toward a more public humanities.

These concepts are co-curated by Samantha Wallace and myself, and co-developed with participants in the FORCE11 2018 Scholarly Communication Institute Public Humanities as Scholarly Communication course.

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Problematizing and operationalizing

There are many problems with defining “public humanities” with a group of academics, in an air conditioned room, during a work week, after a good meal, in a university classroom in sunny San Diego. Acknowledging that, our small community agreed that there was still a need and desire to begin from where we are, and attempt to orient ourselves (as public citizens also), our praxis, and our profession (higher education) outward.

Our task and goal was to collaboratively lean toward a more public humanities, through readings, shared discussion, and brainstorming exercises. Throughout, we challenged and problematized the structures of power, language, and space that create artificial distinctions between those outside the academy and those inside.

Over 4 days, 2 different courses, with 22 unique voices and histories, we distilled several lists that taken together complement and inform possible future directions.

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Things were did!

A framework for a more open, public humanities:

  • Locally-driven research agenda — inviting in rather than promoting to
  • Redefining audience(s) for scholarly products
  • Comfort with new forms of scholarly outputs
  • Advocacy for new forms of evaluation
  • Alignment with the vision/goals of citizen science
  • Applied, practical, people-purposed work
  • Practice effective Humanities Communication — “HumComm.” We are responsible to make our work understandable.
  • Must be infrastructure-aware
  • Open doesn’t have to focus on the product; could be process, individual.
  • Decenter the scholar
  • Examine how/why we conduct scholarship, aside from award systems in higher ed
  • Not a project, but an orientation, a way to situate oneself.
  • Responsive to culture and society

Un marco para unas humanidades más públicas y abiertas

*Gratitude to Gimena del Rio for the translation*

  • Una agenda de investigación impulsada localmente — invitar en lugar de promover a
  • Redefinir las audiencia(s) de las producciones académicas
  • Adaptarse a las nuevas formas de resultados académicos
  • Apoyar y fomentar nuevas formas de evaluación
  • Apoyar y fomentar aproximaciones desde la ciencia ciudadana
  • (Investigación, trabajo) aplicado, práctico, orientado a las personas
  • Mejorar lo relacionado con los comunes de las Humanidades
  • somos responsable de hacer que nuestro trabajo sea comprendido por todos
  • Debe ser consciente de la infraestructura
  • Lo abierto no tiene que enfocarse en el producto; podría ser un proceso, individual.
  • Descentrar al investigador
  • Examinar cómo / por qué llevamos a cabo nuestra investigación más allá de los sistemas de premios en la carrera
  • No es un proyecto, sino una orientación, un camino
  • Una respuesta oportuna a este momento

Characteristics of a more public, open humanities

  • Somehow in a similar space as citizen science
  • Communities contributing at the core
  • Against the normative structure of how we practice the humanities
  • Projects are finite, but the communities are not
  • Tension between project, process, politics, and preservation
  • Barriers between the public and the structures of doing/making humanities work
  • Non-disciplinary
  • Awareness of the language that separates us
  • Conversational
  • Academy needs to better understand the public(s)
  • Recognizes and values a continuum of expertise
  • Questions the utility of the work we do
  • Produces a ‘Public good’

Loosely-coupled infrastructure for a more public, open humanities

  • Access to public spaces: public library, local bookstore, coffee shop, community center
  • Paper/printer (non-technology based communication)
  • An object of attention
  • An experience of attention
  • Process to document and disseminate
  • Archival system for web-based projects
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Building from collaborative work that began at OpenCon 2017 in Berlin, these lists are meant to be a starting point, not an end. The communities that participated and shared the expertise with us are central to the future of this labor.

Co-create and challenge our ideas here, or in your own local spaces and communities.

Written by

I build programs, initiatives, and communities around the idea that "open" is a core and defining principle of our current era.

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