PICT Manifesto 2021


The Pandemic of Online Teaching

At the dawn of 2020, PICT was barely two years old, but could already look back on dozens of courses, workshops, and public events held in and around Paris. Our non-profit, zero-budget, volunteer-run institute was able to accomplish this remarkable feat thanks to our profound belief in creating a public space for education in the humanities and arts, a space for everyone, unregulated by the gatekeepers of traditional higher education. Our courses, the core component of PICT’s program, relied on enrollment fees, the majority of which we passed on directly to our instructors, ensuring them fair compensation and total freedom to design their course content according to their passionate interests.

As 2020 pressed on, we bore witness to draconian state regulations that dramatically curtailed our ability to hold events in person. And although Fall 2020 was the highest-enrolled semester in PICT’s brief history, we quickly realized we couldn’t proceed with our courses, let alone public events, with such restrictions in place. We also witnessed how institutes and universities around the world flocked to online teaching, showing more care for enrollment numbers and tuition fees than for the quality of education. We rejected this trend from the start: rather than dilute the quality of our courses by taking them online, we opted to suspend our course program until in-person education could take place once again. Our community supported our stance: not a single enrolled PICT student asked for reimbursement. And our resolve was vindicated by the increasingly apparent damage of online teaching, not just to education quality, but to the very sanity of teachers and learners around the world.

A Global Community of Critical Thinking

The isolation, loneliness, and despair wreaked in 2020 taught us a crucial lesson about the meaning of community. We had taken the high road by suspending our in-person program, but this did not absolve us from the responsibility of providing support for our growing online community. We embraced the challenge by creating a family of podcast series, most notably our flagship podcast PICT Voices, featuring in-depth conversations with thinkers and activists on pressing global issues discussed in a broader, critical context.

As we embark on 2021, we are expanding our online outreach with a number of new offerings, including dePICTions, PICT’s own scholarly journal; The Faculty Lounge, a blog by PICT faculty members; and the Student Ambassador Program, which gathers university students from around the world under the PICT umbrella. 2021 is also the year where we give our global community a permanent home. Our new membership website lets all PICT members open their own accounts, engage with us and each other, and share thoughts and resources on topics covered in PICT courses and events. Whether you live in Paris, Phnom Penh, or Philadelphia, the PICT membership website ensures that your community is never more than a click away.

The Next Step: Everything for Free

Our most ambitious dream, however, is to give our community free access not only to our online offerings, but our in-person events as well. We want to delete enrollment fees for all courses, workshops, ateliers, walking tours, and other face-to-face PICT events, making them free for all PICT members—while maintaining, of course, our strict enrollment limits that ensure high quality and rigorous participation. Once we achieve this goal, everything PICT does, from podcasts to courses, will be completely integrated with our global community and freely available to all of its members.

The path that leads there is simple: we are reducing our membership fee to a minimum of 3 euros per month. The moment we reach 1000 members, everything we offer will become absolutely free for all of them. By joining our First 1000, you will be ensuring that PICT instructors can teach high-quality content uncensored by institutional gatekeepers, receive fair compensation far beyond average adjunct wages, and can open their courses to all PICT members regardless of educational background. You will also be ensuring that PICT can continue to provide all its offerings that are free for members and non-members alike, such as podcasts, blogs, and public lectures. In short, you will become an active and essential part of a community that wouldn’t exist without your contribution.

NOTE: Since Spring 2023, PICT’s entire Arts & Humanities program, including courses, children’s ateliers, and tours, is free for all PICT members.

Beyond the First 1000

You can follow the First 1000 countdown on the new PICT website. Once the First 1000 have joined us, we will announce new membership goals such as more free courses, a free summer school, research fellowships, and essay prizes. PICT will remain a non-profit, volunteer-run, and fiercely independent defender of critical and creative thinking. And with your support, we will be able to bring this mission to more people than ever before.

In Solidarity,

Your PICT Team