XIX Fulbright Humanities Summer School

“Academic Research and its Publics:
History, Philosophy, and Philology
in a New Communicative Environment”

Lomonosov Moscow State University
National Research University Higher School of Economics

27 June – 1 July 2016

Can academic research claim to exist in the public sphere? The traditional answer to this question has been an unequivocal “no, it cannot and should not make any such claims. Popularization necessitates simplification, and simplification threatens the essence of academic knowledge. After all, the transmission of specialized knowledge requires special language, developed over decades of study and therefore comprehensible only to a narrow circle of specialists. What emerges in the public sphere is merely a dilution of academic knowledge.”

Yet, over the course of the twentieth century the appearance and development of new media has led not only journalists, but academic researchers increasingly to link the democratization of knowledge with the removal or at least lessening of barriers to its dissemination, whether those barriers originate from economic status or class membership, geographic location, or physical ability. Democratization lies not in “spoon-feeding” or “pre-digesting” or trivializing knowledge, nor in “the dissemination of ignorance in the form of facts” (Niklas Luhmann). In those instances where creative formats have been found, they have offered broad publics access, at their own level of competency, to the exciting processes of solving real research problems as well as stimulating desire to strive for new knowledge and solutions.

The logic underlying the current digital epoch embraces the minimalization of boundaries between producers and users, between professionals and amateurs. In the culture of BigData the public is evolving into an integral participant in field studies in the humanities. And public research is being taken to new levels of a common search for practical solutions.

How do we create archives of historical memory without broadly conceived altruistically based crowdsourcing? Is it possible to research transformations of contemporary literary communication, that is, the historicity of literature as such, without analyzing mass practices of readers’ participation in that process? Can one speak meaningfully about society without referencing a developed micro-sociology of communities and networks? In these and many other ways the process of acquiring knowledge is beginning to seem impossible without the participation of large numbers of people involved in networked communications, even if these subjects turn out simultaneously to be the “objects” of investigation. While in no way exonerating researchers of their accountability and, in fact, magnifying that accountability, research is becoming the work of thousands of hands, as the public evolves from an abstract “mass” receiver of the voice of the authoritative specialist into a partner with its own competencies, its own needs, ready and willing to participate in a dialogue.

Does the scholar-humanist already have such partners or are they only now emerging? Or, perhaps, discouragingly, degenerating? How (if at all) are the traditional profiles of humanistic scholarly knowledge, its social and cultural functions, and pedagogical practices evolving in response to these changes in the world beyond the academy’s walls? What are the prospects for developing digital humanities, both world-wide and specifically in Russia? Finally, what changes are emerging in global humanistic academic communication networks as a result of the incorporation of the public sphere?

This year’s Fulbright Summer School in the Humanities is organized as a series of presentations, professional discussions, and thematic roundtables with contributions by both US and Russian specialists. The School’s working languages are Russian and English.

Contact us: philol.discours@gmail.com: