Should Historians “Mind” What’s Been Said? By mcheesaker

who's word's?

According to Google’s new n-gram tool, when researching history, words count.

Literally.

By analyzing over 500 billion words from 5.2 million books in Chinese, English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish, the n-gram tool allows users to track the usage of words from 1500AD onwards. The implications of this tool in terms of historical and cultural research are just beginning to come to light. In the article  “Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books,” Jean-Baptiste Michel and his fellow researchers suggest that Google’s n-gram can be used to track the emergence of diseases, state censorship and the relative “celebrity” of a given person.

There is no doubt that the n-gram is, and will continue to be, an extremely useful tool in historical inquiry. However, there are some limitations that need to be addressed.

Firstly, the Google n-gram is limited in regards to language. Most of the collected works are written in English. Although this is helpful for me (an Anglophone student from Canada), some of the world’s most spoken languages, like Arabic and Hindi, are not even present in the database.

Furthermore, as Jean-Baptiste Michel notes, the Google n-gram tool simply measures the frequency of words within books, and books alone. Therefore, other publications like newspapers, and academic journal articles are marginalized from each search. The impact of this becomes quite clear when you compare n-gram searches on Google, and an n-gram search that browses through local newspaper clippings like the site, Mining the Dispatch. On Mining the Dispatch, users are able to see the relative frequency of fugitive slave ads that made it into the local Richmond newspaper during the Civil War. Because of its larger scope, and inability to browse through newspapers, this kind of historical deduction cannot be made through Google’s n-gram.

There is no doubt that the n-gram is, and will continue to be, an extremely useful tool in historical inquiry. However, there are some limitations that need to be addressed.

Firstly, the Google n-gram is limited in regards to language. Most of the collected works are written in English. Although this is helpful for me (an Anglophone student from Canada), some of the world’s most spoken languages, like Arabic and Hindi, are not even present in the database

I think it’s also important to note that language, although an important (and often forgotten) indication of culture is certainly not the only one. As historians know, geography, religion and class, all play a critical role in shaping the thoughts, actions and mindsets of a given people. Language is only one small piece of what makes us who we are.

Indeed, Canada, the United States, and the UK, may all be English speaking nations, but we have very different cultures. Just to prove this point, I decided to gauge the relative frequencies of three major sports: baseball, hockey, and football. From 1900-2008, the frequency of hockey was dismal compared to football and baseball. However, this was a search that took into account all English books written during the designated period. I imagine if I were to search a corpus containing only Canadian books, hockey would be mentioned far more frequently..

But more than that, words themselves are limited.

Think about Twitter. Depending on the words we choose to use in our hashtags, our statuses are more searchable. Similarly, if we tweet about a topic that’s trending, what we say is viewed by a larger audience. But what if we don’t use the right words to categorize what we’re saying? What if we type in an extra “s” or add an apostrophe where it doesn’t belong? But more pertinent than that, what if we say one thing, and mean another?

My previous example with sports provides an interesting example. In English, the word “football” can either mean soccer, or American football. In my search, this discrepancy wasn’t accounted for. Therefore, any mention of the word “football,” whether that book was actually talking about soccer or American football, was nonetheless counted. And therein lies another problem with Google’s n-gram: the tool gives us no sense of context.

And for the historian, context is king.

An old Chinese proverb claims that, “If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words.”

After playing around with the Google n-gram, and uncovering its uses, I think this is extremely accurate. However, words are only one investigative tool in the proverbial historical tool-belt that can be used to understand history and culture.

F0r charts and more information visit: http://hist291.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/should-historians-mind-whats-been-said/

Snow Tiger by YUSEF KOMUNYAKAABY

th - Copy - Copy

Ghost sun half
hidden, where did you go?
There’s always a mother
of some other creature
born to fight for her young.
But crawl out of your hide,
walk upright like a man,
& you may ask if hunger is the only passion
as you again lose yourself
in a white field’s point of view.
In this glacial quiet
nothing moves except—
then a flash of eyes & nerves.
If cornered in your head by cries from a cave
in another season, you can’t forget
in this landscape a pretty horse
translates into a man holding a gun.

Source: Poetry (April 2012).


