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Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

“Don’t confuse meaning with truth: Thucydides.” I think I speak for everyone when I say: huh? It’s not just that it’s fake, it’s the fact that it seems, insofar as I have any idea what it’s on about, utterly un-Thucydidean. His basic assumption – even if you interpret this as a neurotic response to trauma, as I’ve suggested in the paper I finished writing on Tuesday – is that establishing the truth about past events is the only road to understanding them, and to understanding the present. I suppose that, if you squint hard enough, you could fit this line to his sense that the significance of e.g. Athenian stories about the Tyrannicides for their sense of identity has no necessary connection to the veracity of such stories, i.e. the fact something is meaningful doesn’t make it true, but that’s definitely a stretch. (more…)

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I have a piece up on Eidolon this week: Why Thucydides? As tends to happen, the moment it’s posted I immediately think of other things I might have said, and ways I might have said them better (and I don’t just mean the fact that every other sentence seems to begin with “But…”). I stand by the three main suggestions as to why Thucydides should be the go-to ancient authority for commenting on current politics and international affairs – his work invites such identification and comparison, there are long traditions of citing him as an authority, and we really want to believe that someone understands what the hell’s going on – but I can’t help feeling that there’s more going on. Herewith some further thoughts… (more…)

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Clickbait?

Even now, with just ten days to go, I’m still hoping that my viewing stats for this blog in 2015 will match or exceed those of previous years. After all, I feel that I’ve been writing some decent material in the last year, even if the number of posts (and possibly the quality) has fallen off over the last couple of months under the pressure of the regular job (the suggestion in my recent staff review that I should consider becoming a ‘public intellectual’ – which I’m not sure is achievable simply by blogging and spending time on Twitter in any case – rather ignores the fact that this all has to be done in my spare time, which is in ever shorter supply). At last count, the number of views had just topped the figure from 2013, but the number of visitors is still substantially lower.

Clearly I need to write something that will quickly catch a whole new audience, even if they look at only one post. (more…)

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Self Control

Just a short post, as I am still trying and failing to finish revising a conference paper for publication (am now in the phase of, “well, the final revised extended deadline was actually Friday, but no one works at the weekend, probably, and with a bit of luck they’ll have other emails to deal with first thing tomorrow so maybe I have until lunchtime” – cf. http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1815), but I just wanted to comment on a few points raised by the ongoing adventures of the Thucydiocy Bot, dedicated to the never-ending and entirely pointless task of correcting misquotations of Thucydides on Twitter. One is the tenacity with which some people stick to the idea that Thucydides came up with their favourite quotation, even when the real author has been firmly identified. “Jevons aside, give me an alternative source,” demanded one, after the Bot had noted that Colin Powell’s favourite “Of all manifestations of power…” line wasn’t attributed to Thucydides until the 1940s, but was used half a century earlier by a classicist writing about historiographical style. Huh? Give you an alternative source for the quote that isn’t the man who actually wrote it? Failure to do so clearly means that it must be Thucydides… Even sadder was someone else’s reluctance to credit George Santayana with the “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it” aphorism; true, it is a bit like Thucydides’ “events tend to repeat themselves which is why history is useful” – but the message is quite different, and poor old Santayana doesn’t get credit for anything much these days (apart from the guitar solo on Black Magic Woman) so why begrudge him this? (more…)

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Before anyone says anything, yes, I know it was a mistake to search for ‘Thucydides’ on Twitter. And to keep searching every couple of days. And to start replying to all the people who insist on quoting the line from William F. Butler’s 1889 biography of General Charles Gordon – “the society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools”, or words to that effect, so bring back national service and/or replace all the professors with retired military men – as if it was written by Thucydides, to correct them. Whether or not it was a mistake to embark on trying to create an autonomous twitter account, The Thucydiocy Bot (@Thucydiocy) to do all the searching and responding for me, time will only tell (especially once I’ve worked out the technology to make it genuinely autonomous). But there really seems to be only one place this is leading… (more…)

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One of the interesting side-effects of spending a reasonable amount of time on Twitter is the sense it gives you of the rhythms of global activity. Of course one gets an inkling of this from the way that the internet gets unmistakably slower from mid-afternoon in the UK, when the bulk of the US East Coast has woken up, and almost unusable by the time California logs on, but it’s far more noticeable when you follow a decent number of people and can get a sense of the timing of their bursts of activity. I’m sure there must be exciting ways of rendering my Twitter feed in graphical form (albeit well beyond my technical capabilities), so I could see shifting colours and patterns as the twittering line follows the dawn westwards, with new voices waking up and then fading away fourteen hours or so later – until the dead hours, around 5 am, when most of the US people I follow have gone to bed and the Europeans haven’t got started yet. Which is really a sign that I need to start following more people in Australasia and Asia, to keep the feed ticking over and give me something to read once I’ve finished catching up on the Yanks – any recommendations?

Of course, the dead hours are not wholly dead in the UK; they’re roamed by those whom I decided some time around 6.30 this morning, two hours after giving up on trying to sleep, to name the insomniacademics (more…)

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