As the conversations evolve on this list, I am puzzled by the absence of
> any serious reference to the important work done on these topics by
> historians and cultural historians.
I don't believe this to be true.
For example – just one of the many – one of the projects which I intended
to speak about before the previous turn of the direction of the discussion,
RuralHub (www.ruralhub.it), is built on knowledge and conscience about the
historical background and context of the mediterranean (and of the many
mediterraneans, as noted by many of the historians that you mention) and,
in the specifics, about the incredible bridge which was the Salerno region
in Italy, between Arabic sciences (for example medicine) and Western Europe.
For example, the Medical School of Salerno is one of the entities which
rose from this bridge. It started as an informal, networked, entity, and
did not achieve any legal status for over a century.
In the School several interesting practices took place which are relevant
for our discussion, bringing together sciences and technologies and
bringing them out in society through communication and art.
For example, the School had also a poetic approach, the "Flos
Medicina", which took the wisdom and knowledge of salerninan medicine
beyond borders. The poem had its verses tightly coupled to a rich
compendium in farmacology, of which Salerno was one of the principal actors
in Europe, with advanced knowledge about herbs and remedies.
Hospitals were also very innovative, in the fact that they not only cured
who was diseased, but also accepted the poor, or offered ambulatory service
to keep people under observation, and also offered contexts which were very
welcoming, assuming a distinct role in society in those times.
One of the most interesting things in the School is the Trotula. Trotula
refers to a set of 3 books on "women's medicine", which are also at the
center of disputes in regards to authorship and attribution. They used to
be attributed to the Trotula de Ruggiero, of Salerno, a women physician
(now we know that the story is more complex than that).
Trotula was part of the Mulieres Salernitanae, women scientists which
operated in the Medical School: they had a distinct role on the School, as
women could study medicine and practice as healer.
One of the interesting things about Trotula was that she used to hold
public lessons which were accessible to everyone, in public squares. These
not only were a novelty, but also a very distinct and intentional
innovation, as they brought people together to better enact strategies for
health, as a place for public discussion for other topics, and as a moment
of what we could now call inclusion, or intervention on divides.
As a matter of fact, this type of practice brought to the condition in
which lessons in the School became technically accessible to everyone,
regardless of confession and nationality.
This is only one of the historical sources which inform projects like
RuralHub. Documenting, as I was describing in another message, the ways in
which a transgressive, networked, relational approach has appeared multiple
times in the history of the area to being about interesting innovation. And
trying to establish and describe bridges and evolutions: from history to
present to future, using syncretic approaches with contributions from
sciences, arts, technologies, communication, anthropology...
And this is not the only way in which these types of projects take history
For example, they make extensive use of the concept and practice of
Microhistory. In Italy, we have maybe two of the most influential exponents
of Microhistory, in Giovanni Levi and Carlo Ginzburg.
According to Levi, in his "On Microhistory", "microhistorians have
concentrated on the contradictions of normative systems and therefore on
the fragmentation, contradictions and plurality of viewpoints which make
all systems fluid and open."
Which, if one desires to understand change and transformation in societies,
is a fundamental thing to do, especially if observed in a plurality of
ways, especially across relational networks.
The methods and practice of Microhistory become particularly meaningful
today, thanks to the possibility offered by data and ubiquitous
technologies and networks.
As we become able to capture myriads of microhistories through data, novel
opportunities for understanding history, present, perception of futures,
and the relations and tensions among all three arrive.
This is why, for example, projects like RuralHub are also major national
focuses on the scientific research of Netnography, and on the themes of how
to access, use and preserve heritage in the age of "hyperconnectivity".
I would not say that there is an absence of reference to historians at all:
multiple of these projects are very well informed by history.
> There is more to life than silicon.
But if you consider the Marcus' concept of multi-sited ethnography, you
would have to take in consideration that any study, today, is informed by
"The world system becomes [...] integral to and embedded in discontinuous,
multi-sited objects of study." (Marcus, 1995, "Ethnography in/of the World
System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography", Annual Review of
Anthropology, Vol. 24, p.97)
If I am in the middle of the Amazon forest I cannot avoid taking into
consideration how what happens in New York, or on Facebook, influences it,
to gain an reasonable understanding of the world.
So, maybe, it is much better to complete the sentence "There is more to
life than silicon, but you need silicon to understand it"
And, also, completing this thought, I would also search for another word
for "silicon": I would not run the risk of mistaking digital cultures and
their impacts on the world with "silicon".
> Ken Friedman
> Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The
> Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji
> University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL:
> Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and
> Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| University
> Distinguished Professor | Centre for Design Innovation | Swinburne
> University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia
> Email email@example.com | Academia
> http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman | D&I http://tjdi.tongji.edu.cn
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