Programs and Events


Every day humans are bombarded with an excess of information, far greater than can be processed consciously. With Data & Democracy, The Commons will explore the current state of access to information and the consequences of such exposure. Through talks, Idea Cafés, and other programming, we seek to investigate the ways in which humans create and manage information as well as the ways in which they are bound by it.

Possible questions include:

- What responsibilities have we inherited in this age of connectedness?
- What complications plague our access to so much information?
- What information is actually private?
- How do our management and storage of information affect us?
- What freedoms and choices are we willing to surrender to silicon and algorithms?
- Where do we draw the line when it comes to sharing personal information?




The Birth Certificate: Shaping Identity in an Age of Documentation

William Staples, KU Professor of Sociology
12:00pm Tuesday, September 4, 2012 | The Commons

A birth certificate is a credential that is often taken for granted until it is required. It serves as proof of one's age or citizenship; and it is a requirement in order to be adopted, to go to school, to get a driver's license or a passport, to marry, to inherit property, and to be elected to office. But in helping us prove who we are, this document also helps define who we are; it has been involved, at various times and places, in the social construction of our sex, race/ethnicity, nationality, and parental lineage. This discussion will explore the production of identification as a method of governing and the formation of identity as a byproduct of such governance.

The Idea Café is intended to elicit energetic exchanges between attendees in response to the speaker's introduction.

Emilio Chapela Pérez


Emilio Chapela Pérez

January 22-25, 2013 | The Commons

Emilio Chapela lives in Mexico City and works internationally. His work is concerned with the development of systems that allow the operator to control various processes such as those used for conventional and unconventional methods to determine the relative importance of individualized factors. He also investigates the effect of increasing importance of the different methods used to identify the specific factors involved in the production and dissemination of a particular type of information. He has worked with several different methods to determine how the various systems respond to the needs identified through their own resources.

Information Meeting

12:00pm January 22 | The Commons

Idea Café

"Where (and When) Will Books Die?"

12:00pm January 23 | The Commons

Emilio Chapela Pérez will present some of the ideas that motivate his artistic work regarding books. Particularly, he will raise questions regarding the future of books and libraries. Are libraries obsolete? Will they evolve? Will books -as objects- survive mass digitalization? Should they? And most importantly: When and how will books die?

Artist Talk

5:30pm January 23 | The Commons


Artist Night

5:30pm January 24 | Spencer Museum of Art, Central Court

With students of Maria Velasco's Expanded Media courses, Emilio Chapela Pérez will deliver a performance at the Spencer Museum of Art, in conjunction with his residency at The Commons.

Panel Discussion

Mexico and the US: Identity, Stereotypes, and Social Media

11:00am January 25 | The Commons

Installation Viewing

9:00-11:00am January 25 | The Commons

With Ruben Flores, American Studies and History; Germaine Halegoua, Film & Media Studies; Emilio Chapela Pérez, Artist in Residence; and Moderated by Danny Anderson, Dean, CLAS

Daniel Rosenberg


Daniel Rosenberg, Associate Professor of History, University of Oregon

7:30pm Thursday, February 7, 2013 | The Commons

Sponsored by the University Honors Program.

The 2013 University Lecture Series at The Commons is themed "Digital Humanities" and complements the Honors/Commons course designed for Honors Program students, taught by Dr. Doug Ward, Associate Professor of Journalism.


Data & Democracy: Our Technology, Our Future

7:30pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013 | The Commons

The Commons will host a debate, moderated by Leonard Krishtalka, about the data deluge, our growing reliance on silicon and algorithms, and the outsourcing of decision-making to artificial "thinking machines." Dartmouth Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy James Moor, and KU Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Perry Alexander will speak from opposing positions. Moor will speak about human relationship and reliance on technology from a conditional dystopian perspective, and Alexander will deliver the Utopian counterpoint. Audience participation is highly encouraged, as the second portion of the event will rely upon questions from the public.

James Moor

James Moor, Daniel P. Stone Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, Dartmouth College

Representing a Conditional Dystopian Perspective
Perry Alexander

Perry Alexander, KU Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Director, Information and Telecommunication Technology Center

Representing a Utopian Perspective

Kathryn Tomasek


Kathryn Tomasek, Associate Professor of History, Wheaton College

Oh My Dear Father! Uncovering Religious Networks Through a Daughter's Journal
7:30pm Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | The Commons

Sponsored by the University Honors Program.

The 2013 University Lecture Series at The Commons is themed "Digital Humanities" and complements the Honors/Commons course designed for Honors Program students, taught by Dr. Doug Ward, Associate Professor of Journalism.



