8.09.2017

Digital Humanities? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I'm on holiday. Yesterday I Tweeted lots of cat memes. I messaged with a couple of friends. I created an account for an App that does what I'd described I wanted years ago. I took down a bot that had malfunctioned due to human error.  The day before I drank almost two thirds of a 5 cl bottle of gin left over from a flight, and created an account with another App.

I've repeatedly declined to be dragged into various disputes that are being billed as about Digital Humanities. 

Over dinner we superficially discussed AI, because we understood that we didn't want to, and because food was more important. If pushed, my view is that currently human intelligence trumps artificial intelligence. In the long term, who knows. AI is like money, or water, which are both essentially neutral, and both necessary, but also all open to abuse. 

At heart I'm quite basic, and I don't like people trying to push me into making binary choices. With binary, people tend to look at a choice, project their own views into it, and assume it is negative. 

Civilisations have not fallen because of immigration or climate change or whatever fallacy du jour is in vogue. They have fallen because some tried to make them purely binary. Then they evolved and reemerged, because others realised that alternatives were available.

I dislike imposed labels, preferring mostly to be anonymous, and when I pop up using my own name it tends to be for a reason. Most of my views can best be summed up by  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Years ago the BA web site would reject my passport info as invalid, but I knew that when I turned up at the airport there wouldn't be a problem. A human with common sense would check me in. 

That's an issue with much of the data web companies gather: they often don't understand the data, or they are misinterpreting it. That's why humans had to tinker with the Google algorithm, and why the most successful bots are run by humans as much as AI. And that's why it's not that hard to work out how to skewer the data available to some of the companies that data mine.

Vitruvius is our best surviving source for Greek architecture, not because he was a great architect (we only know of one building, the basilica at Fano), but because he was an engineer. In fact, much of his data about history and architecture is arguably incorrect. He was copied and recopied, and used, because of the engineering data, and that is what was appreciated by the Carolingians. Early surviving manuscripts date to the Carolingian Renaissance, and he may well be the non religious text of which most copies were circulating in the West before the Renaissance. 

Engineering is key. You don't have to be able to code, but you do need to at least understand Basic if you want to do anything. And more importantly, you have to be able to foresee outcomes, and accept that one of those might not be the outcome you desire. 

I like ideas, but a weakness - one of many - is that I cannot get my head around the way people apply labels and try to theorise. I could take the time to look into the way they choose to think, but I tend not to. To me, when people theorise or label my work in a way I don't understand, it is simply illogical. 

I accept that there are good counter arguments to everything I say or think. For example, it is illogical that I generate and paste HTML   into MailChimp, when it shouldn't take me that long to learn how to use their interface. 

I have not really coded anything since Apple II. I have not hacked anything since then, because I gave a teacher my word that I would not. Although technically I wasn't hacking, I was coding. I use hacks, but that is not hacking. Long in the past we did what would probably now be called a denial of service attack, but in those days it was neither illegal nor was it called that. Was it intellectually satisfying?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Was if effective in achieving our goal? No. Did we achieve our goal? Mostly, but mostly through analog methods. 

Before 9/11, Christie's made me aware that their web site was so badly run that it would take them at least two weeks to change a couple of lines of text on it. I offered to hack it, as a more efficient alternative. They managed to make the change themselves.

Right now "Digital Humanities" is a great label for fundraising. The shine is beginning to come off it, and like every bubble it will burst. As with tulips, there will always be people who want Digital Humanities, but the dam will burst and the funding will in the future be tidal. 

David Meadows was a pioneer of the field, but he chose to not involve himself in this bubble. Some of the people labelled DH are genuinely brilliant. Daniel Pett is a good example. Others get themselves labelled a genius because they have worked out how to market other people's work. 

I worry about museums providing Apps and audio guides so that they can data mine visitors. My concern is not the data mining per se. I worry that, in the future, the data will be used to create exhibitions that ambitious museum directors think visitors want. Sometimes people need to be given something they don't realise they want, and to be intellectually challenged. 