BIOGRAPHY

In his poetry, Yusef Komunyakaa weaves together the elements of his own life in short lines of vernacular to create complex images of life in his native Louisiana and the jungles of Vietnam. From his humble beginnings as the son of a carpenter, Komunyakaa has traveled far to become a scholar, professor, and prize-winning poet. In 1994, he claimed the Pulitzer Prize and the $50,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his Neon . . .

British pre-Raphaelite barn owl painting discovery

British pre-Raphaelite barn owl painting discovered
William James Webbe (fl.1853-1878), The White Owl, 'Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits,' signed with monogram and dated '1856' (lower left), oil on board, 17¾ x 10 3/8 in. (45 x 26.3 cm.) © Christie’s Images Limited 2012

From the Huffington Post:

Attic Owl Painting Sells For Nearly $1 Million At Christie’s Victorian Art Sale (PHOTO)

Posted: 12/17/2012 12:31 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/17/2012 12:31 pm EST

Everyone dreams of finding that one priceless item hiding in the corners of a dust-ridden attic. One UK teacher recently experienced the joy of rescuing such a forgotten antique, all thanks to an old owl painting that turned out to be worth nearly a million dollars.

Jane Cordery, an art teacher in Hampshire, discovered the detailed bird portrait in her attic after attempting to clean the space for a plumber. She’d never seen the ornate owl, but the painting’s intricate brushwork caught her eye and she decided to e-mail a photograph of the find to Christie’s auction house. According to the Daily Mail, One look at the owl and art expert Brandon Lindberg knew that that the work was worth much more than anyone suspected.

The auction house determined that the painting, titled “The White Owl,” was created by pre-Raphaelite artist William James Webbe, and experts valued the work at £70,000 ($113,449). Beyond the British masterpiece’s hefty price tag, it was also revealed that the UK’s Royal Society had exhibited the owl in the mid 19th century, exposing the piece to leading art critic, John Ruskin, who described it as “a careful study” with excellent brown wings.

The attic artwork hit Christie’s auction block last week, far outselling its estimated price — the winning bid was £589,250 ($951,050). Cordery maintains that she had never even seen the painting before her impromptu winter cleaning, while her partner, James Ravenscroft, remembers receiving the work as a present from his mother. “It’s a complete shock,” Cordery told the Daily Pioneer after the sale. “We were not imagining that in our wildest dreams.”

The owl depicted in the painting is a barn owl.

The motto of the painting is inspired by this poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Related articles

Re-posted from (dearkitty1.wordpress.com) who nominated this blog for 2012 Best Blog!

Thank You. I am honored by this wonderful blogger! Of course I don't have all six stars, but as you can see by the re-post above why am so appreciative.

Thank You. I am honored by this wonderful blogger! Of course I don’t have all six stars, but as you can see by the re-post above why am so appreciative.

Denise Burge: Original Dirt (May 14 – September 4, 2011)

Denise Burge: Original Dirt (May 14 – September 4, 2011)

Denise Burge, Louise's Tree's, 1999

Denise Burge, Louise’s Tree‘s, 1999

Cincinnati based artist Denise Burge, approaching quilting from a painting background, views the creation of her work as its subject as well as its medium. Using the storytelling tradition learned in her community while growing up in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains, Burge uses her works as a commentary on everything from her family to the natural environment.
The Appalachian region has a history of folk artists concentrating on storytelling featuring aspects of religion, poverty, and the natural resources of the land. By using the quilt as her medium, Burge interprets what, to her, is a nostalgic and functional form of expression. Exploiting patchwork and sewing techniques as a vehicle for ecstatic pattern, Burge seeks to suggest her compositions as and analog to natural patterns of existence. Her work is constructed with a variety of materials and methods, both recycled and new, suggesting aspects of physical growth and renewal through the process. Shredding, slicing, layering, and turning forms and patterns inside-out, the artists sees her creations as a way to reenact and connect with the transformations that the earth constantly undergoes. Her nostalgia leads her to a romanticized conversation about attachment to our landscape. In the Appalachian landscape, people often see the brutality that can be exerted upon the earth, but also become viscerally connected to land and place as a natural resource and source of vitality. Burge uses her work to contemplate this contradiction and question the complexities of our relationship to our natural world.

