In addition to its Annual Workshop, the ISRF also supports smaller events convened by – or in partnership with – ISRF Fellows and associated.


Humanities Knowledge in the Digital University

10th & 11th May 2021

These sessions brought together researchers from the ISRF and the Research Centre for the Humanities (Athens) to note the main current effects of digital platforms on humanities research, and to identify the questions for further study that we can most usefully pursue.

Day One: Understanding the Digital University

Educational technology is a multi-billion Euro industry that operates all over the world, and that shapes every aspect of university operations. It includes back-office functions like payroll and course registration, and in recent years has expanded to front-end arenas where it supplements and sometimes replaces classroom instruction. In between lie Course Management Systems (CMS), e-advising applications, and other digital platforms that provide essential services, services that universities increasingly outsource to private vendors. In 2012-13, it seemed that Massive Open Online Courses (xMOOCs) would replace large sections of the planet’s physical universities, starting with the mass-scale institutions that already operated through large lectures and offered very modest individualized feedback. MOOCs failed pedagogically, but online instruction has been given a new lease on life through Covid-19 requirements for social distancing. This session will discuss the future of non-digital higher education. What hybrid structures are most likely? What activities will not be mediated through ed-tech? What functions should universities turn over to third-party ed-tech providers? 

Speakers: Chris Newfield, Aristotle Tympas, and Yorgos Stamboulis

Day Two: What is Humanities Knowledge?

Universities distinguish themselves from high schools by offering courses with content that reflects current research, and that teaches students to become researchers and knowledge creators themselves. Disciplines that do not create knowledge, perhaps because they are entirely applied, are generally not eligible to become university subjects. The humanities disciplines create knowledge in fields such as history, philosophy, linguistics, and literary criticism; at the same time, many academics and administrators outside those fields do not know what the knowledge is that they produce—as opposed to commentary, embellishments, and opinion. One issue is an irreducible plurality of methods. A second issue is scale, which is smaller or more individualized in the humanities than in the natural or physical sciences. A third is uncertainty about the nature of human intelligence at a time when artificial intelligence seems about to transform knowledge, technology, and the economy. A fourth is the status of evidence, which in the humanities is non-quantitative and often not positive or present. Panelists will analyze these or related problems and offer a range of conclusions and proposals about how the humanities might respond. 

Speakers: Lauren Goodlad, Nishat Awan, Theodore Arabatzis, and Elpida Rikou.