What is happening behind the text?

I have joined King’s Digital Lab (KDL) as a Marie Curie Research Fellow to conduct an ethnographic study of digital humanists at work, combined with a critical analysis of local infrastructure. KDL is a unique lab that is made up of Research Software Engineers (RSEs) who work on technical research solutions for conducting digital research in the humanities and social sciences. What a RSE-based digital humanities lab can tell us about humanities knowledge production?

As this is my research problem, I don’t know the answer yet. What I suspect is that in order to understand how DH knowledge is created, one must get into the substrate of DH work – the technical infrastructure layer of producing and providing devices, software, and tools. By starting ethnographic work from the underlying substance of DH work we might be able to comprehend how the production layer determines the process of reasoning and also how it embodies critical insights into the socio-technical world. 

You can find out more about my research in my blog post “What is happening behind the text?” published at King’s Digital Lab website. I reflect on the importance and methodological challenges of the study of knowledge production in the digital/humanities and the method of going behind the text to map the complexities of knowledge creation.

Infrastructure of Engagement

I am happy to share that my new open access essay “A Laboratory as the Infrastructure of Engagement: Epistemological Reflections” has been published in Open Library of Humanities (2020, 6.2). Check it out here.

Abstract: Today’s big challenges―the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, migration, and refugee crises―are global in scale, transcending geographical, national, and cultural boundaries, but responded to at the local level. It has therefore become necessary to reflect on the following questions: what kind of new forms of organizations are needed to tackle real-world problems? How can we enhance the humanities as a responsive field with the ability to translate knowledge into actions? How can we design a better humanities laboratory that is more attuned to contemporary challenges? The social labs as innovative institutions have opened up new epistemological directions for understanding a lab as a platform for addressing complex issues. A laboratory can be understood as a way of thinking and acting that entails new social practices and new research modes. Drawing on social lab theories, critical infrastructure studies, and digital humanities infrastructure theories, this essay aims to present a new theoretical approach to conceptualizing a laboratory in the humanities. I discuss two epistemological perspectives represented by Bruno Latour and Graeme Gooday in order to disclose the power of the laboratory. Next, I present the principles and network structure of social labs. Then, I introduce the concept of the infrastructure of engagement as a new analytical framework for understanding a laboratory as a site of intervention for the humanities as they are involved in addressing pressing global problems. Based on the Humanities Action Lab, I seek to reimagine a laboratory guided by the principles of collaborative infrastructure, participatory approach, and public engagement.

My new article on re(designing) spaces for humanities practices

I am pleased to see that my new open access article “Place matters: Thinking about spaces for humanities practices” has been published online first in Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. This essay was written as part of my Vanguard Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Birmingham. It is open access so please feel free to read it online and download it for free here.

This essay reflects on the role of place for humanities practices and contributes to emerging discussions on infrastructure for the humanities and socio-material conditions of scholarly knowledge production. I provide a theoretical framework for studying venues for humanities work drawing on the phenomenological approach to the concepts of place and space, the pedagogical perspective on learning spaces in higher education, and epistemological studies of scientific places. Next, I analyse the landscape for the reconfiguration of humanities venues and present arguments for engaging with space by referring to the functioning of digital humanities. This essay shows that place is an extremely important resource, seeing as it is endowed with the power to drive new practices, institutionalize a community, and consolidate a discipline. Therefore, humanists should reflect critically on the ‘architecture of the humanities’ and engage in making their own spaces that determine practices, communication, and well-being.

“The Laboratory Turn”: My article in the DHQ

My open access article “The Laboratory Turn: Exploring Discourses, Landscapes, and Models of Humanities Labs” has been published in the Digital Humanities Quarterly (2020, 14.3). I was very much looking forward to it. Check it out here!

