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Overview: The Humanities Today

The humanities have been a means of expressing contemporary concerns and exploring timeless human questions since the earliest recorded history. It is therefore particularly disturbing to see the humanities under threat in recent years as governments and educational institutions worldwide have cut funding for the arts and have reduced the study of art, music, and other humanities in schools from the elementary to university levels. Politicians and school administrators who have targeted the humanities emphasize the need for fields of study that directly feed economic growth, such as science, technology, and business.

This, in turn, has led to an outcry defending the value of the humanities for our contemporary world. Proponents point out the importance to democracy of having a population exposed to the great ideas of literature and philosophy along with the resulting ability to think critically and interpret information. They promote the value of humanistic artifacts in opening minds to different cultures and perspectives, which is highly important in our increasingly global age. The work of creators in the humanities has also long been a voice for dissent and critique of the status quo, raising objections and opposing social ills, injustice, and tyranny, as we will see further on in this theme. And, of course, the appreciation of beauty and enjoyment of artifacts in the humanities are essential in their own right for the well-being of humanity.

Yet, all is not doom and gloom for the humanities today. New artifacts are always being created, and even if the general public may not be aware of the latest developments in the art world or who won the most recent PEN prizes for literature, there is enough widespread evidence that the humanities are still going strong through popular films, television shows, fiction, and music that are critically acclaimed and award winning.

The humanities have further adapted to the contemporary world in order to survive and thrive, particularly by embracing technology. Traditional artifacts like oil painting and marble sculpture are still being produced in the visual arts, but we are also seeing a variety of new media in use, such as 3D-printed sculpture, and digital art and design using software. Computing has impacted the study of disciplines like art, literature, and philosophy as well through a multitude of projects in the “digital humanities,” such as putting the collections of art museums online, digitizing old manuscripts and books, and providing virtual tours of historic buildings, which you experienced in Theme: Major Developments in the Humanities.

Yet, attendance at physical art museums has grown in recent years, and museums are using more personalized, interactive exhibits to draw in visitors. Thus, although science and the humanities are often considered to be opposites, the humanities have embraced the latest trends in technology in a way that shows how creative expression reflects the developments of the culture in which it is created.

Assignment Part 1

Compose one paragraph of how do you think aspects of contemporary culture have influenced the humanities and creative expression? And what do you see as the main value of human creative expression for contemporary culture?

Assignment Part 2

Compose one paragraph to Classmate 1, and compose one paragraph to Classmate 2 post. Explain why you agree or disagree with their point of view and how you believe human creative expression can impact issues we deal with today. Is there a connection between human expression and ethical values?

Clasmate one:

When I think about the aspects of contemporary culture the first thing that comes to mind is the new technology that makes art and culture easier to do. Today when we create art, we can do so with technology. We can show our art to more places and more people. Things like music are easier then going to a store and buying it. You can download the latest song with just one click. You can print out picture right from home. You can sell your art work online. You can read a book online without going to a library. These things are all doable because of technology. I believe that living in this new contemporary world and having creative expression means to be able to express yourself freely without persecution. Being able to express yourself by using new technology and also using no technology should be a choice. Not all forms of art are the same and in this day and age we are allowed to express ourselves in many different ways.

Classmate two:

I think aspects of contemporary culture have positively and negatively influenced the humanities and creative expressions. I believe it has a positive influence because it has given arts new levels and insights for them to reach or even establish. For example, a painting can now be seen from all over the world with a click and there are so many new ways to create art due to technology. However, I do believe technology has a negative influence sometimes. For instance, a song can now made with a few buttons and be performed on stage by one person and a sound system. I feel there is less passion since there isn’t any hard work put into a song or rhythm.

I think the main value of human creative expression for contemporary culture is always wanting to create and express artifacts in new and creative ways as technology progresses. For example, new types of music, art, and theaters/movies. Just in movies, a film from 2008 will look completely different from today.


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