Blog Post

Town Hall Tomorrow On Master's in Knowledge and Networks

Time:  1-2pm November 8

Place:  Garage (Room C015), Bay 4, Smith Warehouse, 114 Buchanan Street, Duke University

What:  Town Hall Presentation on Proposed/Draft Master of Arts in Knowledge and Networks (MAKN)   The draft of the MAKN has been posted publicly and collecting  feedback at:

Purpose:   Conversation, questions, suggestions, partnerships, and a strategy for moving forward on the MAKN if there is sufficient interest---and then making it happen


Dear Colleagues,

We are absolutely delighted by the warm and enthusiastic response to our first invitation  to be part of an exciting new experiment in reshaping education for the future, a proposed "re-professional" Masters degree in Knowledge and Networks.  We will be hosting a general "Town Hall" informational and follow-up meeting from 1:00-2:00 pm on November 8th, in the "Garage" (Room C015) in Bay 4 of the Smith Warehouse at 114 Buchanan Street to gather together anyone who is interested or has questions or feedback to share.  Please feel free to share this email with anyone you think would be interested in attending.

We will be joined by Dean David Bell from the Graduate School, who first asked me and the HASTAC team to dream up this visionary degree, as well as Dean of Humanities Srinivas Aravamudan and Ian Baucom, Director of the Franklin Humanities Institute.

In the meantime, the Comment Press posting of the entire degree with all appendices continues to accept your comments and feedback at:

Thank you again for all your compliments and offers to be part of this.  It's thrilling.

Warm regards,

Cathy Davidson on behalf of the HASTAC team




Hi Cat - I hadn't really thought about what I'm going to say until I saw something en passant on the Drumbeat agenda.  If this was truly an "open source" degree, so to speak, wouldn't it be free?  Or certainly something close to free?  Duke tuition is nothing to sneeze at.  Just glancing at the table of contents, I didn't see anything devoted to tuition or fee structure (of course, I didn't deep dive at all).  Even if it's totally obvious that you're not going to go in this direction, I think it's worth thinking about conceptually.  Why would you pay to learn something that's all about open learning?  By its very nature, it becomes closed and proprietary.  Consider this a provocation.  And maybe you've already covered it.  ;-)  


Unfortunately, this confuses the different ideas of "free."   The Internet needs to remain as free and unregulated as possible but, for most of us, we have to pay for hardware, software, data plans--none of that is free unless we use spaces such as libraries where we can access all of these services that allow us, then, to hook up to those aspects of the internet for which we do not have to pay a fee.   Someday, if things continue to go as they are, even that level of "free" will not exist any more and we have to fight that.


A degree program from a traditional institution and a research university is something that someone has to pay for one way or another.  The MAKN is a degree program at a non-profit private university so it has to pay for itself but, yes, we will work out scholarships wherever possible.  Even state universities charge tuition--and they are supported by tax dollars, another form of payment.    If I were President of Duke or head of the Board of Trustees, of course I'd love it to be free as a gift to the world but this is a credentialed (as in must be accredited) degree program . . . alas!   I agree with the ideals but don't know any Duke faculty who would be willing to work without compensation at a program designed to prepare its students for future careers.   Many Duke faculty volunteer in civic programs--and there are a lot of those at Duke--but that is different than an accredited degree program. 


HASTAC is "free" because we do it basically as unpaid, voluntary labor. But an actual program, such as a new Master's degree from Duke, has a tremendous amount of costs that have to be recouped somehow, either through tuition, advertising, fundraising externally, in order for it to break even.  For accreditation, we will be required to meet certain standards.  Unfortunately, those aren't free.   If we are lucky, we will raise some philanthropic funds to make scholarships available. 


"Free" on the Internet, of course, does not mean  "doesn't cost anything."   The cautionary adage of the Internet is that "if it's free, you're not the customer, you are the data being sold."  Think Google.  If you believe you are using Google because it is free, you don't understand the economics of search.  Same with Facebook and so forth.  If something has costs, it should make clear up front what those costs are and how it recoups them.  (Facebook and Google don't and people are very naive about what their data is being used for).    Even the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival had to charge a registration fee, of course, to cover costs.  


The other "free" adage of the information is that things can be "free" as in "free kittens" or "free" as in "free beer" . . . free-flowing, unimpeded information doesn't mean that there are not hardware, software, and other costs that have to be covered in one way or another.   Do we wish we could give people two years' worth of hands' on skill building for free?  Of course?   And Peer-to-Peer University and other Open learning and Open Ed programs offer such wonderful possibilities.   We hope to partner with them, in fact, and have some of our students, in the course of their own training and portfolio building, work with online university students as mentors and leaders, to share the wealth so to speak even as our students are building their own profile for future, productive work, either in the world of nonprofits or in future business and corporate experiences or in NGO's or other community-based forms of labor.



Good luck tomorrow.