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The Digital Age

The TORCH Humanities and the Digital Age series will explore the relationship between Humanities and the digital. It will consider digital’s at once disruptive and creative potential, and imagine future territory to be prospected. Underpinning this is perhaps the most important question of all: What does it mean to be human in the digital age? How might it reshape the way we create meaning and values? In this opening event we bring together a panel of experts from across the Humanities and the cultural sector to examine how the digital age has shaped, and will continue to shape, the human experience and the Humanities.

We are joined by Tom Chatfield (author and broadcaster), Chris Fletcher (Professorial Fellow at Exeter College, Member of the English Faculty and Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library), Diane Lees (Director-General of Imperial War Museum Group) and Emma Smith (Fellow and Tutor in English, University of Oxford). The discussion is chaired by Dame Lynne Brindley (Master, Pembroke College and former Chief Executive of the British Library).

  • Chris explores the continuing interest in the analogue form of the word, the vibrant cultures of the digital in libraries, and the importance of rising to the challenges of digital preservation.
  • In 2005, two neurologists diagnosed a new modern malaise - hyperthymestic syndrome, or the inability to forget. Emma's talk considers this as a particular problem of the internet age, and, contrary to claims that we should be preserving and archiving more and more data, makes a case for the creative possibilities of digital obsolescence. 
  • Diane discusses some of the Imperial War Museum's major digital projects and share lessons learnt. In looking towards future territory, Diane will touch on how digital will continue to pervade our lives, how museums remain relevant to future audiences, and how the boundaries of museums will continue to be broken-down.
  • Tom explores how technology connects us to each other as never before, how machines are taking on more and more of the tasks and attributes we used to think of as uniquely human, how we can build better relationships with and through machines, and what it means to aim beyond efficiency at lives worth living.