Blog Post

Project Academic Makeover: Transforming Conferences, Publishing, the Profession


A:  DECEMBER 1-3*, 2011 in Ann Arbor, at the University of Michigan, @ HASTAC V. 

[*Please note:  evening of Dec 1 is the pre-conference #alt-ac workshop; conference itself is Dec 2-3]

This year's HASTAC Conference promises to be both like and nothing like traditional academic conferences.  And that's exactly as it should be:  We all know that you cannot change the message without changing the medium. We all know that changing the medium inevitably changes the message. HASTAC's fifth international conference, hosted this year by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, December 1-3, practices what it preaches, experimenting with an array of new forms and formats designed not just to discuss "Digital Scholarly Communication" but to explore how each of those three terms--digital, scholarly, communication--changes the others in ways that presage powerful new possibilities for higher education (both in the academy and for the general public). 

You can view the entire Conference program here:    

And you can register here: 

#alt-ac: Alternative Academic Careers:

The conference opens with an evening dedicated to #alt-ac: Alternative Academic Careers, careers that are alternative to traditional tenure-track jobs in academe but that fully use the skills, talents, methods, and expertise of academic training coupled with new, complex, important understanding of the role of academics in lifelong learning and in institutions that range from museums and libraries and after-school programs to programs within academe and, of course, to positions in the corporate world. Steve Jobs trumpeted the importance of the humanities and social science and the arts to technology and that relationship goes all ways.** The #alt-ac workshop takes real resumes and shows how they can be models for success, transforming academic credentials into skills necessary and vital in the world beyond the university.  No lectures please! This is a hands' on, encouraging, inspiring, challenging event that can be life-changing for participants.


The rest of the conference intersperses a range of keynotes across an array of academic and non-academic fields with sessions packed with innovation, in ideas and in methods. Keynoting are Cathy Davidson (moi) talking about "Reclaiming the Information Age" for an expanded humanities; computer scientist Dan Atkins is talking about "Cyberinfrastructure";  Josh GreenbergJ, a sociologist of knowledge and Program Director for Digital Information Technology and the Dissemination of Knowledge at the Sloan Foundation, will talk about "Public Digital Display"; Siva Vaidhyanathan of the University of Virginia warns of the "Googlization of Everything"; and then Jim Leach, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will discuss "Digital Technologies in the Civilizing Project of the Global Humanities." Well, that should about cover it, right?  Project Academic Makeover--the conference, publishing, the profession, the world. 

Lightning Talks, Workshops, Interactivity, Art: 

But although I am one of the keynoters in this incredibly distinguished line up of interesting players across many key domains, it's the rest of the conference that really intrigues me. Here there is a wedding of traditional conference with all the great new forms of unconferences, bar camps, and on and on, virtual and face-to-face. There are over a dozen roundtables concurrent with lightning talks (mini-lectures) and then there are combined Q and A sessions. There is time for idea jamming, workshopping, and other ways of meeting and interacting. There is art, music, tours virtual and real, digital arts exhibits, and interactive experiences on every level.


...And More!

Here is something I especially am excited about: the border of research/teaching/publishing is permeable in new ways when you take seriously the possibilities of interactive digital communication and you see that everywhere in this program. Also, you see process as much as product---sessions not just on social media but on organizing virtual organization, on the groundwork invisible behind the website but highly apparent to anyone attempting to construct (deconstruct?) a traditional or virtual institution. Lots of "behind the scenes" at this conference . . .  the virtual "green room" is where everyone gets to hang out, not just the stars who already know how they got there.

If there is a major puzzle to be solved now, as we think of higher education in the 21st century, this is one of the first conferences I know of anywhere to truly be looking at each of the pieces in relationship to the other. We won't solve the puzzle here, but you just know we're going to get the transformation started!

I can't wait. I'm thrilled.I'm grateful. I'm grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to put on this amazing event, and I can't wait to see you all there. Project Academic Makeover: Let's Get Started!


** "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough—it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing and nowhere is that more true than in the post-PC devices."—Steve Jobs, quoted in New York Times, March 24, 2011




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