Which in no way should be interpreted as a criticism of data mining. Some of the men and women I respect most are data miners. And without data there'd be no advertising, no funding, no free www et cetera. But, post hoc ergo propter hoc, most interesting developments in technology came about without worrying about monetisation. 

I don't use museums' Apps or technology. I have reverted to booking hotels through Expedia. I have an Uber account, so that in an emergency I have the option to download the App and use it. I love Amazon, and am very grateful for the way they have revolutionised retail and publishing; the latter, for me, was the greatest contribution to DIgital Humanities. I still use Yahoo as a host so it's more easily accessible ;-). I still hope Google succeed with Google books (I chose not to opt out of it, and theoretically everything I have ever published could be freely available through it). I use Ocado for heavy or bulky groceries, but when I want Ben and Jerry's, I go straight to Prime Now. I declined from the start to provide Academia.edu with real data, and have made clear my objections to the way JSTOR has been run. 

I'm an early adopter and embrace technology that simplifies my life. That is my interpretation of Digital Humanities. But am more enthusiastic about creative analog solutions.

I've come up with a solution that would  theoretically be the most effective way to substantially reduce the negative impact of several problems that have been bothering me: 
the looting of archaeological sites, 
art smuggling, 
Holocaust restitution claims, 
money laundering, 
the fact that the art market is effectively unregulated but that most of its clients made their money through businesses that were subject to tight regulations,
etc. 

But it's old school. 

It not only wouldn't bother me if people choose to monetise my solution, I see that as key to increasing its effectiveness. Our annual budget is under $ 20,000 pa. Some of my more incompetent colleagues achieve a lot less with that per week. 

I don't have a television or the internet at home. I'll probably switch off the data on my phone, because people who want to reach me, should be able to without hacking into the fire alarm system. I might move onto another 5 cl bottle of gin later, or find something else to do during my staycation.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So, in summary, my views on Digital Humanities can be summed up as ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Not my circus, not my monkeys. 


8.01.2017

Culture Concierge -> Culture Cut


I have decided to revive the various Culture Concierge London and World lists as Culture Cut. It will be an occasional list, covering mostly London, but also Paris and whatever else is of interest. e.g. a Genizot exhibition currently at the MahJ in Paris (photo to left).

You have received this email as you previously subscribed to one of the lists. If you wish to UNSUBSCRIBE, there is a one-touch button at the bottom.

If you have been forwarded this email, please email SUBSCRIBE to subscribe@culture-concierge.com

For example, last week the very talented Chris Denney of 108 Garage cooked at a San Pellegrino pop up dinner on the terrace at Harvey Nichols. Tonight San Pellegrino have arranged Lee Westcott, but sadly the rest of the run is sold out.

For those willing to venture outside the confines of W1, future emails will hopefully included recommendations such as the fabulous Chef Isaac of the Clove Club.

The Edible Cinema is currently booking an event later this month, and some tickets are still available here (booking opened at 1 pm today). But it's in Dalston.

There will be no more than one email a week, but these might not appear every week.

I am also working on some map of cities, which can be accessed through Google accounts: for example, this is a rough mock-up of London, roughly colour coded (blue = restaurants; red = shops; etc): click here.

Best wishes, Dorothy Lobel King






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12.25.2015

Today in 6 BC a Baby Was Born ...

And because a Roman emperor named Augustus ordered a census, that's why most Christians know who he was. For those that might want to know a little more, I can't recommend Adrian Goldsworthy's book enough.


Augustus: From Revolutionary to Emperor - hardcover at Amazon UK
Augustus: From Revolutionary to Emperor - Kindle at Amazon UK
Yale hardcover at Amazon US - Augustus: First Emperor of Rome

12.24.2015

Merry Christmas Everybody

Every archaeologist has at some point been mildly irritated at having to once again explain that archaeologists don't "do" dinosaurs, that's paleontologists ... but in the spirit of reconciliation, I present:



Merry Christmas to those that celebrate, and Happy Holidays to the rest of us.

