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Initiative in the Humanistic Study of Innovation

Innovation has long been hailed by the public at large, by policymakers, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders as a trademark of the sciences and technology. In recent debates about the value of higher education, the university’s capacity to teach and foster innovation has been front and center in the line of its defense. However, what remains generally unexamined in such discussions is the nature of innovation itself: what constitutes innovative thinking? Where and how is it best learned or practiced? What social and cultural factors affect the recognition and implementation of innovation? And more crucially, what new practices and productions are lost to view when we limit ourselves to the Schumpeterian understanding of innovation as something necessarily predicated on “creative destruction”?

As part of the “Innovate Indiana” initiative, the project on the Humanistic Study of Innovation seeks to enhance our capacity to innovate by studying what innovation entails. In fact, the humanities have always played a crucial role in fostering creativity by challenging and proposing alternatives to current norms and conventional wisdom, and through this critical thought to help reframe the questions that novelty seeks to answer. In this project, we deploy the tools of historical and cultural analysis to investigate the narratives, history, and language of innovation in order to better understand the social forces that enable and impede the recognition and implementation of new ideas. Boldly put, we propose to address the current crisis of faith in higher education by placing innovation alongside conservation as the central axis of all university endeavors (teaching, research and service) and as a productive focal point for establishing dialogue with interests outside the university (addressing issues such as copyright and artistic productivity).

If you are interested in being part of this dialogue, please contact Patricia Ingham (pingham at indiana dot edu), Constance Furey (cfurey at indiana dot edu), Hall Bjørnstad (hallbjor at indiana dot edu), or Sonia Velázquez (velazqus at indiana dot edu).