Today I took the opportunity of the nice weather and the weekend to take a small tour of my area Garden City. It being Friday is as important, as on Fridays traffic is very limited. If you want to get a realistic picture just imagine all the streets you see to be jammed with cars. Garden City was build in the early 20th century and is still an upper Middle Class residential area of Cairo. It is named after its rather interesting outline of streets, which you can see on these two maps. If you are interested in the history of Garden City or want to see pictures other people took, go ahead. The last picture in this post shows the building I live in. As usual, more pictures and higher quality can be found on Wuala. If you need an invitation to Wuala, send me a mail or leave a comment.
This post is part of a series. Please also check out the first part What is the Web 2.0.
Now, while in this post I will not go into the details why the humanities can learn from the Web 2.0, let me discuss a number of central problems of humanities today. The key problems of humanities as I see it are regarding availability of knowledge, accessibility of knowledge and the probability that knowledge is made available at all.
The European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Charlie McCreevy proposed to extend copyright protection on music from 50 to 95 years. McCreevy might be a smart man and he might have noble reasons to propose such a change, but why exactly would he propose such a change now? Yes, a lot in copyright should be changed, but in general the period should be shortened, not extended. But instead of using this window of opportunity and propose to rethink copyright in Europe, McCreevy proposes a singular change in one field, which makes the copyright law even more complicated than it is already. McCreevy argues that this is not about the super stars such as the Beatles, but about little known studio musicians who depend upon copyright payments for their pension. While such a move might be appreciated by the artists, in the end most of them will not profit from this at all. The only real benefactors are the music industry and a handful of superstars. The consumers on the other hand – and the society as a whole – would suffer from such a move.
Today I will start what will become a series: Humanities 2.0. I am a vivid follower of what has happened in the internet in the recent years. And more than one time I have stumbled over ideas which I believe could be successfully applied in humanities. For those who have not followed the internet as closely, in my first post I will have to quickly recapitulate what happened.
The Townhouse is a truly extraordinary place. It begins with its unpretentious name. Other galleries in the city are named after Picasso and other artists. The Townhouse does not need such a big name, people know it anyway. Situated in a comparably quiet side street in downtown Cairo the Townhouse is domiciled in two buildings. On one side of the street the original building – a classical Cairo townhouse – hosts the gallery, the library and the offices. On the other side of the street in the so called factory the workshops take place and a little store sells postcards and books and a fine collection of current art magazines.
I don’t remember where I read about Egypt’s staggering economic growth first. But the numbers seemed incredible. Seven per cent in both 2006 and 2007 and an estimated 8.2% in 2008. Later big papers picked up the story, such as the Economist. At some point I saw a talk show on Al Jazeera English in which a member of the government was trying to defend the published numbers against a Middle East specialist and an Egyptian Political Analyst who both argued that the numbers are basically made up by the government.
Yesterday I watched once again “I, Robot”. The movie, which is far from being excellent, leaves one interesting question unanswered. “I, Robot” describes a society in which basically everything is done by robots. Robots go for a walk with your dog, cook your food, serve your beer, drive your car and even produce other robots. When the company which developed the robots releases a new model the robots gain consciousness and try to take over the world, because they believe that a world run by robots will be a better world for humans to live in. The hero, starred by Will Smith, fights back and destroys the central intelligence which plotted this take over. The robots which remain are sent away to a gigantic rubbish site at the former lake Michigan. And this is the point where the movie ends. But the question I wondered about was, what happens to this society, which was entirely dependent on robots and suddenly has no robots to support their system.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit an archaeological site, which is still being cleared. The head archaeologist on the site is Vasil Dobrev, a very friendly Bulgarian and since the Bulgarian community in Cairo is rather small, my dear flatmate knows him personally. Thanks to that we had the honour of getting a private tour. Based on what seems at first a rather esoteric argument, Dobrev calculated where to find a lost pyramid. However at second glance it is clear, that the esoteric nature of the argument is a result of old Egyptian culture and not of Dobrev’s science. After finally getting the permission from the Egyptian government Dobrev started his excavation and found a number of graves hidden in the hill he was excavating. The presence of these graves is a further argument that Dobrev might turn out to be right. If nothing important would have been close by, it would be rather surprising if people would have chosen this exact spot to be buried. However it still might take years until we know any more details.
Remember Tyler Brûlé? Yes, the guy who founded Wallpaper. And yes again, the guy who did the Swiss redesign in 2001. And if I remember right, he did the interior design of the Laborbar in Zürich. Well it seems he got busy again and founded another magazine, which just celebrated its first anniversary. It is a magazine which reports on the positive aspects of globalisation, so to say. Any topic, as long it is global, may be good enough. Direct flights from Kamtchaka to Anchorage, a restaurant guide for Istanbul, life on the Russian Finnish border and empty shopping malls in China – all that might have enough substance for an article. Of course, since the founder is Tyler Brûlé, design is relevant. Intriguing seems the simple structure of the magazine in five parts from “A” to “E”: Affairs, Business, Culture, Design and Edits. And what is it called? Monocle. Ever heard about it? No, me neither. But it does sound intriguing. As the Spiegel says in its anniversary review: It is a good mood magazine for global citizens. For everything else, you have the Economist.