5:30pm Thursday, April 4, 2013 | Spencer Museum of Art

Sponsored by the University Honors Program, School of Engineering, Center for Digital Humanities, Dept. of Film & Media Studies, Dept. of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The Commons, Information and Telecommunication Technology Center, Spencer Museum of Art

Codebreaker is a docu-drama about the tumultuous life of Alan Turing, in whose honor the Spencer Museum mounted a major exhibition in the Spring and Summer of 2012. Turing, a British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and pioneering computer scientist, helped crack Nazi codes and laid the foundation for the modern computer. He also endured severe persecution for his homosexuality. This film includes mature content. Running time: 81 minutes. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Patrick Sammon, Executive Producer of the film.

Trevor Harris


Trevor Harris, Eberly Distinguished Professor of Geography and Department Chairperson, West Virginia University

Exploring the spatial turn in the Digital Humanities: maps, deep mapping, and immersive geo-virtual reality
7:30pm Thursday, April 18, 2013 | The Commons

Sponsored by the University Honors Program.

The 2013 University Lecture Series at The Commons is themed "Digital Humanities" and complements the Honors/Commons course designed for Honors Program students, taught by Dr. Doug Ward, Associate Professor of Journalism.

Nancy Baym


Why Big Data Will Never Be Big Enough To Handle The Social

Nancy Baym, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research New England
12:00pm Wednesday, April 17, 2013 | The Commons

"Big Data" are receiving an enormous amount of well-deserved buzz as they call on us to rethink who can do science and how it can be done. Yet there is also a certain blind optimism that with enough data, we will understand everything! This discussion will challenge this optimism, particularly as it relates to the study of people. Nancy Baym will draw on her experience at Microsoft Research, an interdisciplinary basic research lab where people are actively trying to create bridges between big data and ethnographic analysis.

The Idea Café is intended to elicit energetic exchanges between attendees in response to the speaker's introduction.

Lunch is provided. RSVP by April 9 to Limit 40 guests.


with Artist Joachim Schmid

1:00pm Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | The Commons
Sponsored by the Department of Design, Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures, Department of Visual Arts, the European Studies Program, the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities, the Center for Global and International Studies, and The Commons

A conversation with Berlin-based artist Joachim Schmid about making artist's books in the age of the Internet, digital photography, online photo-sharing, and print-on-demand. Audience members are encouraged to familiarize themselves with Schmid's work ahead of time, as the dialogue between artist and audience will comprise the majority of the event. For more information about Schmid's artistic pursuits and examples of his work, see his website: The event is presented in conjunction with Data & Democracy.


Nicco Mele, author of The End of Big: How The Internet Makes David The New Goliath
November 21-22, 2013 | The Commons

Internet pioneer Nicco Mele shows how our ability to connect instantly, constantly, and globally is altering the power of business, politics, culture, education and more with a breathtaking speed that is disrupting our lives in revolutionary ways. Many of these changes are for the good. However, Nicco argues that the new realities of technology come at a high price. Nicco's keynote is both alarming and hopeful – thought provoking and passionately argued – and will change the way you use technology forever. For more information about Nicco Mele, visit his website: photo credit: Joshua D. Wachs, Busy Brain Studio


Why Radical Connectivity Means The End of Big

5:30pm Thursday, November 21 | The Commons

Since his early days as one of Esquire Magazine's "Best and Brightest" in America, Nicco has been a sought-after innovator, media commentator, and speaker. He serves on a number of private and non-profit boards, including the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and Nicco is also co-founder of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.


Can Democracy Survive the Digital Age?

10:00am Friday, November 22 | The Commons

As a follow-up to his presentation Thursday evening, Nicco Mele will challenge attendees to consider the values of democracy and whether they can withstand the growing presence of technology in daily life.

The Idea Café is intended to elicit energetic exchanges between attendees in response to the speaker's introduction.


Data & Democracy: What is Free Speech in the Age of Social Media?

7:00pm Tuesday, March 25, 2014 | The Commons

Frank LoMonte - Executive Director, Student Press Law Center
Amy Gajda - Associate Professor of Law, Tulane University Law School
Stephen R. McAllister - E.S. & Tom W. Hampton Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Kansas School of Law
Moderator, Deanell Reece Tacha - Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean of the School of Law, Pepperdine University

Sponsored by The Commons, the School of Journalism, and the Office of the Provost

Amid a changing social landscape of connectivity and communication, the legal and societal landscape of what is meant by 'free speech' may be shifting as well. The First Amendment guarantees free speech, but what are the substance and forms of that protection in the age of social media?

As the use of social media in daily life grows exponentially, we consider what free speech and privacy mean in an era of immediate and unfettered access to wide dissemination, and whether there are new rules that characterize social engagement and free expression today.

The event will be viewable online via a livestream broadcast at, and those attending remotely will have the opportunity to participate in Q&A via twitter using the hashtag #DataDemocracy.


