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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

It is a bizarre but entirely undiscussed paradox that the alleged technological underdevelopment and primitivist mindset of the ancient world – see M.I. Finley and his followers – was often illustrated by the story (Pliny NH 36.195, Petronius Satyricon 51) of the man who brought to the Emperor Tiberius a goblet made of unbreakable glass, that did not shatter when dropped and could be made perfectly whole again if damaged – and was put to death for his pains. “Hostility to innovation!” they cry. “And isn’t it significant that an inventor went to the emperor for a reward, not to a hi-tech start-up for capital investment?” Well, maybe. But the most important questions are: what was this material, and where did it come from? (more…)

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There are two carved reliefs above the entrances to the Yale Law School intended to make a point about teaching. On the left (or above, depending on how your browser is showing it), above the students’ entrance, we have the students’ conception of the lecture: they’re engaged and eager to learn, but the professor is bored and would rather be doing something else, and his assistant is completely disengaged, reading pornography. On the right (below) we have the professors’ conception: brilliant, passionate lecturer with students fast asleep. The dominant contemporary image of the lecture is the worst of both worlds, with disengagement on both sides – let alone when we’re talking about scores of students rather than half a dozen. That is, the negative perceptions and expectations on either side – and, let’s be honest, there are real negative experiences on both sides as well – are taken to define the nature of the whole exercise.
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I should say from the beginning that this is not the sort of defence of Arron Banks that’s likely to carry much weight with any hypothetical future popular tribunal considering charges of willful destruction of the prosperity and well-being of the British people. Further, my immediate reaction to his original “True the Roman Empire was effectively destroyed by immigration” tweet was a typical kneejerk academic one – something along the lines of “yes, why don’t we revive Tenney Frank’s ‘Race Mixture in the Roman Empire’ while we’re at it?” – followed by an attempt at getting #BanksHistory trending on Twitter, and I don’t think that was entirely wrong. At the same time, there is something about the way that the battlelines in Banks versus Beard ended up being neatly drawn between ‘ignorant right-wing billionaire combining memories of schoolboy history and Gladiator with current ideological prejudices’ and ‘heroic authoritative Professor just fighting for Truth’ that makes me feel a little uncomfortable.* (more…)

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It’s the week before my first week of teaching in Exeter (a week earlier than I’m used to, creating an unfortunate clash with the Deutsche Historikertag in Hamburg, so it’s actually going to be my first half week of teaching…). Busy uploading module (not ‘unit’ or ‘course’; must remember that) information onto ELE, learning the relationship between seminars and study groups, revising the ILOs according to house style, checking availability of e-books, re-writing guidance on source analysis exercises, navigating SRS to send out messages, trying to grasp the workings of BART and RECAP, and wondering where I put my copy of the guide to local acronyms. I dunno, in my day you got a photocopied bibliography in the first lecture if you were lucky, none of this spoon-feeding and eDucation nonsense… (more…)

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WWTD?

Here comes the technofear. Again. Actually it seems to turn up at ever-diminishing intervals; the gap between my mastering some aspect of new technology and my realising that I’m still light-years behind developments gets steadily smaller, partly, I suppose, because my mastering the new technology increases my access to information about other technological stuff. This isn’t going to get any better this side of the singularity, is it?

The particular issue this time arises from the application I’m putting together for a new phase of the Reception of Thucydides project. Compared with the previous phase (see previous posts), this includes some really neat ideas for outreach and impact activity, largely due to one of my (I hope) future collaborators, Liz Sawyer, including the proper development of the Thinking Through Thucydides multi-layered digital text thing that I’ve been trying to get off the ground for a bit. That’s really good, said the internal reviewer in Bristol, but it’s a shame you’re not planning to develop an app as well.

Hmm. As I believe the current argot would have it, WTAF? Please bear in mind that it was only this summer that I ceased to be one of those old-fashioned people who use their mobile phone solely for phone calls, and mainly just to let me wife know that I’m on my way home. Having upgraded to a SmartPhone, and while still struggling to master the swipy-swipy technique (why can I make the text bigger but not smaller?), I now find that I’ve merely moved into the class of old-fashioned people who use their mobile phone solely to check their email now and again. I more or less understand the idea of apps in principle, I just don’t grasp them in practice – and I struggle to imagine what a Thucydides app would look like. You type in a question about foreign affairs, political issues or personal relationships, and up pops a decontextualised, mistranslated pearl of Thucydidean wisdom? You type in a question about foreign affairs, political issues or personal relationships, and every time the answer is: the strong do what they can. and the weak suffer what they must? (Which, to be fair, isn’t any more vacuous than the usual Give me the serenity to accept the stuff that’s unavoidable etc. line).

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