The Pilot Seminar on Critical Thinking in the 21st Century (The History & Political Economy of Information Technology) was held in the summer of 2012 in the library of the Institute for Social & European Studies in Köszeg, Hungary - a small town approaching the foothills of the Alps on the border with Austria. Dr. James Skelly convened that first meeting based on his early intuitions about a number of growing problems in the fields of academia and higher education.
The Pilot was an experiment in assisting students to develop an intellectual foundation upon which they can begin to create critical narratives about the human project, and to re-enliven the role of meaning in the process of collective intellectual inquiry. That year, eight students and four faculty members spent the four weeks of July voluntarily disconnecting from all digital technologies, taking on substantial daily reading assignments, and discussing the readings every day in the library. In the afternoons and evenings we ate lunch and dinner together, continueing our converations from the seminar room, discovering what had brought each of us to the seminar table and what we'd like to take away from it.
In the view of participating scholars and students the pilot seminar was a striking success. We committed to refining our method and syllabi to build on that gratifying experience, and set out to make this educational opportunity available to new groups of students. In addition to improving the content of the pilot seminar, we made plans to extend the program and add a second seminar.
Since then we have hosted two or three seminars during the spring and summer of each year, as well as shorter winter meetings to explore new topics, and to work on planning and building the program. Those who have coordinated closely to organize these programs for the last four years have developed a strong synergy, collaborating in ongoing research and projects related to the intellectual and programmatic arc of The Centre.
We have enjoyed the participation of students and faculty from 13 different countries and, perhaps most encouragingly, a consistent flow of students and faculty members who give us positive feedback by choosing to return and repeatedly attend seminars as they are able to - including nearly every original member from 2012.
The Centre has thus far offered new and updated versions of the original seminar, The History and Political Economy of Information Technologies, each year, as well as added seminars on Identity and Conflict and History and Social Change. In 2015 we added another venue to our repertoire, holding a spring seminar in Benicássim, Spain in collaboration with Universitat Jaume I. This year we are adding a seminar on The Question of Method, led by Research Director Ron McMahan, as part of an effort to integrate a praxis-oriented stream of thought and research into the program. A seminar around surveillance issues is also in the works.
Additionally, since that first seminar Dr. Skelly's 'initial intutions' have grown into a strong intellectual rationale for The Centre's work. We are planning to use this foundation of research and experience to host a new European MA program in the coming years. Stay tuned for more details.
Seminar students with Dr. James Skelly at the closing of the pilot seminar, 2012
Original Reading List
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