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Fall 2014 Seminar

Knowledge and Technology: from Socrates to the Digital Age

Who produces knowledge? How is it organized? Who has access to it? This seminar will explore the relationship between knowledge, technology, and power, and provide students with a chance to reflect upon and engage in the activity of creating, organizing, and accessing knowledge in a digital age.  Click here to see a course syllabus.

Jan van der Straet, The Invention of Printing, plate 4 in Nova reperta. Ioan. Stradanus inuent. Phls Calle excud. (Antwerp, s.m. 1600?) Case Wing folio Z 412.85 (Photo: Newberry Library)
Click here for a larger image.

Knowledge and technology undergird both the content and the form of the seminar, and the seminar’s cross-disciplinary readings represent literary, philosophical, historical, and religious perspectives.

We will trace the dominant trajectory in Western thought regarding knowledge that begins with the ancient Greeks and then, drawing upon the work of Nietzsche and Foucault, critically interrogate how our categories come to seem natural, beyond history and human agency.

Servers hosted at the Internet Archive’s headquarters in San Francisco. (Photo: Steven Walling, Wikimedia Commons)

At the same time, we will discuss the interplay of knowledge and technology in the 21st century, the value of the archive in a digital age, collaborative knowledge-creation online, and the ethics of digitization and digital preservation. We will consider the digital humanities not only as a way of using digital tools to conduct humanities research, but as a way of using humanities questions to address the digitization of culture.

Students will be encouraged to explore the possibilities of digital publishing for their own research, complementing traditional research papers with digital maps, interactive timelines, multimedia texts, online forums, and dynamic web pages to supplement their arguments.

By experimenting with new forms of digital publishing, students will actively engage and participate in the democratization of knowledge in a digital age.

See a list of student research topics from the Fall 2014 seminar.

The Newberry’s resources

Students in the fall 2014 Newberry Seminar will find the library’s collections to be a vast and stimulating resource for their research.

For example, students may wish to explore the Newberry’s extensive holdings on book arts and book history, the history of printing and publishing, and the history of libraries and archives.

The library’s collection extends well beyond books, encompassing a world-class assemblage of maps, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, broadsides, ephemera, music, photographs, paintings, prints, drawings, and much more.

For information about the Newberry’s holdings, visit


Bridget Draxler

Monmouth College



Hannah Schell

Monmouth College

Philosophy & Religious Studies