12.23.2015

RIP Harry Hyams

Harry Hyams was buried this morning at Willesden. He'd been looking forward to his obituaries. Sadly, most are riddled with mistakes - although he would be amused to be sharing a page with Madame Claude in today's Telegraph.

Harry was born a Jew, and continued to be a Jew; he wasn't seemingly accidentally born "to a Jewish family" but rather he was proud that his mother's family had roots in this country going back to Cornwall in the 1700s. His father was an importer not a bookie, and he went to a technical college . He wasn't an only child; he had family who were there today. His first job was in advertising.

Most obituaries concentrate on Centre Point, and it amused him that there was a nightclub at the top of it these days. He loved collecting, and could be slightly obsessive: despite his treasures he liked to 'borrow' minor drawings of purely historical interest. He read voraciously. He liked Gilbert and Sullivan. He was looking forward to his 90th birthday party. The plan was to hold it at Spencer House, with a buffet not seated, as he didn't want to get trapped next to someone that bored him. He wasn't a recluse; he just disliked many people. He was a romantic, who wooed his late wife by driving his car onto the train station platform until she agreed to go out with him, and nursed her lovingly through her illness. People were very loyal to him, because he wasn't some pantomime villain.

He loved London, and he died in his own bed on Saturday morning. He was going to have roast pork for lunch. He liked crackling. He loved and he was loved.

11.17.2015

Hollande Offers «un droit d'asile» For Art

The video of that section of the speech is here:
VIDEO - Hollande instaure un droit d'asile pour l'art

And the AFP coverage here:
Hollande va instaurer "un droit d'asile" pour les oeuvres d'art menacees par le groupe EI

Am pretty sure France 2 has lots of footage of me way back drawing parallels between destruction of Nineveh Museum and that attacks on Charlie Hebdo, where I pointed out that they were both attack on culture the West held in esteem.

This would be a huge step forward, as at the moment UNESCO refuses in any way to assist with "removing cultural property from its country of origin" so we've been having to use Free Ports - a real country, with real museums is far better.

10.11.2015

Avoid: Fellah Hotel, Marrakech

I've recommended the hotel in the past, because despite there having always been a few "issues" there, overall the hotel and the cause it supported were worth it.

Since my last visit in February, they've decided to go in a new direction and it is best avoided. 

It used to be a lovely hotel outside Marrakech, now it is on a good day a Club Med wannabe with prices that are a joke (Amanjena charges less for massages; the food at Fellah is Amanjena prices but airplane quality).

Whilst I can understand cost-cutting from a business point of view, when it leads to some pretty serious health and safety issues, it becomes a disaster. Another long term guest also checked out early, and I declined to stay even when they offered five complimentary nights - that's how bad it has become.

There are many, many other hotels around Marrakech that are both better and better value. The web site sadly in no way reflects the reality of Fellah Hotel any more.




8.25.2015

Today In 383: Gratian Died




If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

8.09.2015

Today In 378: Valens Died




If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

7.04.2015

Benedict Arnold Plaque, London

It's become a family tradition to take visiting relatives to the Benedict Arnold plaque, and snap a photo of them in front of it ...

62 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8HW  - map


Happy 4th of July!


5.31.2015

Today In 455: Petronius Maximus Died




If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc

5.01.2015

Today In 305: Maximian Abdicated

... as augustus in favour of Constantius Chlorus, and retired to southern Italy. He later made a come-back with his son Maxentius, although their civil war ultimately failed.

They are both linked to the villa at Piazza Armerina - see here - and it seems likely to have dated to the period during which he retired.




If you enjoyed this video by Adrian Murdoch, check out his book on The Emperors of Rome; Kindle UK, Kindle US, etc