books:noted   2026

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Life by Algorithms: How Roboprocesses Are Remaking Our World, Besteman, Gusterson
"Computerized processes are everywhere in our society. They are the automated phone messaging systems that businesses use to screen calls; the link between student standardized test scores and public schools’ access to resources; the algorithms that regulate patient diagnoses and reimbursements to doctors. The storage, sorting, and analysis of massive amounts of information have enabled the automation of decision-making at an unprecedented level. Meanwhile, computers have offered a model of cognition that increasingly shapes our approach to the world. The proliferation of “roboprocesses” is the result, as editors Catherine Besteman and Hugh Gusterson observe in this rich and wide-ranging volume, which features contributions from a distinguished cast of scholars in anthropology, communications, international studies, and political science.
"Although automatic processes are designed to be engines of rational systems, the stories in Life by Algorithms reveal how they can in fact produce absurd, inflexible, or even dangerous outcomes. Joining the call for “algorithmic transparency,” the contributors bring exceptional sensitivity to everyday sociality into their critique to better understand how the perils of modern technology affect finance, medicine, education, housing, the workplace, food production, public space, and emotions—not as separate problems but as linked manifestations of a deeper defect in the fundamental ordering of our society."
to:NB  books:noted  bureaucracy  data_mining  to_teach:data-mining 
5 days ago by cshalizi
Revisiting Discovery and Justification | SpringerLink
"The distinction between the contexts of discovery and justification has had a turbulent career in philosophy of science. At times celebrated as the hallmark of philosophical approaches to science, at times condemned as ambiguous, distorting, and misleading, the distinction dominated philosophical debates from the early decades of the twentieth century to the 1980s. Until today, it informs our conception of the content, domain, and goals of philosophy of science. It is due to this fact that new trends in philosophy of experimentation and history and sociology of science have been marginalized by traditional scholarship in philosophy. To acknowledge properly this important recent work we need to re-open the debate about the nature, development, and significance of the context distinction, about its merits and flaws. The contributions to this volume provide close readings and detailed analyses of the original textual sources for the context distinction. They revise those accounts of ‘forerunners’ of the distinction that have been written through the lens of Logical Empiricism. They map, clarify, and analyse the derivations and mutations of the context distinctions as we encounter them in current history and philosophy of science. The re-evaluation of the distinction helps us deal with the philosophical challenges that the New Experimentalism and historically, socio-politically and economically oriented science studies have placed before us. This volume thus clears the ground for the productive and fruitful integration of these new developments into philosophy of science."
to:NB  books:noted  philosophy_of_science  history_of_science  history_of_ideas  sociology_of_science 
5 days ago by cshalizi
Yılmaz, H.: Caliphate Redefined: The Mystical Turn in Ottoman Political Thought (Hardcover, Paperback and Ebook) | Princeton University Press
"The medieval theory of the caliphate, epitomized by the Abbasids (750–1258), was the construct of jurists who conceived it as a contractual leadership of the Muslim community in succession to the Prophet Muhammed’s political authority. In this book, Hüseyin Yılmaz traces how a new conception of the caliphate emerged under the Ottomans, who redefined the caliph as at once a ruler, a spiritual guide, and a lawmaker corresponding to the prophet’s three natures.
"Challenging conventional narratives that portray the Ottoman caliphate as a fading relic of medieval Islamic law, Yılmaz offers a novel interpretation of authority, sovereignty, and imperial ideology by examining how Ottoman political discourse led to the mystification of Muslim political ideals and redefined the caliphate. He illuminates how Ottoman Sufis reimagined the caliphate as a manifestation and extension of cosmic divine governance. The Ottoman Empire arose in Western Anatolia and the Balkans, where charismatic Sufi leaders were perceived to be God’s deputies on earth. Yılmaz traces how Ottoman rulers, in alliance with an increasingly powerful Sufi establishment, continuously refashioned and legitimated their rule through mystical imageries of authority, and how the caliphate itself reemerged as a moral paradigm that shaped early modern Muslim empires.
