Month: July 2019

Month: July 2019

Squatters not Owners on the Web

A tabby cat squatted on its hind legs underneath a chair on a concrete sidewalk
I don’t know whether this chatton parisien is a squatter or an owner, but it seems content which is maybe wiser than writing a long post like this!

Many of the problems with Internet communities today stem from the fact that they are in places which don’t belong to the members. Youtube and twitter are nothing without their users, but Youtube and twitter are free to reject someone or change their standards of what is acceptable at any time, and users have no grounds to challenge them. Years of work can be deleted or hidden in a moment if the owner sees fit, and standards of behaviour designed to keep billions of people clicking are never going to be the ones which a small group of nerdy people chose for themselves. Moreover, its not in the interest of these companies to let users export their work in a convenient format.

Alexiares suggests that a good first step would be moving to services hosted by the post office or the public library. The public post has its problems, like the times it was used to block the spread of birth control information and equipment, but libraries and the post office at least have a tradition of offering service and privacy to everyone on equal terms, and are at least based in the same country with the same laws as their users. I don’t think that Germans and Americans will ever agree on what is protected free speech, or people in Ontario and people in Fars will agree on who can bare which bits. So decentralizing onto services like mastodon could help.

When I think back, though, it seems to me that this is a much older problem than centralized social media. In the 2000s, communities sprang up in places like the comments sections of blogs or the off-topic section of forums. Often, the owners of those sites are not happy about this at all, because moderation is work and organizing moderators is work and they have plenty of underpaid work of their own to do (the Tayler family of webcartoonists shut down comments on their main site for this reason). Other times, they create a monthly thread or a members-only subforum to let their readers get it out of their system. But they have do do something because people often use an online space designed for one activity for another.

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Slavery in Mesopotamia

A reception at the Collège de France, Paris.

At the 65th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale I was chatting to the excellent JoAnn Scurlock and Eva von Dassow about ancient slavery. The conversation turned to abortatative attempts in the Bronze Age to require all slaves to wear a distinctive hairstyle, and I mentioned the Roman senator who laughed down a proposal to make slaves wear distinctive clothing by asking whether they wanted slaves to see how many they were (I think Seneca tells the story). And that turned the discussion to some differences between Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman slavery. As always, when I am retelling a conversation you can attribute the wise insights to other people, and the arrant nonsense to me and my poor understanding and shaky memory.
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Provisions, Loin-Girdling, and Battle Gear in the Long Sixth Century

OK, the things they carried did sometimes include the gods of cities which made an uprising against the king of the world, but only under insolent provocation! A Neo-Assyrian relief in the British Museum.

People who are headed to Plataia 2021 and have picked the King’s side want to know what the King’s Men carried in 479 BCE. While Herodotus and the painters and sculptors focus on clothing, arms, and armour, two kinds of document from Babylonia list what was provided to particular soldiers at specific places and dates. These are contracts between men liable to service and their substitutes, and invoices for the issue of equipment to humble conscripts, many of them dependants of the great temples. They date to the period from Nabonidus to the terrible revolts in the second year of Xerxes (484 BCE), so just before the expedition against the Ionians Across the Sea.

Babylonians divided a soldier’s equipment into consumables, such as food and clothing (ṣidītu), which were provided once a year, and arms (Gadal-Yâma’s unūt tāhāzi “battle gear”) which lasted longer and only had to be provided once. The whole were called loin-girdling (rikis qabli). Some documents only list one category, others list both. A good example of the first kind of text is number 13 in The Arrows of the Sun: each shepherd or ikkaru stationed with the šušānu on horseback shall receive:

12 shekels of silver
8 kur (about 8 × 180 litres) of dates
1 5/8 shekels of silver for oil, salt, and cress
1 mountain garment ({tug2}KUR.RA)
1 širˀam
1 karballatu
x leather nūṭu-container (normally one per man)
x leather shoes (normally one pair per year)

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