THE HUMANITIES IN ACTION LAB
The "Humanities in Action Lab" is a multilevel project in motion with initiatives that are national and international in scope, that take place on and off campus, and on programmatic and curricular levels. The overall vision of the initiative is centered around the philosophy that the future of the Arts and Humanities depends on our ability to clearly articulate who we are, what we do, and why. The future of the Arts & Humanities lies not only in strengthening and innovating our core, but also in finding and strengthening connection points and partnerships, collaborating with our colleagues across fields and disciplines, our friends in the professional world, and our current and future students. The projects outlined on this page (and the entries in the blog) focus on building bridges and understanding in collaboration across multiple institutions, professions, and fields. This is a project that builds on itself every year, patiently, to build partnerships and programs that make a difference and sustainable change in collaboration.
This is a webpage initiative with many levels. Please go directly to the webpage for more information.
"You know the story well: every day we hear that the Humanities are in crisis. You have probably heard all of the arguments: our majors are unemployable and make little money; our departments and programs are too costly and pay back too little; and our research is frivolous and a waste of taxpayer’s money. We are here to provide some perspective on these remarks, not through the words of more artists and humanists trying to convince you of the clear benefits of our disciplines, but through the perspectives gained by employers and leaders from fields as varied as engineering, biology, nanotechnology, social work, business administration, economics, environmental studies, entrepreneurship, political science or medicine. We demonstrate on this site that an education in arts and humanities, from kindergarten to higher education, has concrete implications and outcomes on individual lives and on our nation’s global economic competitiveness."
~ Supported by a Humanities Research Grant from Union College
Christine Henseler co-directs 4Humanities with Alan Liu, Geoffrey Rockwell, Stéfan Sinclair, Melissa Terras.
4Humanities is a site created by the international community of digital humanities scholars and educators to assist in advocacy for the humanities.
4Humanities is both a platform and a resource. As a platform, 4Humanities will stage the efforts of humanities advocates to reach out to the public. We are a combination newspaper, magazine, channel, blog, wiki, and social network. We solicit well-reasoned or creative demonstrations, examples, testimonials, arguments, opinion pieces, open letters, press releases, print posters, video advertisements, write-in campaigns, social-media campaigns, short films, and other innovative forms of humanities advocacy, along with accessibly-written scholarly works grounding the whole in research or reflection about the state of the humanities.
As a resource, 4Humanities will provide humanities advocates with a stockpile of digital tools, collaboration methods, royalty-free designs and images, best practices, new-media expertise, and customizable newsfeeds of issues and events relevant to the state of the humanities in any local or national context. Whether humanities advocates choose to conduct their publicity on 4Humanities itself or instead through their own newsletter, Web site, blog, and so on, we want to help with the best that digital-humanities experts have to offer. (See full mission statement)
Humanities, Plain & Simple
Humanities, Plain & Simple is a comprehensive and targeted campaign that calls out to individuals and groups inside and outside of academia to write statements in “plain language” as to why the Humanities matter. How has Humanities-based thinking directly or indirectly altered or innovated strategies, ideas, research, leadership, learning? The statements will be published on the 4Humanities site and/or in mainstream print publications or digital media sites. The pieces may be of a serious or sarcastic nature; they may be of a few short paragraphs or of several pages; they may address the effects of a particular experience or talk about the Humanities as a whole. The only request is for writers to communicate in the language of everyday life, to address a general audience, and to refer to real-world situations.
We highly welcome the work of individuals from inside and outside of academia, and from inside and outside of the Humanities. We are also interested in putting together teams from a variety of backgrounds to write and edit longer essays targeted to specific audiences. If you are interested in this initiative, or would like to submit advocacy statements, please send them to Christine Henseler (firstname.lastname@example.org). The material will be evaluated by the 4Humanities Collective for possible publication and dissemination. All accepted pieces will be posted on the 4Humanities website.
