Glitch Pigeon

Screenshot: Glitch pigeon in a painted autumn sky.It's been a pretty horrifying couple of weeks on Twitter, hasn't it? At least it has on my timeline. Two unrelated, awful events in particular came right on top of each other, each whipping up a social media storm. First the violent incursion of militarised police into peaceful democratic protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Second the eruption of sickening misogyny and violent threats directed at female game makers and games journalists, in particular Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn.

In both cases, my Twitter stream did what it always does. First came the reports from those directly affected, amplified and retweeted by other journalists. Fear, indignation, outrage, disbelief, heartbreak. Then came the wave of initial commentary. What does this mean, why now, how did things get like this. Then came the meta-commentary. Actually things have always been like this, privilege blinkers those not directly affected, look how existing power structures even suppress discussion, which sources can we really trust.

Endless echoes in endless voices of an event, now refracted in endless dizzying facets and meta-facets and ironic subtweets.

It was in the midst of thinking this, and my own feelings of helpless-but-mustn’t-look-away, that I encountered Glitch Pigeon, a little prototype crafted by Hannah Nicklin and George Buckenham at the Oxford Playhouse.

Aural Architecture

In the past few years there have been released a handful of indie games which share a kind of common form and aesthetic, one that strikes a chord with me.  This design space is represented in my mind by Kairo, and the upcoming Fract and NaissanceE, though it contains many more.

NaissanceE screenshot shows impossibly tall buildings with more buildings in the sky above.

The quality these games have in common is use a first-person perspective and an experience based around architecture and soundscapes, working in concert to elicit some aesthetic or emotional response.

Cultural Relativism and Technology

[Update: Now I am older and wiser, I don't necessarily any-longer agree with everything I wrote here, but I'm not going to delete it (yet). If you also disagree, let me know.]

I was talking to a couple of friends of mine about politics the other day. The conversation ended in a disagreement about whether or not one ought to adhere to principles of cultural relativism. That is, whether it is fair or legitimate to criticise the practices of members of another culture from the inescapable perspectives of ones own. I was arguing against cultural relativism but in the course of the discussion some arguments were raised which I hadn't considered before and which made me stop and reconsider my position.

My purpose in writing this is partially in order to get my thoughts in order and partly in the hope that the discussion can continue, 'cause it's one that interests me. I wish to wear my ignorance of many relevant topics on my sleeve and, as always, I'm completely open to the prospect of changing my mind.

My feelings were that open criticism of other cultures should be permissible. I felt that if we had carefully examined our own reasoning and motives, we ought to be allowed to criticise the practices of others, even if we understood that those practices may be the product of another culture and its historical context.

Graph sketching

Oh god, I'm going to talk about maths for a bit. Ignore me. You might find this interesting if you know what a derivative is and what it means.

This is a curiosity that my friend Anupam came up with. I'm not claiming any credit for noticing it but I thought I'd still share it with y'all.  It only requires very rudimentary calculus, but it produces a result which, the more I think about it, the less intuitive it seems.