History of HASTAC

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory, called “haystack”) was co-founded in 2002 by Cathy N. Davidson, then Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University and David Theo Goldberg, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI). After a 2002 meeting where numerous educators expressed anxiety about the diminished role of humanistic learning in the Information Age, Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg wrote an influential essay, “A Manifesto for the Humanities in a Technological Age,” that argued that today’s new, global forms of communication and online learning are so complex that they demand a new alliance of humanists, artists, social scientists, natural scientists, and engineers, working collaboratively to think and make creatively and critically, including about equity, access, privacy, security, and other social dimensions of technology and learning.   

In 2003, Davidson and Goldberg began contacting scholars across the humanities (including digital humanities), social sciences, media studies, the arts, and technology sectors who shared these convictions and wanted to envision a new kind of organization–an academic social network–that would allow anyone to join and would offer any member of the community to contribute. They began working with a team of developers at Stanford University to code and design a participatory, community site, originally a display website and a Wiki for open contribution and as a community-based publishing and networking platform.

HASTAC.org was our original web presence and was central to the organization’s operations and its mission. Rather than simply a website, HASTAC.org was developed to be a commons, an active, open online social network, where any member could contribute ideas and network with any other member. This was before Facebook or even MySpace. A 2014 National Science Foundation review described HASTAC as the “world’s first and oldest academic social network.” 

The site was originally housed at Stanford University and moved to Duke University in 2005. Davidson served as the chief director of the administration and organization of HASTAC after  the move to Duke. In 2014, HASTAC had a dual administrative home, colocated across Duke and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.  From July 2017 to December 2018, Arizona State University replaced Duke University as the Graduate Center’s administrative partner. Since January 2019, HASTAC has been co-administered by the Graduate Center, CUNY, and Dartmouth College, under the leadership of co-directors Cathy N. Davidson (Graduate Center, CUNY) and Jacqueline Wernimont (Dartmouth). In the summer of 2022, HASTAC celebrated our 25th anniversary and launched the new HASTAC Commons (link/url)

HASTAC has two mottos that define its core principles: “Changing the Way We Teach and Learn” and “Difference Is Our Operating System.”

Our meetings:

The first HASTAC meeting was convened at UCHRI early in 2003.  A group of a dozen or so co-founders came together to discuss both intellectual and educational imperatives for the digital age and the current technological affordances that might support a community, a network, that was based on ideas of participation, equity, diversity, and public contribution.

We have been meeting virtually on the HASTAC website as well as at gatherings across the country ever since to reconsider how we conduct research, how we organize knowledge, and how we think, learn, communicate, interact, grow, change, and experiment in the face of changes happening faster than we ever imagined possible.  Our meetings have included representatives of universities and K-12 institutions, museums, art galleries, music and dance venues, supercomputing centers, libraries, social organizations, minority-serving institutions, private and public foundations.  They have taken place in Virtual Reality caves, online, in galleries, on stage, in performance spaces, at community schools, in high-performance computing centers, and even on a bus between Orange County and urban L.A., with a guided tour of the changing social and environmental landscape wrought by globalization and digital technologies. Meetings have taken place at several major universities as well as at a number of collaborative sites across multiple campuses and institutions in the U.S., Canada, and Peru.