Yesterday, during the Education Bazaar at Tilburg University, Ico Maly received the annual award for Best Teaching Innovation for his work on Diggit. We caught an overjoyed Maly and were able to ask him some questions.
Ico Maly, how does it feel to be the editor-in-chief of an award-winning medium?
Maly: (Laughing) Very similar to when it wasn’t an award-winning magazine: busy, hectic, intense. But, yes of course, it’s amazing. I’m very happy because I see this as a reward for the immense amount of work invested in Diggit by the entire team of editors and support people, the Tilburg School of Humanities and Department of Culture Studies leadership, and – of course – the many students who have become authors on Diggit and brought such quality and dynamism to the medium. They are the heart of the medium.
You got the award for the ways in which Diggit innovates educational practices. That’s an unusual award for a magazine.
Maly: But it recognizes one of its most crucial functions: that of a new learning environment for students and academic staff. The idea was that students of contemporary culture should not just be “consumers” of what we, the lecturers, have to say about it. They are researchers, producers of knowledge, and Diggit is the medium for that. Rather than the usual seminar papers or exams, we require from students that they publish their insights, offering them to a much wider audience than the tiny academic peer group, and take responsibility for their texts as published authors. They learn how to intervene in the public sphere, to have and to construct their voice as public intellectuals.
Learning about culture by producing it, in other words?
Maly: Exactly. In the process, we also reshaped the interaction between students and staff, from a traditional top-down structure to one characterized by dialogue and focused support for what is ultimately the students’ own contribution to today’s culture. So it’s not just students who have to adjust their practices of learning due to the presence of Diggit. Academic staff also have to learn and adjust to a new role in this process of knowledge transfer.
Modest step by modest step, we are gaining a broad international scope and readership.”
But in the meantime, Diggit is also taking a position in the larger media environment. Can you say something about that position?
Maly: I hadn’t expected that we would acquire the degree of visibility we now have in such a short span of time. We are what is called a “micromedium”, and the initial stage of Diggit’s development was seen as a trial-and-error period. But some of the texts we have published went viral, and many have several thousands of readers. We also, modest step by modest step, are gaining a broad international scope and readership. We have, for instance, columnists from the US, the UK and South Africa, and we intend to get even more and more diverse contributors and audiences on board. So we’re developing faster than we had expected.
That means a terrific amount of work for you, no?
Maly: (Laughing) It does, it does. The medium never stands still and demands constant attention and improvement. But not just for myself, and let me repeat that none of this would be possible without the intense efforts of a large community of contributors and supporters. As for myself: an award such as this one considerably eases the pain of long and tedious hours of editing work. And in the tradition of online media, I should add a smiley at the end of this.