The goal of this paper is to track the path of the formation of the laboratory turn in the humanities and understand the conditions, meanings, and functions of humanities labs. The first section investigates three discourses that gave rise to the emergence of a laboratory in the humanities: the transformation of the humanities infrastructure within the university, paradigm shifts in the social sciences, and the expansion of cultural categories of innovation, the maker movement (the proliferation of makerspaces), and the idea of community. Next, I present a history of the laboratory in the humanities and determine the shift from a laboratory as a physical place to conceptual laboratory. The last section analyses five models for humanities labs based on laboratories’ statements and operations: the center-type lab, the techno-science lab, the work station-type lab, the social challenges-centric lab, and virtual lab. I seek to show that the laboratory turn has emerged in the humanities as a part of a wider process of the laboratorization of social life, which has been occurring since the 1980s. Next, the study indicates the role of digital humanities as the driving force behind building a laboratory space, which supports situated practices, the collaborative, and technology-based projects. The article shows that the humanities lab does not simply imitate the science lab but adapts this new infrastructure for its own purposes and needs.

“Lab & Slack”: The DHQ special issue is out

I’m so happy to finally see that the Digital Humanities Quarterly special issue (2020, 14.3) I co-edited together with Dr Mila Oiva is available in preview. The issue “Lab and Slack. Situated Research Practices in Digital Humanities” is devoted to the physical and virtual aspects of DH research practices. The physical places of research refer to the different DH sites (laboratories, centers, departments) and more widely to the surroundings of a location in a particular city, country, cultural sphere or continent affecting scholarly practices. As virtual environments of DH scholarship, we define the digital internet-based platforms, services, and tools that enable research and scholarly collaboration. The aspects that determine DH research in both physical and virtual places are infrastructure (material and non-material), social interaction (communication and collaboration), and context (social, cultural, and political situatedness). These factors influence each other and changes in one of them can affect the others. The special issue contains 16 articles that are grouped into two main clusters representing a unified set of themes: Cluster 1: “Physical Situatedness, Digital/Humanities Labs, and Infrastructure” with a subcluster “Digital Humanities Lab: Case Studies” and Cluster 2: “Virtual Situatedness, Digital Practices, and Collaboration”. The authors propose to provide a theoretical framework for the discussion and understanding of the impact of situatedness on the production and transmission of scholarly knowledge and offer deep insight into the mechanism of creating and sustaining DH spaces. The special issue is the first collection that explores DH labs: the contributors, who are the core and engine of the DH — scholars, practitioners, and students — share their personal experience and memories related to building a DH place. The case studies include the Franke Family Digital Humanities Laboratory at Yale University Library, the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition lab at Michigan State University, the Digital Matters Lab at the University of Utah, and the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History of the University of Luxembourg. It has been a great pleasure to work on this issue!

Awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship!

I am very pleased to announce that, in February, I was awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship by the European Commission for my project “Digital Humanities Laboratory: Studying the Entanglement of Infrastructure and Technology in Knowledge Production”. I will conduct my research at King’s Digital Lab at King’s College London.

For my research, I propose to conduct a novel ethnographic study of digital humanists at work, combined with a critical analysis of local infrastructure. This project has three main objectives: the epistemological goal is to develop a new theoretical framework for examining a laboratory in Digital Humanities drawing on Science and Technology Studies and Knowledge Infrastructures; the methodological task aims at integrating laboratory ethnography and the ethnography of infrastructure to build a new toolset for studying the intertwining of human organisation and infrastructure; and the central work focuses on investigating Digital Humanities knowledge creation mainly based on a case study of King’s Digital Lab. The study will be based on the observation of, and interviews with, participants involved in the labs, the analysis of written documents, and the analysis of digital communications. As part of this project, I will organize seminars and workshops and publish scholarly articles and methodological guidance. I am really excited to start the project!

You can find more about my research on CORDIS European Commission website: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/891155

Last week in Finland

It is a strange feeling to know that this is our last week in Finland! These four years have passed so quickly and brought a lot of changes to my life. It has been a wonderful time to live in such a beautiful and peaceful country, work at Aalto University, and meet great colleagues. I am pleased that my postdoctoral position has given me a lot of different experiences and allowed me to delve into new topics and research interests, including digital humanities knowledge production, research infrastructure, and data management practices. It is really strange to begin a new fellowship and change countries during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic but I am very excited packing up all the stuff and sending them to our new place… in London! So, the next stop is London where I will begin a Marie Curie Fellowship at King’s College London. I am very happy to become a Marie Curie Fellow and conduct my research at King’s Digital Lab!