Elmhurst Art Museum
150 Cottage Hill Ave.
Elmhurst, Illinois 60126
630.834.0202

Object Imprint artist, Denise Burge

Object Imprint artist, Denise Burge (Photo credit: a stitch in the ditch)

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright: Poem By William Blake

The artist and poet William Blake, who lived i...

The artist and poet William Blake, who lived in Hercules Road — a portrait by Thomas Phillips (1807). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

June 28, 2012

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

The Tyger

By William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

The Tyger

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? what dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,

And watered heaven with their tears,

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

For more go to:

http://awildernesswithin.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/tyger-tyger-burning-bright/

Go Obama!

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Photo credit: philomythus)

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who drove up the national debt? Give Obama four more years!

Louvre Museum: Islamic art honored amid cultural clash

 

Panel with hunters. Carved and engraved ivory ...

Panel with hunters. Carved and engraved ivory with traces of paint, 11th–12th century, Egypt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Islamic art honored amid cultural clash

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2012 10:33 am

PARIS, In its boldest development in a generation, the Louvre Museum has a new wing dedicated to Islamic art, a nearly $130 million project that comes at a tense time between the West and the Muslim world.

Louvre curators tout their new Islamic Art department, which took 11 years to build and opens to the public on Saturday, as a way to help bridge cultural divides. They say it offers a highbrow and respectful counterpart to the recent unflattering depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in Western media that have sparked protests by many Muslims.

Still, one of the Louvre’s own consultants acknowledged that some Muslims could be “shocked” by three images of Muhammad with his face exposed in the new wing. Many Muslims believe the prophet should not be depicted at all — even in a flattering way — because it might encourage idolatry.

The galleries provide a needed showcase one of the West’s most extensive Islamic art collections, some 18,000 artifacts that range from the 7th century to the 19th century.

But the wing does not dwell on the old: It is housed under a futuristic, undulating glass roof designed by architects Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini that has garnered comparisons to a dragonfly wing, a flying carpet, even a wind-blown veil. It marks the Louvre’s biggest change since I.M. Pei shook up the famed Paris museum with his iconic glass pyramid in 1989.

France, meanwhile, is bracing for possible disruptions at embassies across the Muslim world on Friday after the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo published lewd caricatures of Muhammad on Wednesday. The publication raised concerns that French interests could face violent protests like the ones targeting the United States over a video produced in California that ridiculed the prophet. Those protests, which continued on Thursday, have left at least 30 people dead.

But could the new museum wing actually be good timing?

The Louvre collection’s mission is to foster understanding between the West and the Islamic world. Instead of highlighting Islam as one united religion, it celebrates the secular, tolerant and cultural aspects of different Islamic civilizations.

Sophie Makariou, head of the Louvre’s Islamic art department, hopes the new wing will teach lessons about tolerance and diversity.

“I like the idea of showing the other side of the coin,” said Makariou, standing at a wall decorated with colorful, flower-patterned tiles from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. “We are talking about a diverse world that goes from the Atlantic, Spain and Morocco to India. It brings complexity.

“We are suffering from simplistic views on the Islamic world . (Some) would make us believe that there is just one Islam, which is just not true.”

Indeed, an intricately engraved bronze lion from 13th century Spain stands proudly alongside a rare modeled-stucco head of a prince from medieval Iran. The works presented were made not just by Muslims, but by Christian and Jewish artists as well.

In a sign of the political importance of the new collection, French President Francois Hollande attended an opening ceremony Tuesday, calling it a “political gesture in the service of respect for peace.” Saudi Prince Waleed Bin Talal and the president of Azerbaijan accompanied him.

“The best weapons for fighting fanaticism that claims to be coming from Islam are found in Islam itself,” Hollande said. “What more beautiful message than that demonstrated here by these works?”

The Louvre opened a department of Islamic art in 2003, under former President Jacques Chirac, who said he wanted to highlight the contributions of Muslim civilizations to Western culture.

Chirac, who vigorously opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, constantly pushed for the idea of a “dialogue of cultures” to break down misunderstandings between the West and the Muslim world.

The collection’s organizer decided to include images of Muhammad to show the evolution of Islamic art. In one instance, he appears as a veiled character in a 16th century manuscript. And in a multimedia projection, Mohammad is shown in three separate images with his face exposed — something almost unheard-of today.

