Interview to Joaquín Ródenas, a musicologist and independent researcher.
What did you study and where did you study ?
I did a Bachelor’s degree in Musicology at UAB, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (2020) where I am collaborating as a member of the research group “Music in Contemporary Societies” (MUSC from the Spanish “Música en las Sociedades Contemporáneas”), at the Department of Art and Musicology.
I had previously obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Informatics Engineering (1995) and created my own company of software development together with two other entrepreneurs, carrying out several projects in different roles for more than 20 years.
What job do you have now?
I am a member of MUSC and, as independent researcher in musicology, I am also collaborating with different institutions, such as the Music Museum of Barcelona and some others, being open to new project opportunities in the field.
What does your job involve?
At the MUSC project, we are committed to assimilating and applying the new paradigm of the Digital Humanities (DHs) in the specific field of Musicology, as a disruptive element that enables a cross-disciplinary hybridization and creative responses to the social, cultural, environmental and ethical challenges we are going through.
How does your job enable you to be creative?
In the DHs environment, interdisciplinary activity and open perspectives force us to a continuous rethinking of traditional methods. Thus, we need to be creative so as not to limit ourselves to applying standard methodologies using new technological tools. Creativity begins by defining new approaches and new questions that have not been considered before.
Describe the pathway you took to leave your job as an entrepreneur in software development field and enroll as a student in the humanities
A process of personal transformation led me to take the decision to leave software development. The direction and coordination of several projects of installation and implementation of pay-per-view TV systems in hospitals for palliative treatments had, most probably, a strong influence in my decision.
I came to a conclusion: Technology only solves the how but humanities allow us to think about why and what we act for, both personally and professionally.
This is the reason why I began my studies in the Humanities with the aim of learning to think, not so much to act, firmly believing that the answers to the challenges of the 21st century societies will come from this field of knowledge and not from the technological, technical or industrial sectors.
The process of leaving my own business and the labor market in the field of technology was not without its ups and downs. No one, except my wife – (Thank you, Alicia!) – understood my decision; partners, friends and family considered my previous situation was enviable. But professional success and economic benefit did not bring personal satisfaction.
What do you think is the main reason responsible for the lack of understanding you mention?
I do not have a single answer but it seems difficult to get out of the circle made by our choices. And I also believe that the germ of the problem has to do with the interests of the great economic powers that shape our life scenarios at all levels. Factual powers lead to the hegemony of technical and uncritical citizenship as opposed to the profile of the cultured and humanized citizen. It is unquestionable that the globalized neoliberal system has chosen to promote an individualistic, mechanized and homogeneous population, as opposed to a possible collectivity of organized individuals with a critical spirit.
What is the one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself as a student or tell other students and teachers in the humanities?
Doing a degree in musicology has been a very positive experience. When considering what could improve, however, I would like to note some important shortcomings in terms of promoting the skills that are necessary for students to project themselves into the future as entrepreneurs.
The curriculum is rich in contents enabling students to proceed from graduate to postgraduate levels, participate in publications and conferences and end up being part of academia. However, students would greatly benefit from gaining awareness of their enormous potential and fundamental role to face current and future social challenges.
Only two or three subjects out of forty, in a degree of four years, deal with important issues related to entrepreneurship. There are some contents, for example, dealing with the logistics needed to organize a music festival together with some of the formal and operational requirements. However, consideration of the soft skills required to undertake this type of project would be of high relevance: communication skills, persuasive strategies, team building, resilience, proactivity, adaptability, interoperability, etc.
What do you enjoy about what you do?
I will focus in my activity as a researcher in musicology now. What are my goals and why do I enjoy from the collaboration with a university research group? At MUSC we are promoting the quadruple helix model, an innovative system for research project design in which we apply the experience of project management and team coordination to maximize interdisciplinary synergies and obtain optimal results.
A fundamental component of the quadruple helix is the role of individuals as participants and main containers of the knowledge obtained in the research process. Taking this premise into account, the dissemination of such knowledge must be considered as a fundamental pillar in the research strategy.
Could you give us more details about this quadruple helix model?
The combination of academic rigor with accessible dissemination and entertainment is not only possible, but desirable to ensure that culture and society generate real, solid and operational links. A better future is only possible if humanistic knowledge escapes from closed and inbred environments to end up permeating the different social strata.
In addition, in order to propose solutions to the great challenges we face, the new generations of humanists must be trained to adopt an entrepreneurial role, leaving aside both the traditional and pre-established vision of the professional future and the passive, circumstantial and dispensable role that the system seems to want to address.
The binomial of entrepreneurial instinct and DHs can become one of the vectors that will allow humanists to return to the social role from which they should never have been removed. It is for this reason that one of my objectives is to promote and participate in projects that develop in this context and generate real, tangible benefits to society.