Blog Post

What’s Next for HASTAC: A Conversation with Co-Directors Cathy Davidson and Jacqueline Wernimont












Beginning July 1, HASTAC will have a new co-director—the multi-talented Jacqueline Wernimont (pictured left), Director of the Nexus Lab and Assistant Professor at Arizona State University.  Professor Wernimont will join Cathy Davidson (pictured right), HASTAC Co-Founder, Futures Initiative Founding Director, and Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center at CUNY in leading HASTAC in the organization’s next phase of development.   We’re excited about everything this dynamic duo will achieve in what is sure to be a productive and creative partnership.    Here’s a taste of what our co-directors have in mind for HASTAC in the years to come!

What are your thoughts about the upcoming new partnership and leadership team running HASTAC from the Graduate Center CUNY and from Arizona State University?

Cathy Davidson:  I could not be more excited about what this partnership means for the future of HASTAC and, beyond, for all we can do to inspire higher education in new forms of scholarship, pedagogy, digital literacy, and interdisciplinary collaboration.  ASU held an inventive, exciting HASTAC conference in 2016, one that brought together so many scholars and students from programs across the university and beyond. We were thrilled when they then responded to HASTAC’s request for proposals and ended up the top choice after a rigorous and competitive search process.

ASU epitomizes a public university with values of equity and innovation at its core, as well as a commitment to HASTAC’s ideal of “Changing the Way We Teach and Learn.”  ASU also embraces the ideal of difference, in all its dimensions, in a way that recalls the original open source, collective goals of the open Web and of HASTAC.   From the beginning, we’ve believed having as many voices as possible participating leads to the best results.  This ethos is reflected in HASTAC’s other motto: “Difference is our operating system.”  CUNY was founded on those commitments. In this dire time of extreme defunding and other kinds of threats to the future of public higher education, it is the ideal time for two major public universities, one in New York and one in Arizona, to work together as leaders, advocates, and innovators.  

I’m also thrilled to be co-directing HASTAC with Jacque Wernimont.  Jacque’s commitments to interdisciplinary scholarship, to feminism, to understanding technology and to using it in brilliant new ways, and her effortless movements across the computational sciences, the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences epitomize next generation scholarship and much of what is best about HASTAC.   

Jacqueline Wernimont:  Our new HASTAC partnership with the CUNY Graduate Center is exciting for a number of reasons. First to my mind is that it brings together two major US institutions that are committed to public education in the 21st century in order to address not only the future of humanities scholarship, but also the future of transdisciplinary learning, teaching, and research. In addition and perhaps more importantly, both institutions are committed to serving historically underrepresented communities and to making high quality research and education available to all.

Collaboratories - like HASTAC - are designed to weave together and activate networks in order to understand and address complex problems. By bringing together two major urban universities in two very different geographical settings, we are activating broad and diverse networks in order to effect change. The GC-ASU partnership gives us the opportunity to bring together regionally inflected approaches to the environment, technology, history, community, and the arts.  While our particular southwestern and northeastern locations give us powerful insights, HASTAC *is* a collection of otherwise dispersed research environments, meaning that this a fantastic opportunity to bring a myriad of localized approaches into consideration at larger scales, whether regional, national, or international.

Beyond being digitally networked, collaboratories involve a set of networked social processes and values. The HASTAC communities are well-established and have long standing commitments to caring for one another, to providing mentorship, and to ensuring that, as Cathy said, as many voices as possible can be heard. I’m extremely excited about the ethical and social commitments that are built into the HASTAC network by design, which I think are essential to the success of transdisciplinary research.

How did ASU decide to bid to be the new co-directing institution for HASTAC?  Who was involved and why?

