The Commons KU | Idea Cafe Idea Cafe


Just as The Commons is invested in and driven by the possibilities of a robust interdisciplinary work between the sciences, arts and humanities, we are equally convinced that such interdisciplinary work requires bold, unconventional ideas, as well as experiments with alternative models of engagement between scholars, and between scholars and the broader community.

The Idea Café is one effort to foster those challenging ideas and innovative forms of engagement. In this series we will strive to bring you ideas that provoke; ones that challenge one or another tenet of your disciplined thinking. Because we are so formed by our disciplines, we expect that what a historian finds provocative may barely rattle a biologist. But through this ongoing series we hope to unsettle most of you at some point in time.

We also want to get people talking to each other. We are all familiar with the standard lecture format. An expert on a particular topic speaks for 45-50 minutes, or longer, followed by another 30 minutes or so of question and answer. At best audience members, and they are indeed an audience, have asked a question and gotten a response. What they have not typically done is engaged in a conversation like the kind we might find among a group of close colleagues around a dinner table. That dinner table is closer to what we hope for with the Idea Café.


The speaker will talk for about 15 minutes, at which point we will open it up to conversation. You are free to ask questions or make comments. We do ask that you observe a few ground rules.

- Whether it's a question or a comment, please be concise. We'd like as many people as possible to have a chance to join the conversation.

- After each question, we will ask for further comments from the audience related to that question. Q&As tend to consist of one question after another, often with little connection between them. We want, as much as possible, to build conversations around each question.


To be announced.


"Why we should be optimistic about the Anthropocene," with Science and Environment Writer Andrew Revkin, 12:00pm Friday, February 20, 2015

"Can Organized Complexity Connect the Sciences & the Humanities?" with Maximilian Schich, University of Texas - Dallas, November 18, 2014

"Pleistocene Rewilding: The Reintroduction of the Large Mammals of North America" with Dr. Harry Greene, Cornell University, May 5, 2014

"Shifting Viewpoints: Is Western Science an Indigenous Knowledge?" with Jorge Soberon, Senior Research Scientist, KU Biodiversity Institute, December 6, 2013

"Can Democracy Survive the Digital Age?" with Nicco Mele, author of The End of Big: How The Internet Makes David The New Goliath, November 22, 2013

"Why Big Data Will Never Be Big Enough To Handle The Social," with Nancy Baym, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research New England, April 17, 2013

"Where (and When) Will Books Die?" with Emilio Chapela Pérez, Artist in Residence at The Commons, January 23, 2013

"Silent Spring 50 Years Later: Is it still revelant?," with Rob Nixon, Rachel Carson Professor of English, University of Wisconsin, October 24, 2012

"The Birth Certificate: Shaping Identity in an Age of Documentation," with Bill Staples, Professor of Sociology, University of Kansas, September 4, 2012

"Do We Need Crisis to Have Citizenship?," with Rebecca Solnit, March 1, 2012

"Destruction as Design Moment: Does Urban Design Make Sense After Disasters?," with Jake Wagner, Associate Professor of Urban Planning + Design, University of Missouri - Kansas City, November 9, 2011

"What Causes City Dwellers to Riot, and How Do Cities Recover?," with Garth Myers, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Urban International Studies, Trinity College, October 7, 2011

"When Models Disintegrate," with Hume Feldman, Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Kansas, September 6, 2011

"Can Evolution Explain the Arts?," with Brian Boyd, Distinguished Professor of English, University of Auckland, March 31, 2011