Blog Post

Is Networking Really Visionary? Let Us Hear From You!

Now that we have successfully finished our two major events congratulating the winners of our third Digital Media and Learning Competition, a competition where our partners included the White House and Sony and EA, we aren't resting on our laurels (as nice at is was to receive those from none other than the nation's first Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra).   No, we are turning our attention to redesigning and rebuilding our website.   Again.  We launched the current site last year and, as you know, for all its Beyond Drupal Beauty, it has the creakiest of back-ends and we are constantly fighting with its limitations. You have all been patient but now it is time to create a website HASTAC deserves.


Our Director of New Media Strategies, Ruby Sinreich, is leading us in this process, really pushing us to articulate the HASTAC vision in June 2010 (it is always changing--and we would not be HASTAC if it weren't always changing!)  For me, there is one constant, over the eight years that we have grown from an idea to a network of networks over 4800 strong.  HASTAC is based on the idea that, by connecting and linking all the projects across all the HASTAC areas (from media arts to digital humanities to critical thinking about STEM applications and pedagogies), we are promoting a new vision of thinking for the twenty-first century.   That is, the course of knowledge in the Industrial Age, and especially from the late nineteenth century onward, is to divide us into specializations, hierarchies, divisions, fields, disciplines, and subdisciplines and even to pit one discipline or division against the other.   Two cultures.  Science versus humanities.   Arts versus engineering.   The digital era puts all those back together again and HASTAC is dedicated to new ways of thinking that constantly use the specialized expertise in one field to both question and expand the implications of another.  


"Collaboration by difference" is the HASTAC official methodology.   That means that you honor all the pieces--turf is fine.  We love turf.  We just want all of the different turfs to form a gigantic puzzle and HASTAC's role is to find ways to make sense of that puzzle.   That is not only a conviction that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (it is).  It is a vision that such wholistic, cross-disciplinary collaboration has been discouraged for a hundred years and HASTAC's job is to champion this new form of thinking again.   If you are someone who likes thinking build and bold from whatever point of view you reside in, you are part of HASTAC.  


The name HASTAC ("haystack") was intended to convey that we do not make disciplinary distinctions and we believe that each form of knowledge is like the proverbial straw that, together, makes the haystack.   For a while we played with the idea of the "needle" in the conceptual haystack and then decided that we love "needle" as a verb (as in:  to needle) but we don't believe there is a noun that is the needle in the haystack.  Trying to find that needle is exactly not the point.  It is the haystack itself that is interesting.  


So, that's the vision.  We believe networking IS visionary.  By being a connector of projects, individuals, institutions, and fields, HASTAC has a different vision of what thinking and learning are and what they can do.   That's the challenge.  How do you take that concept and turn it into a working website?  How do we make equally clear HASTAC's role as an information commons, a network of networks, a resource for everyone in the HASTAC community, and also a voice for visionary change?    


We'd love your ideas.  Along the way, we'll be asking for your opinion as we develop the new site but even now, at this beginning conceptual moment, we'd love your contribution to our thinking about the future of thinking, as embodied in the next iteration of our HASTAC site.   Join us! 




I think there is an opportunity that is emerging among, and for scholars, educators, academics related to sharing resources that might be currently seen as necessary to be made artificially "rival" and "excludable".  

The sharing of digital content is now fairly easy. The sharing of theory/praxis through a medium like HASTAC is also well within reach. It is fairly difficult to share physical resources, time and attention, and the activity of synthesizing information to knowledge. 


There is also an untapped potential wherein scholars can share the "model" of what they are working on along with the "rendered" output that is generated when the model is tested. The output of research (data and outcome) is what is traditionally shared. However,  a way to recreate research is rarely shared (the latter is what I mean when talking about sharing the "model". This came from discussions with Paul B. Hartzog )

Imagine, for instance, if hundreds, or even thousands could recreate your academic research in parallel over time. What would we learn about Digital Media and Learning if we could directly re-create and directly share one another's research about digital media and learning? The field could grow exponentially in this way, being primarily driven by each participant researcher.  This is more of a cultural issue, than a technical issue. It boils down to what is shared, and how it is shared, and who gets access. Still, despite what cynics and skeptics might think, I believe that this type of open-ness and sharing is what is "next" for Digital Media and Learning research. And, I think it is emerging in unexpected places (namely, outside of traditional spaces such as Universities, as well as in Universities).


This would be a very interesting ambition to aspire to, Sam.   Inspiring!


BTW, realizing that I never addressed the point of your blog post, Cathy, I honestly agree that networking *is* visionary and needed. 


Perhaps the best new innovations can be in giving all participants access to drive how networking evolves and changes within the resources you are providing? This is admittedly difficult. However, given that you already have a diversity of rich participation here, perhaps the next step is to think about a plurality of ways to participate?