thesefewpresidents said: 4, 16, 23
4. Favourite historical era
As already mentioned, European history “between the wars”. I did a very interesting compulsory module in my final year of undergraduate on the interwar period, with a lot of focus on the cultural side of it, and I chose an MA in the ‘history of modernity’ done by one of the same lecturers. More specifically though, the history of Communism in Europe in that period, beginning with the rise of the threat of fascism and continuing on through the Second World War; it’s a little grandiose, but once 2008 came around (I started my MA in 2009) the parallels became increasingly apparent; the complacent liberal world shattered, not just by the First World War, but by economic and political crisis. And then there are these massive ideologies which suck people in, until some of them, earlier than others (Victor Serge, Arthur Koestler, George Orwell) notice the contradictions in their preferred idea, but are trapped by the need to fight against the worst enemy; throughout all this, there’s a nostalgia for the pre-WWI world and the idea of constant progress and/or comfortable stasis it represented (I have Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday to read about that idea). In general, it’s close enough to be accessible but distant enough to really feel like ‘history’; the post-war world, particularly up until ‘68, is heavily shaped by it (and not just the war itself), so the connections to current politics are not too difficult to find.
16. Do you own some historical item? (coin, clothing, weapons, books, ect) If yes which one is your favourite?
I have an inherited coin collection with a few relatively old and odd coins - which I should actually dig out again to identify with the help of the internet now - but my favourite item is, connected with the above, an original 1937 cloth-backed orange copy of Koestler’s Spanish Testament as published by the Gollancz Left Book Club. Actually the book’s not great, I’ll probably never read the first half again and the second half is with some changes in my more modern copy of Dialogue with Death; but I guess what I like is having the actual object connected with the period, more so than the text (although for research purposes that helped).
23 (favourite historical song) - already answered
Reading this lengthy Evgeny Morozov piece via @hautepop, about ‘algorithmic regulation’, was reminded of an article I saw recently in the Irish Times business section (I was reading the physical paper at home, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have clicked on it) describing a new system to counter online credit card fraud. On the one hand it does sound ingenious, on the other it fits very much with the self as a probability construct:
"We actually use about 80 different data sources instead of these rules. We actually look at the human in the transaction. And we make a decision in about a quarter of a second,” he says.
The retailer must first allow Trustev access to its systems and for the first few weeks Trustev just watches transactions on the site in order to establish a profile for a “normal” customer.
“So what we do is we sit in there, we look at you, we look at your device, we look at your IP address. We look at your behaviour. We look at your location. We look at your email address. And we do a lot of mix and matching with that and a lot of algorithmic work, and we make a decision,” he says before adding : “We look into the core of you as a technical digital entity.”
I am not quite sure what that means but, in these post-Snowden days, it sounds a little Orwellian.
“We create a digital footprint of you at that time,” he explains. The amplification does not reassure to be honest. Nor does what comes next.
“We’ve gone through the payment. How you browse the site. How you interact with links. The machine you’re on. The IP address you’re on. Does the IP you’re on match the shipping address? If you enter your mobile, we pull back mobile location. Does the IP address match the mobile location, match the address you put in?
“And now you’re starting to run through multiple different, completely independent, pieces of data confirming identity and location,” he adds.
It’s a lot of information and Trustev retains it and uses it across its “platform”. However, it is all erased after 90 days as required by law.
“After 90 days it is useless information anyway,” he explains, which in its own way is quite unsettling.