“I think Muslims will be shocked,” said Charlotte Maury, a historical consultant for the Louvre. “That’s why we put it on the side.”

“We felt we had to use them, to illustrate (Islamic) history the way we see it,” she said.

Maury said Muhammad’s face was only covered up in Islamic art starting in the 15th century, when Muslim scholars decided to interpret the veiled figure as a more respectful image.

The Quran has no direct prohibition against depicting Mohammad, though it does contain verses saying that those who insult him are cursed.

 

Lobby group targets presidential conventions

Original Post From http://www.theartnewspaper.com

Americans for the Arts is lobbying for the cultural and creative industries at the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions. But even the loudest lobbyists may not be loud enough.

At the Republican convention on 28 August in Tampa, Florida, and at the Democratic convention on 4 September in Charlotte, North Carolina, Americans for the Arts and three other organisations are holding a panel, Arts Speak, at which politicians are expected to talk about the importance of arts education, the positive impact of arts jobs on local economies, and the funding of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Among others, they have booked Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, and Richard Riley, the former education secretary, to speak. They are already arts supporters, however. It is unclear whether the arts lobby will be able to persuade others to become converts. “The appetite to take up a cultural bill is lacking,” says a congressional staffer with knowledge of the arts caucus.

“Obviously it’s not the same as the unemployment rate, which garners attention once a month,” says Narric Rome, the senior lobbyist for Americans for the Arts, “but when the delegates go home and talk about some of the issues that were voiced at the conventions, this is the kind of thing that they remember”. He says that their events are “the only voice for the non-profit arts” at the conventions.

The lobby group is inviting members from the Congressional Arts Caucus and the Senate Cultural Caucus. But while both groups are sizeable, they do not represent cohesive voting blocks. When the lobby group issued report cards in 2010 based on legislators’ pro-arts records, the Senate Cultural Caucus’s Republican co-chairman, Michael Enzi of Wyoming, received a D+. (Six other arts caucus members nearly failed as well.)

The House caucus, on the other hand, includes eight congress members who are also on the Tea Party Caucus, which wants to shut down the NEA. Add in last-minute election priorities, such as a farm bill and extending tax breaks, and it means that the arts caucus is “not currently working on any priorities or initiatives”, says the congressional staffer, and probably won’t until appropriations come up again early next year.

Federal and state arts spending has declined in the past decade. As the Pew Center on the States notes, state arts agencies have reduced funding by 37% since 2001. However, Americans for the Arts has been campaigning based on statistics that say arts-related jobs have a positive impact on local economies, and Pew says that it “is beginning to pay off”. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies estimates that state arts funding has increased 8.8% this financial year compared with 2011. The group has also produced a study that says the industry generates $135.2bn of economic activity every year. In June, the Republican-controlled House put forward a bill that would cut the NEA’s funding by $14m to $132m. But, according to the congressional staffer, “it’s unofficially known around [Washington] that the bill will never come to the House floor”. The House will probably pass a resolution this autumn extending the NEA’s current funding levels into 2013.

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Tigergrove Now Joined With Flattr.Com

Flattr is the worlds first social micro-payment system

The idea had already been initiated in 2007, but the first release was in 2010 due to typical geeky laziness.

Flattr was founded to help people share money, not just content. Before Flattr, the only reasonable way to donate has been to use Paypal or other systems to send money to people. The threshold for this is quite high. People would just ignore the option to send donations if it wasn’t for a really important cause. Sending just a small sum has always been a pain in the ass. Who would ever even login to a payment system just to donate €0.01? And €10 was just too high for just one blog entry we liked…

Flattr solves this issue. When you’re registered to flattr, you pay a small monthly fee. You set the amount yourself. At the end of the month, that fee is divided between all the things you flattered. You’re always logged in to the account. That means that giving someone some flattr-love is just a button away. And you should! Clicking one more button doesn’t add to your fee, it just divides the fee between more people! Flattr tries to encourage people to share. Not only pieces of content, but also some money to support the people who created them. With love!

Flattr has no different user types. We know that everybody that create also uses other content. And vice versa. We make no difference between people.

Flattr can be used as a complement to accepting donations. Or to having advertising on your blog. Or to help getting small donations you never get for your open source software.

To Start A Flattr Account And Donate Click On: Flattr.Com