Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowd Sourced in One Week is a compilation of short essays on digital humanites edited by Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt. This project organized by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, is an initiative that, like the book I discussed in my blog last week entitled Debates in the Digital Humanities, elaborates on how the academy can improve with the use of technology and at the same time that technology itself can form new approaches to the ways in which the subject can be addressed. This project was not only crowd sourced in one week, but it also has a webpage in which the public can find more information about it.
As obvious as it must be, and perhaps this is something that happens way too often, what caught my attention about this book is its use of the word hacking. What does it actually mean to “hack the academy”? Are institutions of higher education ready to be hacked? Are the humanities ready to be hacked?
Tadd Suiter presents in his essay, Why Hacking?, the various nuances of this word and how it is usually over-generalized to be associated with young computer geeks, who, in their basements, write computer code to crack the vulnerabilities of the internet in order to gain access to private or protected information. Adding to this conventional concept of hacking, Suiter introduces what he calls the “hacking ethos”, which explains additional definitions of hacking to be: the eloquent process of coding, in general (whether for good or for bad) and also those that playfully or jokingly modify or mess around within a system.
It is possible to say that the ideas behind this “hacking ethos” are what contributed to the creation of Hacking the Academy initiative. The contributors see a need to rethink the academy, to revaluate the way scholarship is produced, the way it is taught, and the way in which the establishment is managed. Weather the institutions are ready of not for the radical changes that technology and new media are ready to do, there is already a collective of “hackers” that are ready to incrementally introduce new vocabularies, interdisciplinary thinking, and a new openness in order to shift the academy toward realizing and utilizing the full potential that technology has to offer.