I know, I know. You've heard us whining about the need to redevelop the HASTAC site again--that's what happens with a growing organization in a fluctuating time. We are finally buckling down and doing it. We have a new developer, Message Agency, that responded brilliantly to the rfp that Ruby Sinreich, our Director of New Media Strategies, compiled from the many ideas and suggestions HASTAC Central and all of the HASTAC network came up with and now we are in meetings with Marcus Iannozzi, the head of Message Agency, to transform ideas into a website--no small feat.
One thing that interested me is how hard he pushed on what we think of as our main message. From our beginnings in 2002, we've said we want to apply the lessons of the open web to formal education and have said our three areas are (1) creative development of new technologies (2) critical thinking about the role and use of technologies in learning and society and (3) new forms of learning that arise from those tools and from the practice of critique. But Marcus pushed back. Is it really learning and teaching that is the heart of what you do, he asked?
The more he pushed, the more i realized that teaching and learning are actually a subset of our larger mission: to transform institutions for a digital age. That is, if the institutions of school and work that we have inherited have evolved and been developed over the last 150 years to inculcate the values and practices of the Industrial Age, how to we radically transform those institutions to be more suited to the networked, global, interconnected, self-starting, DIY worlds of the digital age? If the Industrial Age was all about separation--home and work, leisure and work, family and work, boss from employee, manager from line worker, white and blue and pink collar workers, scientists from humanists and on and on and on--then the institutions of work and school that we have no are about separation of knowledge and learning into very discrete and divided tasks, always taught from on high by an expert in that particular specialized form of learning. How do we radically transform those institutions now for peer-learning across areas, where expertise might be gained by doing rather than by credentials, where learning is also about unlearning and changing, and where we must acknowlege that one person's expertise is also that one person's blind spots---so we need to work together, to collaborate in ways where our differences matter and work together.
Tall order. But that is our ambition, and it is the particular HASTAC twist that separates us from more traditional forms of digital learning and digital humanities that do not have at their core an activist thrust, dedicated to transforming outmoded institutions and to support new forms of innovation and interaction for the twenty-first century. Interestingly, though, we note that more and more digital humanists do have this institutional transformation as part of their charge. That makes sense. Once you think about tools and openness in an expansive way, institutiional change often follows.
So, now we have the three words to guide us to a new website. Create. Critique. Transform. I'd say that about sums it up.