May 25, 2004

"Transmission" conference examines communication

An interdisciplinary forum comprising experts from literature, sociology, anthropology, and filmmaking—held to examine relationships among ideas and cultures of communication, past and present—was held at a Swift Hall lecture room on Friday and Saturday as speakers from across the world lectured at the long-awaited "Arts of Transmission" conference.

Two years in the making, "Arts of Transmission" was sponsored by the Franke Institute for the Humanities, Critical Inquiry, the Office of the Provost, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Speakers came from Australia, England, France, Germany, and Italy, as well as universities from the across the U.S. and the University of Chicago. Participants included Danielle Allen, Joel Snyder, David Wellbery, and international experts such as Roger Chartier and Judith MacDougall. The conference panels addressed a wide range of topics, from "Forms and Media" to the "Institutions and Impediments" of academic publishing and intellectual property.

The series was meant to explore the essential practices through which ideas are articulated, distributed, and passed on to future generations. Ever since the advent of printing, the most important changes in culture—whether the crisis of education, the fluctuating fortunes of the information economy, or the rise of the digital revolution—return in these practices of appropriating knowledge. The conference aimed to bring a heightened understanding of the ways that the arts of transmission intersect across technologies through authorship, reading, and the concepts of information and communication.

James Chandler, the director of the Franke Institute and professor of the History of Culture and Cinema and Media Studies, remarked on the principle of the conference. "Our hope for this event was to bring a variety of historical and diverse perspectives to issues too often dismissed as mainly contemporary and technological. Our topics ranged widely from the transmission of oral poetry among the ancient Greeks to Renaissance note-taking and the modern practices of classifying government information."

The "Arts of Transmission" conference will be followed by a continuous project, "," a three-year initiative focusing on the modes of transmission in universities such as the emergence of the "virtual" university and the adaptation of the corporate model within higher education. The event is sponsored by the Franke Institute and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and will be held Friday, May 28 in Classics, room 10.