Blog Post

The Humanities are the Future!

I recently sent the following to our friends here at Duke. See my recent blog post for more about HASTAC@Duke:


Dear  HASTAC@Duke Friends,

Another year begins!  I hope yours starts off feeling refreshed, after a splendid summer in whatever way that might mean for you.  May it be a year full of energy and inspiration.

Below is a list of public events for the Fall semester to which the Duke community is invited. You can always read about this at and we hope you will join us, either in person or online.

Mark your calendars!

Friday, Sept. 3
Office Hours on "The Future of Learning in a Digital Age"
Michael Schoenfeld, Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations, will host Cathy Davidson's "Office Hours" on "The Future of Learning in a Digital Age." You can join us to watch or chat on the Duke University's Ustream channel
Friday, Sept. 10
Peer-to-Peer Pedagogy UnConference (P3)
240 John Hope Franklin Center
Free, but registration required (  Funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, P3 features three innovators in new forms of learning and assessmentAnne Balsamo, a scholar of new media at USC and formerly at the legendary Xerox PARC; David Gibson, a computer scientist and educational theorist recently moved to Arizona State; and Nils Peterson, an architect and systems designer and assessment innovator at Washington State University. They will be assisted by ten HASTAC Scholar Mentors who have been developing themes and topics for the UnConference on a Wiki that you can participate in at  We will be creating podcasts of the event and will sponsor a live Chat throughout.
Friday, Sept. 17
Workshop on Social Media
Room 0012 Westbrook (in sub-basement of the Divinity School
Cathy Davidson will be part of a "Workshop on Social Media," sponsored by Duke's Office of News and Communications (ONC) and Center for Instructional Technology (CIT).  Everyone is invited, but space is limited, so please RSVP by Sept. 10 to
Saturday, Oct. 16
Duke University
9am-6pm   HASTAC@Duke will host THATCamp RTP, a gathering of those interested in the intersections of technology, humanities, and arts for another UnConference, spontaneously guided and planned by the group. Register and participate at

November 3-5
Mozilla's First International Drumbeat Festival 
Barcelona, Spain  
HASTAC has been named the "Mozilla of Higher Education" and we'll be running the "Crowdsourcing the Academy" thread at Mozilla's first international Drumbeat Festival on "Learning, Freedom, and the Open Web."  Registration is now open at

Other exciting HASTAC news:
We are beginning to plan the fourth HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition. It will be hard to follow up our partnership, last year, with the White House, with the opening of the Competition announced by the President of the United States and the winners announced by the nation's first Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Choprabut we'll see what we can do! Send us your ideas!

We now have over 150 HASTAC Scholars, graduate and undergraduate students nominated and supported by small scholarships from over 65 different universities, and who are part of a network of students involved in rethinking learning for a digital age. We welcome ten HASTAC Scholars at Duke, plus over a dozen other local HASTAC Scholars from UNC, NCCU, NC State, etc.  You will be hearing more about their student-run events and forums as the year progresses.

Proposed Master's in Knowledge and Networks: HASTAC@Duke has been asked to draft and propose a new pre-professional Master's degree that would help recent graduates and those currently in the workplace to bring deep humanistic knowledge to the practical problems of communicating, networking, interacting, and sustaining communities in the twenty-first century.  We've spent the past six months surveying all existing programs and working with Duke faculty and administrators on a draft that turns HASTAC's three guiding points of focusnew media, critical thinking, participatory learninginto a revolutionary new kind of pre-professional degree program. Soon, we will post the draft on a website designed to receive feedback from Duke and anyone in the world at large. We will assemble a formal faculty advisory committee and begin the process of refining, revising, and seeking approval for this degree. 

Given all these events (plus our annual HASTAC International Steering Committee meeting hosted September 23-24 by SC member, Joyce Rudinsky at UNC), I am also teaching a new kind of "uncourse" this semester where four graduate students and four undergraduates join me and HASTAC@Duke in learning by doing, generating a syllabus of readings around all these events, doing both deep reading and serious project management (each student will lead a project around one event).  The students represent all fields from the arts to biomedical engineering. We'll be exploring all the new forms of project-based learning, peer-guided learning, and peer assessment.  You will be able to follow our progress and comment on a public blog. Special thanks to English Department Chair Leonard Tennenhouse for his support and his vision.  These new unruly, peer-driven pedagogies are key to the future of reading, writing, and publishingand therefore key to the mission of an English Department in the digital age.  I am humbled and grateful that Len understands and made this happen.

*  *  *

I want to end on a personal note.  I'll try not to be too sentimental or melancholy, but that is difficult given my long association with the John Hope Franklin Center where HASTAC@Duke has had its home base for several years before moving, this weekend, to Bay 5 in the Smith Warehouse. HASTAC@Duke reports directly to the Franklin Humanities Institute and we love being part of Ian Baucom's expansive "shop." We are also excited to be part of the migration from Far West to Far East Campus. We are excited about the contiguities with the Humanities Lab, the Haiti Lab, and with ISIS, Visual Studies, the new MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts, and all the wonders of creativity and technology in the ACT Warehouse.  Our first artist-in-residence at ISIS, Kelly Heaton, was at one time the sole inhabitant of the ACT Warehouse, eviscerating Tickle Me Elmo dolls for an upcoming new media exhibition using her own power generator even amid the dark and gloomy recesses between stacks of cigarette-wrapping paper and equipment. We thought for a while that the Smith Warehouse was Duke's white elephant, and then watched with excitement as Dean Karla F. C. Holloway and A & S faculty worked magic (plus a lot of intelligent hard work) to transform a space into a vibrant new media arts community. It's fulfilling for HASTAC@Duke to now be the last unit to move into this Smith Warehouse.

But I miss you, Franklin Center friends! I know I speak for the entire HASTAC team in expressing our sorrow in leaving.  It was one of my greatest honors, during my first year as Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, to have been given the opportunity to work with Karla and Bruce Kuniholm (then Vice Provost of International Studies) as well as with Rob Sikorski, the Franklin Center's first Director of Operations, to create the John Hope Franklin Center of Interdisciplinary and International Studies. We all walked many times through those hallways, together with John Hope, all of us in hardhats, as the new building began to emerge and define itself and shine again after years of neglect and disrepair.  I know he remained proud to walk those glistening hallways ever after.

During my last dinner with John Hope, shortly after the inauguration of President Obama, with our HASTAC Scholar in Residence Alison Clark, a scholar of digital divide and digital access issues, we talked about the future and also reminisced about the past. We strolled back in time to walk through the construction site together again. That week, John Hope entered the hospital and I never saw him again. We didn't know it was our final time together, but, that night, we all treated the evening as a precious event. We talked about change that night and persistence.  "People die but ideas and relationships live on," he said at one point, "especially when they change." "Change" is what historians study, "change" is what activists make happen, he reminded us. Our beloved Dr. Franklin was an activist historian.   And so we honor him, ideas and relationships living onand memories tooand that means changing, too.

We'll now have a Franklin Institute East and a Franklin Center Westa great way to define not the borders of our campus but its points of entry. All of that is true, and true to John Hope.  And yet, we will miss you, dear Franklin Center friends, and we're not ready to let you go. Thank you for our continuing collaboration and friendship in the years ahead.  And for all the ways that we will continue to change and hope together.

Here's to a great new year, everyone!


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