michelle Williams, and based on classified NSA documents, Project X reveals the inner workings of a windowless skyscraper in downtown Manhattan.

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

World of Concrete: Inside the Industry That’s Building Trump’s America Brick by Brick - The Atlantic

Fear and concrete in Las Vegas: a great piece of infrastructure reportage by Georgina.

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Why I am a web developer | Seldo.Com Blog

I think it’s worth revisiting this post by Laurie on a regular basis for a shot of perspective and inspiration.

The web saved my life and then built me a new one. A single living entity, it touches everything in the world and is always getting better — and I can help. I owe it so much; if I can help it out, make it better in any small way, how can I possibly refuse? And if I can make it easier for other people to help make it better, then my efforts are multiplied.

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

How do I learn? - Snook.ca

I can very much relate to Jonathan’s learning process (except for the bit about reading Hacker News—spit):

  1. Reading
  2. Building
  3. Writing

I think I read about 20-30 times more than I write, but the writing part is still crucial for helping me get stuff straight in my own head.

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Building Inspector by NYPL Labs

A wonderful Zooniverse-like project from the New York Public Library:

Help unlock New York City’s past by identifying buildings and other details on beautiful old maps.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

The Brighton Makerlab - where technology meets awesome! by Simon Riley — Kickstarter

Still a few days left to back this great project for Brighton:

Build, tinker, make and play! For anyone with imagination, The Brighton Makerlab lets ages 8 to 80 create cool stuff with technology.

The Brighton Makerlab - where technology meets awesome!

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

MakerLab HQ - Maker Club

Good news, Brighton! There’s a Maker Club opening up on London Road (above the new Presuming Ed coffee shop). Grab your robot kits and come along.

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Urban Giants on Vimeo

A look at the architectural history of the network hubs of New York: 32 Avenue of the Americas and 60 Hudson Street. Directed by Davina Pardo and written by her husband Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Centre of the Internet.

These buildings were always used as network hubs. It’s just that the old networks were used to house the infrastructure of telephone networks (these were the long line buildings).

In a way, the big server hotel of New York—111 Eight Avenue—was also always used to route packets …it’s just that the packets used to be physical.

Urban Giants

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Abandonedography

Armchair travelling to Ballardian locations.

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Seb Lee-Delisle: Playing With Code

A nice feature on Seb in the latest issue of Make magazine.

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Climbing a Shard of Glass | Place Hacking

Sneaking in to climb the Shard at night.

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Forget Your Past – Timothy Allen | Photography | Film

A trip to Buzludzha in Bulgaria, a derelict monument to an abandoned ideology.

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Matter Battle! - there is a lot to say, of this we are sure

The difference between software and hardware; the digital and the instantiated.

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

scraplab — You’ve Either Shipped or You Haven’t

Tom says it like it is. Making A Thing generates empathy.

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

The Abandoned Palace On Beekman Street « Scouting NY

This looks like the New York equivalent of The Bradbury Building.