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At the end of the semester, Fall 2015, our Editor in Chief Jeffrey Goldfarb interviewed Dean William Milberg. Together they assessed Public Seminar’s good and bad days and how we can improve the platform for the New School community and beyond.We present to you this featured discussion on the pedagogic and intellectual insights of our project as we start a semester anew. Enjoy!

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Jeffrey Goldfarb (JG)

… how do you think we are doing particularly in how Public Seminar relates to NSSR

William Milberg (WM)

… I see Public Seminar as a platform to engage in debates essential for us realizing who we are and who we want to be but it is more than that it is not just about function it is also about transforming knowledge… I mean … without grandiose sounding… 

… in a sense not just a presence in the digital world, also forcing ourselves to articulate our ways of thinking in different genres, in video, online interaction… and those are going to maybe change how we think…

JG –  … it is just the beginning what Public Seminar could be … to begin with there a small group establishing it as a real place … so now it is a place others can look at and imagine ways of engaging different publics … how do you think we should get more of our community involved in it, to make it a very serious place where global intellectual interaction occurs?

WM – let me answer your first question first …. you and I… we worked hard to get it up and running, we had difficulties getting our community engaged… it started slowly, and there were moments that we weren’t sure. But last year PS achieved a great deal…yet we shouldn’t get overconfident, it is still very fragile 

student role has been crucial…reason for that they understand the digital world in relation to their academic pursuits

WM-  Higher education is going through a transformation of some sort … and it is not obvious were it is headed yet the ways that ideas scholarship is communicated is clearly new… student have clearer idea than faculty do how can we get more participation?… presence on the New School homepage feature was an important step..

… getting our faculty, I think, it is an opportunity and challenge… how do you get these fields engaged. … I think the opportunity is… once people see that there is a very smart readership, they will start contributing… and the challenge is the nature of interdisciplinary thinking

JG –  one of the things about being in this institution [the New School for Social Research], as a professor… I have colleagues I interact on a daily basis who are not sociologists… there is a sense in which what we are trying to do is to give form to that

WM – … And remember the name of the thing, you came up with it is based on the ethos of the General Seminar … the idea was … this was essential to faculty’s well being… to speak other disciplines… I think PS is the way to move that forward…

WM – Look I don’t want to invest too much in this, because it will fail if we do. part of the goal of this enterprise was also to signal to the world how relevant what we think are unique intellectual profile is in the New School for Social Research, … also by the rest of the university.

… multiple functions here… again you don’t want to burden it with a lot… but another one I wasn’t to mention is the pedagogical

JG – OOPS… It is there as an invitation… a way a model that we have doing things in distance also being with each other on a regular basis online… we can use an online presence to strengthen the conventional education not present an alternative to it.

… the idea is that great achievement of the university… has to be defended but not conservatively it has be extended somewhere like Public Seminar… this is the potentiality. 

WM –  one of the great aspects of being in this place, every discipline believes its intellectual distinctiveness… every department.

… how you get more faculty engaged, we need to find new ways to engage large groups 

… one thing I like about PS, I like the flatness of it… it is global and a little unhierarchical in a way that academia is currently perceived.

…we have to figure out a way… to get out of the way and let this thing flourish in ways we cant even imagine… they thought of ways of understanding the academic projects, communicating outside and inside of academia… I was very much turned on by this discussion

JG – I would be very pleased if PS outlives me… if I step down as Editor in chief and after that other faculty and students take it over…

WM –… a feature of it [Public Seminar] is… the kind of discomfort it creates… I love reading it but PS pushes me in ways I am not comfortable with … and that you know … to me… is the new opportunity to have a common space…

The End