Posts Tagged ‘blogs’

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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A belated farewell to Antike und Abendland, Uwe Walter’s blog at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung online, which posted its last entry back at the end of November. I can’t find any mention of this elsewhere on the FAZ site (indeed, it’s still listed as one of their regular blogs), and Herr Walter has presumably been told by the management to say nothing more than that the blog is coming (abruptly) to an end – or perhaps hasn’t been offered any explanation either – so we’re left to speculate on how far this is just another example of the constant drive in the popular media for novelty in search of more hits, how far it’s a cost-saving measure, and how far it represents a rejection of the founding idea of the blog, that the ancient world can still speak to the modern. Or some combination of the three. (more…)

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