4Humanities@ NY6 Regional Chapter
The New York 6 is a consortium of liberal arts schools consisting of Colgate University, Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Skidmore College, St. Lawrence University and Union College. At a recent NY6 symposium co-hosted by Hamilton College’s Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi) in October 2012, representatives from all six institutions discussed new ways to support digital scholarship and digital humanities initiatives. One of the many exciting results of these conversations has led to the creation of a 4Humanities@NY6 regional chapter. As a 4Humanities regional chapter, we believe we can play a significant role in advocating for the Digital Humanities at large, collaborating across institutions, and showcasing our work internationally.
In accordance with the mission of 4Humanities, the NY6 chapter will function as a, “traditional reading/study/discussion group devoted to scholarly research on topics related to advocating for the [digital] humanities.” We are also supporting and promoting the following activities, which are open to faculty and students of all six schools:
• Invite speakers and hold reading/study/discussion meetings devoted to scholarly research around the current state of the (digital) humanities.
• Develop working writing groups to create pieces on the state and value of the (digital) humanities for a variety of academic and general audiences.
• Hold an annual colloquium with relevant keynote speakers (budget allowing).
• Develop longer written pieces or blogs by faculty and students that talk about the process of creating digital material and why this is important.
• Create faculty/student groups inside and outside our classrooms to develop advocacy material for the 4Humanities site (in writing and through digital media)
• Create special scholarship awards or contests.
• Support a 4Humanities undergraduate working group to include our students as directly as possible in these activities
To support these activities, the NY6 consortium has generously given us a starting budget for Spring and Summer 2013. Please email Christine Henseler with ideas, proposals, or questions!
4Humanities@NY6 – hosted at Union College
“Defining and Framing the Humanities Today”
Union College hosted “Defining and Framing the Humanities Today” a half-day public forum on the arts and humanities on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. The forum was sponsored by 4humanities@NY6, an initiative of the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium. The forum kicked off a series of events meant to advocate and showcase the arts and humanities in upstate New York and particularly in the New York Six. Keynote speaker was Alan Liu, professor of English at the University of California and director of 4humanities. Prof. Liu gave a presentation on Values, Strategies, and Technologies for Humanities Advocacy in the Digital Age. He also led a workshop discussion on “The Heart of the Matter” report, which was produced by the American Academy of Arts & Science’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. The goal of the discussion was to outline the report’s structure, raise awareness of specific issues and proposals and discuss possible contributions.
"Reshaping Public Conversations on the Arts & Humanities "
NY6 Summer Think Tank
On July 18th and 19th, 2014, 4Humanities@NY6 is hosting a Summer Think Tank titled “Reshaping Public Conversations on the Arts & Humanities” in Ithaca, NY. The goal of the event is to reshape—rethink and rewrite—public conversations on the state of the arts and humanities in a relaxing and participatory environment. At this event 18 individuals from across our NY6 schools (3 per school) will have the opportunity to articulate how to change public opinion by thinking outside the box, discovering and applying ideas from different fields and spheres, and beginning to develop publishable material.
Before the Think Tank session, each institutional group will identify one report, article or issue they would like to focus on (some possibilities may be found on this spreadsheet developed by Alan Liu called “WhatEvery1Says“). At the session, each group will share their reactions, present alternate data, material, and ideas, and suggest ways to counter, add, or change the dialogue presented. Participants are encouraged not to reiterate arguments that have informed public conversations in the past, but to think creatively from different academic and professional perspectives and through the eyes of various audiences.
In this participatory environment, NY6 participants and invited guests will engage with each other’s ideas, brainstorm and reshape arguments with the goal of writing a blog, an op-ed, a presentation, or a longer article for possible publication in traditional or non-traditional media outlets (of your choice). The writing of these pieces will continue virtually during the summer and in collaboration on a Wiki or Google doc.
If you are interested in participating in this event or you would like more information, please contact Christine Henseler (email@example.com)
This event is generously supported by a grant from the NY6.
