Blog Post

A View of HASTAC's Journey to Traversing Digital Boundaries

Welcome to Urbana-Champaign!  Our hosts at the University of Illinois, especially the Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (ICHASS), have an exciting and multifaceted agenda planned.  And for the members of our community that are joining us virtually, welcome to one of the online spaces where we will chronicle the Traversing Digital Boundaries conference over the next three days.  Stay tuned also to our Twitter account and the ICHASS website for additional conference coverage.

As HASTAC's project manager, I have had the privilege of attending each of our annual conferences and absorbing the innovative and interdisciplinary thinking that is presented here.  Much of this has been in the form of completed research, with its authors moving on to the phase of presenting and publishing.  However, a good deal of what we have heard at these gatherings takes the form of nascent thinking, pliable and influenced by the official responses and corridor conversations provided by other attendees.  As we begin our third annual conference, I think a road map of where we have been is in order.


2007: Electronic Techtonics: Thinking at the Interface

Our inaugural international conference was held in Durham, North Carolina on April 19-21, 2007.  Keynotes by John Seely Brown, James Boyle, and Rebecca Allen set the stage for our inquiries into the many interfaces that humanists, scientists, artists, and others encounter as we enter a ubiquitous technological realm.  You can see the many ideas presented at the conference in our online proceedings with video of selected sessions.  Among the provocative ideas I took away from the conference were: Anna Everett's challenge to how we conceive of the digital divide, Rebecca Allen's early design work on the One Laptop Per Child project, and Sarah Sweeney's consideration of wayfinding on the web through the framework of urban planning undertaking and deciphering our physical structural environment.  These are only a few examples of the many interfaces considered, reconsidered, and reconfigured in our time together in Durham.  For lighter but still quite stimulating viewing, I also recommend the very large (12 person!) panel led by Anne Balsamo, At the Interface of Everything.


2008: TechnoTravels/TeleMobility: HASTAC in Motion

I want to start at the end for this one.  In his closing remarks on May 24, 2008, David Theo Goldberg proposed that our theoretical moment called for "a mobile humanities" that will allow us to respond to the questions of humanistic inquiry in whatever form they take.  The physical context for his statement was also important: on the campus of UCLA for Day 3, when Days 1 and 2, on May 22-23, had taken place at UC-Irvine.  We traversed that distance with a 2.5 hour bus tour of as many neighborhoods as we could, led by historian of Southern California Norman Klein.  The tour emphaszied the mobility (or lack thereof) of people, job centers, neighborhoods, boundaries, and even houses that is exemplified by communities from Newport Beach to Echo Park to Bel Air.  In the earlier days of that conference, we heard of some of the technologies that enable our understanding of moving places and shifting boundaries.  One in particular was the T-RACES project (Testbed for the Redlining Archives of California's Exclusionary Spaces, led by David Theo Goldberg and Richard Marciano), an overlay of historical real estate redlining information in 8 California cities with current Google Earth images of those areas (see my liveblog of that presentation for more information).  Also, Curtis Wong, Howard Rheingold, and Brenda Laurel shared stories of the technological roads they traveled, from the institutions of Atari and Microsoft, through virtual communities like The WELL, and scuba diving and gardening in between.  For accounts of their talks, see Allison Dame-Boyle's wrap-up of the conference.


 2009: Traversing Digital Boundaries

With all that we've seen, I look forward to the explorations we will undertake at HASTAC III.  Since our last conference, HASTAC has branched out in many ways. We have collaborated with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on a second year of the Digital Media and Learning Competition, with the next cohort of winners launched on Thursday in Chicago.  Notably, we began the HASTAC Scholars program, a group of students from across the nation (and some stationed in the EU and the Middle East, too) reporting on their work crossing the boundaries of technology, the arts, humanities, and social sciences.  You can see the forums they have initiated and contribute to their current forum on blogging and microblogging in academia. I look forward to meeting the Scholars that will be with us in Urbana-Champaign over the next few days, and everyone can see their contributions on the aforementioned forum and in other blogs about the conference.


HASTAC III.   ?Traversing Digital Boundaries.?

This blog is part of a series of blogs leading up to the third annual HASTAC conference, which will be held April 19-21, 2009 , at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the theme ?Traversing Digital Boundaries.? As the theme suggests, the gathering will focus on the exploration of new territory and on work that crosses, manipulates, or simply ignores traditional boundaries. The conference program will include presentations of research, performances, technology demonstrations, posters, panel discussions, and ?virtual? participation via telepresence technology.   For more information, visit or contact


No comments