If you happen to be my Facebook Friend, you know from my status updatesthat I've spent the last year at an Undisclosed Location. Where isthat, exactly? And why?
It's not like I'm in the Witness Protection Program (although sometimes that seems appealing). If you happen to be part of the HASTAC/MacArthur team, you are (all too) aware that I am on line just about 24/7. I even make an appearance at the beloved ol Franklin Center every once in a while. *__*
So what is this bit about the Undisclosed Location?
Readers of this blog know I'm on my first leave in about a hundred years. Well, more like my first in thirteen years, to be accurate. That's a long time in academic life. For most of the intervening years, I was an administrator, working twelve months a year. For a lot of it, I was a vice provost, working corporate hours (which is to say, rarely not working). I learned an astonishing amount during those years. I wouldn't change those experiences for anything. I was lucky to have been offered such an exciting job, the equivalent of the R and D person in industry with innovation as my mandate. I had a blast. I entered worlds I hadn't thought to enter before. Looking back on it, it's hard to believe that we began creating ISIS (Information Science + Information Studies; http://www.isis.duke.edu/index.html), the predecessor for HASTAC, in 1998. 1998. That's a long time ago. The ISIS Mission statement: "Our mission is to study and create new information technologies and toanalyze their impact on art, culture, science, commerce, society, andthe environment."
In those original documents for ISIS we were already envisioning possibilities for interactive, collaborative, collective development of both next generation technologies and for social networks that would contribute to that development (we were thinking Linux back then) and would think, collectively, about the issues of intellectual property, digital divide, access, open source, reliability, credibility, privacy, net neutrality, media history and theory, and so forth. We didn't have the term "participatory learning" yet but we were already making collaboration across disciplines the hallmark of the program and creating a capstone course in which students both developed and critiqued, emphasized creativity and analysis, development and social networking, problem solving, process, collaborative creation in virtual environments, and created something important together, something that would last. The first year, they created an interactive map for the Duke campus that still resides on the main Duke website. That was four years before Wikipedia was a gleam in Jimmy Wales's eye or even before HASTAC began.
We were also building the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Programs, a center of centers with a humanities institute as its anchoring core, some shared programing and infrastructure, and the very best interactive technologies on the whole campus at that time. Again, 1998 is when we started all this. We loved sending humanists to committee meetings in the business school, law school, medical school to talk not about IT but about how technology, collaborative networked technologies, could create knowledge communities for research and teaching. The Franklin Center came up with a nice mission statement, and it is still on the Franklin Center's beautiful homepage today: "A consortium of programs dedicated to the idea that knowledge should be shared." (http://www.jhfc.duke.edu/)
And then in 2002-03, David and I started HASTAC. And we wrote "A Manifesto for the Humanities in an Age of Technology" for the Chronicle of Higher Education ( Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg, "Why We Need the Humanities Now: A Manifesto for the Humanities in a Technological Age," The Chronicle of Higher Education (February 2004). http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i23b00701.htm; www.uchri.org/images/Manifesto_Humanities.pdf. Or try: http://www.jhfc.duke.edu/resources/manifesto.php) (Or see the Comment section below, where I've cut and pasted it in for your viewing convenience.)
We didn't really think it was all that radical to remind people that ALL technology is about social affordances, all technology is about cultural relationships and hierarchies, and therefore technology is not only the province of the humanities but it is mandatory for the humanities to be responsive to, take responsibility for, and be a leader in this digital age.
We got dubbed "charlatans" for that, and for creating HASTAC. We were called "charlatans" by the president of one of the major humanistic learned associations. In public. At a national meeting. Charlatans. Nice word, huh? We knew we had to be doing something right if we were ruffling that many eminent feathers. We decided not to respond but to simply stay the course, and, well, it's turned out pretty well. HASTAC is thriving, the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition is thriving. And the HASTAC Scholars will soon be reporting on so much that is happening now that, well, the world is full of charlatans in 2008. Charlatans of the World Unite! Together, we can throw off our chains. Yes, indeed.
So what does all this history have to do with an undisclosed location. Heck, I've earned it.
It's quiet here. I have five more months secluded in my oasis of thinking, five more months undisclosed, thinking my own thoughts and reading and writing about the relationship between brain biology and learning. I am having so much fun. Sometimes my secret hideaway is one place, sometimes another, but, mostly, I'm taking some time away from it all, whatever "it" is, to stay close, stay inward. Undisclosed. For now, well, I like it here. I like it a whole lot.
Photographs of an undisclosed location by the author. Sugimoto's shrine steps made of photographic lens glass, Naoshima, Japan, and seascapes from Bermuda, Madeira, Liguria, and Point Reyes. Paintings by Lisa Lesniak. 19th Century Photograph, handpainted, of a new graduate from a North Carolina teachers' college for African American women, anonymous.