Panel at the
Modern Language Associate Convention
(to view the papers, go to 4Humanities)
Jan. 4th, 8:30 - 9:45, 8:30–9:45 a.m., Commonwealth, Sheraton
“Humanities in the Twenty-first Century:
Innovation in Research and Practice”
"The Promise of Humanities Practice"
President of Mount Holyoke
"Making the Humanities 'Count'"
David Theo Goldberg
Co-founder of HASTAC and Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute
UC Irvine. Professor, Comparative Literature
"The National Endowment for the Humanities"
Director, Division of Research Programs
"The Humanities in the Digital Age"
Associate Professor at Union College
Why the Humanities Matter
On October 14th, 2010, I created a Wikispace page where individuals could comment on "Why The Humanities Matter."
Below are several responses. Please feel free to access the public Wiki page to see more and add your remarks.
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A PROFESSOR IN THEATRE
I hear many lamenting the loss of languages or decrying the general harm to humanities SUNY Albany's cuts will do. It is shameful. However,we
must not forget the contributions of theatre, not just to our culture, but to a liberal arts education. There is a public misconception that an education in theatre is only for actors or academics. In today's age of interdisciplinary learning, theatre departments should be recognized as icons of a liberal arts program. In few other academic disciplines do the subjects of history, literature, psychology, science, math, engineering, visual art and sculpture permeate every hour of the day.
Actors and directors must know the history surrounding a play. They must know literature and its devices to understand the story the play
tells. They must know psychology to understand what motivates their character's actions. Technicians must know science to understand the
physics of lighting or the chemistry of cooking fake glass. They must know math to layout and construct an archway or even for something as
simple as reading the fractions on a tape measure. They must know engineering to choose appropriate materials when building sets or flying
performers. Designers must know about and be skilled in the myriad conventions of visual artists and sculptors in order to convey the appropriate moods and feelings in their sets, lights and costumes.
More than these academic subjects, the skilled theatre professional must also possess finely tuned creative problem solving and collaborative
skills. Learning not just to succeed but excel within tightly defined parameters is the daily fodder of directors, actors and technicians.
Theatre programs are one of the most effective methods for nurturing these rare and invaluable assets. This list of needed knowledge and
skills is a miniscule example of the multitudinous subjects taught and used every day in the field of Theatre. Success in this field requires
a massive breadth and wealth of knowledge. Eliminating a theatre department deals a debilitating and depressing blow to any liberal arts
Thanks for listening to my two cents!
Steven M. Michalek
Technical Director, Lighting Designer, Production Manager
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Theatre and Dance
Union College (and SUNY Albany alum)
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF AN ARCHAEOLOGIST
16 October 2010
Francis Bacon said "Histories make men wise."
Yet history is replete with civilizations that failed to learn the most important lessons of adapting to changing times, losing grip on those positive core values distinguishing them in the first place, and making their appearance and contributions brief. I am not surprised how many of my Stanford undergraduate as well as postgraduate adult courses are filled with pre-engineering or pre-law students as well as professional engineers, bankers and lawyers trying to feed their souls starved by a relentlessly arid commercial society driven by bottom line, profit margin and productivity. Commerce alone does not feed society without compassion to reach out to those without food. That broader reach makes us human. While machines can calculate and do wonderful tasks, they are incapable of such higher thought. Archaeologists and historians try to understand the past, and perhaps this enables them to not only better grasp the present but perhaps even to better glimpse the future.
Dr. Patrick Hunt, Stanford University
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A HISPANIST:
The Humanities matter because humanists do the heavy lifting of society. The description of the universe is child's play alongside the description of the human soul. Yet that is precisely what culture attempts to do through its modeling of lived human experience, and it is humanists who describe to us that attempt and assess its scope, failures, and successes.