"A masterful work of scholarship, Caliphate Redefined is the first comprehensive study of premodern Ottoman political thought to offer an extensive analysis of a wealth of previously unstudied texts in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish."
to:NB  books:noted  islamic_civilization  ottoman_empire  sufism  political_philosophy  history_of_ideas 
9 days ago by cshalizi
Introduction to Hidden Semi-Markov Models by John van der Hoek
"Markov chains and hidden Markov chains have applications in many areas of engineering and genomics. This book provides a basic introduction to the subject by first developing the theory of Markov processes in an elementary discrete time, finite state framework suitable for senior undergraduates and graduates. The authors then introduce semi-Markov chains and hidden semi-Markov chains, before developing related estimation and filtering results. Genomics applications are modelled by discrete observations of these hidden semi-Markov chains. This book contains new results and previously unpublished material not available elsewhere. The approach is rigorous and focused on applications."
to:NB  books:noted  markov_models  state-space_models  statistics  time_series  genomics 
9 days ago by cshalizi
Matheron's Theory of Regionalised Variables - Georges Matheron - Oxford University Press
"n the summer of 1970, Georges Matheron, the father of geostatistics, presented a series of lectures at the Centre de Morphologie Mathmatique in France. These lectures would go on to become Matheron's Theory of Regionalized Variables, a seminal work that would inspire hundreds of papers and become the bedrock of numerous theses and books on the topic; however, despite their importance, the notes were never formally published.
"In this volume, Matheron's influential work is presented as a published book for the first time. Originally translated into English by Charles Huijbregts, and carefully curated here, this book stays faithful to Matheron's original notes. The text has been ordered with a common structure, and equations and figures have been redrawn and numbered sequentially for ease of reference.
"While not containing any mathematical technicalities or case studies, the reader is invited to wonder about the physical meaning of the notions Matheron deals with. When Matheron wrote them, he considered the theory of linear geostatistics complete and the book his final one on the subject; however, this end for Matheron has been the starting point for most geostatisticians."
to:NB  books:noted  spatial_statistics  history_of_statistics  statistics  to_teach:data_over_space_and_time 
10 days ago by cshalizi
Only Imagine - Hardcover - Kathleen Stock - Oxford University Press
"The theory of fictional content Kathleen Stock argues for is known as 'extreme intentionalism'; the idea that the fictional content of a particular work is equivalent to exactly what the author of the work intended the reader to imagine. Historically, this sort of view has been highly unpopular. Literary theorists and philosophers alike have poured scorn upon it. The first half of this book attempts to argue that it should in fact be taken very seriously as an adequate account of fictional truth: better, in fact, than many of its more popular rivals. The second half explores various explanatory benefits of extreme intentionalism for other issues in the philosophy of fiction and imagination. Namely, can fiction give us reliable knowledge? Why do we 'resist' imagining certain fictions? What, in fact, is a fiction? And, how should the imagination be characterised?"

--- So what's the fictional content of the Odyssey then?
to:NB  books:noted  narrative  philosophy  literary_criticism 
11 days ago by cshalizi
Assembling the Dinosaur — Lukas Rieppel | Harvard University Press
"A lively account of how dinosaurs became a symbol of American power and prosperity and gripped the popular imagination during the Gilded Age, when their fossil remains were collected and displayed in museums financed by North America’s wealthiest business tycoons.
"Although dinosaur fossils were first found in England, a series of dramatic discoveries during the late 1800s turned North America into a world center for vertebrate paleontology. At the same time, the United States emerged as the world’s largest industrial economy, and creatures like Tyrannosaurus, Brontosaurus, and Triceratops became emblems of American capitalism. Large, fierce, and spectacular, American dinosaurs dominated the popular imagination, making front-page headlines and appearing in feature films.
