John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures

Platforms of Knowledge in a Wide Web of Worlds: Production, Participation, and Politics

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web’s public debut, the Humanities Research Center at Rice University is hosting a 2015-16 John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The seminar will incubate a broadly humanistic collaboration among tech innovators, visiting scholars, faculty and students. The goal is to explore, critique, and experience digital knowledge platforms (i.e., e-learning, publishing, collaborative research, or crowd-sourced) that uphold our academic mission to disseminate knowledge by enabling teachers, students and researchers to discover, analyze, share information without regard to barriers of space and time, and publish work widely. These same platforms, however, raise questions about what counts as expertise, who controls access to information, what gets lost in translation, what power is likely to shift from educational institutions to profit-seeking companies, how the privileging of quantification and metrics affects humanistic wisdom, and how academic autonomy and diversity are ultimately disrupted.