Professor David William Foster, Arizona State University
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A STUDENT IN MEDIEVAL LITERATURE:
October 15th, 2010
How does one experience math? What does the knowledge of science feel like? Why do we talk about the sun setting, when we know it's the earth which is rotating? The humanities matter because they study the reaction of the human mind to the world. This is not simply psychology. Psychology is a science which explains the infrastructure affecting consciousness. The humanities study the questions science cannot: What's it like to know something, or believe something? Science studies that which can be measured. That's great. We need it, and it's done awesome things for us. But how do we know that only things which can be measured exist? How can science prove that? Once a scientist argues that only the measurable exists, he has done philosophy. Once he argues that a sunset is beautiful - not, mind you, how the human mind processes it as beautiful, but that it is beautiful - he has done poetry. The fact is, the empirical world can not be fully studied without the humanities, because not all of our empirical experiences translate readily into math or science. Science has been advanced, often, by the works of the imagination. I recall watching a scientific study of the effect of nature on the human mind, inspired by Romanticism to ask the question, Does nature make us happier and healthier? They found that, in fact, it does. This imaginative question would not arise to be asked without the dynamic imagination invested in the poetic tradition, to inspire scientific questions in the empirical world. If we take away imagination and the humanities, we also take away the same creative force behind every scientific study. All pursuits of knowledge stand or fall, in my opinion, together.
PhD Student in Medieval Literature
Saint Louis University
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A PROFESSOR OF FRENCH
15 October 2010
Studies in the humanities spark and develop an individual's capacity for enlightened empathy. No trait is more important for counterbalancing the all-too-human tendency toward bigotry, chauvinism, and egocentricity. To debase the status of the humanities in higher education is to undermine its soul.
Edward Baron Turk
John E. Burchard Professor of the Humanities
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A LIBRARIAN
5 October 2010
How can a person be considered educated without an exposure to art, literature, cinema, language, theater, music, and all the other facets that we include in the broad category of "humanities?" Historically it has only been members of nobility, the privileged classes, and clerics who were able to receive tutoring in the classics. Is that what we return to now, in the 21st century, when in a global environment it is even more important for all citizens of the world to have a basic understanding about how people creatively express themselves? Without humanities there is no civilization, no intellectual life in the world. Without humanities education there is no true literacy, no humanity! Science is empirical, humanities are creative. Science measures and leads to technical wonders. Humanities enable human beings to appreciate the way those technical wonders enhance life through sound, light, and the written word. Let us not return to an intellectually-diminished world. Let us celebrate the creative spirit of man which, through the study and appreciation of spiritually-inspired creations, allows us to fully participate in the totality of the human condition.
"The educated differ from the uneducated, as the living from the dead." (Aristotle on Education, 384 - 322 B.C.)
University of California, Los Angeles
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF OUR LEANING TOWER OF PISA
Much is being said on this Wiki regarding the role of the Humanities to inject soul and spirit, humanity and literacy into human endeavors. I absolutely agree. But as long as we continue to describe our disciplines abstractly, we will remain, as the discussion on Libraries and the Humanities suggests, unsearchable and, quite simply, invisible to the rest of the world.
We need to assure that others understand why and how the Humanities provide cutting-edge value to other disciplines inside and outside of academia. As Kathryn Tomaseks entry highlights, we need to demonstrate in what ways the Humanities are integral to our evolving (digital) culture. Why should engineers, chemists, political scientists, or biologist care? Why should they pay any attention to us at all?
While there is much value in discipline-specific studies, and I do not wish to undermine its importance, I believe the humanities can gain more ground, more forcefully and concretely through interdisciplinary work. Interdisciplinarity, as well as service learning programs and any and all programs that reach beyond the confines of our discipline-specific and closed borders, allows us, yes, in fact it forces us, to reach out to other communities and clearly communicate who and what we are about.
The truth is, we are not innocent in this long-standing and developing crisis.
Cross-disciplinary interactions remove us from the abstract, often jargon-filled silos we have constructed around ourselves. Interdisciplinary projects, among others, put us in contact with a more material world. Instead of indulging in theoretical, academic jargon that only we can understand, we now have to explain and apply our intellectual approaches and endeavors to the work of others. There is a place for theoretical discipline-specific musings; but we may also need to think and recognize how and why what we do has concrete effects in the world at large.
Initiatives at Union College