Ritratti: Samuel Eilenberg


Eilenberg nacque da una famiglia di ebrei di Varsavia il 30 settembre 1913, quando la Polonia era ancora parte dell’Impero Russo. Ebbe la fortuna di studiare all’università della capitale nella prima metà degli anni ‘30, un periodo fecondissimo per la matematica polacca: in gara virtuosa con la scuola di Lwów, si riunivano nell’ateneo varsovino studiosi del calibro di Stefan Mazurkiewicz, Kazimierz Kuratowski, Wacław Sierpiński, Stanisław Saks e Karol Borsuk. Sotto la guida di quest’ultimo nel 1936 Eilenberg conseguì il dottorato di ricerca, con una tesi sulla topologia del piano.

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Claiming digital rights — Is Poland ready?

Digital rights PoloniCult

Humankind has always been using the outside world has an extension of its intelligence. Social structures on one hand, and artifacts (culture, language, machine) on the other, have always affected our ability to think, improving it more and more, although not always in a linear fashion (paradigm shifts, as Kuhn used to call them, do happen once in a while). “Unlike most animals, man does not adjust to his surroundings but rather transforms those surroundings according to his needs” (Stanisław Lem, Summa Technologiae): indeed, first and foremost, man transforms his surroundings in order to think. Which is exactly what Lev Vygotsky’s and Alexander Luria’s idea of a social brain already foreshadowed.

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Nessuno pensa da solo

Lev Vygotskij PoloniCult

Vygotskij ebbe assieme l’onore e l’onere di vivere pressoché interamente uno dei periodi più complessi della storia russa e mondiale. Nato nel 1896 in una cittadina delle propaggini bielorusse dell’impero zarista, si trasferì presto a Mosca per i suoi studi di giurisprudenza conclusi nel 1917, data dalla cui evidenza simbolica è impossibile sfuggire. Gli anni successivi lo videro scalare numerose posizioni negli ambienti che contavano della psicologia e della pedagogia approfittando anche di un mondo -quello della nuova Russia socialista- ancora in assestamento geopolitico e alla ricerca di una sua identità definita. Fino al 1934, anno della sua morte per tubercolosi, il mondo non era pressoché per nulla a conoscenza di quanto Vygotskij aveva teorizzato, studiato e dibattuto in 17 anni di intensa attività e non lo sarebbe stato ancora per diverso tempo, dal momento che la rete a maglie strette del realismo socialista promossa dal ministro stalinista Zdanov non avrebbe in nessun modo potuto comprendere la psicologia nella cornice del sapere proletario.

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Gillo Dorfles: il giocoliere nel bazar

Gillo Dorfles PoloniCult

Dorfles nasce a Trieste, e questo lo rende immediatamente uomo della Mitteleuropa almeno tanto quanto italiano. Si ricordi, del resto, quanto della città giuliana scriveva Guido Piovene in Viaggio in Italia: “per quanto sembri un paradosso, l’italianità di Trieste si difende anche mantenendole il suo carattere di metropoli borghese cosmopolita, per la cultura, il costume e l’economia”. In altri termini, di Trieste tanto più si esalta e si sviluppa il carattere italiano quanto più le si riconosce uno statuto di città speciale, di luogo di frontiera e più ancora di confluenza, di equilibrio lungamente costruito nel corso dei secoli fra tre mondi tanto diversi tra loro: il mediterraneo, il tedesco, lo slavo.

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Zygmunt Bauman, Collateral Damage

Bauman Danni Collaterali

On February 13, 1991, during the first Gulf War, U.S. planes bombed a shelter in the Amiriyah neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, killing 408 civilians. The Pentagon held Saddam Hussein’s regime responsible for “deliberately hosting civilians in military installations to serve as human shields”. In such case, as every time the weapons deployed factor out any conceivable technical error, we have grown accustomed to parley about collateral damage. A memorandum issued by the U.S. Air Force (USAF Intelligence Targeting Guide — AIR FORCE PAMPHLET 14- 210 Intelligence) broadly defines collateral damage as “unintentional damage or incidental damage affecting facilities, equipment or personnel occurring as a result of military actions directed against targeted enemy forces or facilities”. In other words, whilst achieving a high death toll among civilians is arguably not top priority in military actions, such casualties are easily dismissed as not important enough to justify the costs of their prevention, especially in the face of the massive vested interests which are usually at stake in war.

