Humanities in Action Lab

Christine Henseler, a professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies at Union College in Schenectady, NY, who also has a background in advertising and book marketing, has started a project called The Humanities in Action Lab:

The Humanities in Action LabThe Lab focuses on reaching beyond and across disciplines to uncover and raise consciousness of how the Humanities are influencing, questioning, and contributing to innovation inside and outside of academia. This Lab is meant to raise consciousness in regard to the reasons why the Humanities should matter more in the twenty-first century than any other time in history. Why is it that colleges and universities, private foundations and governments, should be funding, not cutting, programs in the Humanities? Why should they care?

In a world where quantitative research and new media technologies are taking center stage, an initiative such as this one may remind scholars, students, parents and governments that “human-rooted” questions must remain at the center of our thinking and action. This Lab proposes to highlight innovation in projects that cross disciplines and change or question the dynamics of their fields. Instead of centering on the way in which digital culture is changing research outcomes in the Humanities (as in most Digital Humanities Centers), this Lab proposes a reverse movement in which Humanities-based questions move outwards to everything from Engineering to Computer Science, Business and Mathematics.

At its startup, the project includes a “Why the Humanities Matter” Wikispace page, which currently includes statements by people in fields as diverse as computer science, mathematics, archaeology, poetry, philosophy, and history.

The Humanities in Action Lab also includes a statement by Henseler on “The Humanities in ‘Plain’ English” in which she argues:

Advertising can teach us a great deal; it can teach us to use language that “sells,” that sells the Humanities to the rest of the world. While a marketing metaphor may not agree with most scholars, advertising can teach us the value of clear and creative communication in the targeting of different audiences.

As “prosumers,” we need to act instead of react. Not only do we need to think and apply new technologies in scholarship and pedagogy, but we also need to use the right language, appropriate communication skills and spaces to help others understand why the Humanities are important, and why they *should* care.

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