What Does it Mean to be Human in the Digital Age?

torch lecture by john cairns 21 1 16 14

This event is now fully booked but we expect that some seats may become available on the day on a first come, first served basis. If you are unable to make it in person this event is being live-streamed at 17:30 GMT at: http://livestream.com/oxuni/human-in-the-digital-age

In 2015-16 our Annual Headline Series Humanities and the Digital Age 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 will be joined by Diane Lees CBE (Director-General of Imperial War Museum Group), Professor Emma Smith (Fellow and Tutor in English, University of Oxford), Dr Chris Fletcher (Professorial Fellow at Exeter College, Member of the English Faculty and Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library), and Tom Chatfield (author and broadcaster). The discussion will be chaired by Dame Lynne Brindley (Master, Pembroke College and Former Chief Executive, British Library).

There will be plenty of time for audience questions and discussion, which will be followed by a drinks reception from 7.00-7.30pm. Free and all welcome. Please click here to register for your free ticket. If you are unable to make it in person this event is being livestreamed at 17:30 GMT at: http://livestream.com/oxuni/human-in-the-digital-age

TORCH is offering a free ‘pop up’ crèche at this event. The Little Hens Childcare company will be at the venue, so parents/carers attending the event can drop their children off and pick them up after the event finishes. Please book your space here (you will need to book a separate 'General Admission' ticket for the parent/carer attending the event). Please email hannah.penny@humanities.ox.ac.uk if you have any questions or would like further information.

The Speakers

Dame Lynne Brindley

Lynne Brindley (Master, Pembroke College) joined Pembroke as Master in summer 2013. Her previous role was as Chief Executive of The British Library where there were challenges in shaping and developing an important historical institution for the modern era.  

Lynne will introduce and chair the discussion.

Tom Chatfield 

Tom Chatfield (@TomChatfield) is a British author and broadcaster. His six books - most recently "How to thrive in the digital age" and "Live This Book!" - are published in over thirty languages. A faculty member at the School of Life in London, he took his doctorate at St. John's College, Oxford, and is currently researching a book on critical thinking in the 21st century.

Tom will explore 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.

Chris Fletcher

Chris Fletcher (Professorial Fellow at Exeter College, Member of the English Faculty and Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library) is responsible for Western Manuscripts, Oriental Special Collections, Rare Books, Maps, Music and the University Archives. Before coming to Oxford in 2006 he was a curator of literary manuscripts in the British Library.

Chris will explore 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.


Diane Lees 

Diane Lees (Director-General of Imperial War Museums) is the cultural lead for the Centenary of the First World War, and is a Trustee of 14-18NOW, the Centenary's Cultural Programme.

Diane will discuss 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.


Emma Smith

Emma Smith (Fellow and Tutor in English) has been a Fellow and Tutor in English at Hertford College since 1998. Her work focus on Shakespeare, his contemporaries and his reception, and her current research is a cultural biography of the Shakespeare First Folio from 1623 to the twenty-first century.

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. 


Header image courtesy of Shutterstock, copyright Antti Karppinen


Humanities & the Digital Age

Contact name: Hannah Penny

Contact email: hannah.penny@humanities.ox.ac.uk

Audience: Open to all


The Digital Age

Tom Chatfield on Humans and Machines in the Digital Age

Chris Fletcher on Libraries in the Digital Age 

Emma Smith on Forgetting in the Digital Age

Diane Lees on Museums and Heritage in the Digital Age