Daniel Gordon, a professor of History, Director of UMass's BDIC program, and the Interim Associate Dean of Commonwealth Honors College was recently invited by Cambridge University faculty to participate in an international conference on Social Networks in the Age of the Enlightenment, and to present the conference’s keynote address.
Will you tell me a bit about the Cambridge University conference at which you will be speaking in July?
Besides producing famous critical thinkers such as Voltaire and Rousseau, eighteenth century Europe saw the rise of new modes of information sharing, such as encyclopedias, newspapers, and post offices. In fact, Voltaire's letters are a very important part of his collected works. Diderot's was editor of the Encyclopédie.
The topic is particularly interesting today because of the rise of Wikipedia, open source software, and other forms of intellectual collaboration among independent thinkers, or what people in the Enlightenment called "men of letters" (some of whom were women). We seem to be in a new Enlightenment.
My keynote address at the conference will point out similarities between the Enlightenment and the present moment. The possibility of large numbers of people being involved in the creation of knowledge is one of the common ideals.
The conference is July 1-3. The Wikimedia conference, open to all of course, is the following week in Gdansk. So I may attend both (thereby missing the Fourth of July at home!)
Could you talk a bit about the journal you co-edit, Historical Reflections?
Founded over thirty years ago, HISTORICAL REFLECTIONS/REFLECTIONS HISTORIQUES has established a well-deserved reputation for publishing high-quality articles of wide-ranging interest. Interdisciplinary and innovative in character, the journal publishes works that explore the terrain of discourse and representation, and the history of religion, art, literature and the social sciences.
Note: Historical Reflections is published by Berghahn Books. Vivian Berghahn, a UMass alum, manages their journals. Visit their website at http://www.berghahnbooks.com/.