New Book – Openness, Secrecy and Authorship

Just started reading “Openness, Secrecy and Authorship – technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance” by Pamela O. Long. It is really interesting and it challenges a few ideas that I feel are always taken for granted about how knowledge circulated in the past.  I guess it re-inforces something that we are always aware in The Piracy Project which is that  generalizations are not necessarily  helpful when discussing Intellectual Property.

She also has an interview with David Levine ( the most amazing source for interesting authors working on copyright ) at: 

http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/podcasts/podcast_rss.xml

She was launching a new book on obelisks that sounded really interesting.

 

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(texts from amazon.co.uk)

Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance

In today’s world of intellectual property disputes, industrial espionage, and book signings by famous authors, one easily loses sight of the historical nature of the attribution and ownership of texts. In Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance, Pamela Long combines intellectual history with the history of science and technology to explore the culture of authorship. Using classical Greek as well as medieval and Renaissance European examples, Long traces the definitions, limitations, and traditions of intellectual and scientific creation and attribution. She examines these attitudes as they pertain to the technical and the practical. Although Long’s study follows a chronological development, this is not merely a general work. Long is able to examine events and sources within their historical context and locale. By looking at Aristotelian ideas of Praxis, Techne, and Episteme. She explains the tension between craft and ideas, authors and producers. She discusses, with solid research and clear prose, the rise, wane, and resurgence of priority in the crediting and lionizing of authors. Long illuminates the creation and re-creation of ideas like “trade secrets,” “plagiarism,” “mechanical arts,” and “scribal culture.” Her historical study complicates prevailing assumptions while inviting a closer look at issues that define so much of our society and thought to this day. She argues that “a useful working definition of authorship permits a gradation of meaning between the poles of authority and originality,” and guides us through the term’s nuances with clarity rarely matched in a historical study.

 

Obelisk: A History (Publications of the Burndy Library)

Nearly every empire worthy of the name–from ancient Rome to the United States–has sought an Egyptian obelisk to place in the center of a ceremonial space. Obelisks–giant standing stones, invented in Ancient Egypt as sacred objects–serve no practical purpose. For much of their history their inscriptions, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, were completely inscrutable. Yet over the centuries dozens of obelisks have made the voyage from Egypt to Rome, Constantinople, and Florence; to Paris, London, and New York. New obelisks and even obelisk-shaped buildings rose as well–the Washington Monument being a noted example. Obelisks, everyone seems to sense, connote some very special sort of power. This beautifully illustrated book traces the fate and many meanings of obelisks across nearly forty centuries–what they meant to the Egyptians, and how other cultures have borrowed, interpreted, understood, and misunderstood them through the years. In each culture obelisks have taken on new meanings and associations. To the Egyptians, the obelisk was the symbol of a pharaoh’s right to rule and connection to the divine. In ancient Rome, obelisks were the embodiment of Rome’s coming of age as an empire. To nineteenth-century New Yorkers, the obelisk in Central Park stood for their country’s rejection of the trappings of empire just as it was itself beginning to acquire imperial power. And to a twentieth-century reader of Freud, the obelisk had anatomical and psychological connotations. The history of obelisks is a story of technical achievement, imperial conquest, Christian piety and triumphalism, egotism, scholarly brilliance, political hubris, bigoted nationalism, democratic self-assurance, Modernist austerity, and Hollywood kitsch–in short, the story of Western civilization.

 

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