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The Documedia Capital

We have known the world of Industrial Capital since the 18th century: it produced commodities, generated alienation, and made a lot of noise – the noise of factories. Then it was the turn of Financial Capital: it produced wealth, generated adrenaline, and still made some noise – the noise of trading sessions at the stock exchange. Today a new capital is coming to the fore, Documedia Capital: it produces documents, generates mobilization, and makes no noise. Its environment and condition of possibility is the Web, which has caused what I call the documedia revolution, triggered by the encounter between an increasingly powerful documentality (the sphere of documents allowing for the existence of social reality) and a mediality (the sphere of the media) that is now ever more widespread and pervasive, both quantitatively (there are two billion mobile phones in the world) and qualitatively (thanks to social media, every receiver is also a broadcaster).

Understanding the Documedia Revolution is a political necessity and a philosophical opportunity that requires us, two hundred years later, to rewrite The Capital, so as to describe a capital that reflects our age: the Documedia Capital. To do so, we need an institution that is able to recreate the global vision embodied by the intellectual figure of Umberto Eco: “Scienza Nuova”, which is dedicated to him.

 

The Project

“Scienza Nuova” aims to understand the ongoing transformation and to train elites able to manage it through the cooperation between the University and the Polytechnic of Turin in the framework of the memorandum of understanding signed by the two Rectors on 9 January 2019. Its project is based on the theoretical content presented in the book Scienza Nuova. Ontologia della trasformazione digitale (Rosenberg & Sellier 2018). Its working group is made up by the current  Labont (https://labont.it); its provisional webpage illustrates its goals and objectives (https://labont.it/areas/scienza-nuova/. Since 1st October 2018 it has organized various encounters and initiatives, both academic and for the wider audience. Its physical headquarters is the Casa degli Spiriti in Corso Montevecchio, Turin. It is articulated through the intersection of two research axes: (vertical) levels and (horizontal) lines.

 

Vertical axis: levels of research

“Scienza Nuova” will implement its program on five levels:

Level 1. Postgraduate Degree. Excellence of postgraduate education. Ferdinando Rossi School, high polytechnic studies. Courses shared by elite students of the Polytechnic and the University of Turin.

Level 2. Master’s Degree, developed in cooperation with companies (Ernst and Young, master’s degree in public administration) and institutions (National Institutes of Notaries, Fondazione 1563). The degrees are of two orders: professional ones and, on a higher level, ones aimed at understanding and anticipating the ongoing transformation  through the interaction between professionals and scholars.

Level 3. PhD. A selection of the best PhD students from the two universities in Turin receives additional courses and training (Scuola Normale di Pisa), as well as a salary supplement, cooperating with the research of “Scienza Nuova”.

Level 4. Postdoc. Postdoc positions in the framework of the research lines implemented by “Scienza Nuova” and with the aim of acting as a research incubator, allowing postdoctoral researchers to access competitive European projects (with the commitment to carry out their research in Turin) or to be recruited by the  institutions that have sponsored their research.

Level 5. Fellowships in the framework of a project of advanced studies. Senior fellows are invited on an annual basis to carry out their research and to bring their experience into one of the three-year research lines.

 

Horizontal axis: lines of research

On a three-year basis, a research coordinator (an academic or manager) organizes a research plan that coordinates the various levels of research relevant to the given line of research. The research plan can be confirmed for another three years, for a maximum of two terms. The tasks of the research lines, in addition to their specific objectives, are

  1. To encourage the recruitment of candidates with an unconventional CV
  2. To establish long-term relationships on a European basis, and act as an incubator for ERC and ERC Synergy
  3. To encourage an exchange between universities, professionals and the business world.

An MIT for the Humanities

Our society is not liquid (in many respects, it is more solid and normative than ever), but it is certainly porous, one where the exchange between science, business and the humanities has become increasingly feasible and necessary. This is the framework behind Scienza Nuova, the MIT for the humanities of the University of Turin. Developed as part of the collaboration between the Laboratory of Ontology (LabOnt) and the University’s “Innovation and Competitiveness” Strategic Project (Picto), the Institute of Advanced Studies “Scienza Nuova” intends to develop the highest level of interdisciplinary collaboration to study the transformation of society, labour, and business.

State of the Art

There are many institutes of advanced studies in Italy. A prime example is the School of Humanistic Studies in Bologna, wanted by Umberto Eco. Scienza Nuova feels particularly close to the latter in terms of culture, although it intends to focus more on the sphere of relations between the humanities and business. Our team has also developed a good relationship with the IMT School for Advanced Studies in Lucca, with the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, and with the IUSS Higher University School in Pavia. Scienza Nuova also has developed collaborations with international schools operating in this sector: for example, the Centre for Ethics and Technology (4TU.Ethics) founded in 2007 by the board of three technical universities in the Netherlands (Delft, Eindhoven, and Twente) to study ethical issues in the development, use and regulation of technology; and the Center for History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Aberdeen.

