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Practical Humanities Posts

Practical humanities need interdisciplinary collaboration

If research impact is not so much a case of direct collision but rather a series of ripple effects, it usually happens through other people. A traditional route for academic impact is through publications, and much of societal impact also happens through texts, such as policy briefs and popular media. Another familiar – but too often overlooked – path to impact is created through teaching in different settings. Colleagues, students, and other people interested in your work pick up your ideas and research results and transform them to their own purposes. Their work gets picked up by next group of…

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Innovation needs humanities

To many people in humanities and social sciences, “innovation” has come to sound like a dirty word. To some, the dirt stems from the word’s vicinity to managerial insistence on quantifiable impact; to others, from its allusions to techno-evolutionism. Some merely dismiss innovation as the latest buzzword. As a buzzword, innovation is trailed by all kinds of myths that are the topic of Scott Berkun’s bestseller, The Myths of Innovation, originally published in 2007. The book is written to a wide audience. but seems particularly targeted to anyone aspiring to become an innovator themselves, as well as to those trying…

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Impact needs intermediaries

Not everyone agrees that insisting on the practical aspects of humanities is a good idea. This past week, I have been spending my time reading through some of these counterarguments. One text that keeps popping up in citations is Stefan Collini’s piece in the Times Literary Supplement in 2009.[1] In it, Collini writes about the Research Excellence Framework (REF) when it was first introduced in UK universities. Collini, a Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature at Cambridge, is an ardent critic of the marketization of universities in the UK. He has written extensively on the subject, including two books…

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Why practical humanities?

“Knowledge of the Humanities is no practical response to most pressing practical challenges we face.” Or so goes the economic argument against humanities that we keep hearing. In reality, research in the humanities has had a profound impact on our contemporary societies and cultural forms. Yet, practical and humanities are not words that you often find put together – unless  of course it is to say that humanities have no practical use for dealing with the variety of challenges that currently are pestering humankind and life on Earth. It is tempting to call for technological innovation rather than turn to a historian or linguist – not…

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