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kottke.org posts about europe

The European Parenthesis

posted by Tim Carmody   Mar 01, 2019

Byzantium Map

There’s an idea in media history and media theory called “The Gutenberg Parenthesis.” The basic idea of it is simple: the dominance of fixed, printed text is a historical blip in a broader history of much more mutable, orally-driven media forms. You find versions of this idea in Walter Ong and Marshall McLuhan, but it’s being re-thought for digital technology by folks like L.O. Sauerberg and Thomas Pettit. And one of the implications is that if you want to understand media today, you have to understand media before Gutenberg and print. The future is medieval, is one formulation of this.

A similar idea can be applied to world history, and it has been by J.C. Sharman in his book Empires of the Weak: The Real Story of European Expansion and the Creation of the New World Order. Here the focus isn’t print technology, which Europe borrowed and adapted from Asia 500 years ago, but European domination of the rest of the world, which, Sharman contends, really only got going a little more than 200 years ago and is questionable today.

This is from a review of Sharman’s book by Alan Mikhail, titled “When Asia Ruled the World”:

In Sharman’s account, the dominance of the West (note Europe’s easy baton-pass to the United States), roughly from the Enlightenment to World War II, represents a historical blip in the last millennium. And, perhaps more important, today we seem to be on the cusp of a return to a more regular state of affairs, where the large states of Asia will again be the globe’s hegemons.

To make this provocative argument, Sharman finds the early modern period, conventionally dated from 1500 to 1800, the most fruitful for thinking about where we are headed. In those centuries, the enormous empires of the East — the Qing, the Ottomans and the Mughals — were the most formidable states on earth. Territory equaled power, and those states held the most land…

Asia’s enormous land-based empires didn’t much care about their coastlines and tolerated — more than they succumbed to — the Europeans nibbling on their shores in what were desperate, highly risky and ultimately temporary ventures. Until approximately 1750, Europeans — even in Europe, thanks to the Ottomans — held no military advantage over other powers.

But how then to explain the undeniable fact that Europeans dominated the globe from the turn of the 19th century to World War I? Sharman reasons that it was a combination of internal fractures within the Qing and Ottoman Empires, as well as the inclination of Europeans to think that empire building was the route to national sovereignty: in other words, almost a kind of vanity project.

The future, contends Sharman, is medieval; one in which Asia dominates the planet, and Europe and the West are at the periphery of global power and influence. There’s a lot that’s going to change over the next century; global climate change is certainly going to shift the balance of power and the fight for survival worldwide. But the idea that we’re coming out of a historical aberration rather than a necessary outcome is well worth thinking about.

What do free, open, and peaceful borders look like?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2016

Peace Borders

Peace Borders

Peace Borders

Valerio Vincenzo’s project, Borderline, the Frontiers of Peace, consists of photos of the erased borders between countries in Europe’s Schengen Area.

The Schengen Area is the area comprising 26 European countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at their common borders, also referred to as internal borders. It mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy.

While visiting friends in France a few years ago, we passed the checkpoint between France and Switzerland several times a day and didn’t even bother taking our passports with us. It felt weird but good. (via @neilhalloran)

European map according to Americans

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2010

Europe According To USA

Larger version here. Other stereotype maps are available, including Europe According to Bulgaria and Europe According to Gay Men.

Fake pilot flies passengers for thirteen years

posted by Aaron Cohen   May 18, 2010

Thomas Salme turned himself from maintenance engineer into 737 pilot with several hours of flight simulation and some basic license forgery skills. He flew for 13 years without problem until he was busted in the cockpit at Schipol airport with 101 passengers aboard.

The documents look different everywhere in Europe. An Italian airline doesn’t know what a Swedish license looks like. And you can forge all the IDs you need.

(via @mdisalvo)

Redrawn European map

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2010

The Economist redraws the map of Europe with some countries in new places.

In Britain’s place should come Poland, which has suffered quite enough in its location between Russia and Germany and deserves a chance to enjoy the bracing winds of the North Atlantic and the security of sea water between it and any potential invaders.

Europe’s continental divide

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 12, 2008

Though not as well known as the US version, Europe has a continental divide located between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It doesn’t run along the Alps as much as I thought it would.

The EU is 50 years old this weekend.

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2007

The EU is 50 years old this weekend.

Surowiecki on the differences between Europeans and

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 30, 2005

Surowiecki on the differences between Europeans and Americans when it comes to work. “But since more people work in America, and since they work so many more hours, Americans create more wealth. In effect, Americans trade their productivity for more money, while Europeans trade it for more leisure.”

Dateline: Saigon

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2005

We’ve arrived safely in Vietnam. Saigon is by far the most European stop on our trip, which makes sense because Thailand was never colonized by a European power[1] and Hong Kong was British and therefore not European[2]. There are cafes, French restaurants, European architecture, public spaces like squares and parks, etc. It feels like Europe here.

And there are a lot of dongs here. The Vietnamese currency is the dong[3]. Our hotel is just off of Dong Khoi. I’ve seen several restaurants and shops with “Dong” in the name. Beavis and Butthead would love it here; I myself have been making culturally insensitive jokes pertaining to the currency and my pants pocket all afternoon.

[1] The only SE Asian country never to have been so colonized.

[2] Hello, angry Brits! Of course you’re European, but you know what I mean. For starters, you’ve got your own breakfast, as opposed to the continental.

[3] The 50,000 & 100,000 dong notes are plastic and see-through in a couple spots. US currency is so not cool.

Great influence map of European art and

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2005

Great influence map of European art and sculpture (looks largely French), detailing relationships between masters and students as well as collaborations. Reminds me of a Feynman diagram.

“Ireland today is the richest country in

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2005

“Ireland today is the richest country in the European Union after Luxembourg”. Ireland “today has a per capita G.D.P. higher than that of Germany, France and Britain”.

Delettering the public space

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2005

Delettering the public space. “In a remarkable display of cooperation for the sake of art, every store on a popular shopping street in Vienna allowed their signage to be masked in yellow fluorescent foil.”

Coffee in Paris sucks?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2005

Coffee in Paris sucks?. I don’t drink coffee myself (vile, vile stuff), but I’ve never heard anything bad about the coffee in Paris, aside from the complaint of some Americans that you can rarely get it to go.