Blog Post

Create. Critique. Transform.

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. 



Create. Critique. Transform.

I like this a great deal.


Alex Reid, on the DigitalDigs blog, suggests a different three words for HASTAC:  Question. Transform. Create.   I really like that---except I still like leading with "create" because that signals our open web "learn by doing" method that seems essential.  Create. Question. Transform?   Does it matter?  Why?  I'd love a conversation on this one.


What does anyone think?   Here's his reasoning:


Alex Reid's blog post is very thoughtful and helpful.   I do think he misinterprets what I blogged about the institutional, however    HASTAC, from its inception, has been working at transforming institutions of learning.  That's the whole point, it's why we called ourselves "HASTAC" (I know, I know) rather than something that assumes more straightforward hierarchical structure and why we're a network of networks and why we host forums on open access, open learning, grading, assessment, and so forth.  In my blog, what I meant to be  suggesting was that it might be time to use "transform" in a more prominent place on the new website we're developing.   We've used "participatory learning" as one of our key terms in the past but , as our new website developer was suggesting, to the uninitiated, participatory learning may not sound as radical and transformative as it is.  In fact, if you don't know about participatory learning or peer-to-peer learning or open learning, the concepts might not even some to be about institutions but about pedagogy.  Well, pedagogy is institution, of course, but the point of participatory learning is that it says the institution is the least important aspect of learning and what is learning is participating, collaborating (another key word for HASTAC), sharing ideas and information, building together regardless of field or credentials or hierarchy or institutional footing.   But, yes, that's a lot to bury in one term.  Participatory learning is a bit opaque and it is not clear we're talking about radical institutional reform until you go deeper.   So "transform" was a better word to signal that and learning is one of the transformations we're working towards.  


I'd love to hear from others.  Redoing a website is a great time to get one's ducks--or key words--in a row.   Steve Burnett, who write above, has been great in the past at contributing key words.   We've been through a lot of them, and will continue to be since part of the institutional transformation we see is transient, in the sense that none of us ever wants HASTAC to be today what it was yesterday.   That's our anti-institutional, "future of thinking" bias.


From Twitter.  Question. Create. Transform.   Has a nice ring to it, too.


Why limit your impact to the "digital age?" Isn't it high time the humanities created and transformed with or without wikis and blogs and tweets and videogames?


Lol.  Interesting.   I'm fascinating by how much, even at Mozilla, was about non-digital interaction based on open web development collaboration.  


Obviously I'm interested in things digital, and I believe that they are and will continue to transform the way that we do work. But, I don't think the humanities needed to wait until the "digital age" (I suppose time will have to test that name) to discover creation and transformation. I just think it's import to realize that computation is not really the magic ingredient here, even if it may be a facilitator.

Those are values I love by the way -- they make a significant appearance both in the new mission we're drafting for Georgia Tech Digital media and in my forthcoming book Alien Phenomenology.



Hi, Ian, I don't disagree.  HASTAC isn't "digital humanities" in that instrumental sense and I'm not sure it is "humanities" so much as wants to change the boundaries, institutionally, of the "two cultures" that may have made sense for the Industrial Age but is ridiculously anachronistic for the digital age.   It's a different engine than making digital tools to serve the unreconstituted humanities.   HASTAC 's motivator is primarily in transdisciplinary and institutional reform, including reaching far outside the academy.   I would never think of computation as the magic ingredient that is why whatever words we play with, "digital" isn't one of them!   Create. Transform. Question. Critique.  Learn.       We've never had "digital" as one of our key words in this ongoing (over years!) discussion of what comes first.   I agree with you completely.  


By the way, have you checked out our new Master's in Knowledge and Networks?   After it is approved, we hope to use it foundationally for a MS in Knowledge and Networks and a MBA, all working from the same platform that some would recognize as "humanities" but I think of as simply foundational for creative and deep thinking about any era and about social change more broadly.  :      The four required courses for the program Twenty-first Century Literacies; History and Future of (Multimedia) Reading, Writing, and Communication; Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age; and  Assessment and Data Mining. 


"We've never had "digital" as one of our key words in this ongoing (over years!) discussion of what comes first."

Right. That's why I was surprised to see you highlight the "digital age" above. But mostly I'm just prodding.. :)

"By the way, have you checked out our new Master's in Knowledge and Networks"

I have, and I've been giving it considerable thought since I saw the proposal when you first posted it. Nothing more to say about it yet, other than the fact that I've been keeping an eye on this.


btw, I would argue that item-response NCLB/ETS testing is among the "technologies" we have to interrogate.