"Optimist despite Trump". Robert Darnton on history, open access and the future of the humanities

Domande e minutaggio:

0:17 Aside from being one of the most prominent historians of our time and a pioneer of both cultural history and the history of the book, you have been one of the first advocates of open access in the humanities and a brilliant analyst of the evolution of the historical discipline in the digital age. What’s next for Robert Darnton? What are you working on right now?

2:38 In 2011 you have been awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama for your “determination to make knowledge accessible to everyone”. During your career you have been a great historical communicator, striving to make history, I quote, “a satisfying experience [for ordinary readers], one that enlarges the understanding of the human condition”. How is this task changed by digital technologies? Is the voice of the historian amplified by these new modes of communication or is it overwhelmed by the myriad of different centers of authority the Internet gives voice to?

10:34 How do you feel about writing? What constitute a well written history book?

14:17  You have been and are a strong advocate of free access to academic knowledge, participating in important and pioneering projects such as Gutenberg-e, the Digital Public Library of America and the application of an open access policy to Harvard research papers. Despite your and many others’ efforts it is safe to say that the “walled garden” model is still the prevalent model for the diffusion of scientific knowledge, especially in the humanities. How do you see the future of OA in our field of studies?  How do you judge the acts of “civil disobedience”, exemplified by websites that grant illegal or extra-legal access to academic copyrighted material and epitomized by the tragic death of Aaron Swartz in 2013?

23:17 In your 2000 presidential address to the American Historical Association you pointed out how every society is an information society. You then went on to describe 18th century France “news” as collectively created multimedia narrations conveyed through “oral networks”. Do you see a parallel between 18th century “public noises” and today “fake news”, shared through and amplified by social media? Can the former be used to better understand the latter, their formation, their diffusion, their reception and appeal?

29:15 Last week the Trump administration released a budget proposal that would eliminate the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts. Although it is only a declaration of intents, this is has been interpreted as a statement against the “liberal elites”, supposedly the only consumers of arts and humanities. What does this say about the future of humanistic research in the United States and the world? How should academics react to such “statements”?

35:23 There will be a future for humanistic research? Which direction will it take?

Posted on April 21, 2017 .