Posts Tagged ‘blogs’

Nothing Even Matters

One of the reasons I became quite invested in the #Receptiogate saga*, even before its full popcorn-munching bizarreness became fully apparent, was the phrase used in the initial response of Carla Rossi’s (quite possibly fictional) secretary to Peter Kidd’s initial enquiries about the unaccredited use of images and commentary from his blog: “I regret to inform you that blogs are not scientific texts, published by academic publishers, so their value is nil!”(1) (more…)

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Blogs of the Year 2022

As we got towards the end of the year, with the general chaos on the Bird Site and speculation about what might replace it, there was a certain amount of nostalgia for the great days of blogging (as well as the odd suggestion, perhaps not too serious, that these might return). Well, that would be nice – so long as it means more than just all the people on SubStack trying to monetise their followers. My worry is that I seem to find most of the posts that mean the most to me via the Twitter, where I now follow enough people that I regularly stumble across random interesting things, and it doesn’t feel as if I’m going to be able to reconstruct that network on any of the new platforms any time soon… (more…)

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Blogs of the Year 2021

Are blogs still dying? Doing my best to separate this question from my feelings about this blog, which is definitely somewhat sickly – further discussion of this when I do my own review of the year – I tend to conclude: answer hazy, try again later. There have been some really excellent posts this year, and sone exciting new voices and ideas, and I honestly haven’t a clue whether they are getting the readership they deserve. It was a little disconcerting, for example, when someone I know on Facebook mentioned that yesterday their blog – albeit a time-limited project where the last post appeared in the first half of the year – got no visitors at all (suddenly my statistics look better than I thought…). I had a vague idea that in current circumstances we would all be looking more to this sort of short-form, informal, immediate commentary, both as readers and writers. But then I did think that, even if I couldn’t manage sustained writing at the moment, I would at least be able to keep up the blog posts, and look where that ended up. Indeed, looking back through this list, I’m struck by how much my reading clearly fell off at various points, and how much I fall back on certain writers time and again…

Anyway, the point of this post is not to moan, but to celebrate, and to remind myself – and whatever readers I have left – of some brilliant stuff they may have forgotten or missed. (more…)

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One of the things I always do in the Christmas vacation is catch up on the year’s music that I’ve missed. Partly it’s a matter of having a little bit more leisure to try out the unfamiliar, that might throw me off my stride or drive me up the wall, rather than sticking to things that I know will relax me or offer a suitable background for lecture prep or marking. Partly, though, it’s because of the End of Year lists – not so much those of the mainstream press, but something like The Spill, for its random eclecticism and the fact that I know that if contributor X likes something then it is at least worth a listen. It’s how the Spotify algorithm ought to work: a selection of people from across the globe with very different tastes, just presenting what they thought was great. Especially this year, when my involvement in composition classes means I’ve been listening to much more jazz and much less of anything else, this is invaluable in giving me a sense of what else is out there. (And I now have some new marking music – strong recommendation for the latest album from Ulrike Haage, not to mention her soundtrack to the recent Berlin 1945 series).)

And that is what I aim to do with this post every year: (more…)

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Blogs of the Year 2019

Several times this year I’ve found myself musing about the future of blogs, partly because of the apparently inexorable decline of the viewing stats for this one, which raises questions about if/when I’ll hit a tipping point as the cost in time, money, anxiety and the fact I should probably be writing other, more academically worthy stuff outweighs the pleasure I get from writing this stuff. I’m not sure if it’s reassuring or not that this seems to be a wider issue. Certainly, in compiling this annual list of the things I’ve most enjoyed or appreciated reading this year, it gets harder to decide whether some things are ‘proper’ blog posts or rather conventional articles that just happen to be online, let alone to decide I should operate a stricter policy on what I include here, beyond ‘I liked this!’. (more…)

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It is perfectly possible that I spend too much time on the Internet, and on social media. But there is so much amazing stuff out there – insightful, informative, passionate, provocative, brilliantly written stuff, produced not for profit but for the sake of the ideas and the wish to communicate with others – and if it wasn’t for the Twitter I wouldn’t know a thing about most of it. My ‘best of’ list seems to get longer every year, perhaps because I’ve got into the habit of making notes as soon as I’ve read something, rather than relying on my ever more erratic memory to recall things from earlier in the year – and this is as much about reminding myself and revisiting things as it as about recommending that you should read them too… (more…)

