The Novel Knowledge Series

The Novel Knowledge Series engages lifelong learners in multi-disciplinary courses that challenge conventional perspectives and encourage new ways of approaching longstanding questions.

Nuclear Energy sculpture by Henry Moore, with the Mansueto Library in the background.

Institute on the Formation of Knowledge logo.

Presented collaboratively by the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge and the Graham School at the University of Chicago, the courses open the doors of the University’s groundbreaking approach to inquiry and knowledge formation to all learners.

Upcoming Courses

Big Data: Ethical and Historical Perspectives

Picture of girl on her phone, standing under a projector displaying computer data

Instructor: Iris Clever, Institute on the Formation of Knowledge
Autumn 2022 | Saturdays | 10/1/22 – 11/19/22 | 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

We live amidst a “Big Data” revolution, a moment of exponential data accumulation and the accelerated development of technologies that process it. Recent studies in the history and sociology of science, however, question the novelty and neutrality of our Big Data Age. In this class, we will analyze how big data technologies, old and new, both revive historical prejudices like sexism and racism as well as create new opportunities for the future.


An illustration of Mars

Explorations of Mars

Instructor: Jordan Bimm, Institute on the Formation of Knowledge
Autumn 2022 | Tuesdays | 9/27/22 – 11/15/22 | 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Everyone is talking about Mars. Whether you have no prior knowledge of Mars or are someone deeply fascinated with space exploration this course will prepare you to join and lead Mars conversations happening across society. Through non-technical readings, activities, and discussions focused on the history and culture of Mars exploration we will build an understanding of important figures, events, ideas, and trends.


A mushroom with a ladybug on top of it

How Fungi Shape Our World

Instructor: Brad Bolman, Institute on the Formation of Knowledge
Autumn 2022 | Thursdays | 9/29/22 – 11/17/22 | 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Why are our newspapers and social media feeds all of a sudden filled with stories about mushrooms and fungi? From our forests to our fridges, fungi shape our daily lives in fundamental ways, but this vibrant kingdom of life remains poorly understood. This course will introduce you to the history and cultural importance of fungi, with each week dedicated to readings and discussion around a major theme.

Meet the Instructors

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