Vision

The starting point of Scienza Nuova is the obvious observation that the humanities can no longer rely on the automatic and quasi-religious prestige that was reserved for intellectuals in traditional societies (including Italy until not long ago). This was a positive change, which pushed the humanities to learn new languages (English, for example, but taking care not to forget the others, like Italian); to dialogue with the rest of society; and to understand that humanistic culture is not the opposite of science and technology, but rather itself a kind of technology (made of writing, interpretation, archiving and invention) that is particularly powerful and useful also for science. Due to the transformations brought about by the documedia revolution, the conditions are now in place for the emergence of what Jacques Derrida called “the humanities to come”, capable of interacting not only with science, but also with technology and professional life, increasing their inherent interdisciplinarity. It is highly probable that in fifty years university faculties will be organized very differently from the way they traditionally used to be. What is certain is that this restructuring will be all the more effective the more one understands that between science, technology and humanism there is no contrast, but rather an essential connection. We are technological and scientific animals, and this is what makes us human.

Peculiarities

In this context, the inspiring principle of Scienza Nuova is twofold. Firstly, the contribution of the humanities to the three spheres of business, labour and society must not adapt to transformations occurring outside the university, but rather anticipate and invent new forms of collaboration and intervention in which the humanities can unfold their peculiarity and originality. Secondly, Scienza Nuova aims at working together with the Polytechnic University of Turin at all three levels of teaching: Bachelor, Master, and PhD. Scienza Nuova has three main goals: the establishment of a research incubator to enhance the international competitiveness of the University; the implementation of a three-level inter-university education, aimed at improving the synergy between the University and the Polytechnic; the accomplishment of the third mission to better represent the function and the field of the humanities within the framework of the documedia revolution.

Research Incubator

At this level, the goal is to create a training structure not only for individual research, but for cooperation in competitive projects and for the presentation of findings in prestigious publications. There are four initiatives conceived to achieve this goal: Acamedia, Acanext, Acaweb and Acadigit.

Acamedia

For the past two years, Collegio Carlo Alberto and LabOnt have coordinated Acamedia (https://www.acamedia.unito.it), a system to improve the quality of research. It is a pilot project in the humanities, in collaboration with the Department of Philosophy and Education Sciences, the Department of Psychology, and Collegio Carlo Alberto. The project is financed by Compagnia di San Paolo, which aims to provide the tools for the internationalization of research activities to UniTo researchers, and eventually to all Italian universities.

Acanext

Acanext has three objectives: training competent staff to support the drafting of European projects; attracting young researchers to work on Erc or Marie Curie projects (Scienza Nuova supports promising scholars with the commitment that they will stay at the University of Turin if the funding application is successful); attracting senior researchers through research incentives (structures, connections with professional services, research awards, fellowships).

Acaweb

Acaweb consists in the creation of several international academic networks focused on objectives and aimed at the circulation of PhD students (through the assignment of ad hoc scholarships), as well as junior and senior fellows (through the establishment of fellowships). For example, one can mention:

  • Spazio europeo della ricerca (European Research Area). This circuit, coordinated by Emanuele Conte, comprises the following international institutes in Rome: École française de Rome, Germanic Historical Institute, Germanic Archaeological Institute, Hertziana Library (Max Planck Institute for Art History), British Institute, American Academy in Rome, Danish Institute in Rome, Swedish Institute in Rome, Academia Belgica, Finnish Institute, Dutch Institute, Swiss Institute, Austrian Institute. These Institutes will be asked to advertise some of their PhD positions on shared research networks. Scienza Nuova, as the Italian coordinator of the European Research Area, is responsible for offering high-level seminars in each line of research, to encourage the interaction between PhD students from the various institutions.
  • Spazio filosofico europeo (European Philosophical Area), in collaboration with Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung. Center for Advanced Studies South East Europe (Rijeka); Internationales Zentrum für Philosophie Nordrhein-Westfalen (Bonn); Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (München); Université de Paris I; University College Cork.
  • Law and Humanities. Käte Hamburger Kolleg „Recht als Kultur“ (Bonn); Università di Roma Tre: Winter school in Law and humanities; Cardozo Law School, McGill University Montreal, Birkbeck, London.
  • Humanities for Europe. Center for European Modernist Studies (Perugia); University of Utrecht, Ghent University: Humanities for Europe (conferences and doctoral schools); Luiss Guido Carli: research on Europe and global justice (research on intergenerationality); Université Paris Nanterre; European Movement; Economic and Social Committee (EU):
  • Work, mobilization, society. St. Mary’s University, London; Saint Petersburg State University.
  • Emerging media. Department for emerging media, Boston University; Collège d’études mondiales (Paris, FMSH): post-truth, documediality, social science.

Acadigit

For some years the “Innovation and Competitiveness” Strategic Project of the University has developed a new relationship between University and Territories, based on the overcoming of the Technology Transfer in favor of the Knowledge Interchange model, which recognizes the Academy as a junction between different local actors (Researchers Network, Entrepreneurs Network, Funders Network, Citizens Network). Acadigit aims to develop interdisciplinary research paths on the impact of the digital transformation on society, on individual users, on markets and on companies, with reference to the development of research in the field of technology and, specifically, of Artificial Intelligence.

Headquarters

The temporary headquarters of Scienza Nuova is the LabOnt office at the Luigi Einaudi Campus, and the organizational structure is provided by the staff of LabOnt. The research will be carried out within the infrastructure “HSSH with and for Industry 4.0” of the “Innovation and Competitiveness” Project (https://innovazione.unito.it/hssh-with-and-for-industry-4-0). We will also introduce a site for research, conferences and residential seminars at the Turin University Center in Savigliano (https://www.unito.it/media-gallery/detail/2142/4439). We are evaluating other solutions for the central headquarters of the institute, which will be used by staff – local and visiting -, fellows and PhD students.