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/

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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 . . .

Pocahontas (1595?- 1617) –


Pocahontas

English: Pocahontas

English: Pocahontas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pocahontas (1595?- 1617) –

The daughter of a powerful “Tribal chiefIndian Chief in Virginia, she was born in the Tidewater region of Virginia around 1595 and was called Matoaka. However, at an early age she took on the nickname of Pocahontas, meaning “Little-wanton,” for her playful and frolicsome nature, and was considered an “Indian Princess” in pop culture.

Pocahontas probably saw white men for the first time in May, 1607 when the Englishmen landed at Jamestown. One of the first she was to meet was Captain John Smith, who was the leader of the Virginia Colony at Jamestown. Later that year, in December, Smith was leading an exploration along the rivers of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay when the Powhatan Indians took him captive. Smith would live to tell the romanticized story, which would become legendary. The tale would also come under scrutiny many years later by historians, who question its authenticity. But, as Smith tells it, a few days after his capture, he was taken to the official residence of the Powhatan at Werowocomoco, which was 12 miles from Jamestown. There, the great chief, Wahunsunacawh, welcomed him and offered him a feast. However, afterwards, several warriors grabbed him, forced him to stretch out on two large, flat stones and stood over him with clubs, as though ready to beat him to death if ordered. Suddenly, in rushed the chief’s daughter, little Pocahontas, and took Smith’s head in her arms to save him from death. Pocahontas then pulled him to his feet and the chief declared that they were now friends. He then adopted Smith as his son, or a subordinate chief. Actually, this mock “execution and salvation” ceremony was traditional with the Indians, and if Smith’s story is true, Pocahontas’ actions were probably one part of a ritual. Relations with the Indians continued to be generally friendly for the next year, and Pocahontas was a frequent visitor to Jamestown. She delivered messages from her father, accompanied other tribe members food and furs to trade, and spent time visiting with John Smith on her visits. Unfortunately, relations with the Powhatan and the Jamestown settlers deteriorated. Though necessary trading continued, hostilities became more open. Pocahontas’ visits to the fort became much less frequent. In October 1609, a gunpowder explosion badly injured John Smith, forcing him to return to England. When Pocahontas next came to visit the fort, she was told that her friend Smith was dead. In 1610 Pocahontas living with the Patowameke Indians and was either engaged or briefly married to an Indian named Kocoum and lived in Potomac country. But, her relationship with the Englishmen was not over. When a resourceful member of the Jamestown settlement, Captain Samuel Argall, learned where she was, he devised a plan to kidnap her and hold her for ransom. With the help of Japazaws, a lesser chief of the Patowomeck Indians, Argall lured Pocahontas onto his ship. When told she would not be allowed to leave, she “began to be exceeding pensive and discontented,” but, she eventually became calmer and even accustomed to her captivity. Argall sent word to Powhatan that he would return his beloved daughter only in exchange for the English prisoners Powhatan held, some arms and tolls that the Indians had stolen, and some corn. After a while, Powhatan sent part of the ransom and asked that they treat his daughter well. Argall returned to Jamestown in April, 1613 with Pocahontas. Pocahontas was eventually moved to a new settlement, Henrico, which was under the leadership of Sir Thomas Dale. Here, she began her education in the Christian faith and met a successful tobacco planter named John Rolfe in July, 1613. Pocahontas was allowed relative freedom within the settlement, and she began to enjoy her role in the relations between the colony and her people. After almost a year of captivity, Dale brought 150 armed men and Pocahontas into Powhatan’s territory to obtain her entire ransom. Attacked by the Indians, the Englishmen burned many houses, destroyed villages, and killed several Indian men. They finally sent Pocahontas ashore, where she reunited with two of her brothers, whom she told that she was treated well and that she was in love with and wanted to marry the Englishman John Rolfe. The Powhatan Chief gave his consent to this, and the Englishmen departed, delighted at the prospect of the “peace-making” marriage, although they didn’t receive the full ransom. John Rolfe was a very religious man who agonized for many weeks over the decision to marry an Indian, but, finally made the decision once she had been fully converted to Christianity. Pocahontas was baptized, christened by the name Rebecca, and later married Rolfe on April 5, 1614. A general peace and a spirit of goodwill between the English and the Indians resulted from the marriage. Sir Thomas Dale made an important voyage back to London in the Spring of 1616. His purpose was to seek further financial support for the Virginia Company. To ensure spectacular publicity, he brought with him about a dozen Algonquian Indians, including Pocahontas, her husband and their young son, Thomas. Pocahontas probably saw white men for the first time in May, 1607 when the Englishmen landed at Jamestown. One of the first she was to meet was Captain John Smith, who was the leader of the Virginia Colony at Jamestown. Later that year, in December, Smith was leading an exploration along the rivers of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay when the Powhatan Indians took him captive. Smith would live to tell the romanticized story, which would become legendary. The tale would also come under scrutiny many years later by historians, who question its authenticity. But, as Smith tells it, a few days after his capture, he was taken to the official residence of the Powhatan at Werowocomoco, which was 12 miles from Jamestown. There, the great chief, Wahunsunacawh, welcomed him and offered him a feast. However, afterwards, several warriors grabbed him, forced him to stretch out on two large, flat stones and stood over him with clubs, as though ready to beat him to death if ordered. Suddenly, in rushed the chief’s daughter, little Pocahontas, and took Smith’s head in her arms to save him from death. Pocahontas then pulled him to his feet and the chief declared that they were now friends. He then adopted Smith as his son, or a subordinate chief. Actually, this mock “execution and salvation” ceremony was traditional with the Indians, and if Smith’s story is true, Pocahontas’ actions were probably one part of a ritual. Relations with the Indians continued to be generally friendly for the next year, and Pocahontas was a frequent visitor to Jamestown. She delivered messages from her father, accompanied other tribe members food and furs to trade, and spent time visiting with John Smith on her visits. Unfortunately, relations with the Powhatan and the Jamestown settlers deteriorated. Though necessary trading continued, hostilities became more open. Pocahontas’ visits to the fort became much less frequent. In October 1609, a gunpowder explosion badly injured John Smith, forcing him to return to England. When Pocahontas next came to visit the fort, she was told that her friend Smith was dead. In 1610 Pocahontas living with the Patowameke Indians and was either engaged or briefly married to an Indian named Kocoum and lived in Potomac country. But, her relationship with the Englishmen was not over. When a resourceful member of the Jamestown settlement, Captain Samuel Argall, learned where she was, he devised a plan to kidnap her and hold her for ransom. With the help of Japazaws, a lesser chief of the Patowomeck Indians, Argall lured Pocahontas onto his ship. When told she would not be allowed to leave, she “began to be exceeding pensive and discontented,” but, she eventually became calmer and even accustomed to her captivity. Argall sent word to Powhatan that he would return his beloved daughter only in exchange for the English prisoners Powhatan held, some arms and tolls that the Indians had stolen, and some corn. After a while, Powhatan sent part of the ransom and asked that they treat his daughter well. Argall returned to Jamestown in April, 1613 with Pocahontas. Pocahontas was eventually moved to a new settlement, Henrico, which was under the leadership of Sir Thomas Dale. Here, she began her education in the Christian faith and met a successful tobacco planter named John Rolfe in July, 1613. Pocahontas was allowed relative freedom within the settlement, and she began to enjoy her role in the relations between the colony and her people. After almost a year of captivity, Dale brought 150 armed men and Pocahontas into Powhatan’s territory to obtain her entire ransom. Attacked by the Indians, the Englishmen burned many houses, destroyed villages, and killed several Indian men. They finally sent Pocahontas ashore, where she reunited with two of her brothers, whom she told that she was treated well and that she was in love with and wanted to marry the Englishman John Rolfe. The Powhatan Chief gave his consent to this, and the Englishmen departed, delighted at the prospect of the “peace-making” marriage, although they didn’t receive the full ransom. John Rolfe was a very religious man who agonized for many weeks over the decision to marry an Indian, but, finally made the decision once she had been fully converted to Christianity. Pocahontas was baptized, christened by the name Rebecca, and later married Rolfe on April 5, 1614. A general peace and a spirit of goodwill between the English and the Indians resulted from the marriage. Sir Thomas Dale made an important voyage back to London in the Spring of 1616. His purpose was to seek further financial support for the Virginia Company. To ensure spectacular publicity, he brought with him about a dozen Algonquian Indians, including Pocahontas, her husband and their young son, Thomas.

