The crisis of Humanities

In a historical moment in which the humanities seem to be in crisis everywhere, we decided to take a little space for a regenerating reflection by gathering us around a challenge: imagining experiments and new models to connect knowledge. Once confined to the boundaries of the single disciplines, nowadays knowledge openly circulates in a network space of relationships where media, memory and cognitive horizons, although very different, can’t help to contaminate themselves. In this new context, what can be the role of university? What are the new tools, methods and skills we need? Is it possible to imagine a truly interdisciplinary and integrated education and research? We believe that such questions can only be answered by bringing together different expertise, experiences and intellectual sensibilities, exploring – from diverse points of view- the practices and the dynamics of culture as well as the cultural processes in which the data are processed, reproduced and transmitted. New Humanities tries to do this proposing seven projects on interdisciplinary themes that require the interaction between scholars from different fields and horizons, united in the awareness that the time of the “two cultures” now belongs to the prehistory of sciences.

Towards a reconfiguration of the humanities: materials, tools and projects

University of Roma Tre Internationalization Project

Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields us the results that makes our hearts sing.

Steve Jobs

Finding its first concrete configuration in the present website, this project is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration made possible by a grant assigned by the University of Roma Tre for the promotion of internationalization. The original title we chose for our research – Materials, tools and projects for a reconfiguration of the human sciences – has soon been transformed into the briefer and more ambitious New Humanities. But why “new humanities”?

The starting point is precisely the crisis of that set of disciplines we used to call human sciences or humanities. A crisis that is certainly a good thing. What is a crisis, in fact, if not a time interval separating one condition from another? In our case, it represents a moment of suspension between a certain structure of knowledge – its production performance communication – that has lost its raison d’etre and another structure, which is yet to-come, based on cross-disciplinary practices (perhaps even adisciplinary ones) as well as the more and more inevitable dialogue between the increasingly intertwined soft sciences and hard sciences.
In short, this crisis is a transitional and regenerative phase towards a new form of social sciences, which will also have to encompass the profound transformation that caused it: that is to say it will have to absorb in a systematic way the digital revolution, and the consequently generated epistemic jump, confronting itself with the new technologies of information processing that have redefined methodologies of research and representation in all fields of knowledge.
The new digital constellation favored and almost imposed, making it essential, an attitude towards interdisciplinary interconnection. Therefore, the challenge today is figure out unusual models to connect the several modes of knowledge production that persistently trespass the barriers of traditional disciplines.
New interdisciplinary practices make new connections, highlighting continuous transfers and reflections capable of revealing the increasingly blurred boundaries between the cultural sciences and the natural sciences thus producing a decentralization of both the disciplines.

The aim of our project is therefore to contribute to a redefinition of the human sciences starting from this decentralization. Such a decentralization, in fact, seems to push towards an idea of humanities as a polyphonic area of knowledge that, though defined by a tradition, is still open and in need of constant interexchange, or, in other words, an idea of humanities as an interconnected network that continually relocates its nodes.
We will refer to the relationship between different and increasingly diversifying horizons of knowledge in terms of “explanatory pluralism” for we see those horizons as different levels of description that co-evolve while influencing each other. Our plan is to work on the development of such co-evolutionary models of interaction between different areas of knowledge through some case studies that reflect particularly productive or problematic moments of contact between humanities and natural sciences.