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Once again, I’ve remembered to keep track of the blogs I’ve especially enjoyed over the last year (with the curious exception of April – I don’t know, at this remove, whether I was too busy to read anything, or not much was published, or I was feeling hyper-sniffy at the time so didn’t think there was anything worth recommending. Very happy to get suggestions in the comments of great things that I’ve missed). This doesn’t claim to be a definitive list, just the stuff I came across – often via the Twitter, which continues to be a great way of keeping up with what’s going on in different regions and fields, despite all the management’s efforts to ruin it and drive everyone away – that deserves a more than ephemeral readership… (more…)

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A big hello to anyone who’s newly arrived here as a result of my brief appearance, with the wonderful Katherine Harloe, on this morning’s Today programme on Radio 4 – especially since this blog was presented as my main claim to authority on the subject. I should make it clear from the start that I don’t write this thing full-time (and was I imagining the disdain in John Humphry’s voice at the thought that I did? What is happening to British universities these days..?); it’s very much a side-line compared with the teaching, administration and academic publications that actually produce a salary, something that I can keep going by scribbling posts on the train when travelling in to work, just as a way of keeping my brain functioning when there doesn’t seem to be any free time for thought… If only this were full-time, and I actually got money and/or kudos for doing it (okay, it has yielded an invitation onto the Today programme, which isn’t to be sneezed at).

One of the consequences of this is that posts here are, at best, rather erratic; I try to put something new up at least once a fortnight, but it really depends on whether I have any inspiration and the time in which to do something with it. Another consequence is that this has a tendency to be somewhat self-indulgent at times, to say the least; this is a chance for me to think through random ideas that interest me, which may end up becoming something more serious in due course or which may end their lives as a blog post, and so they really can be quite random – lots of Thucydides, but also economic history, German literature, pop music, beer, jazz and a fair amount of griping about certain tendencies in modern higher education. It all interests me; I don’t for a moment imagine that it will all interest anyone else, so feel free to skip as much as you like (and I do try to be quite careful with tags for different posts, so you should be able to find topics that do relate to your own interests).

Update: incidentally, if you are particularly interested in the issue of Thucydides, the Melian Dialogue and the current stand-off between Greece, Germany, the IMF and the Eurozone, the relevant posts are here, here (see also the second comment), here (again, see also the comments) and here (long post on Varoufakis and game theory), plus a more accessible version of the latter over at the Monkey Cage blog at the Washington Post.

I’m also particularly fond of the thesis I developed a couple of years ago, which I decided not to mention in this morning’s discussion, to the effect that Thucydides is actually a virus that turns people into shambling Neorealist zombies: here.

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Two things on the internet caught my fancy yesterday. The first, quite widely circulated so probably already familiar, was a story in the Grauniad: How Computer-Generated Fake Papers Are Flooding Academia. This struck me as a rather wonderful thing. Of course, the basic focus of the article and the research on which it reports is the lax standard of reviewing at certain journals and conferences, so that papers churned out by simple computer programmes which are essentially gibberish nevertheless are accepted (it wasn’t completely clear from the report whether the papers are submitted  under the names of the programmers, i.e. real people with genuine university affiliations which serve as an imprimatur so that the content is simply ignored, or under fake names as well, implying that there are no quality checks whatsoever). But it can’t be that big a step to write a programme that could generate fake papers by a specific author. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if an analysis of my own works identified clear, consistent patterns in the use of certain words and phrases, tendency to resort to a limited number of key references and to start every paper with a quote from some nineteenth-century thinker intended to unsettle current assumptions, basic structural similarities and so forth (come to think of it, I’m drawing this entirely from Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, aren’t I?) – so, why not use that to produce ersatz Morley essays, barely distinguishable from the real thing? (more…)

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Everyone Shall Have Prizes

I’ve just been evaluating the student contributions to the blog f0r my unit on Approaches to Ancient History. I introduced this a few years ago as a means of encouraging reflection on the issues raised in the unit, not least in recognition of the fact that not everyone feels comfortable about speaking up in a moderately large class – blog technology not only made the whole thing much easier to supervise than the former practice of everyone having to write a reflective journal, but it also created the possibility of ongoing discussion and debate. All students were expressly required to spend at least an hour a week on the blog, reading and commentating (with no serious expectation that they’d actually do this, but at least they ought to be engaging with it at least once a week); the contributions were not marked formally as a set proportion of the total marks for the unit, but high-quality, sustained engagement was rewarded with up to 5 extra marks on the total, and failure to engage was penalised with a reduction of up to 5 marks. Or at least that’s how it used to work…


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