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.

Spaces of the Humanities Practices

How is the humanities attached to a place? Why does the space of scholarly practices matter? How do new spaces of humanities inquiry (e.g., laboratories and makerspaces) both transform and drive the research and teaching practices? These questions are a starting point for my current research on the role of space for humanities work. I am conducting this study at the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) at the University of Birmingham. This coming Wednesday, 13th November, I will give a public lecture “Place Matters: Exploring New Sites of the Humanities Practices” at the IAS. This is a great opportunity for me to share and discuss my preliminary results. In the last weeks, I have been writing an article under the same title which hopefully will be soon finalized and submitted for publication.

You can find the abstract of my talk on the IAS website. I particularly love the poster! I found this image at the Europeana Collections and thought it is a perfect suit to my topic. The picture shows women and men at the chemical laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. It is from 1880 and represents wood engraving techniques. Such a great treasure!

Fellowship at the University of Birmingham

I am very happy to share that I have been awarded the Vanguard Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Birmingham. I will visit the Liberal Arts and Natural Science from 20 October to 24 November 2019. The next five weeks will be very exciting and busy! I will give a public lecture, titled “Place Matters: Exploring New Sites of the Humanities Practices” and co-organize a workshop “Rebuilding Laboratories”. I am very much looking forward to inspiring discussions on interdisciplinarity, knowledge production, and laboratories!

Ellipsis exhibition

Students of the Systems of Representation: Culture Laboratory course at the Department of Media, Media Lab of Aalto University have created an exhibition named Ellipsis that is on display at the Harald Herlin Learning Centre from 15 May – 6 June 2019. The exhibition is a collaboration with the Aalto University Archives. It was a great pleasure to work with students who rediscovered archived cultural materials in a new, creative way and raised interesting questions about time, space, and materiality.

The exhibition depicts speculative design interventions related to three case studies presented in the course: Time and its Representation in Narrative, Exhibiting the Body, and Space in Digital Media. Students reused cultural materials from the Aalto University Archives in a creative way to address the following questions: How is the representation of time constructed differently in genres and narratives across different cultures and epochs? What are some of the parameters involved when exhibiting the body? How can we use media to augment our notion of space in an exhibition? Aside from historical documentation what other roles do archives fulfill in art and design productions?

One beautiful work has been made by Jennifer Greb who reused “Dekorative Vorbilder” book from 1984. It is the ornamental design book that includes dozens of pages of hand-drawn illustrations. The book is stored in the Aalto Archives. To rediscover this beautiful book, Greb has created an Augmented Reality animation to present the illustrations in a new, dynamic way. Please come and see the exhibition! More information can be found here.

Imaginary Cities

The British Library displays a wonderful exhibition created by artist Michael Takeo Magruder. “Imaginary Cities” is the transformation of the British Library’s online collection of historic urban maps into fictional cityspaces for the Information Age.

The exhibition comprises four technology-based art installations, exclusively created using images and metadata of 19th-century city maps drawn from the Library’s “One Million Images from Scanned Books” collection on Flickr Commons. It is an impressive and beautiful artwork! It shows how digitised cultural materials can be reused in a creative way and give rise to unique born-digital artifacts. “The exhibition highlights how the Library is not simply a repository of knowledge, but a storehouse of creative potential that is constantly generating new avenues for culture”.

KCL event: “Humanities Laboratories”

I am so excited to be a keynote for the King’s event “Humanities Laboratories: Critical Infrastructures and Knowledge Experiments” on May 23, 2019. The event will revolve around the critical and epistemological roles of humanities labs in supporting and extending academic research and learning beyond traditional classrooms.

The event will be hosted by the Department of Digital Humanities (DDH) with King’s Digital Lab (KDL), in conjunction with the Critical Infrastructure Studies (https://cistudies.org/) initiative. It will be chaired by Arianna Ciula (Deputy Director & Senior Research Software Analyst, KDL) and introduced by James Smithies (Director, KDL; Deputy Director, KCL eResearch) and Jonathan Gray (Co-founder of the Public Data Lab, and Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies, DDH, KCL). Next, as Willard McCarty’s Fellow, I will give a talk “A Laboratory as Critical Infrastructure in the Humanities”. The program and abstracts can be found here.

OpenGLAM@Aalto

Tomorrow, on 28 March, Aalto University is organizing Open GLAM meetup to connect students, professionals, and creative people with the GLAM community (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums). The program includes fascinating topics about reusing and sharing open cultural heritage data. Join us: 28 March 2019, 3pm-5pm, Aalto University Learning Centre!

More info on the AvoinGLAM website which is a Finnish network of people and institutions interested in and working among open culture and cultural materials. It is part of an international OpenGLAM network.

“Real dialogue isn’t about talking to people who believe the same things as you”

Must-read interview with the Polish-born Zygmunt Bauman, one of the most significant sociologist in the world. Well-known author of the following books such as “Liquid Modernity”, “Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty”, “Culture in a Liquid Modern World”, and “The Individualized Society”.

The interview “Zygmunt Bauman: ‘Social media are a trap’ is available here. Below I quote two noteworthy passages devoted to the relationships between security & freedom and a community & a network.

These are two values that are tremendously difficult to reconcile. If you want more security, you’re going to have to give up a certain amount of freedom; if you want more freedom, you’re going to have to give up security. This dilemma is going to continue forever. Forty years ago we believed that freedom had triumphed and we began an orgy of consumerism. Everything seemed possible by borrowing money: cars, homes… and you just paid for it later. The wakeup call in 2008 was a bitter one, when the loans dried up. The catastrophe, the social collapse that followed hit the middle classes particularly hard, dragging them into a precarious situation where they remain: they don’t know if their company is going to merge with another and they will be laid off, they don’t know if what they have bought really belongs to them… Conflict is no longer between classes, but between each person and society. It isn’t just a lack of security, but a lack of freedom.

The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You are in control of the important people to whom you relate. People feel a little better as a result, because loneliness, abandonment, is the great fear in our individualist age. But it’s so easy to add or remove friends on the internet that people fail to learn the real social skills, which you need when you go to the street, when you go to your workplace, where you find lots of people who you need to enter into sensible interaction with.