Month: May 2019

Urheberrecht in Österreich

A delivery van in Neurum, Innsbruck, Austria

One of the most charming and exasperating traits of small-city Austria is the locals’ casualness about copyright law. From a local plumber whose logo alludes to a popular TV series, to the cafe with a Disney Corp artist’s version of a Kipling character on their sign, to the academics who publish wherever and then stick the PDF on as soon as it arrives in their inbox, they just do what they want as long as large sums of money are not involved. Ironically, Austrian Urheberrecht guarantees creators some privileges which in other countries they can sign away, such as the right to be acknowledged as the origin of a work. But on some other areas, they don’t fuss the details. Also, the Austrian academics I know have mostly moved away from assigning textbooks which are sold for money; they don’t write long tracts about the affordability of education (university in Austria costs about EUR 1600 a year in fees) or wicked commercial publishers charging hundreds of dollars for a calculus book, just put handouts together and share them.

Although I can’t put my finger on how, somehow this feels different than my gamer buddies explaining why they are not willing to pay $40 for a beautiful illustrated hardcover book by a game designer, or Jessamyn West agonizingly debating whether to tell library patrons that DRM can be broken or sci-hub exists. To me it feels more like the way Austrians smoke like chimneys, manage the sex trade, and accept polite corruption and horse-trading. Austria had to put up with the counter-reformation and watch National Socialists rebranded themselves as libertarian (freiheitlich), and quite a few Austrians don’t want to fight for fundamental reform, just quietly get what they want done in the grey areas.
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Big Data in World History: Seshat vs. DRH

Ancient historians have been in the big open data business for almost 200 years, with Mommsen’s establishment of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum to publish all surviving ancient Latin inscriptions in 1853. Right now there are two competing projects to create an encyclopedia of quantitative data on world religious history which could be subjected to statistical tests: the Database of Religious History at UBC, and Peter Turchin’s Seshat project in the USA. Turchin belongs to a Russian tradition of social scientists such as Andrey Vitalievich Korotayev who want to find predictive, mathematical laws of history, often in the forms of cycles. A recent paper based on Seshat data has provoked not one but two responses only six weeks after publication.

  • Harvey Whitehouse et al., “Complex Societies Precede Moralizing Gods Throughout World History,” Nature 568 (20 March 2019) pp. 226-229
  • Edward Slingerland et al., “Historians Respond to Whitehouse et al. (2019), ‘Complex Societies Precede Moralizing Gods Throughout World History'”, PsyArXiv Preprints, 2 May 2019
  • Bret Beheim, Quentin Atkinson (yes, that Atkinson), et al., “Corrected analyses show that moralizing gods precede complex societies but serious data concerns remain,” PsyArXiv Preprints, 2 May 2019

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Some Thoughts on “Classical Greek Tactics: A Cultural History”

A wall of gigantic rounded stones roughly shaped and placed together with a few smaller stones to fill gaps
Even the most overwhelming project can be completed if you take it one stone at a time! Photo of the Cyclopean walls of Mycenae by Sharon Mollerus, Wikimedia Commons, with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Konijnendijk, Roel (2017) Classical Greek Tactics: A Cultural History. Mnemosyne, Supplements History and Archaeology of Classical Antiquity, Band 409 (Brill: Leiden)

Since the 1990s, there has been intense debate about early Greek warfare. Most people agreed that there was something wrong with the versions available in English, but it took time to agree on just what that wrongness was and whether it could be fixed with a few small changes or was more fundamental. This book is another Cyclopean stone in the walls of the current consensus.

Konijnendijk argues that the California School of writers on Greek warfare (John Kinloch Anderson, William K. Pritchett, and Victor Davis Hanson) were basically refining the ideas of Austrian, German, and English scholars before the First World War. The continentals were interested in a comparative history of warfare with the practices of the Prussian army at the top, the Roman army in the middle, and early Greek armies near the bottom, while the English scholars tried to explain why Greek warfare as described by the Prussians was so peculiar. For a long time it seemed like these early writers had solved the problem so little was written on the subject in English. When a new group of scholars in Cold War California became interested in warfare, they launched a flood of research in English which almost erased the original German context of their theories. In short, the ‘orthodoxy’ is really a set of received ideas from 19th century Europe which survived until a group of ‘scientific historians’ began to question them.
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