Robert McChesney, Professor of Communication, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Monday, April 7, 2014


Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America

4:00pm Monday, April 7 | The Commons

McChesney is Research Professor in the Institute of Communications Research and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2002 he co-founded, with Dan Schiller, the Illinois Initiative on Global Information and Communication Policy. McChesney also hosts the Media Matters weekly radio program every Sunday afternoon on WILL-AM radio.

McChesney's research interests include the political economy of communication; 20th century media history; international communication; media and communication policy; and media and social change. His most recent books include Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy New York: The New Press, 2013; Dollarocracy: How the Money-and-Media-Election Complex is Destroying America New York: Nation Books, 2013; and The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012.


with Photographer Mark Klett

1:00pm Friday, April 18, 2014 | The Commons Sponsored by the Hallmark Corporate Foundation, the Department of Design, The Commons, the Kansas Geological Survey, the Franklin D. Murphy Lecture Fund, the History of Art Department, and the Spencer Museum of Art

Mark Klett photographs the intersection of cultures, landscapes, and time. His background includes working as a geologist before turning to photography. He established his artistic perspective on the American West landscape as the chief photographer for the Rephotographic Survey Project (1977-79), which re-photographed Western sites first captured by surveyors in late 1800s. Klett has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Buhl Foundation, and the Japan/U.S. Friendship Commission. His work has been exhibited and collected both nationally and internationally for over 30 years and is held in over 80 museum collections worldwide. He is the author of fifteen books, including the recently published Reconstructing the View (University of California Press, 2012, with Rebecca Senf and Byron Wolfe), Wendover: The Half-Life or History (Radius Press, 2011, with William Fox), Saguaros (Radius Press, 2007, with Gregory McNamee), and Yosemite in Time (Trinity University Press, 2005, with Rebecca Solnit and Byron Wolfe). Mark Klett is Regents' Professor of Art at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

Klett will lead the event with a short introduction to his recent work, after which, the audience is invited to ask questions of the artist. Audience members are encouraged to attend Klett's Hallmark Lecture at 6:00pm on Thursday, April 17 at the Spencer Museum of Art. Audience members should familiarize themselves with Klett's work prior to Coffee @ The Commons, as the dialogue between artist and audience will comprise the majority of the event.

The event is presented in conjunction with Data & Democracy.


David Rokeby
April 28-May 1, 2014 | The Commons

David Rokeby is an installation artist based in Toronto, Canada. He has been creating and exhibiting since 1982. For the first part of his career he focused on interactive pieces that directly engage the human body, or that involve artificial perception systems. In the last decade, his practice has expanded to included video, kinetic and static sculpture. His work has been performed / exhibited in shows across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. For more information about David Rokeby, visit his website:

Installation Viewing

Very Nervous System (1986-1990)

4:00-5:30pm Tuesday, April 29 | The Commons

Artist Talk

5:30pm Tuesday, April 29 | The Commons

Coffee @ The Commons

10:00am Wednesday, April 30 | The Commons

Faculty Roundtable

How Do Research Questions Develop Across Disciplines?

3:00pm Wednesday, April 30 | The Commons


Maximilian Schich, Associate Professor for Art and Technology, University of Texas, Dallas
November 17-18, 2014 | The Commons

Through his teaching, Schich seeks to explore and nurture Multidisciplinary Approaches in Arts and Technology as well as various aspects of Cultural Science, a collaborative process that embraces humanistic inquiry, physics, computer science, and information design in a single coherent workflow. For more information about Maximilian Schich, visit his website:


A Network Framework of Cultural History

5:30pm Monday, November 17 | The Commons

The emergent processes driving cultural history are a product of complex interactions among large numbers of individuals, determined by difficult-to-quantify historical conditions. To characterize these processes we have reconstructed aggregate intellectual mobility over two millennia through the birth and death locations of more than 150,000 notable individuals. The tools of network and complexity theory were then used to identify characteristic statistical patterns and determine the cultural and historical relevance of deviations. The resulting network of locations provides a macroscopic perspective of cultural history, which helps us to retrace cultural narratives of Europe and North America using large-scale visualization and quantitative dynamical tools and to derive historical trends of cultural centers beyond the scope of specific events or narrow time intervals. SCIENCE paper and NATURE video: An Art Historian by training, Maximilian Schich brings together hermeneutics, information visualization, computer science, and physics to understand and better explain art, history, and culture. Through his research, he explores the nature and emergence of complexity in the arts and humanities using an approach that combines quantitative analysis and visualization with hermeneutic interpretation, which sets the base for collaborations that aim to model and simulate previously hidden phenomena.


Can Organized Complexity Connect the Sciences & the Humanities

12:00pm-1:00pm Tuesday, November 18 | The Commons

The Idea Café is intended to elicit energetic exchanges between attendees in response to the speaker's introduction. RSVP by November 10 to Limit 40 guests.