Cathy Davidson: “Information Age Without the Humanities = Industrial Revolution Without Steam Engine”

The following is a statement posted on January 24, 2010, by Cathy N. Davidson, co-founder of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory), on her HASTAC blog.

[Excerpt]: The World Wide Web is the steam engine of the Information Age.  And without the humanities, virtually everything about the World Wide Web is a muddle.  All of the key issues of how knowledge is exchanged, how it is created, what its role is in the world, how it functions and changes, how one kind of idea influences another, how knowledge travels, leads to a complex History of Ideas the likes of which we have not seen before.   We need the equivalent of all of the resources of histoire du livre–history of the book–to understand all of the relations of producers, consumers, distributors, systems of literacy and education, access, divide, and on and on.   The World Wide Web both redefines and reinforces ideas such as “nation” and poses new problems for concepts of social groups, racial and gender boundaries, censorship, privilege, and the larger issues of mediation.  These are not “add on” issues.  They are the powering features of the Web.  They are definitional in the protocol of creating the WWW and part of the governing issues of the W3C, the informal consortium that sets policy but does not really govern, the Web–a structure also singular in the history of political thought and political theory. (Read full statement on HASTAC site.)

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