‘The Unintended Value of the Humanities’

May 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

An article by Stephen J. Mexal, “The Unintended Value of the Humanities” from The Chronicle Review touches upon one of the issues that Working Group proposes to discuss: What is the social value of humanities research? Mexal sees the value of humanities scholarship only manifesting itself in the long term through a series of mediations that usually end up being far removed from the scholarship itself, being filtered through university-educated people who go on to use that education in what are traditionally regarded as socially valuable ways.

But Mexal doesn’t talk about how making humanities research publically-accessible online might generate different unintended value. What kind of impact might humanities research presented to a variegated online audience have? Are there examples of this impact?


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  1. I like your point here Jason and I think it’s essential that we eventually combine these approaches — that we find a way to instantiate the fairly traditional notion of a “liberal education” in the new media and via the new pathways available to us in the 21st century. And when I say ‘traditional’ I suppose what I mean to do is to reference the goal of education as self-transformation or Bildung — a goal which it is increasingly difficult to keep in focus as the instrumentalization of all educational initiatives is made an ever more insistent imperative. Digital technologies are often understood to go hand-in-hand with this march towards a degraded instrumental rationality — by people steering both ways along that waxing historical current — but the case should be made that we can use digital media and digital scholarship to reimplement parts of a hoary pedagogical tradition.

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