Jeffrey T. Schnapp
New York, USA
Jeffrey Schnapp is an American academic. Until joining the Harvard University in 2011, he was the director of the Stanford Humanities Lab from its foundation in 1999 through 2009. At Harvard, he is the Carl Pescosolido Professor of Romance and Comparative Literatures and teaches in the Department of Architecture. Effective June 2015, he assumed the position of chief executive officer and co-founder of Piaggio Fast Forward.
Until joining the Harvard University faculty in 2011, Jeffrey Schnapp was the director of the Stanford Humanities Lab from its foundation in 1999 through 2009. At Stanford University he occupied the Pierotti Chair in Italian Literature and was professor of French & Italian, Comparative Literature, and German Studies. Though primarily based in the field of Italian studies, he has played a pioneering role in several areas of transdisciplinary research and led the development of a new wave of digital humanities work. His research interests extend from antiquity to the present, encompassing the material history of literature, the history of 20th-century architecture and design, and the cultural history of science and engineering. Trained as a Romance linguist, Schnapp is the author or editor of twenty five books and a large corpus of essays on authors such as Virgil, Dante, Hildegard of Bingen, Petrarch, Machiavelli, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and on topics such as late antique patchwork poetry, futurist and dadaist visual poetics, the cultural history of coffee consumption, glass architecture, and the iconography of the pipe in modern art. His book Crowds was the recipient of the Modernist Studies Association prize for best book of 2006.
At Harvard, he is the Carl Pescosolido Professor of Romance and Comparative Literatures, teaches on the faculty of the Department of Architecture at the Graduate School of Design, and serves as faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. He is the founder/faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard: an "idea foundry, knowledge design laboratory, and production studio" founded in early 2011.
Schnapp was the co-editor of the Johns Hopkins University Press quarterly Modernism/modernity, the official journal of the Modernist Studies Association, up through the end of 2014. He is also a guest curator who has collaborated with several leading museums: among them, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Cantor Arts Center, the Wolfsonian-FIU, the Triennale di Milano, and the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio. His Trento Tunnels project — a 6000 sq. meter pair of superhighway tunnels at the entrance to the Northern Italian city of Trent, repurposed as an experimental history museum, has undergone several editions since 2008: among them, "I Trentini e la Grande Guerra (Il popolo scomparso/la sua storia ritrovata)" (2008-2009), "Storicamente ABC" (2010-2011), and "Ski Past" (2012). "Panorama of the Cold War," carried out with Elisabetta Terragni (Studio Terragni Architetti) and Daniele Ledda (XY comm), was exhibited in the Albanian Pavilion of the 2012 Venice Biennale of Architecture and in Erasmus Effect – Architetti italiani all’estero / Italian Architects Abroad at the MAXXI (Dec. 2013-April 2014). He also served as exhibition project consultant for BZ ’18-’45, a documentation center built under Marcello Piacentini’s Bolzano Victory Monument open to the public since July 2014.
Effective June 2015, he assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Piaggio Fast Forward.
In February 2011, Schnapp founded a new laboratory at Harvard under the aegis of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society: metaLAB (at) Harvard with his collaborators James Burns, Daniele Ledda, Kara Oehler, Gerard R. Pietrushko, and Jesse Shapins. It addresses "networked culture." MetaLAB has established a leading position in the field of experimental arts and humanities. Its personnel has evolved over the years and it currently defines itself as "a concept foundry, knowledge-design lab, and process studio proposing new forms for the networked arts, humanities, and sciences." The About page of its website reads: "Digging through dark abundance of media, material, and data collections, metaLAB embraces the processual artifacts buried within the lives of digital and physical objects. As the stories of these objects constellate with a shift from the micro to the macro, they prompt research challenges and opportunities that expose common galaxies for the academy, industry, and the public sphere. To demonstrate and translate unearthed histories and unmapped patterns, metaLAB research inquiries mature as expressive provocations that strive to make invisible connections visible. With a team composed variously of scholars, writers, designers, developers, and filmmakers, metaLAB projects manifest as experiments in publication, pedagogy, and curation showcased in print, on the web, and in exhibited spaces. By combining traditional modes of practice, metaLAB research infuses scholarship with the enterprising spirit of hacking, making, and artistic investigation."
Schnapp's The Library Beyond the Book of 2013 (published in 2014), written with Matthew Battles, surveys elements of libraries potentially relevant to today's transitional digital era. It examines past mainstays such as buildings, shelves, catalogs, access cards, reference desks, carrel desks, and librarians, and wonders how each might find new purpose in the near future. It discusses the importance of databases, digital preservation, mobile libraries, serendipity, cloistering, and meatspaces, and mentions initiatives such as Rio de Janeiro's Manguinhos Library Park, the pop-up Occupy Wall Street Library, Chattanooga Public Library's makerspace, the Digital Public Library of America, and London's Idea Store. In the words of one reviewer, the authors "imagine six plausible scenarios for serving tomorrow’s diverse information consumers, situating libraries as everything from study shelters to civic institutions functioning as mobile libraries, reading rooms promoting social change, and/or event-driven knowledge centers." It is the first in a series of Metalab publications "that will investigate the role of print-based scholarship in the digital age."
Among metaLAB's recent experiments is "Cold Storage": an experimental web documentary (or so-called database documentary) made up of over 500 media objects developed in 2013-2015 as an “animated archive” and extension of the volume "The Library Beyond the Book," published in 2014 in the metaLABprojects series by Harvard University Press. The work was directed by Cristoforo Magliozzi and produced by Schnapp.