My new paper in Convergence

My new open access article has been published in the Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. Based on the ethnography of King’s Digital Lab, I analyse Feasibility documents and propose a theoretical and methodological approach towards the study of documents in digital research production. The full article is available here.

Abstract:

Documents have been increasingly recognised as important objects of investigation in Science and Technology Studies (STS); however, so far, much less attention has been given to the study of documents produced in Digital Humanities. The author proposes therefore to use the method of the ‘STS of documents’ and analyse Feasibility documents that aim to assess technical and design requirements based on research questions and to organise a project workflow. Drawing on the ethnography of King’s Digital Lab, the article investigates Feasibility documents produced by the lab within the Agile-based Software Development Lifecycle framework. The article aims to show that Feasibility documents (1) inform ethnographic work about lab workflow and management and in doing so, are able to capture the interconnectedness of work layers and practices; (2) enable an empirical analysis of digital research projects and the process of translation from research questions, to methods, to technical solutions; (3) are critical structuring objects that structure the research process and relationships between involved actors and are structured by local institutional strategies and decisions. The author conducts a ‘feasibility analysis’ that reveals the project management and development stages: the analytical process (the translation of research questions into technical solutions); the production process (the move from technical and design practices to research answers) and the infrastructure and management process (project workflow and sustainability solutions). Drawing on Agre’s critical technical practice and Digital Humanities’ theories of critical production, the article seeks to shift attention from end-product digital artefacts towards the complex process of their creation, which can unpack a range of social, technological and management issues. In doing so, it also aims to provide a methodological framework for the analysis of documents produced in Digital Humanities that have the potential to unearth new questions about the socio-technical nature of digital production.

My new piece in THE

I’m excited to share that my new piece, “Digital humanities needs equality between humanists and technicians”, has been published in Times Higher Education. It is about labour issues and recognition that are becoming increasingly salient in digital humanities labs. As I argue, introducing a fair publication policy, such as the one recently published by King’s, is a step towards assuring that the work performed by research technicians and technology and skills specialists is acknowledged in research outputs. Recognition of contribution is a prerequisite for research production. Check it out here

Critical Studies of a Tech Stack

In case you missed it, I published a new post on my research website, dhinfra.org, about critical studies of a tech stack based on the network visualisation method. It presents my forthcoming work co-authored with members of King’s Digital Lab which offers a contribution towards an understanding of the role of technologies in informing and shaping a lab culture. It aims to conceptualise and investigate a tech stack as a relational network of actors (universities, for-profit companies, non-profit organisations, communities, and individuals, e.g., research software engineers) engaged in mutual relationships and tensions – concerning open vs closed systems, the domination of corporate platforms, and local institutional policy. This in turn influences labs’ organisational decisions and socio-cultural settings. We intend to decode the complex relational assemblage of technologies, organisations, and cultures. In doing so, it aims to show how this network of associations configures the life and identity of digital humanities labs compromising across technological pragmatism – informed by stability and sustainability – and – ethos – driven by open and independent values. You can find the essay here.

Interrogating Global Traces of Infrastructure

I’m pleased to announce the second workshop in the Digital Humanities & Critical Infrastructure Studies Workshop Series, “Interrogating Global Traces of Infrastructure”. The event is organised by King’s Digital Lab, King’s College Department of Digital Humanities, and Critical Infrastructures Studies Initiative (cistudies.org). The workshop brings together leading thinkers in Digital Humanities, Social Sciences, Digital Media, and Information Studies to discuss practices of interrogating global topographies of knowledge, data, and IT infrastructures and their influence on local social, economic, and research conditions. The meeting will take place on 18 November 2021 on the Microsoft Teams platform. Please register now through the Eventbrite.

The first workshop in June 2021 explored the fragility and faultiness of infrastructures that require scholarly intervention at individual, social, and planetary scales. However, interventions at local levels require an awareness of the relationship of infrastructure to global political and economic dynamics. A good example is Google’s plan to build a new underwater cable between the U.S. and Argentina to augment the company’s existing cable investments in the region and call it the Firmina cable (named after Brazilian abolitionist and author Maria Firmina dos Reis). Every day brings new reminders about how we are all part of a larger political and economic infrastructural system. The Covid-19 pandemic has explicitly shown how the concepts of globality and locality are two sides of the same coin. It recalls the famous words by Susan Leigh Star that “One person’s infrastructure is another’s topic or difficulty.”

