The Chicago Humanities Festival Explores Technology from Stone Tools to iPads

Oct 17, 2011

In case there was ever any doubt, this year's Chicago Humanities Festival confirms Chicago as the center of the universe---at least the universe of great thinkers, doers, and performers. With a theme of "technology" and presenters such as hip hop lyricist Common, composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and editor-in-chief of the Daily News Egypt, Rania Al Malky, the festival's line-up brings the best and brightest together to examine and celebrate the humanities.

The festival is devoted to making the humanities a vital and vibrant ingredient of daily life. With the belief that access to cultural, artistic and educational opportunities is a necessary element for a healthy and robust civic environment, the festival seeks to gather new and diverse audience to experience the humanities together.

This year's theme of "Technology" doesn't mean all things digital. As the Chicago Tribune puts it: organizers "knew that any title sounding anything like "technology"—the official title actually combines the words "tech" and "knowledge," accented to make the last "e" long—would jump minds to the word's current meaning." But as Matti Bunzl, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign cultural anthropologist who is the festival's artistic director, said in the Tribune article, " 'It was clear to us everyone would think immediately 'digital technology,' but if you think about it, it's really at the core of human existence. What makes us human is our ability to harness technology. There is a real hunger out there,' said Bunzl. 'People are really keen to know where is the cutting edge in philosophy, gender theory. People want to know what's happening in the academy.'"

The universities of the CIC/Big Ten are playing a significant role in this year's festival. As the Tribune notes, Bunzl began a initiative this year to "showcase great work being done at the conference's member colleges and to spotlight Chicago as the intellectual hub of the Midwest." Bunzl also wrote a lovely paean to the Universities of the CIC/Big 10 on the Festival's blog, where he also notes many of the festival's presentations by CIC/Big 10 thinkers.   Mary Kate Barley-Jenkins, CHF Director of Programming, also has a great posting with more details of CIC/Big 10 festival presenters.  Ms. Barley-Jenkins posting is a must read as she, "with tongue firmly in cheek, ...will now rank the ticket sales of our Big 10 festival programs against their respective football team’s records, as of October 8."

To learn more about Festival events and buy tickets, visit the CHF web site.  There you will also find videos and podcasts of the events.

  • Faculty