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.

NOTE: Since Spring 2023, PICT’s entire Arts & Humanities program, including courses, children’s ateliers, and tours, is free for all PICT members. This is thanks to the generous contributions of all members of the PICT community. Our gratitude goes out to all PICT members for making this amazing feat possible; if you would like to join our effort, you can become a member here!

In Solidarity,

Your PICT Team