City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Icon Magazine, Issue 12, May 2004 Exemplifying sustainablity and reuse, my ‘iPod and adaptive design’ article for Core 77 gets another run out in this month’s Icon magazine (issue 12, May 2004). Core77 have also allowed me to post the original full article on this site, for future reference – Oh, and there were some interesting comments gathering there too.

Edited down a bit for Icon, and retitled "When perfect isn’t good enough", it’s interesting to see my writing devoid of links. I’ve grown so accustomed to writing link-heavy pieces, I’ve begun to rely on it. I realise how affected I am by early exposure to the late-lamented Automatic Media sites Feed and Suck. Their densely-hyperlinked style of writing was described in more depth by Automatic supremo Steven Johnson in his excellent Interface Culture:

"What you can see in Suck’s oblique syntax is not the birth of a new language, but rather the birth of a new type of slang. It’s a jargon, but it’s not built out of words or phrases. It’s the slang of associations, of relationships between words. The slang evolves of the way you string together information, the way you make your references, not the words you use."

Still, despite the article being de-slanged for print 😉 thanks to Icon for printing it.

A year old, Icon looks to be shaping up as a great mag – UK-based, covering a wide range of architecture and design with some zest. You’ll notice this month’s cover features Daniel Libeskind’s new building for London Metropolitan University on Holloway Road, London. There was a particularly hateful column by Robert Elms (who I generally like!) in Time Out recently about Libeskind’s building, and about how it was appropriately ugly for an ugly road (paraphrasing) – essentially that Holloway Road was more authentic ‘as was’, and should be left that way. In response to that ridiculous cultural tourism and obscene preservation of poverty, I applaud Libeskind’s intervention (not that I’ve seen it yet) – anything to lift that area, even visually. Even bearing in mind Jonathan Bell’s excellent article on ‘New Radical’ architecture in Blueprint a couple of months ago – that most of today’s radicalism is expressed in terms of form alone – it’s difficult not to be excited by the appearance this building in this space.


10 responses to “iPods and adaptive design in Icon”

  1. Paul Mison Avatar

    Hugh Pearman did an article on the Liebeskind building a few months ago, and he’s much nicer about the area.
    I have been to see the building, as it’s not far from where I live, and I like it, from what I’ve seen (the exterior, sometimes under the last bits of scaffolding). It “fits in”, given (as Pearman notes) the road is a completely mixed bag anyway (look out for the turn-of-the-last-century Islington Central Library if you’re up there).


  2. Will Wiles Avatar

    Sorry about that … it’s a very interesting piece, I can assure you I was as gentle as possible …
    Great site by the way.
    Will Wiles, chief sub-editor, Icon magazine.


  3. Dan Avatar

    No problem, Will! You did a fine job! Was just saying it reads differently without links …


  4. andrew Avatar

    I’ve wondered how some of the astonishingly great writing on the web, that is exactly built on links and quotes, would translate to print. In one way, unwieldy though it might be, I imagine that flicking links to the conventional structure of quotes and associated footnotes might work? But then I see what I guess to be a problem: the assumed right to link on the Web vs the need to seek permission in print?


  5. Will W Avatar

    From my point of view, editing the piece was an unusual experience. In the plain text, you would come across a name or point that, free of its linked material, looked irrelevant, under-explained or perhaps like a non-sequitur. I would then check the link and amend the sentence as required to fit into the hermetic printed text.
    The two forms of writing are very different disciplines, and their interaction is fascinating – I get the impression that medieval theologians would have liked hyperlinks to avoid the endless digressions their arguments required to back up points.
    I feel web text at the moment exists as “enhanced print”, but give it a few years and it might evolve into something quite different.


  6. andrew Avatar

    I’d be interested and grateful if you’d provide a specific example. Though, I stress, not if you’re too busy or if it would take longer than a few minutes, as it is no more than casual interest.


  7. Will W Avatar

    I’d be only too happy to offer an example. Several arise from Dan’s piece, but I’ll focus on one.
    First of all, you must understand that my first contact with the piece was as a simple cut-and-paste from the Core77 website that I had to cut down and stylise. Once I had moved it to QuarkXpress, the bits that were links were now invisible. So I was faced with sentences like this, without any context that indicated what they might mean:
    “Don Norman hears a generation of US kids unwilling and unable to understand technology.”
    This is presented without any standard journalistic conventions: we have no idea of who Mr Norman is or why we should listen to him. He has not been previously introduced to us in the article. His thesis – which is not developed, defended or backed up in the article – goes without any form of verification whatsoever. And yet the argument is sound because in the web version the words “Don Norman hears” are hyperlinked to this:
    Once you read that, the point becomes clear.
    This kind of readily accessible knowledge is not available in print, where information exists in only two dimensions and cannot be cross-referenced that easily. Therefore hyperlinked writing may lead to a clearer, more concise style of writing beyond digression and diversion; similarly, it may collapse in a welter of links, unable to discern which views are those of others and which are those of the author alone.


  8. andrew Avatar

    Cool. And thank you.
    I have a number of half-formed thoughts and questions but they remain half-formed, thus unwritten.


  9. rodcorp Avatar

    The Libeskind building both fits and is a very pleasant surprise on Holloway road.
    Before it was finished, someone called the emegency services to report that it had collapsed [Telegraph article]


  10. Dan Avatar

    Icon have published the essay on their site – here’s the link.


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