"Assembling the Dinosaur follows dinosaur fossils from the field to the museum and into the commercial culture of North America’s Gilded Age. Business tycoons like Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan made common cause with vertebrate paleontologists to capitalize on the widespread appeal of dinosaurs, using them to project American exceptionalism back into prehistory. Learning from the show-stopping techniques of P. T. Barnum, museums exhibited dinosaurs to attract, entertain, and educate the public. By assembling the skeletons of dinosaurs into eye-catching displays, wealthy industrialists sought to cement their own reputations as generous benefactors of science, showing that modern capitalism could produce public goods in addition to profits. Behind the scenes, museums adopted corporate management practices to control the movement of dinosaur bones, restricting their circulation to influence their meaning and value in popular culture."
to:NB  books:noted  american_history  carnegie.andrew  dinosaurs 
18 days ago by cshalizi
Analytics, Policy, and Governance | Yale University Press
"The first available textbook on the rapidly growing and increasingly important field of government analytics
"This first textbook on the increasingly important field of government analytics provides invaluable knowledge and training for students of government in the synthesis, interpretation, and communication of “big data,” which is now an integral part of governance and policy making. Integrating all the major components of this rapidly growing field, this invaluable text explores the intricate relationship of data analytics to governance while providing innovative strategies for the retrieval and management of information."
to:NB  data_mining  statistics  causal_inference  us_politics  social_science_methodology  books:noted 
24 days ago by cshalizi
The Untold Story of the Talking Book — Matthew Rubery | Harvard University Press
"Histories of the book often move straight from the codex to the digital screen. Left out of that familiar account are nearly 150 years of audio recordings. Recounting the fascinating history of audio-recorded literature, Matthew Rubery traces the path of innovation from Edison’s recitation of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for his tinfoil phonograph in 1877, to the first novel-length talking books made for blinded World War I veterans, to today’s billion-dollar audiobook industry.
"The Untold Story of the Talking Book focuses on the social impact of audiobooks, not just the technological history, in telling a story of surprising and impassioned conflicts: from controversies over which books the Library of Congress selected to become talking books—yes to Kipling, no to Flaubert—to debates about what defines a reader. Delving into the vexed relationship between spoken and printed texts, Rubery argues that storytelling can be just as engaging with the ears as with the eyes, and that audiobooks deserve to be taken seriously. They are not mere derivatives of printed books but their own form of entertainment.
"We have come a long way from the era of sound recorded on wax cylinders, when people imagined one day hearing entire novels on mini-phonographs tucked inside their hats. Rubery tells the untold story of this incredible evolution and, in doing so, breaks from convention by treating audiobooks as a distinctively modern art form that has profoundly influenced the way we read."

--- The bit about "their own format" strikes me as wishful thinking. (That is, they _could_ be, but overwhelmingly they _are_ just derivative, and that's fine.)
to:NB  books:noted  books_about_books  literary_history 
24 days ago by cshalizi
Plugged In | Yale University Press
"Now, as never before, young people are surrounded by media—thanks to the sophistication and portability of the technology that puts it literally in the palms of their hands. Drawing on data and empirical research that cross many fields and continents, authors Valkenburg and Piotrowski examine the role of media in the lives of children from birth through adolescence, addressing the complex issues of how media affect the young and what adults can do to encourage responsible use in an age of selfies, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
"This important study looks at both the sunny and the dark side of media use by today’s youth, including why and how their preferences change throughout childhood, whether digital gaming is harmful or helpful, the effects of placing tablets and smartphones in the hands of toddlers, the susceptibility of young people to online advertising, the legitimacy of parental concerns about media multitasking, and more."
to:NB  books:noted  networked_life  social_media  re:actually-dr-internet-is-the-name-of-the-monsters-creator 
25 days ago by cshalizi
No Miracles: The Failure of Soviet Decision-Making in the Afghan War | Michael R. Fenzel
"The Soviet experience in Afghanistan provides a compelling perspective on the far-reaching hazards of military intervention. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev decided that a withdrawal from Afghanistan should occur as soon as possible. The Soviet Union's senior leadership had become aware that their strategy was unraveling, their operational and tactical methods were not working, and the sacrifices they were demanding from the Soviet people and military were unlikely to produce the forecasted results. Despite this state of affairs, operations in Afghanistan persisted and four more years passed before the Soviets finally withdrew their military forces.
