Jeffrey Schnapp is an American university professor who works as a cultural historian, designer, and technologist. Until joining the Harvard University in 2011, he was the director of the Stanford Humanities Lab from its foundation in 1999 through 2009. At Harvard, he holds the Carl Pescosolido Chair in Romance and Comparative Literatures in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and also teaches in the Department of Architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. Effective June 2015, he assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Piaggio Fast Forward, the robotics division of the Piaggio. In 2018 he transitioned to the role of Chief Visionary Officer, handing over the role of CEO to his co-founder Greg Lynn. In October 2021, Piaggio Fast Forward launched a second product, gita mini.
New York, USA
Until joining the Harvard University faculty in 2011, Jeffrey Schnapp was the director of the Stanford Humanities Lab from its foundation in 1999 through 2009. At Stanford University he occupied the Pierotti Chair in Italian Literature and was professor of French & Italian, and Comparative Literature, with an additional affiliation to German Studies. Though primarily based in the field of Italian studies, he has played a pioneering role in several areas of transdisciplinary research and led the development of a new wave of digital humanities work. His research interests extend from antiquity to the present, encompassing the material history of literature, the history of 20th-century architecture and design, and the cultural history of science and engineering. Trained as a Romance linguist, Schnapp is the author or editor of twenty five books and an extensive corpus of essays on authors such as Virgil, Ovid, Dante, Hildegard of Bingen, Petrarch, Machiavelli, Gabriele d'Annunzio, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and on topics such as late antique patchwork poetry, futurist and dadaist visual poetics, the cultural history of coffee consumption, glass architecture, the iconography of the pipe in modern art, and the electronic book. His book Crowds was the recipient of the Modernist Studies Association prize for best book of 2006.
At Harvard, he is the Carl Pescosolido Professor of Romance and Comparative Literatures in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, but also teaches in the Department of Architecture at the Graduate School of Design. In addition to serving as the founder/faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard--an "idea foundry, knowledge design laboratory, and production studio"--he serves as faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society where metaLAB is housed.
Schnapp was the co-editor of the Johns Hopkins University Press quarterly Modernism/modernity, the official journal of the Modernist Studies Association, up through the end of 2014. He is also a guest curator who has collaborated with several leading museums: among them, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Cantor Arts Center, the Wolfsonian-FIU, the Triennale di Milano, Fondazione Cirulli (Bologna), and the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio. His Trento Tunnels project – a 6000 sq. meter pair of superhighway tunnels at the entrance to the Northern Italian city of Trent, repurposed as an experimental history museum, has undergone several editions since 2008: among them, "I Trentini e la Grande Guerra (Il popolo scomparso/la sua storia ritrovata)" (2008-2009), "Storicamente ABC" (2010-2011), and "Ski Past" (2012). "Panorama of the Cold War," carried out with Elisabetta Terragni (Studio Terragni Architetti) and Daniele Ledda (XY comm), was exhibited in the Albanian Pavilion of the 2012 Venice Biennale of Architecture and in Erasmus Effect – Architetti italiani all’estero / Italian Architects Abroad at the MAXXI (Dec. 2013-April 2014). He was also on the team that developed BZ ’18-’45, a documentation center built under Marcello Piacentini's Bolzano Victory Monument open to the public since July 2014.
In February 2011, Schnapp founded a new laboratory at Harvard under the aegis of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society: metaLAB (at) Harvard, with his initial collaborators James Burns, Daniele Ledda, Kara Oehler, Gerard R. Pietrushko, and Jesse Shapins. metaLAB is a kind of "do tank" that is broadly engaged with the modeling of new and experimental forms of networked culture and knowledge. At the end of 2021, metaLAB opened a new platform in Berlin, Germany, in collaboration with the Institut für Theaterwissenschaft at the Freie Universität Berlin: metaLAB (at) F.U. Berlin. A new integrated website for the conjoined Harvard and F.U. Berlin platforms was launched in January 2022.
Schnapp's The Library Beyond the Book of 2013 (published in 2014), written with Matthew Battles, surveys elements of libraries potentially relevant to today's transitional digital era. It examines past mainstays such as buildings, shelves, catalogs, access cards, reference desks, carrel desks, and librarians, and wonders how each might find new purpose in the near future. It discusses the importance of databases, digital preservation, mobile libraries, serendipity, cloistering, and meatspaces, and mentions initiatives such as Rio de Janeiro's Manguinhos Library Park, the pop-up Occupy Wall Street Library, Chattanooga Public Library's makerspace, the Digital Public Library of America, and London's Idea Store. In the words of one reviewer, the authors "imagine six plausible scenarios for serving tomorrow's diverse information consumers, situating libraries as everything from study shelters to civic institutions functioning as mobile libraries, reading rooms promoting social change, and/or event-driven knowledge centers." It is the first in a series of Metalab publications "that will investigate the role of print-based scholarship in the digital age."
Among metaLAB's recent experiments is "Cold Storage": an experimental web documentary (or so-called database documentary) made up of over 500 media objects developed in 2013-2015 as an "animated archive" and extension of the volume "The Library Beyond the Book," published in 2014 in the metaLABprojects series by Harvard University Press. The work was directed by Cristoforo Magliozzi and produced by Schnapp.
Coordinated with Paolo Petrocelli, the director of the Stauffer Academy for Strings in Cremona, Italy, and involving some thirty leading professionals from every walk of the performing arts world, the futureSTAGE project was developed during the years of the Covid-19 pandemic in order to forster innovation in the form of a post-pandemic turn to a "new normal" and to prompt creative and critical reflection on the future of the performing arts, performing arts venues, organizational structures, and policies. It has initially assumed the form of the Future Stage Manifesto.