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Automatic Thoughts. The rise and fall of computers in PRL

Computers in PRL

Automatic thinking and mathematics go hand-in-hand, of course; however, the mathematician is more often than not concerned with the internal, formal structure of mathematical objects themselves. It is not before we turn mathematics into a tool for self-introspection that something interesting happens: in the spirit perhaps of Novalis’ astounding apothegm “das höchste Leben ist Mathematik”. Beckett, Borges, Queneau, to name just a few, are all busy at work in a large, coherent, systematic exploration, which climaxes with Turing’s mathematical model of a hypothetical, universal computing machine, as well as with Shannon’s information theory. Kafka’s Strafkolonie and Vaclav Havel’s Antikódy, on the other hand, turn everything topsy-turvy, investigating the progressive bureaucratisation and depersonalisation of the language of authority.

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On Dikanda, or How to arrange the East

In Poland, interest in world music is quite alive, and has managed to foster a sizable array of oh-not-so-bad artists during the last twenty years: the Kroke group from Krakow, just to mention one example, is very successful in mixing Klezmer and Balkan flavours with a decent jazzy box of tricks. Varsovian singer Katarzyna Szczot, also known as Kayah, co-authored with Goran Bregović one of the bestselling albums in Poland (Polish: Kayah i Bregović, 1999; 700 thousand copies sold); later on, she has proven an excellent evangelist of the Ladin, Yiddish, Arabic, Hebrew, Macedonian, Roman, and Polish musical traditions (Transoriental Orchestra, 2013). The Dikanda ensemble was founded in Szczecin in 1997. Its reference “space” is still the East, this time in an even more comprehensive meaning, as a semi-mythical place that extends well beyond the purely geographic scope and acquires a historical as well as an anthropological connotation.

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La seduzione dell’inorganico. Il brutalismo in Polonia

Brutalismo polacco PoloniCult

Béton brut e iconicità, struttura esposta e impiego di materiali as found caratterizzano il nuovo linguaggio architettonico che domina la scena europea nel secondo dopoguerra. Il brutalismo, derivando il suo nome dall’espressione francese che indica il cemento a vista e dichiarandosi fin dall’inizio come rifiuto consapevole delle istanze funzionaliste che avevano caratterizzato la ricerca in architettura fino al periodo bellico, trova nelle unité d’habitation di Le Corbusier a Marsiglia il suo più bell’esempio ante litteram e il suo manifesto nel saggio The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic? (Reinhold Publish Co., New York, 1966) dello storico e critico dell’architettura Reyner Banham.

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Closing the Gap. Digital divide and digital cultures in Poland: an introduction

In his seminal book Diffusion of Innovations (New York: Free Press, 2003), first published in 1962, Everett Rogers admits that “the structure of a social system can facilitate or impede the diffusion of innovations in the system”. This is especially true today, as new technologies, new thought paradigms and new models of communication are continuously disrupting and recasting our lives, whilst putting huge pressure on the underlying social structures. The penetration speed of innovation is thus a function of the amount of inertia such structures are inherently endowed with, even though it was the collapse of solid societies, as Bauman would call them, that first demanded for a global re-editing of traditional models.

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A tale of two cities: Nowa Huta

Nowa Huta – so many things.

From a merely cadastral standpoint, Nowa Huta is the easternmost district of Krakow, the XVIII. It is, also, one of the few places in Poland inhabited without gaps since the Neolithic Era; subsequently, the site is home to a large Celtic outpost as well as to the country’s oldest Slavic settlement. Later on, it appears to be linked with the city’s eponymous founder, Krakus, and with his daughter, whose mortal spoils rest underneath the Wanda Mound (Kopiec Wandy), a few kilometres away [1].

Still afterwards, Nowa Huta becomes grange to the Cistercian monastery of Mogiła. In due course the outskirts of the yet-to-be-recognised district are included in the border between territories controlled by Austria-Hungary and Russia. After 1945, the socialist regime decides to erect a satellite city combined with a vast industrial complex, in part to attract people from the countryside and to abash the resistance of the city’s middle class.

In Polish, Nowa Huta means “New Steelworks”.

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