"In No Miracles, Michael Fenzel explains why and how that happened, as viewed from the center of the Soviet state. From that perspective, three sources of failure stand out: poor civil-military relations, repeated and rapid turnover of Soviet leadership, and the perception that Soviet global prestige and influence were inexorably tied to the success of the Afghan mission. Fenzel enumerates the series of misperceptions and misjudgments that led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, tracing the hazards of their military intervention and occupation. Ultimately, he offers a cautionary tale to nation states and policymakers considering military intervention and the use of force."
to:NB  books:noted  20th_century_history  ussr  afghanistan  war  soviet-afghan_war  decision-making 
25 days ago by cshalizi
(Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love | Yale University Press
"Profound transformations in our digital society have brought many enterprising women to social media platforms—from blogs to YouTube to Instagram—in hopes of channeling their talents into fulfilling careers. In this eye-opening book, Brooke Erin Duffy draws much-needed attention to the gap between the handful who find lucrative careers and the rest, whose “passion projects” amount to free work for corporate brands.
"Drawing on interviews and fieldwork, Duffy offers fascinating insights into the work and lives of fashion bloggers, beauty vloggers, and designers. She connects the activities of these women to larger shifts in unpaid and gendered labor, offering a lens through which to understand, anticipate, and critique broader transformations in the creative economy. At a moment when social media offer the rousing assurance that anyone can “make it”—and stand out among freelancers, temps, and gig workers—Duffy asks us all to consider the stakes of not getting paid to do what you love."
to:NB  books:noted  ethnography  networked_life  class_struggles_in_america  economics  social_life_of_the_mind  re:actually-dr-internet-is-the-name-of-the-monsters-creator 
25 days ago by cshalizi
Flood, F.: Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval "Hindu-Muslim" Encounter (Paperback) | Princeton University Press
"Objects of Translation offers a nuanced approach to the entanglements of medieval elites in the regions that today comprise Afghanistan, Pakistan, and north India. The book--which ranges in time from the early eighth to the early thirteenth centuries--challenges existing narratives that cast the period as one of enduring hostility between monolithic "Hindu" and "Muslim" cultures. These narratives of conflict have generally depended upon premodern texts for their understanding of the past. By contrast, this book considers the role of material culture and highlights how objects such as coins, dress, monuments, paintings, and sculptures mediated diverse modes of encounter during a critical but neglected period in South Asian history.
"The book explores modes of circulation--among them looting, gifting, and trade--through which artisans and artifacts traveled, remapping cultural boundaries usually imagined as stable and static. It analyzes the relationship between mobility and practices of cultural translation, and the role of both in the emergence of complex transcultural identities. Among the subjects discussed are the rendering of Arabic sacred texts in Sanskrit on Indian coins, the adoption of Turko-Persian dress by Buddhist rulers, the work of Indian stone masons in Afghanistan, and the incorporation of carvings from Hindu and Jain temples in early Indian mosques. Objects of Translation draws upon contemporary theories of cosmopolitanism and globalization to argue for radically new approaches to the cultural geography of premodern South Asia and the Islamic world."
to:NB  books:noted  medieval_eurasian_history  islamic_civilization  hinduism  india  cultural_exchange 
25 days ago by cshalizi
Revolution: Structure and Meaning in World History, Arjomand
"A revolution is a discontinuity: one political order replaces another, typically through whatever violent means are available. Modern theories of revolutions tend neatly to bracket the French Revolution of 1789 with the fall of the Soviet Union two hundred years later, but contemporary global uprisings—with their truly multivalent causes and consequences—can overwhelm our ability to make sense of them.
"In this authoritative new book, Saïd Amir Arjomand reaches back to antiquity to propose a unified theory of revolution. Revolution illuminates the stories of premodern rebellions from the ancient world, as well as medieval European revolts and more recent events, up to the Arab Spring of 2011. Arjomand categorizes revolutions in two groups: ones that expand the existing body politic and power structure, and ones that aim to erode—but paradoxically augment—their authority. The revolutions of the past, he tells us, can shed light on the causes of those of the present and future: as long as centralized states remain powerful, there will be room for greater, and perhaps forceful, integration of the politically disenfranchised."
to:NB  revolution  comparative_history  books:noted 
25 days ago by cshalizi
Democracy and Dysfunction, Levinson, Balkin
"It is no longer controversial that the American political system has become deeply dysfunctional. Today, only slightly more than a quarter of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction, while sixty-three percent believe we are on a downward slope. The top twenty words used to describe the past year include “chaotic,” “turbulent,” and “disastrous.” Donald Trump’s improbable rise to power and his 2016 Electoral College victory placed America’s political dysfunction in an especially troubling light, but given the extreme polarization of contemporary politics, the outlook would have been grim even if Hillary Clinton had won. The greatest upset in American presidential history is only a symptom of deeper problems of political culture and constitutional design.
