Chat, Nivose, 228; Time has Eaten Me Again but Maybe Some of This Content will Satisfy You.

Is knowledge always a product of its technical constraints? Donald Knuth’s precise mathematical description of the letter ‘S’ owes its existence to the switch to papyrus and wax that enabled early Latin scribes to make curved shapes. Without that switch from carving stones to marking paper; no s, no Knuth on mathematics of typography. So what knowledge was lost because some arbitrary technical decision or necessity was bypassed? You see, I was doing really well at finding time to read articles and do bits of writing in the morning until the first week back at my real job, now I am back to being exhausted and frenetic, unable to concentrate on a single thing.

Common Design Studio

I’ve spoken to some folks about this but I suppose since we got some money it’s worth going a bit public. With my colleague Eva Verhoeven, I’m going to be working on a big design education project this year – Common Design Studio. This is a follow-up to the Global Design Studio that itself was a follow up to Interact, an exchange programme between LCC and some Australian counterparts. Global Design Studio was an online project with 60 students from three institutions around the world all working together for ten days. We wrote up the results of Global Design Studio into a paper and identified that one of the missed opportunities of online projects like this is that they could be done cheaper by maximising the use of resources where they were plentiful and giving more access to others where they weren’t and that they have the possibility to connect folks who may not normally have access to the institution. As a result the Common Design Studio is a proposal for a completely free, open online design learning project run out of LCC that anyone with a phone can join. This makes it sound deceptively simple but there are already hurdles.

Because the project is committed to transparency and freedom we are documenting everything online totally openly. I’m currently using a Trello board for this purpose which you can get to here. It contains all the important documents and will be populated with meeting notes and discussions as the project evolves. I’m not sure if it’s the most suitable thing but it allows for anyone to drop in and check it out which is what we’re aiming for. If you want to help out or have any ideas or references please also shoot them over.


I decided I don’t like Vanished Kingdoms and stopped reading it. I like my history with a bit of allegory and, frankly, a bit of narrative and the thing was getting quite a slog to read through, for instance in the case of Aragon, over a thousand years of names of Kings and what they did. Also, I didn’t realise when picking it up (despite being on the cover) that it focuses exclusively on European history which I’m already pretty au fait with and I was hoping to learn more about places I didn’t know so much about.

So, beyond revisiting a bunch of design research for the PhD (Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts, Cross’ Designerly Ways of Thinking, Frayling’s Research in Art and Design and Design Research Through Practice) I started to read A *New* Program for Graphic Design from David Reinfurt which so far has been brilliant. It's basically a book version of the lecture series and exercises he gives his students but all really well illustrated and paced. Because it's verbatim from a lecture it also has a conversational quality that makes it really engaging. I often thought that I should just write down my talks rather than try to be a smart writer and this one is winning me over. It's broken into three sections; Typography, Gestalt and Interface and these give a super interesting overview of histories and futures of design, computation, social change and psychology.

I also read On Nonscalability by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing recommended by Anab Jain. It gives a remarkably accessible history of the scalability project and its eclipsing of the possibilities of diversity. Tsing draws a logical equivalence between the idea of the ‘pixel’ and something she calls the ‘nonsocial landscape elements’ or, ‘nonsoels.’ These are discrete units that allow for scalability. In her example, slaves from Africa and sugarcane clones. I read Tsing’s book a year or two ago and this paper helpfully includes a short version of that as an example of nonscalability.

Channel Recommendation

I can't stop thinking about how good Disco Elysium was. I can't and won't play it again but a lot of the soundtrack is on YouTube. It was all done by British Sea Power and has a wonderful horrifying melancholy to it. There's very little spoken dialogue in the game so the music sticks with you most.