The major lines of research in the history of the social sciences seem to have been frequently constructed around spatially situated institutions. In the Chicago of the 20s, in Frankfurt in the 50s, in Paris in the 70s the creation of knowledge was based on the local interaction of intellectual figures, breeding grounds from which knowledge would be irradiated with the technological limitations of the traditional diffusion of ideas. Libraries, classes, conferences, or even gatherings in cafés allowed the physical presence of bodies that received, processed and shared knowledge in a local space.
Faced with the role of the formal or informal physical interactions in the transmission of ideas, the intellectual environment seems to have changed. The growing importance of electronic databases, the preponderance - close to monopoly - of the English language as a tool of disseminating knowledge, the competition for publishing in global indexed journals seem to be symptoms of a crisis of the role of local space as a place of debate.
But, because of this crisis, the production of knowledge in a network emerges a priori as a possibility. The access to global information from Kosice, Karlskrona, Valladolid or Weimar is not very different from the traditional nodes of academic concentration.
Faced with the traditional creation of knowledge located and sedimented through schools of thought, a project such as urbanHIST would constitute, in a certain sense, a "liquid" academic initiative. Despite the intellectual traditions of each one of our universities, the profile of the researchers - coming from a huge range of academic cultures and backgrounds - and our hyper-mobility between cities and countries differ from the traditional, located transmission of knowledge. Making a challenge the construction of an intellectual, common space, but helping us access a large number of different primary sources and cultural frames.
Submerged in a historical research, it is difficult not to locate our urbanHIST project in a “zeitgeist” conditioned by the tension between cosmopolitanism and local identity. Between European, or even global culture, and local traditional identity.
Text: Noel Manzano