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Humanities for Change. A network for the future of the humanities

Published onAug 13, 2020
Humanities for Change. A network for the future of the humanities
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Team

Steering Committee: Marco Sartor (University of Parma), Francesco Venturini (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan).

The international network Humanities for Change is currently made up of about thirty collaborators from all over the world, mostly early career scholars and PhD candidates together with a few Master students. Most of the collaborators have a humanistic background often extended to the field of digital and public humanities, but there are also some profiles who have carried out scientific-technological studies. In addition to this, the network establishes stable or temporary collaborations with other associations, institutions and organizations for the development of joint projects or events. In particular, Humanities for Change is a partner of the Venice Centre for Digital and Public Humanities (VeDPH) of Ca' Foscari University of Venice.

For more information about the team and for an updated list of collaborators, please visit the “About us” page on our website.

<p>Some collaborators of Humanities for Change after a meeting with the founders in Venice</p>

Some collaborators of Humanities for Change after a meeting with the founders in Venice

Project URLs

Project Abstract

Humanities for Change is an international network of students and young scholars who are committed to establishing a different role for the humanistic disciplines in the present time. Its publication activities are concentrated on certain fundamental themes, such as: the digital and public humanities, innovative professional opportunities for graduates of this field, the reflection on innovations in the didactic environment and the potential derived from the collaboration with hard sciences. The network does not propose specific contents on the humanities itself, but aims at reflecting in a metadisciplinary way about the conditions through which this knowledge can survive and still play an important role in the next decades. For this reason, Humanities for Change does not exclusively address to experts, but aim to reach a much wider and heterogeneous audience by using different dissemination channels (social networks, blog articles, journal essays, interviews, conferences, lectures). The ultimate goal is to redefine the role of humanitistic knowledge in the social context in order to transform a culture considered to be an end to itself into an instrument of practical action and an essential prerequisite for a democratic society.

A live preview of Humanities for Change main website

Time Needed

When did you begin this project? When did you complete this project?

Time Span: September 1, 2019 - present

Length: 1+ years

Outcomes

What is the outcome of the project?

  1. Main website (www.humanitiesforchange.org): a bilingual site (English and Italian) that collects all the initiatives of Humanities for Change and a description of its core values. It represents the starting point of the awareness-raising activity of the network and contains useful information for users on how to collaborate and access the other sites of the project.

  2. Blog (www.humanitiesforchange.org/blog, www.hfc.hypotheses.org): every week an article is published in Italian and in English on the themes of the network. The contributions, released after a double peer-review and an accurate editing, are completed with some interactive multimedia materials and includes a reference section to get a more in-depth understanding of the topic. The blog is provided with an ISSN code, all articles are equipped with DOIs and are indexed in Isidore.

  3. Journal (www.humanitiesforchange.org/meta): Meta is the international journal in platinum open access and double-blind peer-review of Humanities for Change. It is published quarterly and is hosted on the open source OJS (Open Journals System) platform. Also in this case, the journal is endowed with an ISSN and contributions are indexed and provided with DOIs.

  4. Working groups: Humanities for Change counts five working groups on: digital philology and transmission of texts on the web (Bembus), public and digital history (Herodotos), didactic innovations and the STEAM (Ipazia), humanities and corporate work (Leonardo), digital and public art (Raffaello). Among the various results, for Bembus it is worth mentioning the preparation of a Scholarly Digital Edition of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola's Rhymes with Edition Visualization Technology (EVT).

  5. Events: the network organizes some events, such as conversations with experts, conferences and days of study. Normally the events are held in English language in Venice (Italy), in the venues of Ca' Foscari University and are always streamed on YouTube, as to allow a wide participation.

  6. Collaborations: finally, Humanities for Change establishes short or long term collaborations with other cultural institutions, associations, organizations and universities for the development of joint events or projects.

In addition to these, which constitute the main outcomes achieved so far, the activities of the network have led to the production of contents for storytelling on social channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram), the participation in conferences or seminars to promote the project (see the poster for the 4th AIPH conference) and the creation of a Zotero biblio-sitographic lists for scholars interested in these issues.

<p>A screenshot of the blog from the main site</p>

A screenshot of the blog from the main site

Resources

What tools, resources, programs, or equipment did you use for this project?