Jacqueline Wernimont:  The ASU proposal was deeply collaborative. It grew out of the successes that Michael Simeone, now the director of our Data Science Center, has had with HASTAC events over the years, both here in Arizona and elsewhere (like Peru!).  Michael’s work within HASTAC helped to make clear how well the mission of ASU fits with that of HASTAC. Consequently, when the request for proposals went out, there was broad agreement that HASTAC is a community and set of social relationships that we wanted to not only be a part of, but also help to support and advance. I consider the social aspects of HASTAC to be a premier feature.   It is also quite unique to find an organization with an accompanying focus on transdisciplinary work, which is at the heart of ASU’s notion of the New American University.  These two features made it easy for a coalition of partners to step forward in support of our application, including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), the Global Security Initiative (GSI), the Institute for Humanities Research, the Office of Knowledge Enterprise and Development (OKED), the Center for Science and the Imagination, Nexus Lab, and ASU’s Hayden Library. In particular, the support of Dean George Justice (CLAS), Nadya Bliss (GSI), and Cora Fox (IHR) has been absolutely essential to our success in envisioning what HASTAC@ASU might look like, as well as understanding what we can uniquely contribute to the HASTAC community through efforts relating to digital civil rights, the safety of individuals and communities in our 21st century digital cultures, medical humanities, and more.

On a personal level, being able to work with and for this amazing community of scholars, from Cathy and the Steering Committee, to our student HASTAC Scholars, is an enormous privilege and I’m looking forward to learning from everyone here.

What do you envision the Graduate Center at CUNY contributing in 2017-2018?

Cathy Davidson:  We’re dividing up some responsibilities and then others will be shared.  The Graduate Center will continue to be the principal leader of the HASTAC Scholars program, typically over 200 students (about 80% graduate students) each year, from somewhere around 70 or more institutions. Erin Gentry Lamb at Duke was the graduate student and founding director of the HASTAC Scholars, then followed by Duke doctoral student Fiona Barnett’s long time directing and then co-directing with Graduate Center doctoral candidate and Futures Initiative Fellow Kalle Westerling.  Kalle will continue to direct this student-run network which contributes the most to HASTAC’s activity and networking.  The Futures Initiative team at the Graduate Center will also continue to be actively involved with intellectual and pedagogical contributions, with contributions to the monthly newsletters, and serving as the chief liaison with our distinguished Steering Committee.  

What do you envision ASU contributing in 2017-2018?

Jacqueline Wernimont:  We’re really excited to begin sharing in the logistical work that makes HASTAC run.  Seriously, I believe deeply that infrastructure matters to communities.   A big part of our work will be ensuring that the site remains a vibrant hub of HASTAC activities. Similarly, the “network weaving” work of bringing together scholars at all ranks and from across disciplines to address complex or “wicked” problems is my jam, so to speak, so I’m excited about those opportunities both in digital and terrestrial spaces. We’ve hired the fabulous Elizabeth (Liz) Grumbach to help us with some of the infrastructure elements, but also to help drive some of our vision. Liz previously wove networks at Texas A&M University and we are over the moon to have her here to help us think about how we can best support and foster digital collaboration.

Michael Simeone, whom I mentioned earlier, will continue to help us envision ways of bringing data science/analytics/visualizations to bear on our stickiest of problems and will be helping us liaise with the many library and information science communities that are part of the heart of HASTAC.

We are currently exploring ways that the IHR and GSI can bring some of our local expertise to topics that matter to HASTAC community members. There are so many opportunities and we don’t know yet whether this will be through our pedagogical experiments in hands-on humanities and arts research, on topics related to health and the humanities, or through GSI’s work to ask the important questions about AI, algorithmic bias, and surveillance cultures, or something else entirely. Nevertheless, I’m very excited about the opportunities for HASTAC communities to engage with some of the work that is going forward here at ASU.

Finally, I’m extremely excited about our first programmatic area, which will focus on Transborder/Borderlands approaches to science, technology, and cultures. This is very much in progress, as I’m just now pulling together a national advisory committee to help guide this work. That said, I think there is an extraordinary amount of work going on right now within indigenous, migrant (whether forced or voluntary), and marginalized communities to advance their own understandings and engagements with STEM and digital cultures. I am excited to see where this project will lead both HASTAC and the nation.



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