The Humanities in the Startup Economy

...with a possible anthem for CHSS (see video below)

At a time in which the “death of the humanities” reflects common parlance side by side with startups and entrepreneurship attracting increasing attention, a panel of experts invited to Montclair State University on April 16, 2014 offered an occasion to talk about the “life” that the humanities can bring to the startup environment. 

The conversation was prompted by the presentation of the book Tech and the City, an ethnographic study of New York’s technology startup scene co-authored by the journalist Maria Teresa Cometto and venture capitalist Alessandro Piol. In addition to the two authors, the evening also featured Claudio Vaccarella, CEO of HyperTV, as well as Guy Story, Chief Research Scientist for Audible. Cometto started the evening off by listing a number of startup companies in which humanities content plays a critical role, while venture capitalist Piol offered a brief overview of the difficulties faced by the early startup community in New York City before establishing itself over the past few years. Story shared the history of Audible, a New Jersey-based company that devised and introduced audiobooks, a business that relies on stories, storytellers and listeners. Vaccarella stressed the importance of interactivity and creativity in newly emergent media. 

One of the most fascinating aspects of the panel discussion was the central role of geography. Establishing a community that both attracts and nourishes technical talent is a key preoccupation for both cities and countries in today’s increasingly digital world.  The startup boom in NYC is finally starting to gain some traction after several years of nurturing and the panel discussed what lessons New Jersey could adopt in terms of stimulating its own such communities. With the introduction of new digital tools that allow for real-time global interaction, another aspect of geography comes into play in the potential for cross-country exchanges. In particular, the relationship between the U.S. and Italy was used as a case study for global exchanges and foreign language knowledge (the Italian Consul in NY, Natalia Quintavalle, attended the program). 

Dr. Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies in the Department of Spanish and Italian) and Denis Bone (Director of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship in the School of Business) co-produced this program with the aim of creating an interdisciplinary dialogue between two areas that are seldom connected. In doing so, they hope to foster a model of teaching and learning that stresses the importance of creative thinking and cultural observation for students as they make their way in an increasingly globalized world in which entrepreneurship has played and will continue to play in spurring inventions that “change the world.”

The video below produced by ArtMotion Picture includes interviews with the panelists and the organizers, numerous images of our campus life, as well as snippets of the song that Guy Story wrote for the occasion, “Let the Humanities Lead.” Promptly dubbed as “the informal anthem of CHSS,” the song was performed as the finale to this successful event that attracted over 100 people including students, professors, journalists, and entrepreneurs. 

For event information, photos, and media coverage, see link