Or, Towards a Universal Theory of Geekery
A meme cut an interesting path through my blog reader the other day.
First, I saw that the eminent historians and philosophers over at The Edge of the American West were worrying over a particularly stupid Amazon copy protection patent (shorter Amazon: changing words in e-books will help us stop pirates!). The gist of the comments was that the Amazon idea would destroy the experience for the reader, and make it impossible to do certain types of research and teaching; very much a response as consumers of texts — and not, for the most part, as producers. (Money quote: “It’s my understanding that historians always insert at least one subtle but distinctive misstatement of fact in each chapter…”)
That EotAW post tipped it’s hat to the blog of SF author John Scalzi — who was mainly annoyed, as an author, that Amazon would try and copy-protect his books by changing the words. (” Hard as it may be for Amazon to believe, I actually use the words I intend to use when I write.”)
He in turn linked to Slashdot, meme generator of old, which filed Amazon’s idiocy under more long-term complaints with copy protections, and the rush to claim prior art, etc. (Money quote from comments: “Yo dawg, I put a clock in your clock so I can sue you while you check the time.”)
(Also: Here’s Amazon’s actual patent)
So, two things. First, in all three places, one of the first comments was about how map makers supposedly insert small mistakes into their work to make it easy to track down copies. Memes within memes, folks.
1.) Shorter everyone else: Bzzzt! False, Amazon, false.
Image cite: fox.out22, “Burning fuckin’ Meta,” Flickr, CC License
Or, This is Why We Can’t Have Smart Things
I miss the days when books were written because an author simply had something to say and took her time to say it well.
May I propose a thought experiment to see whether Sullivan’s nostalgia is just lazy thinking or a justified use of the world-weary declension card? When was that golden age? When books were written by disinterested Serious People, for pure thought, seriously? Precisely, I mean. I’d like dates.
Perhaps Sullivan is referring to that one golden afternoon of September 25, 1965, or perhaps those madeleine-encrusted years between 1913 and 1927. But probably he dates the true end of the golden age to October 10, 2006, no?
Somehow, I doubt any precision will be forthcoming. One hears lots of talk about the dangers of scientific ignorance, but I think ignorance of historical thinking is a problem that goes to the highest levels, too. If even our paid thinkers don’t understand how to think historically, what then? Goodness me, wreck and ruin, I suppose.
Pointless nostalgia will out, though. Écrasez l’infâme!
Update: links fixed.
Image cite: cybertoad, “White Horse,” Flickr, CC License
Filed under: The Past is a Foreign...Something | Tags: camel, DeBow's, Emanuel Weiss, Opium
Or, Yes, This Was For Serious
Americans are competitive; they always have been. We’re obsessed with keeping score, outmaneuvering rivals.
This is especially true when it comes to making money. Just as today we’re concerned about whether or not China is winning the recession, so too in earlier times, competition with Eastern powers was on the menu.
The answer, obviously, was hells yes.
After all, argued Emanuel Weiss in the pages of the famed Southern journal of politics and business, DeBow’s Review, there was now evidence that Eastern fauna was a boon to the West, so why not flora?
Now that the usefulness of the camel on our south-western frontier has been acknowledged by government, the proposition to import in the same time some camels from Smyrna or Alexandria, along with the date palm, the fig, the olive, the sesame and the poppy seed, will, I expect, no more be scoffed at, as it was the case when I first started this idea…
Just when you think the 19th century can’t get weirder…
1.) Emanuel Weiss, “OPIUM–CAN WE COMPETE WITH THE EAST IN ITS PRODUCTION?” DeBow’s Review and Industrial Resources, Statistics, etc. Devoted to Commerce, Agriculture, Manufactures (New Orleans), January 1856, p. 60 et seq.
Image cite: squacco, “The face of evil,” Flickr, CC License
Or, Hells Yes We Make The Future
But then again, most geeks don’t do all that much document-based collaboration, by email or otherwise. Programming doesn’t require a whole lot of collaboration, beyond that provided by source control tools and bug tracking system. Being Robert Scoble probably doesn’t require you to spend days working on a specification document for some finicky aspect of project X, or at least not very often, and he’s probably not the one collating everyone’s suggested changes and resubmitting the document for further review.
In your average corporate environment, though, this happens all the time.
I really only bring it up to highlight something I hadn’t stressed before, which is that while both hackers (ok, in this instance “geeks,” but whatever) and humanists collaborate with other colleagues in their work, they don’t do it on every piece — in fact, the discrete unit of output is very much a personal affair (though I imagine this is more so in academia, several times over).
In any case, both differ from the collaboration that happens in (for-profit and non-) corporate workspaces. Anecdotally, this rings very true: my academic self is consistently appalled by how much uncredited work sharing – for presentations! books even! – is de rigueur at my s.o.’s office.
Filed under: Uncategorized
It’s Friday, I’m dissertated out, so here’s some links:
- Tim Burke has some smart things to say about Google’s recent sketchy shenanigans, and fairly sums up, I think, the general consensus among the digerati humanists w/r/t the current state of the Google Books project: Do Not Want.
- He also has some fair gripes about the awful balkanized state of other textual databases. Welcome to my life: I got 99 UIs, but a completed search ain’t in one, folks.
- There’s a new episode of CHNM’s Digital Campus out. We learn that Google Wave is apparently great for discussing Google Wave, but otherwise distracting as hell. A very good, and useful episode, even in non-google aspects.
- Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s new book Planned Obsolescence: Publishing Technology, and the Future of the Academy is up, and has lots of interesting things to say about the future of publishing and peer review. Perhaps the best work on these subjects I’ve read (and I’m only halfway through!). Highly recommended.
- Finally, because every Friday post should end with some contemplation of past, present and future, here’s Thomas Cole’s most serious series of paintings exploring political economy (which I might get to see this weekend!).
Image cite: Krossbow, “Flotsam and Jetsam,” Flickr, CC License
Filed under: Uncategorized
Or, a bleg
Folks, I have a problem.
I’m trying to describe how American policy makers, as a group, moved from thinking and acting as if China was the (pre-1969) moon, to thinking and acting as if China were a real, reachable place where the U.S. had national interests and, importantly, the ability to protect or advance those interests in China.
(Analogous situations might include the climate change issue — where we are not quite yet at the turning point — or, indeed, the post-Sputnik shift in talking about landing on the moon.)
Here’s the problem: right now, all I can think to say is that China “became real” or China issues “became concrete.”
This is unacceptable — not just because those are ugly circumlocutions, but also because I’ve got a hunch that there is probably an actual (poli sci? soc?) term for this kind of phenomenon.
So I turn to you, dearest colleagues of the world wide interwebs. Any thoughts? Am I fretting over nothing?
Image Cite: Curious Expeditions, “Brains,” Flickr, CC License