Some bits about history

Common Sense Eats Common Talk

At this point, we are left to answer a critical question. How can we decide when to overrule our common sense? What should we do in the many, almost daily, situations where it’s impossible to verify the validity of a statement? When can we trust common talk? […]

I suspect the answer cannot be found in a positive theory of certainty, but in the acceptance that, as humans, our destiny is to live, and act, in doubt.

I finally managed to read this terrific piece by Stefano Zorzi and I can’t help but think the answer to these questions lies in fully embracing hermeneutics not as just a tool, but instead as the very foundation of being, as brilliantly argued by philosopher Gianni Vattimo in his groundbreaking 1983 essay “Dialectics, Difference, Weak Thought”.

February 26, 2018

The beginning of silent reading changed Westerners’ interior life

For centuries, Europeans who could read did so aloud. The ancient Greeks read their texts aloud. So did the monks of Europe’s dark ages. But by the 17th century, reading society in Europe had changed drastically. Text technologies, like moveable type, and the rise of vernacular writing helped usher in the practice we cherish today: taking in words without saying them aloud, letting them build a world in our heads.

If a relatively small typographic advancement had such a profound impact on the way we construct reality, imagine what being constantly interconnected with every other individual in the world will mean for future generations.

November 25, 2017

The Two Western Cultures of Privacy: Dignity Versus Liberty

So why do these sensibilities differ? Why is it that French people won’t talk about their salaries, but will take off their bikini tops? Why is it that Americans comply with court discovery orders that open essentially all of their documents for inspection, but refuse to carry identity cards? Why is it that Europeans tolerate state meddling in their choice of baby names? Why is it that Americans submit to extensive credit reporting without rebelling?

These are not questions we can answer by assuming that all human beings share the same raw intuitions about privacy. We do not have the same intuitions, as anybody who has lived in more than one country ought to know. What we typically have is something else: We have intuitions that are shaped by the prevailing legal and social values of the societies in which we live.

February 25, 2017

The Futures of Typography

Typesetting on the web has evolved from a quirky afterthought into an invaluable practice. Within a span of twenty years complex interfaces that adapt to their environment, as well as an overwhelming number of typefaces, have bloomed all around us. Likewise, using animations and transitions or balancing display text in conjunction with powerful OpenType features became not only possible but expected. So where do we go from here? What are the skills we need to contribute to the future of typography? And what do two ghostly figures from the 15th century have to do with that future?

January 16, 2017

This Italian company pioneered innovative startup culture, in the 1930s

A politician, as well as a chemical engineer and entrepreneur, Olivetti had a philosophical view of entrepreneurship, one that put people and communities at the center of a business. He was a firm believer in the competitive advantage of treating workers fairly and investing in their wellbeing. Andrea Granelli, president of Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti (Olivetti’s historic archive association), told Quartz “the profits from sales were invested in innovation, expansion, higher salaries, social services.”

Looking back at the rise and fall of Adriano Olivetti’s vision for sustainable and socially responsible entrepreneurship is both depressing and extremely inspiring at the same time. So many lessons to learn from that experience.

November 10, 2016

The story of Nebiolo

The Italian type foundry Nebiolo of Turin was the biggest type and printing equipment manufacturer in Italy. It started in 1852 and thrived in the first half of the 20th century, but never made the transition to phototype. The foundry closed in 1978.

Great profile of Nebiolo, one of the most influential type foundries in Italy. The text in the article was aptly set in Forma, Nebiolo’s answer to Helvetica, designed by Aldo Novarese in 1968 and digitally revived by David Jonathan Ross.

October 13, 2016

The Birth And Death Of Privacy

If history is a guide, the costs and convenience of radical transparency will once again take us back to our roots as a species that could not even conceive of a world with privacy. It’s hard to know whether complete and utter transparency will realize a techno-utopia of a more honest and innovative future.

But, given that privacy has only existed for a sliver of human history, it’s disappearance is unlikely to doom mankind. Indeed, transparency is humanity’s natural state.

A really interesting journey through the history and evolution of the concept of “privacy”, although arguing that privacy is (or not) a natural condition seems as problematic as trying to define nature itself.

December 12, 2015
View all Bits