Macroscope

[The Historian’s Macroscope](http://www.themacroscope.org), a self-described “experiment in writing in public, one page at a time, by S. Graham, I. Milligan, & S. Weingart” is well worth a read. For now, its focus is on topic modeling and network studies. Combine that with William Turkle’s and Adam Crymble’s [The Programming Historian](http://programminghistorian.org/) and you’ve got a reasonably good foundation for getting started.

Conference Announcement: “What Affordance Affords”

November 25-27, 2013 – Darmstadt, Germany

The interdisciplinary conference features contributions from the
perspectives of philosophy, sociology, psychology, science studies,
economics, architecture and design. It investigates the concept
‘affordance’, its history and transformations as it traveled through
different research fields and disciplines. The notion of affordance
originates and is frequently identified with ecological thinking, it
appears in considerations about interdependencies and interactions,
about relational configurations and ontologies. Digital objects, smart
materials, chemical devices, robots and the human body, geographical
information systems and neuronal activity, hydrological infrastructure
and landscape parks – all of these are presented and discussed as
providing or being affordances. A variety of epistemological positions
will be defended, different ontological claims advanced and relevant
background theories invoked. There will be advocates of the notion and
its heuristic value, and skeptics seeking to critique its current
popularity.

Conference Website: http://www.goto-objects.eu

Twinned Movies

Someone has done a fantastic job of [pairing the posters of movies](http://imgur.com/a/J5j6L) that came out at the same time, often in the same year, that would appear to be on much the same topic. The pairings are:

* 1986: _Top Gun_ and _Iron Eagle_
* 1989: _Abyss_ and _Leviathan_
* 1989: _Turner and Hooch_ and _K-9_
* 1993/1994: _Tombstone_ and _Wyatt Earp_
* 1993/1994: _Rookie of the Year_ and _Little Big League_
* 1995: _Babe_ and _Gordy_
* 1995/1996: _Powder_ and _Phenomenon_
* 1995/1996: _Showgirls_ and _Striptease_
* 1997: _Volcano_ and _Dante’s Peak_
* 1998: _Antz_ and _A Bug’s Life_
* 1998: _Armageddon_ and _Deep Impact_
* 1998/1999: _The Truman Show_ and _Ed TV_
* 1999/2001: _Centennial Man_ and _A.I._
* 2000: _Red Planet_ and _Mission to Mars_
* 2002: _Stealing Harvard_ and _Orange County_
* 2003/2004: _Finding Nemow_ and _Shark Tale_
* 2004: _Chasing Liberty_ and _First Daughter_
* 2005: _The Cave_ and _The Descent_
* 2005/2006: _Wild_ and _Madagascar_
* 2006: _Capote_ and _Infamous_
* 2006: _The Prestige_ and _The Illusionist_
* 2006: _Open Season_ and _Over the Hedge_
* 2006/2007: _Happy Feet_ and _Surf’s Up_
* 2008/2012: _Taken_ and _Stolen_
* 2009: _Observe and Report_ and _Mall Cop_
* 2010: _Megamind_ and _Despicable Me_
* 2011: _Friends with Benefits_ and _No Strings Attached_
* 2012: _Mirror Mirror_ and _Snow White and the Huntsman_
* 2013: _After Earth_ and _Oblivion_
* 2013: _Olympus Has Fallen_ and _White House Down_

Given such a history, the question then is how much of this is zeitgeist and how much is the fact that scripts probably circulate somewhat widely and people see something in a script on which they pass that then gets them thinking about a version of the story on their own. We don’t need to assume outright copying at all. Or, alternatively, if we assume copying, it’s still the case that there is something larger, be “the times being what they are” or the marketplace, has increased the viability of certain projects / topics over others.

And, yes, I can even see being this objective in my own recent experience of discovering a parallel project to my own, but I’ll have more to say on that a little later — I’m working on a post tentatively entitled *On Credit*.

774 CE

In June of this year, Japanese researchers published their findings that cedar trees in Japan indicated a surge in Carbon-14 production. This particular Carbon isotope is produced when energetic particles from space transform atmospheric nitrogen into carbon. A UCSD student found the following reference in the [The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle][]:

> A.D. 774. This year the Northumbrians banished their king, Alred, from York at Easter-tide; and chose Ethelred, the son of Mull, for their lord, who reigned four winters. This year also appeared in the heavens a red crucifix, after sunset; the Mercians and the men of Kent fought at Otford; and wonderful serpents were seen in the land of the South-Saxons.

The find won him a published [note][] in the pages of Nature. Scientists debated whether a solar flare could have been the cause, if only because the solar flare would necessarily be so large as to cause other, very obvious, and probably fatal problems. Perhaps a supernova? No, the consensus seems to be back to [solar flare][].

I would love to stumble across some historical event like this that has such convergences. (I would also like it if the humanities would adopt the DOI scheme as soon as possible.)

**DOIs** for this note:

Japanese Cedar Tree Research: [10.1038/nature11123](http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11123)
The Red Crucifix: [10.1038/nature.2012.10898](http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature.2012.10898)
Solar Flare Explanation: [10.1038/nature11695](http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11695)

[The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle]: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/medieval/ang08.asp
[note]: http://www.nature.com/news/ancient-text-gives-clue-to-mysterious-radiation-spike-1.10898
[solar flare]: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7426/full/nature11695.html

German Expulsions after the Second World War

There’s a terrific [excerpt][1] from R. M. Douglas’s new book _Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans After the Second World War_ on the Chronicle. Perhaps even better than the book is the following comment from one of the readers:

> Having grown up with this story, I am fully aware both of the horrors of that period, and also the lack of attention it has received in histories of, and discussions about, the end of World War II. But I have two critical clarifications to make: language does not equal ethnicity, and ethnicity is rarely homogeneous, particularly in a heterogeneous country such as the former Czechoslovakia. In some points of the article, Mr. Douglas refers to the deportees as “German-speaking” but then conflates that with being ethnically German or just German. German-speaking is also conflated with being sympathetic to the political cause of the state of Germany during the war, and, by association, the Holocaust. Neither characterization is true.

> Taking my own family as an example, while primarily German-speaking (family members spoke both German and Czech) genealogy traced back to the 15th century shows both Slavic and Germanic heritage, along with a variety of other ethnicities. The labelling of any group of individuals, as one singular ethnicity based on their language, hair color, or any other aspect is a slippery slope, as DNA testing is increasingly showing.

> Politics loves simplicity, so by characterizing a group of individuals based on their language, it is easy to set one group against a recognizable “other.” But historical analysis, in striving to clarify the the wrongs of policy and in an attempt to prevent it from happening again, should strive for clarity. Deportations and executions during the periods of mass expulsion were cloaked in “German-ness” but were really an excuse for the political forces in power to rid themselves of those they felt we undesirable in one way or another. Many citizens, with only a tenuous link to “German-ness” or really no link at all, were either executed or expelled in those post-war years when combat had ceased and peace supposedly reigned.

[1]: http://chronicle.com/article/The-European-Atrocity-You/132123/