HASTAC stands for Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory. Everyone just says “Haystack.” I started it in
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HASTAC stands for Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory. Everyone just says “Haystack.” I started it in 2002 with David Theo Goldberg and a dozen or so of the top experts in all the fields named in that long acronym. We came together because we believe that the Information Age is way too complicated for any one field, any one discipline, any one area of life.

The historian Robert Darnton likes to say that, in all human history, there have only been four great Information Ages. The first came in 4000 BC, in ancient Mesopotamia, with the invention of writing. The second came in 10th century China and then later in 15th century Europe with Gutenberg and the invention of moveable type. The third came around the time of the American Revolution (this was my original field of expertise, by the way) with steam-powered presses, machine-made ink and machine made paper. For the first time in human history, books were cheap enough that ordinary people could afford to buy them. Circulating libraries were invented and that meant even the poor could read. Mostly they read popular novels, the “video game of the 18th century.” (Some of the Founding Fathers were sure books would distract youth, lead to violence and promiscuity, render them unfit for gainful employment—all those bad things now blamed on video games).

Literacy and all kinds of literary forms, including newspapers, changed in the third Information Age just as they are changing in humanity’s Fourth Great Information Age, our own era, where the Internet and the World Wide Web have made the transformations faster and more global than anyone (including its inventors) every dreamed possible. HASTAC is dedicated to rethinking learning, in and out of school, for our own Information Age. It’s free, voluntary, a network of networks, that has grown from an idea to a movement—about 5000 individual members, including almost 200 graduate and undergraduate students (HASTAC Scholars) nominated and supported with scholarships from over 75 institutions. Warning: it’s mostly academics, “hacktivists,” and geeks of all types. If that describes you, join us at www.hastac.org. If you register to the site, you are a member.

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