"Democracy and Dysfunction brings together two of the leading constitutional law scholars of our time, Sanford Levinson and Jack M. Balkin, in an urgently needed conversation that seeks to uncover the underlying causes of our current crisis and their meaning for American democracy. In a series of letters exchanged over a period of two years, Levinson and Balkin travel—along with the rest of the country—through the convulsions of the 2016 election and Trump’s first year in office. They disagree about the scope of the crisis and the remedy required. Levinson believes that our Constitution is fundamentally defective and argues for a new constitutional convention, while Balkin, who believes we are suffering from constitutional rot, argues that there are less radical solutions. As it becomes dangerously clear that Americans—and the world—will be living with the consequences of this pivotal period for many years to come, it is imperative that we understand how we got here—and how we might forestall the next demagogue who will seek to beguile the American public."
to:NB  us_politics  our_decrepit_institutions  balkin.jack  books:noted 
25 days ago by cshalizi
Functional Gaussian Approximation for Dependent Structures - Florence Merlevede; Magda Peligrad; Sergey Utev - Oxford University Press
"Functional Gaussian Approximation for Dependent Structures develops and analyses mathematical models for phenomena that evolve in time and influence each another. It provides a better understanding of the structure and asymptotic behaviour of stochastic processes.
"Two approaches are taken. Firstly, the authors present tools for dealing with the dependent structures used to obtain normal approximations. Secondly, they apply normal approximations to various examples. The main tools consist of inequalities for dependent sequences of random variables, leading to limit theorems, including the functional central limit theorem and functional moderate deviation principle. The results point out large classes of dependent random variables which satisfy invariance principles, making possible the statistical study of data coming from stochastic processes both with short and long memory.
"The dependence structures considered throughout the book include the traditional mixing structures, martingale-like structures, and weakly negatively dependent structures, which link the notion of mixing to the notions of association and negative dependence. Several applications are carefully selected to exhibit the importance of the theoretical results. They include random walks in random scenery and determinantal processes. In addition, due to their importance in analysing new data in economics, linear processes with dependent innovations will also be considered and analysed."
to:NB  central_limit_theorem  stochastic_processes  convergence_of_stochastic_processes  mixing  ergodic_theory  re:almost_none  books:noted 
4 weeks ago by cshalizi
Caravan of Martyrs by David B. Edwards - Paperback - University of California Press
"What compels a person to strap a vest loaded with explosives onto his body and blow himself up in a crowded street? Scholars have answered this question by focusing on the pathology of the “terrorist mind” or the “brainwashing” practices of terrorist organizations. In Caravan of Martyrs, David Edwards argues that we need to understand the rise of suicide bombing in relation to the "Before the war in Afghanistan began, the sacrificial killing of a sheep demonstrated a tribe’s desire for peace. After the Soviet invasion of 1979, as thousands of people were killed, sacrifice took on new meanings. The dead were venerated as martyrs, but this informal conferral of status on the casualties of war soon became the foundation for a cult of martyrs exploited by political leaders for their own advantage. This first repurposing of the machinery of sacrifice set in motion a process of mutation that would lead nineteen Arabs who had received their training in Afghanistan to hijack airplanes on September 11 and that would in time transform what began as a cult of martyrs created by a small group of Afghan jihadis into the transnational scattering of suicide bombers that haunts our world today.