English: Portrait of Pocahontas, wearing a tal...

English: Portrait of Pocahontas, wearing a tall hat, and seen at half-length. Around the oval lettering reads: “”MATOAKA ALS REBECCA FILIA POTENTISS: PRINC: POWHATANI IMP: VIRGINIÆ”. Below oval “Ætatis suæ 21. Ao / 1616.” Engraving by the Dutch and British printmaker and sculptor Simon van de Passe. 170 mm x 117 mm. Courtesy of the British Museum, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pocahontas_by_Simon_van_de_Passe_1616

The arrival of Pocahontas in London was well publicized. She was presented to King James I, the royal family, and the rest of the best of London society. Also in London at the time was Captain John Smith, the old friend she had not seen for eight years and whom she believed was dead. Smith relates that at their meeting, she was at first too overcome with emotion to speak. After composing herself, Pocahontas talked of old time After seven months, Rolfe decided to return his family to Virginia. In March, 1617 they set sail. It was soon apparent, however, that Pocahontas would not survive the voyage home. She was deathly ill from pneumonia or tuberculosis. She was taken ashore, and, as she lay dying, she comforted her husband, saying, “all must die. ‘Tis enough that the child liveth.” She died on March 21, 1617 and was buried in a churchyard in Gravesend, England at the age of 22. Pocahontas played a significant role in American history. As a compassionate little girl, she saw to it that the colonists received food from the Indians, so that Jamestown would not become another “Lost Colony.” She is said to have intervened to save the lives of individual colonists. In 1616 John Smith wrote that Pocahontas was “the instrument to preserve this colony from death, famine, and utter confusion.” Pocahontas not only served as a representative of the Virginia Indians, but also as a vital link between the Native Americans and the Englishmen.

***The Pictures inserted were chosen by HWG—the different contrast in images is an additional history, one that is still unwittingly propagates disingenuous history.

English: Artist depiction of Pocahontas saving...

English: Artist depiction of Pocahontas saving the life of Capt. John Smith. MEDIUM: 1 print : chromolithograph, color. B size. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)http://yanative.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/pocahontas/ (re-Blogged) http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ Related articles:

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/

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