In this second workshop, we seek to discuss the global dimensions of infrastructure – scale, flow, accessibility, durability, and transparency – and their impact on localized socio-technical practices. This complex topic touches on many aspects of Critical Infrastructure Studies as a practice, including platformisation, global supply chains, public infrastructures, distributed labor, automatization, cloud computing, environment, and the politics of archives. These pressing issues are nontrivial methodologically. Some of the difficulties of studying infrastructure from a global perspective are suggested by the following questions: How can we reveal the global traces of infrastructures in our daily work? How can local case studies be scaled up? What does it mean to study infrastructures at a distance? What is the best practice to obtain and process large quantities of data? How can we identify the “infrastructural endpoints” – the geographical, social, and economic points of disintegration of the global socio-technical system? And, perhaps most important: How can we contest something that happens at a global scale? What can scholars as individuals do to interrogate and envision better global infrastructures?

This workshop is part of my MSCA research project and I’m excited to be the lead organiser of this event. We have a wonderful line-up of speakers! Please check the full program on CIStudies.org and my research website dhinfra.org.

Infrastructural Interventions

I’m excited to announce that the registration for the “Infrastructural Interventions” (21-22 June 2021) workshop is open on Eventbrite. Get a ticket now!

This is the first event in the Digital Humanities & Critical Infrastructure Studies Workshop Series organised by King’s Digital Lab, King’s College Department of Digital Humanities, and Critical Infrastructures Studies Initiative (cistudies.org). The event brings together leading thinkers in Digital Humanities to critically interrogate the socio-technical dimensions of infrastructure. Check out the great lineup of speakers (Alan Liu, James Smithies, Laura Mandell, Matthew K. Gold, Susan Brown, Lauren F. Klein, Paola Ricaurte Quijano, Jonathan Gray, David M. Berry), abstracts and the program at the CIStudies website here.

In this workshop, DH theorists will interrogate the nature and fragility of infrastructure at individual, social, and planetary scales, and attempt to reconfigure their nature from social justice, feminist and decolonial perspectives. The following questions will guide us through the discussion: How, precisely, did our contemporary digital infrastructure evolve? How are different actors challenging, contesting and creating alternatives to official data infrastructures? How can DH infrastructure be informed by an analysis of power—and even actively challenge existing power imbalances? How might DH infrastructure reject the hierarchical and other divisions that currently structure DH work? How can digital humanists reimagine and rebuild the world differently through infrastructure?

This workshop is part of my MSCA research project (dhinfra.org) and I’m thrilled to be the lead organiser of this wonderful event!

Laboratory ethnography during a pandemic

On my research blog dhinfra.org, you can find my new post “Laboratory ethnography during a pandemic: On temporality, instability and co-production“. I reflect on methodological and ethical challenges of doing an ethnography during these difficult times. Drawing on my ethnographic study at King’s Digital Lab, I have produced the following principles for approaching a laboratory ethnography during a pandemic: permanent temporality, planned spontaneity, a mixture of work and home, and instability of environment. These preliminary concepts reveal the strangeness of the contemporary moment that makes it difficult to apply standard ethnographic methods. The strangeness of these aspects, unsettling now, might however become an intrinsic part of an emerging new type of “post-pandemic” ethnography we don’t know yet. I also argue that a pandemic situation can help to disclose knowledge about the community and workplace that otherwise would remain hidden and unnoticed. Critical situations can say a lot about labs’ culture and community. This is the time for sharpening a sensibility for things that are exposed: care, trust, and collectivity. Further, I pose the following questions: How do workplaces re-prioritize their work in light of challenges? What is the most important goal for a lab during the crisis? What does a lab do to reconcile individual concerns and management requirements to “keep the lab going”? How is a “lab culture” evinced in strategies adopted in the face of an emergency? These set of questions might become part of the methodological guidance for the ethnography of laboratories in unstable times. You can find the essay here.

“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!

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.