At an event this Sunday for alumni—and on panels at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW) in Austin (which overlaps in part with the famous film and music festivals under the same banner)—Harvard will display diverse elements of its interactive and online activities.
Digital Harvard in Austin, an alumni event on March 11—complete with its own “digital” Harvard Veritas crest (a wry take on the engineering/nerd pocket protector)—features presentations by:
- Jeffrey Schnapp, professor of Romance languages and literatures and faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard—a cluster of digital experiments in the arts and humanities (he founded the Stanford Humanities Lab in 2000, and joined the Harvard faculty last year);
- Kara Oehler, a Radcliffe Fellow and co-founder of Zeega, a Harvard Library Lab-funded system for creating open-ended, participatory documentaries;
- Perry Hewitt '87, Harvard’s chief digital officer, who directs the University’s social-media strategy and digital communications; and
- demonstrations by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Business School Startup Tribe (an entrepreneurship clearing house), College student innovators from the "Hack Harvard" fairs associated with Computer Science 50, and other units of the University.
Photograph by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard News Office
Hewitt, a regular attendee at SXSW, helped to organize the alumni event, taking advantage of the number of Harvard-affiliated participants and recognizing the opportunity to convene them under a Crimson flag. In her dual capacity as digital-communications chief both for the news and public affairs operation (see the Harvard homepage, harvard.edu, and its associated social media) and for Alumni Affairs and Development (which maintains alumni ties to the University through the Harvard Alumni Association and fundraising efforts), she was in a logical position to bring everyone together.
In a conversation a day before her planned departure for Austin, Hewitt took note of the participants from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Law School, Business School, Graduate School of Design, and other entities, and characterized the alumni event as "a real One Harvard moment." As of Friday, 400 people had registered to attend, with affiliations from throughout Harvard, the digital and venture-capital industries, and elsewhere. Between the presenters and the audience, she said, the gathering would offer a lively representation of what Harvard "brings to the table in tee-ing up innovation"—both within the academic enterprise in many disciplines, and in the wider world.
In the same conversation, Christine Heenan, vice president for public affairs and communications, said that beyond convening regular Harvard participants, the alumni program would highlight the burgeoning work in digital humanities across the University. (For in-depth coverage of the evolving digital humanities, see the forthcoming feature in the May-June Harvard Magazine, available online April 19.) She put all the Austin activity in a still-larger University context, describing the participation in SXSW as "proof points of Harvard as a center of innovation"—a theme being emphasized this year with the launch of the Harvard Innovation Lab, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences venture-capital partnership, and the recently announced presidential challenge to encourage student-led social entrepreneurship.
Harvard people making presentations at the SXSW events proper include:
Photograph by Jon Chase/Harvard News Office
- Jonathan Zittrain, professor of law and of computer science and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center, on a panel entitled “Help! I Have an Internet Stalker or Blackmailer!”
- Anne Cushing, director of online programs for the Harvard Alumni Association, on a panel about “Building Community Engagement Around Open Content.” (Cushing is shown complete with cowboy hat; she will reportedly talk about the online “Justice” course and discuss—this is a practical conference—“how the team shifted focus to topic rather than brand to allow for the creation of user-generated content without negatively affecting…Harvard’s brand. The team will share the social and digital approach used to build engagement, including their ongoing strategy to leverage user-generated content to keep the course and the topics relevant. Lessons include: Making the case to loosen brand control for the sake of engagement. Maintaining brand strength when opening content. Combining online learning with social media. Managing and engaging in conversations on multiple platforms.”)
- Henry Leitner, associate dean for information technology and chief technology officer, and senior lecturer on computer science, who works with the Division of Continuing Education on its extensive online course offerings, on “Designing a Successful Distance Education Program.”
- Jeffrey Schnapp on “‘But Is It Art?: The Aesthetics of Social Culture.”
- Peter Coles, assistant professor of business administration, Harvard Business School, where he teaches “The Online Economy: Strategy and Entrepreneurship,” on a panel about “X of Y: How to Ensure Your Start-up Is Defensible.”