Feature: Bringing Arts and Humanities into the Grid
Since 2003, the HASTAC consortium has worked toward the novel objective of developing software and hardware solutions for the worlds of the arts and humanities. HASTAC - which stands for Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory - also advocates the inclusion of thought on the social, ethical and access issues of technology in parallel with its creation.
"The idea was for humanities professors to look at ways to incorporate technologies like grid computing into their research," says HASTAC Project Leader Jonathan Tarr. "They needed to save humanities from becoming a group of scholars who only work on physical text and weren't going along with the technology revolution."
Researchers increasingly fuse biology, geography, environment, technology and the arts as they expand their capabilities for accumulating and analyzing data. With many scientific subjects no longer achieving the greatest discoveries in seclusion, HASTAC's humanities projects can greatly benefit from incorporating grid solutions that enable an effective and efficient connection between data, computers and people.
HASTAC's members meet twice a year to develop new research initiatives, at the same time considering the influence of ethics and the arts in advancing technologies. Artists, scientists, humanists and social theorists sit alongside information technology specialists at each meeting. Members believe that it is the creative discovery across disciplines that must drive cyberinfrastructures, and they are committed to creating new collaborations fostered by the creative uses of technology.
HASTAC members have initiated a wide range of projects, from tools that help multimedia archiving and social interaction to virtual museums and educational resources, and they also serve as consultants on grid computing and cyberinfrastructure for U.S. and international organizations.
HASTAC is now working on the "InFormation Year 06/07" program, which features events that highlight the humane dimensions of advanced technology.
"These events are recorded and broadcast over the Internet so that anyone, wherever they are, can join in," adds Tarr. This emphasizes another of HASTAC's initiatives - helping scientists collaborate across great distances and educate using new computing technologies. The project also aims to improve access to technology projects for anyone who has an interest in the HASTAC community.
"We're working with community colleges, and minority groups such as Diné College in Arizona, to address issues such as the digital divide," says Tarr.
In the future, HASTAC looks to expand InFormation Year internationally, forming partnerships with sites in Costa Rica, the UK and the Netherlands, and holding events all over the world.
Learn more at the HASTAC Web site.
-Helen Thomson, GridPP and GRIDtoday