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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

The Future of the University Public Lecture Series - Universities at the Crossroads: Directing Cultural Transformations

7th March 2018, 20:00 to 21:00, Great Hall, University College, Professor N. Kate Hayles (Duke University)


Universities are no longer the privileged site of knowledge creation and dissemination. Excellent online tutorials, such as the Kahn Academy, provide high quality open-access instruction in subjects once considered too esoteric to address except in a university classroom, such as calculus, linear algebra, and similar mathematical topics. In other practices universities, for example MIT, have made their entire course offerings available online at nominal or no charge. Still others offer MOOCs on a wide variety of topics. These developments pose significant challenges to traditional ideas of the university as a cloistered space where students came and learned about subjects they could not access otherwise.

Taking a cue from similar problems facing university presses, this talk will argue for a transformative vision of the university that positions it not as a separate enclosed space but as a busy informational crossroads in which the university clearly identifies the “value added” it provides and takes an active role not only in creating and disseminating knowledge but also in directing it toward better and more productive practices that contribute to human and planetary flourishing.

Topics will include the flipped classroom, the tragedy of the lecture hall, the importance of contributing to sustainable and environmental practices, and suggestions for engaging in interdisciplinary initiatives and developing robust modes of discourse that reach beyond scholarly communities to the general public.

This lecture is free and open to all.

Times: 19:45 for 20:00 (doors open 19:30, first come, first served)

About Professor N.Kate Hayles

Professor Kate Hayles is today one of the most renowned Humanities scholars across the globe,for the very good, if paradoxical, reason that she transcends the divide between the two cultures of sciences and humanities. Currently Professor of English Literature at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, Kate Hayles began her academic career with degrees in Chemistry at Rochester Institute of Technology and CalTech, then working as a research chemist with Xerox Corporation. There followed degrees in English Literature at Michigan and Rochester, since when she has held posts in English at Dartmouth, CalTech, UCLA, and now Duke. She has achieved many distinctions, whilst making her name with books synthesising her unique dual gift: Chaos Bound. Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science. (1990), How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics (1999), How We Think. Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis (2012), and most recently, Unthought. The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious (2017). All these works show that mind, body, intelligence, complexity, literature and technology are not mutually exclusive terms, but in fact complementary to one another, and in fact always already have been. In doing so, she has paved she way for the establishment of human-animal studies, for cognitive literary studies, and above all for the non-Freudian concept of the cognitive nonconscious, a notion which uses emergentist system theory to bridge the conceptual dualism between technical, animate, and conscious systems of cognition. In her lecture on the future of the university Professor Hayles will suggest that the digital revolution of our time poses a fundamental challenge to the constitution of the modern university as a separate enclosed space of informational transaction. Its future is as an informational crossroads which can ultimately transform the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge.

In addition to her lecture, Professor Hayles will continue the debate on the future of the university in a podium discussion with David Berry, Professor of Digital Humanities, from the University of Sussex, on Thursday 8 March at 10.00am in the Senate Suite, University College. Places for this debate must be booked in advance due to limited capacity here.

Directions to University College

Map - University College is denoted as building No. 23

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.


The Future of the University Public Lecture series is a co-convened series by the Institute of Advanced Study and University College . In the face of this rapidly changing landscape, urging instant adaptive response, it is too easy to discount fundamental questions. What is the university now for? What is it, what can it be, what should it be? Are the visions of Humboldt and Newman still valid? If so, how?

During 2017/18 leading world figures on the university and political stages will deliver a public lecture in the Great Hall of the Castle. Speakers include Peter Horrocks CBE, Professor Peter Coveney, and Lord David Willetts, among others. Follow this link for the full list of speakers


Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.