Humanities for Change, in order to foster the internationality of its collaborators, relies on an entirely digital infrastructure. MySQL databases and programming languages such as PHP and Python are used for platform and website management. The workflows of the network activities ares structured to work with the suite of tools offered by Google (Sites, Documents, Forms, Meet, etc.). The main site and Hypotheses blogs are hosted on the WordPress and Hypotheses platforms and use add-ons like Zotero, Timeline JS, StoryMap JS and other storytelling tools. The international journal is hosted on the OJS platform of Public Knowledge Project (PKP), whereas working groups rely on other open source solutions such as Moodle and MediaWiki. The Bembus working group also deals with GitHub, XML-TEI encoding on Oxygen (or the open-source Visual Code Studio alternative). Lastly, events are broadcast on YouTube.

Funding

Please describe any costs incurred for this project, and (if relevant) how you secured funding for these costs.

The project is primarily supported by collaborators with a voluntary contribution of an amount of their choice. This sum is used for the payment of essential expenses, such as the annual plan for domains, hosting, DOIs, Google GSuite, etc. In addition to this, a page has been designed to welcome donations from external users and visitors of the site who are willing to support the network. There are no monthly subscriptions or other forms of membership.

To date, the network does not receive any kind of public or private funding to carry out its activites. However, projects carried out in cooperation with other institutions may be co-financed by the partner. For example, the events held at the Ca' Foscari University of Venice are sponsored by the Venice Centre for Digital and Public Humanities (VeDPH) and co-financed by the university, which partly covers the expenses. In this case, the costs mainly involve the payment of honoraria, expenses for travel, board and lodging and advertising.

Workflow

Please give an overview of the workflow or process you followed to execute this project, including time estimates where possible.

After a phase of ideation and planning of the project by the founders, dating back to April 2019, the main website was built and a presentation of the core values aimed at recruiting new contributors was put online. In the following months the first collaborators arrived, following an official presentation of the network held in Venice in July 2019. In September 2019 the weekly publication of articles in the blog began, while the website implementation procedures continued and the working group Bembus was born. In January 2020 the Humanities for Change and Bembus blogs were created on the academic platform Hypotheses and the internationalization procedures of the main site began, with articles published both in Italian and in English. During this period, Humanities for Change also planned a series of seminars to be held in March-May, then postponed to October-December 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic phenomenon. Finally, in May 2020 Meta, the international platinum open-access journal of Humanities for Change, was launched and four other working groups were activated. At the same time, a call for papers for an international day of study to be held in December 2020 in Venice (and streamed online) was released.

Challenges & Opportunities

What, if anything, changed between beginning your project and its current/final form?

When the project was conceived, we had not planned the creation of the working groups, which instead proved to be an excellent opportunity to encourage the specialization of employees and the acquisition of skills useful for the world of work or academic research. The expansion of the network during the first year was well beyond our expectations and led to a reshaping of the calendar of plans that had initially been scheduled. This has also brought to to an improvement in IT services and the development of other parallel platforms (Moodle, OJS, GitHub) that were not foreseen in the original project.

Is there anything specific you wish you had known when beginning your project that might help other people to know?

Certainly more knowledge and skills in computer science would have permitted smarter choices in the long term. Besides, more attention had to be paid in the initial phase to the processes of recruiting specialised personnel for tasks where a merely humanistic formation was not sufficient (e.g. webmaster, web editor, social media manager...). Equally much attention had to be given from the outset to the creation of a wide audience, to be pursued through different media, online (listservs, discussion boards, social networks) and using traditional channels (flyers, posters, word of mouth).

Next Steps

Do you have any plans to follow up on this project or work on something similar in the future?

  • Increase the team’s international representation by welcoming collaborators from all continents, especially from Africa, Asia and Oceania.

  • Improve the quality of the contributions, making sure they are groundbreaking and cutting-edge.

  • Stimulate the dissemination of Humanities for Change content and create a wider audience, also with indexing in research assistants for humanities and social sciences.

  • Offer a high added value to collaborators, so that their engagement in the network allows them to acquire specific skills to be used in work or academic contexts.

  • Establish partnerships with public and private institutions and companies, also with internships aimed at job placement.

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