Programme Snapshots | Too Much Information
In the first of a series of special ‘programme snapshot’ blog posts we reflect on Being Human activities taking place on the first day of the festival at our ‘hub’ in Senate House. We asked ourselves some questions about our activities. Stay tuned over coming days to see how people answered these same questions across the country!
Can you describe your Being Human event(s) in 140 characters?
Data overload, mass-observation, hackers, spies, openness, secrecy and lies, researchers and humans against the clock. Too much information!
Tell us a bit about your research interests
Our event is cross disciplinary, drawing on researchers active in the digital humanities from areas including literature, history, music, philosophy and law. What draws their research together is a common interest in the changing status of what it means to ‘be human’ in an age in which digital technologies are impacting upon the traditional foundations of self and society.
What will people learn or experience that they can’t experience elsewhere?
The programme of events during the day draws together a unique gathering of experts in the field, in the highly appropriate setting of Senate House: inspiration for George Orwell’s sinister ‘Ministry of Truth’ in 1984. Throughout the day people will learn about the history of the Ministry of Information and its connections to organisations such as the Mass-Observation Archive. They will also see how this history connects to contemporary debates around censorship, surveillance, and the role of the citizen in an age of ‘information overload’. Tours of the building will bring its history and cultural associations to life, while digital artists will ‘hack’ into the university archives for inspiration to create new visual art. As a launch event for the Being Human festival, this will be a day of activities and a coming together of researchers, artists and the public, and one which sheds new light on one of London’s most iconic buildings.
How is this relevant to everyday life?
The issues we will be exploring and debating over the course of the day could not be more relevant to everyday life. We live in an increasingly digital world – relying on technology to help us manage our everyday lives and relationships. And the way we interact with digital media and its multiple platforms grows in complexity on a daily basis. At the same time, people are more aware, and fearful, about the issues surrounding data monitoring, surveillance, cybercrime and other complex tangles that can be encountered on the worldwide web. These are the issues that shape our human existence, as well as our research in the humanities, in 2014.
And finally, tell us your five favourite things about your location/venue.
The School of Advanced Study and Senate House are great places to work (and to visit for events such as Being Human) because:
- It has a unique location. Right opposite the British Museum, within strolling distance of some of the best cultural institutions in the country, and in the very heart of London.
- It has a unique history. Former home to the Ministry of Information, inspiration for George Orwell’s 1984, and one of London’s first attempts at a ‘skyscraper’.
- You’ve seen it in the movies. From The Omen to The Dark Knight Rises, by way of the The Muppets Most Wanted, Senate House has acted as a backdrop to any number of films. This means that workers are occasionally treated to the sight of lost movie stars wandering the corridors, and the Batmobile in the car park.
- It is an international research hub. Just as you may occasionally run into the likes of Tom Cruise wandering the corridors, leading researchers, writers and others in the humanities regularly pass through the hallways of the School of Advanced Study and Senate House. You never know who you might run into!
- It has one of the best views of London. If you are lucky enough to get to see the view from the top of the central tower (the second tallest building in London at the time of its construction) you are treated to one of the very finest views in London. There is even an old WWII observation post up there from the days of the Blitz!
Too Much Information: being human in a digital age is just one of many activities during Being Human which connects cutting edge research in the humanities to issues shaping our everyday lives. For updates on the latest Being Human news follow us on Twitter @BeingHumanFest, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. Don’t forget to sign up to our e-newsletter too!