Sunday, June 3, 2012

Let them hack: Eben Moglen on "disintermediation"

If you have not yet heard Eben Moglen's talk from last week's "Freedom to Connect" conference, with the title "Innovation under Austerity," it's worth listening to every minute of this audio recording including the Q&A session.

I had it on my ipod as I travelled to a conference to show off work students at Holy Cross have done over the past year for the Homer Multitext project, and was struck by how much of Moglen's main thesis is applicable to digital scholarship. He almost implied that innovation naturally happens under conditions of austerity; he unambiguously argued that the best way to promote innovation is to let young people hack on real problems, and get out of the way.

 In the Homer Multitext project, we're learning how to let young people hack on real problems reading unpublished or incompletely published manuscripts. This is not an easy lesson to grasp if your traditional training, like mine, has conditioned you to believe that this kind of work was granted only to the most senior and experienced scholars who had earned the privilege of access to real problems.  "Disintermediation," to use the jargon-term quoted by Moglen, may not look appealing to those of us, like museum curators or professors, who have been doing the mediating between young people and real research problems in the humanities. But in the audio recording of Moglen's talk, I think I can hear a little of the excitement I feel every single day I work with and learn from my 18- to 21-year old colleagues on the Homer Multitext project.

3 comments:

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