Welcome to ISDT 2009

The International School on Digital Transformation will launch its first course session on July 19, 2009, in Porto, Portugal. About 20 faculty members and 55 students will be part of this residential school for six days.

But ISDT is an idea with roots that go pretty far back.

The School was modeled after ISODARCO, the International School on Disarmament and Resolution of Conflicts, which itself launched in 1967 in Italy. ISODARCO has been holding annual residential courses for 42 years, as a program of Italian Pugwash. ISODARCO was created and is still directed by Professor Carlo Schaerf of the Department of Physics of the University of Rome Tor Vergata. The connection with Pugwash gives ISODARCO a noble heritage: Pugwash International was started by Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard, Hans Bethe and other founders of the nuclear age, and the organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. (President Obama’s Science Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, gave the acceptance speech.)

Professor Schaerf has, over 42 years, created a remarkable network of colleagues and friends who now span three generations and who live and work all over the world. Several of them return to ISODARCO year after year. Of course, it’s not hard to get people to travel to the Dolomiti mountains in northern Italy during ski season—ISODARCO is held in the ski resort town of Andaló each January—and to spend their time with world-class experts in peace, science and technology. And one of the great ideas that Carlo had for ISODARCO is that everyone is treated equally, as a peer, no matter how famous or how young. For many people who have been part of ISODARCO, it’s become a global network of lifelong friendships.

So ISODARCO was the model for ISDT, but we have a different focus on digital technologies that are changing the world, and we’re getting together in a different place—Porto, Portugal. Porto has the advantages of being a gorgeous city that is unfamiliar to many people and thus not yet overrun by tourists, plus it is home to a highly respected university where people are doing innovative work with digital technologies. We believe that once people visit Porto, they’ll want to return. The opportunity to launch ISDT was provided by the UT Austin-Portugal Project, which is a five-year partnership between the University of Texas at Austin and two Portuguese universities, including the University of Porto, a collaboration that is focused on digital media.

A beautiful place, a globally significant subject, a network of friends and colleagues from around the world who want to share their ideas and work: this was too good an idea to pass up.

So welcome to the first ISDT, which we sincerely hope will continue to emulate its Italian inspiration by going for another forty-plus years or longer, and by building an international network of friends, colleagues, supporters and devotees.

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