"Drawing on years of research in the region, Edwards traces the transformation of sacrifice using a wide range of sources, including the early poetry of jihad, illustrated martyr magazines, school primers and legal handbooks, martyr hagiographies, videos produced by suicide bombers, the manual of ritual instructions used by the 9/11 hijackers, and Facebook posts through which contemporary “Talifans” promote the virtues of self-destruction."
to:NB  books:noted  terrorism  afghanistan  anthropology  sacrifice  history_of_ideas  history_of_morals 
4 weeks ago by cshalizi
The Persianate World by Nile Green - Paperback - University of California Press
"Persian is one of the great lingua francas of world history. Yet despite its recognition as a shared language across the Islamic world and beyond, its scope, impact, and mechanisms remain underexplored. A world historical inquiry into pre-modern cosmopolitanism, The Persianate World traces the reach and limits of Persian as a Eurasian language in a comprehensive survey of its geographical, literary, and social frontiers. From Siberia to Southeast Asia, and between London and Beijing, this book shows how Persian gained, maintained, and finally surrendered its status to imperial and vernacular competitors. Fourteen essays trace Persian’s interactions with Bengali, Chinese, Turkic, Punjabi, and other languages to identify the forces that extended “Persographia,” the domain of written Persian. Spanning the ages of expansion and contraction, The Persianate World offers a critical survey of both the supports and constraints of one of history’s key languages of global exchange."
to:NB  books:noted  persianate_culture 
4 weeks ago by cshalizi
Hume's Problem Solved | The MIT Press
"Hume's problem of justifying induction has been among epistemology's greatest challenges for centuries. In this book, Gerhard Schurz proposes a new approach to Hume's problem. Acknowledging the force of Hume's arguments against the possibility of a noncircular justification of the reliability of induction, Schurz demonstrates instead the possibility of a noncircular justification of the optimality of induction, or, more precisely, of meta-induction (the application of induction to competing prediction models). Drawing on discoveries in computational learning theory, Schurz demonstrates that a regret-based learning strategy, attractivity-weighted meta-induction, is predictively optimal in all possible worlds among all prediction methods accessible to the epistemic agent. Moreover, the a priori justification of meta-induction generates a noncircular a posteriori justification of object induction. Taken together, these two results provide a noncircular solution to Hume's problem.
"Schurz discusses the philosophical debate on the problem of induction, addressing all major attempts at a solution to Hume's problem and describing their shortcomings; presents a series of theorems, accompanied by a description of computer simulations illustrating the content of these theorems (with proofs presented in a mathematical appendix); and defends, refines, and applies core insights regarding the optimality of meta-induction, explaining applications in neighboring disciplines including forecasting sciences, cognitive science, social epistemology, and generalized evolution theory. Finally, Schurz generalizes the method of optimality-based justification to a new strategy of justification in epistemology, arguing that optimality justifications can avoid the problems of justificatory circularity and regress."
to:NB  books:noted  philosophy  induction  special_place_in_hell  low-regret_learning 
4 weeks ago by cshalizi
The Secret Commonwealth (Paperback) – New York Review Books
"Late in the seventeenth century, Robert Kirk, an Episcopalian minister in the Scottish Highlands, set out to collect his parishioners’ many striking stories about elves, fairies, fauns, doppelgängers, wraiths, and other beings of, in Kirk’s words, “a middle nature betwixt man and angel.” For Kirk these stories constituted strong evidence for the reality of a supernatural world, existing parallel to ours, which, he passionately believed, demanded exploration as much as the New World across the seas. Kirk defended these views in The Secret Commonwealth, an essay that was left in manuscript when he died in 1692. It is a rare and fascinating work, an extraordinary amalgam of science, religion, and folklore, suffused with the spirit of active curiosity and bemused wonder that fills Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and the works of Sir Thomas Browne. The Secret Commonwealth is not only a remarkable document in the history of ideas but a study of enchantment that enchants in its own right.
"First published in 1815 by Sir Walter Scott, then reedited in 1893 by Andrew Lang, with a dedication to Robert Louis Stevenson, The Secret Commonwealth has long been difficult to obtain—available, if at all, only in scholarly editions. This new edition modernizes the spelling and punctuation of Kirk’s little book and features a wide-ranging and illuminating introduction by the critic and historian Marina Warner, who brings out the originality of Kirk’s contribution and reflects on the ongoing life of fairies in the modern mind."
to:NB  books:noted  mythology 
4 weeks ago by cshalizi

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