Continuing to rethink the distribution

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
User avatar
Posts: 450
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2005 10:55 pm
Location: Los Angeles

Re: Continuing to rethink the distribution

Post by rylltraka »

While I agree that it's a worthwhile thing to do to try and find new and different practices of finding clues and data, and to write about social and cultural history topics, I don't think I've heard anything particularly compelling that would necessitate reshaping the distribution. In this specific discussion about medieval historians, it's cool and praiseworthy to talk about specific medieval historians and their findings and to work them into ambitious bonus parts at Nationals-level tournaments. Or perhaps to work a few of those topics into medium-level questions. I salute these efforts, but they're nothing new - and I, like I'm sure many others, have worked to make answerlines less purely political, and more "real" in terms of engagement with scholarship.

But my impression is that this discussion, in terms of distributional matters, is so unnecessarily focused on what affects a small number of very high-end tournaments where quizbowl's top competitors are in a ceaseless arms race. Steven was right to talk about the very limited clue space for anything wider than "Greek Women" or "Lower-class Greek people", etc. But it seems that this discussion is not geared towards the quizbowl masses proclaiming "We lack our daily answerlines", but instead the quizbowl aristocracy lamenting the ennui of writing about the massive wealth of European political and military history we have.
Mik Larsen
USC '08, UCLA '14

User avatar
Posts: 919
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:01 pm

Re: Continuing to rethink the distribution

Post by Ike »

I agree with Mik here. This does seem really like small potatoes at this point and an annoying elitism that really isn't relevant for most tournaments.

I guess to put the scope in perspective, when I said "meat and potatoes" in that thread, I was bemoaning how nearly all the science questions in some areas covered topics that ONLY a grad student or someone in the work force were likely to encounter; I think the European History at Stanford housewrite is fine in that you can learn all about any of these answers from undergraduate classes. Even as someone who isn't great at history, the clues were accessible, so I can't imagine this would be a complaint.

So, I don't see what's the huge crisis. This lack of social history, etcetera does feel unfortunate, but it is only a minor problem in maybe 3 tournaments per a year - like even if this thread were completely ignored, history at these tournaments would still be serviceable to great. And even then, tournaments already incorporate social history to some extent. Maybe I'm wrong here - but I don't see a wave of historians coming on here to agree with some of Jacob's proposals, saying that history is terrible as written or something, and this fundamental change needs to happen.

Lastly, asking for Caroline Bynum as a bonus part is beyond the pale for acf nationals, and almost certainly beyond the pale for Chicago Open. I guess you could write that fasting tossup in history for a tossup, but almost all the other clues would have to be standard history fare. Hopefully that gives an idea of how arms racy it feels.

User avatar
The King's Flight to the Scots
Posts: 1479
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2009 11:11 pm

Re: Continuing to rethink the distribution

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

I don't want to set up some kind of binary where Real America likes political history and the Neoliberal Elites love cultural historiography and identity politics. Mike Cheyne's point seemed like a stronger one - we don't need to upturn the history category as it's written because people often do write on social history topics, or write on political history in a way that explains its social significance. The fact that Jacob's cited examples all do seem to come up doesn't mean we're perfect, but does suggest that it's very possible to write social history within the current paradigm.

So, I'd say the limiting factors are knowledge and ingenuity rather than distribution or norms. We should therefore encourage and praise efforts to reimagine staid history topics in refreshing ways. In that spirit, I enjoyed Jacob's tossup on the _printing_ industry for MYSTERIUM in historiography, and similar ideas he has executed in other events.
Matt Bollinger
UVA '14, UVA '15
Communications Officer, ACF

gyre and gimble
Posts: 723
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:45 am

Re: Continuing to rethink the distribution

Post by gyre and gimble »

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:So, I'd say the limiting factors are knowledge and ingenuity rather than distribution or norms. We should therefore encourage and praise efforts to reimagine staid history topics in refreshing ways. In that spirit, I enjoyed Jacob's tossup on the _printing_ industry for MYSTERIUM in historiography, and similar ideas he has executed in other events.
This is also more or less how I feel. By questioning the current distribution, this thread has felt somewhat like a demand that writers exert themselves toward writing non-traditional history questions, and to the extent that I've argued that this kind of writing is difficult to pull off, I was simply pushing back against the demanding tone.

Good writers already try to write fresh questions, and oftentimes their novel ideas expand the canon in the direction of the areas this thread has put forward as "underrepresented." I think that's enough. And what's more, that's really the only responsible way to reshape history as a quizbowl category if we're at all interested in playability and accessibility.
Stephen Liu
Torrey Pines '10
Harvard '14
Stanford '17

User avatar
Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook
Posts: 51
Joined: Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:10 am

Re: Continuing to rethink the distribution

Post by Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook »

While I do agree that distributional changes might be a little hasty, I do think it would be a good thing if tournaments incorporated more of these things, perhaps through a sub-distribution at tournaments like Regionals to have at least 1 on topics which aren't political or military, just as they have restrictions on military within the 10 submitted questions at the moment.

On historiography I think there are 3 main solutions.
  • The first is using historiography in all history tossups, which is definitely possible in every history tossup at the Collegiate level. Opening lines of tossups are often fun but irrelevant details dug up from Wikipedia or a passing detail from a book. These are frequently fun, but putting historical arguments or combinations of factors together is a good idea. This can also revitalize topics, such as using clues from the historikerstreit might be a good way to talk about either post-war Germany or the Second World War.
  • Secondly these can be brought into bonuses. This is a good way as I see it to combine historiography with some non-historiographical clues. I think this is a good way to work archaeological things into history because by looking at a particular archaeologist or historian you can combine hard parts on their thought with easier parts on the evidence they use, which most historians do use. Historiography needn't exist in some vacuum and especially if it isn't protected as a distribution it should intermingle and enhance.
  • Finally, I think there should be some questions which are actually about historiography. Someone like Joan Scott is really important to modern historians and people should ask about these things, especially at harder tournaments. I agree that lots of these things are quite hard but then some of the things that get tossed up are not particualrly well-known, even if it might be easier for a wikipedia trawler to stumble on the Piast dynasty than say Hugh Trevor Roper. Both are important and both should come up. To me some of this argument about it being really hard to write and less accessible is reasonable, in the sense that a lot of people who aren't academic historians but do like to read history, and love to buzz on it, can fit wars, leaders and events into their scheme of knowledge. On the other hand while it isn't as accessible, it really shouldn't be optional if it comes up or not at a regular difficulty tournament. It seems to me like people complaining about including questions about biochemistry in the biology distribution. I personally would get more biology tossups if they asked more questions about plants and animals because I have a pretty solid knowledge of the natural world. While I can rail at the gates of Quizbowl Central with my placard screaming "Ungulates not Ubiquitin", I think most serious biologists would say that we need to include questions in biochemistry because it helps to explain the processes of living organisms, because it forms a central part of what biology students are taught and because it can be really interesting. This is the way that I see historiography at regular difficulty and above. Some teams will scratch their heads at a tossup on Gibbon but loads of people scratch their heads at tossups on the Ayutthaya Kingdom or the Jewel Voice Broadcast. Also I really don't think that writing questions on the study of history should be too taxing for people who haven't struggled to write questions on just about the history of every part of the globe.
Daoud Jackson
Oxford 2014-2018
President Oxford University Quiz Society 2016-7

Post Reply