Widgets Magazine

Humanities, tech meet at BiblioTech conference

Entrepreneurial leaders in Silicon Valley and Stanford humanities scholars convened at the BiblioTech conference yesterday. June Cohen '92, executive producer of TED Media, spoke about the desire to learn and described human storytelling as "the oldest form of media." (JIN ZHU/The Stanford Daily)

Silicon Valley business leaders and Stanford humanities scholars convened on Wednesday for BiblioTech, a conference looking to strengthen ties between the two groups as the nationwide discussion about the relevance of the humanities — and the value of a humanities Ph.D. — continues.

Speakers from Google, TED Media, Sequoia Capital and other firms came to campus to discuss how doctoral students in humanities can contribute to the tech industry and how Silicon Valley can reap Stanford talent.

The conference came in “an era where we can no longer make distinctions between the humanities, the sciences and the social sciences,” said co-organizer Anaïs Saint-Jude, a doctoral student studying 17th century French theater.

One keynote speaker, Marissa Mayer ’97 M.S. ’99, discussed entry points for humanities doctoral students in the Valley, including “social media, marketing, product design and more.” Mayer is the vice president for consumer products at Google.

Stanford President John Hennessy, himself a former technology entrepreneur who retains investments in Silicon Valley and serves on the boards of Cisco and Google, delivered opening remarks on Wednesday morning. In a statement, Hennessy called the conference “groundbreaking.”

Other speakers included Patrick Byrne of Overstock.com, June Cohen of TED Media, John Hagel III of Deloitte Center for Edge, Damon Horowitz of Google, Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital and Vivek Ranadivé of TIBCO. Horowitz and Byrne hold doctorates from Stanford.

The conference was sponsored by a litany of groups within Stanford, ranging from Hennessy’s office to the English department to the Career Development Center.

“The days when you can expect to get a teaching position with a Ph.D. are gone,” said co-organizer David Palumbo-Liu, a professor of comparative literature. “Things are far less certain than they used to be.”

— Elizabeth Titus