CFP: Edited Collection on “Digital Humanities Laboratories”

Together with Christopher Thomson (University of Canterbury), we are inviting proposals towards a book project tentatively titled “Digital Humanities Laboratories: Global Perspectives”. The goal of this collection is to explore laboratories in digital humanities in the global context, to reflect on their epistemological and organizational implications for scholarly knowledge production, and to reveal the ways laboratories contribute to digital research and pedagogy as they emerge globally amid varied cultural and scientific traditions. Through this collection, we aim to widen the discussion of laboratories in the Digital Humanities, encourage scholars to engage in the development of their own infrastructure, and bring digital humanists into the interdisciplinary debate concerning the notion of a laboratory as a critical site in the generation of experimental knowledge.

We have received positive responses from the Series Editors of Digital Research in the Arts and Humanities, and we are working with an editor from Routledge to develop this project further.

We invite chapter proposals of 500 words by 15 June 2020.

Please see the full CFP here.

Spring courses

This semester I co-teach two courses (together with Prof. Lily Diaz-Kommonen) directed at MA and PhD students of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture: “Topics in Information Visualization and Cultural Analytics” and “Systems of Representation – A Culture Laboratory”. The first course combines humanistic knowledge with new media and visualization theories, practices and strategies with the objective of developing sensitive, critical understanding towards contemporary art and design, science, and technology discourses and developments. Students will learn a software tool, AtlasTi for qualitative and quantitative data analysis, creating a story using different textual sources, combining data in geographical locations, and representing networks. Through hands-on learning, we will aim to explore the topic of “The Hybrid Self” from art, design, and new media perspective. The second course, “Systems of Representation”, in turn, offers insights into a systems-oriented design approach that focuses on representation as a process related to the embodied grounding of human experience in time and space. Students will use a diversity of materials and create exhibition prototypes, including design narratives, collections of interactions, and interfaces. This year, we will have the opportunity to work with our colleagues at the ZKM museum and access digital materials from the ZKM archives that contain works and documents from the 20th and 21st century. This is gonna be a great semester and I cannot wait to see and share the outcomes!

Rebuilding laboratories: an interdisciplinary perspective

I am very excited about the coming workshop “Rebuilding Laboratories” taking place at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Birmingham on 19th November. I am co-organizing this event together with Dr Julia P Myatt, Acting Dean of the Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences.

The chemical laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston: women and men at class. Wood engraving, c. 1880. Source: Europeana Collections

This workshop brings together University of Birmingham experts in the field of the history of science and medicine, digital humanities, interdisciplinary studies, and knowledge production as well as the heads of scientific labs, to initiate the first discussion on laboratories from an inclusive and interdisciplinary perspective. The workshop speakers include Prof Jonathan Reinarz and Dr Vanessa Heggie from the Institute of Applied Health Research who will talk about labs from a historical and sociological perspective. Prof Jonathan Seville, Academic Director of the Collaborative Teaching Lab, will present this innovative lab that brings together practical teaching activities across a broad range of science and engineering disciplines. Prof Seville will discuss the concepts of collaboration and interdisciplinarity in practice. Prof Henry Chapman from the College of Arts and Law and a coordinator of Digital Humanities Forum will reflect on building an interdisciplinary lab for digital humanities. Further, Dr Julia P Myatt from the LANS and the School of Biosciences will discuss a plan for establishing the LANS lab to enhance collaborative research. Dr Ilija Rašović, from the LANS and the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, will reflect on the idea of a laboratory in the context of “making materials and cooking chemicals”. Dr Matthew Hayler from the Department of English Literature and Co-director of the Centre for Digital Cultures will discuss digital cultures laboratories. I, in turn, will present the concept of a laboratory in/for the humanities with a focus on different origins of labs ranging from science to industrial labs.

The event will be open with a keynote speaker, Dr James Smithies, Director of King’s Digital Lab at King’s College London who will talk about digital humanities labs in a broader context of global cyber-infrastructure.

The overall aim is to provide an intellectual discussion on the role of labs in supporting interdisciplinarity and enhancing the empirical knowledge and to stimulate the exchange of experiences between different disciplines.

Here you can find the workshop agenda. The info about the event is published on the IAS website.