Sunday, September 8, 2013


As changes in technology, population, climate, the economy, the organization of knowledge, and other systems gather speed, the need to predict and even to design the future accelerates as does the need to re-envision STEM as STEAM (sciences, technology, engineering, arts-humanities, and medicine). Through 2013-2014, a series of "futurists"—from the arts, humanities, social sciences, technology, health humanities, and beyond—will visit the University of Iowa campus. We look forward to hearing their perspectives on the forces spurring change, the possible futures before us, and opportunities to design the future through imaginative forms of education, collaboration, intervention, and invention.

Bruce Sterling and Dan Reed in Conversation

The line up starts with "Imagining and Being Imagined:  A Conversation Between Two Futurists." Over the last several decades, Bruce Sterling's science fiction and net criticism have transported readers into future probabilities while Dan Reed, UI Vice President for Research & Economic Development, has shaped futures through corporate research and national policy committees. They meet on the Englert stage to imagine key developments and possible interventions in the next decade. At the Englert on Monday, September 16, 3:30 - 5 pm with a reception to follow. This event is free and open to the public.

The next night, September 17, Sterling will read from his work at Prairie Lights Bookstore at 7:00 pm.

Spring Events Focus on the Humanities

The Designing the Future series continues into spring semester, beginning on Monday, March 10, 2014, when the Obermann Center will host the directors of two prominent centers -- Sara Guyer (University of Wisconsin) and Matthew Countryman (University of Michigan) -- in discussion about "Designing the Future for Publicly Engaged Research and Teaching in the Humanities."

Sarah Guyer

Sara Guyer is Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is a national leader in theorizing and enacting the civic function of the arts and humanities. Her humanities center organizes annual conferences on the public humanities, leads a “Great World Texts” program for the state of Wisconsin, supports graduate public humanities fellows, and has just instituted a new graduate minor in the public humanities. She is also the author of Romanticism after Auschwitz (Stanford UP, 2007) and the forthcoming Biopoetics: Reading with John Clare (Northwestern UP). Her recent publications range from biopoetics to anthropomorphism to genocide memorials in Rwanda. 

Matt Countryman

Matthew Countryman is Associate Professor of History and American Culture and Faculty Director of the Arts of Citizenship program at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. The Arts of Citizen program helps University of Michigan Graduate Students develop collaborative projects with community partners to address real-world challenges and enhance students’ professional development through an annual Institute and a fellowship program. He is the author of Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia, which won the 2006 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for the best book in civil rights history from the Organization of American Historians. He is on the editorial board for Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, and is the associate editor of the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia (2014). His research interests include African-American social and political movements, comparative race and ethnicity, and United States politics.

Health Humanities Working Symposium


Andrea Charise

On April 4-5, 2014, Designing the Future will turn attention toward opportunities for an interdisciplinary, cross-college program designed to encourage innovative collaborations, courses, and career preparation. This working symposium will include leaders in the "health humanities" from the U.S., Britain, and Canada. The symposium is being planned by Andrea Charise, a 2013-14 Obermann Fellow-in-Residence and a postdoctoral fellow funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. After spending 8 years as a medical researcher, Charise pursued a PhD in literature and medicine at the University of Toronto, where she was also a fellow in the Health Care, Technology, and Place research center. Among her projects, she is developing courses in the health humanities for a new program within that center when she takes up her position as a faculty member in July 2014.


Designing the Future of Higher Education


Christopher Newfield

The series wraps up April 28, 2014, with a visit from Christopher Newfield, Professor of American Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and one of the most lucid and influential voices in current national and international debates on the costs and responsibilities of higher education. Newfield's books include Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the American University, 1880-1980 (Duke, 2003), and Unmaking the Public University: The Forty Year Assault on the Middle Class (Harvard, 2008), and he is the author of recent articles on solar energy policy and collaboration in nanoscience.  He blogs on higher education funding and policy at Remaking the University (, the Huffington Post, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and is completing a book called Lower Education: What to Do about Our Downsized Future.