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.

Lab & Slack

This Thursday, on 4th April, I will be giving a talk together with Dr Mila Oiva (from the University of Turku) at the Digital Humanities Research Seminar at the University of Helsinki. Our presentation, titled “Lab and Slack. Situated Research Practices in Digital Humanities” is an overview of our special issue of “Digital Humanities Quarterly”. We have been working on this special issue for a year and collecting articles about physical and virtual situatedness of research practices in DH. We have more than 15 papers written by scholars working at digital humanities places, including Yale University, Michigan State University, the University of Victoria, Portland State University, and the University of Luxembourg! The special issue will be submitted soon to the DHQ and hopefully, released at the end of this year!


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.

WM Fellowship at King’s

I have exciting news! I have been nominated the Willard McCarty Fellowship 2018-2019 at the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. It is one of the largest and most prestigious departments of digital humanities worldwide and the first department of DH established in Europe. I couldn’t imagine a better place to share and develop my research interests! I will give a talk “A Laboratory as Critical Infrastructure in the Humanities” at King’s on 23rd May. More information soon!

The abstract of my talk:

Laboratories have entered the humanities as a new infrastructure aimed at transforming the humanities into an experimental, collaborative, and technology-driven discipline. With the spread of the idea of the laboratory into academic spaces, city spaces, and cultural institutions, the definition of lab has been extended significantly. A laboratory goes beyond the notion of a physical place involving specialized instruments and hands-on scientific exploration, becoming, instead, a widely understood project. A laboratory is thus more than infrastructure; it is a “conceptual vehicle” (Critical Media Lab at the Academy of Art and Design FHNW) and it involves “new ways of engaging with public audiences” (the Humanities Laboratories at Duke University). In short, a laboratory can be conceptualized as a way of thinking that entails new social practices and new research modes. Thus, a lab can be established anywhere. The only condition for creating a lab is community: a lab is constituted by and for the people gathered together to address particular challenges.

My goal is to present the impact of the laboratory through two different perspectives: infrastructural changes in the humanities and structural changes through the humanities. I attempt to go beyond the discussion of a laboratory as a research infrastructure to investigate it as the infrastructure of engagement in social and global challenges. Hence, I pose the following questions: How does a laboratory grow from a physical workspace into actions taken around challenges? How does a laboratory become the driving force of the engaged humanities? How can changes be made through the (digital) humanities infrastructure? Drawing on the sociology of scientific knowledge, laboratory studies, and critical infrastructure studies, I will address these questions and explore the laboratory as a platform for systemic changes.

This talk will consist of two parts. In the first part, I will present three discourses that gave rise to the laboratory in the humanities: the transformation of the humanities infrastructure within the university, the paradigm shifts in the social sciences, and the expansion of particular cultural categories. Further, based on an interactive map of laboratories (humanities labs, digital humanities labs, and media labs) established around the world, I will sketch the history of the lab in the humanities within a global context from the 1980s to 2018. Next, I will determine models for humanities labs based on laboratories’ statements and operations, including the techno-science, workstation, and virtual models. The second part of the lecture aims to examine the lab structure critically and reflect on its potential for the engaged humanities. Referring to social lab theorists, I will seek to answer questions as to how humanities research can be translated into action and how a laboratory drives this process. The analysis will be based on different forms of laboratories seen as sites of interventions: the lab as a challenge-centric space, coalition, and community platform.

Materials: Presentation and Mapping

In the “Materials” section, I have uploaded my presentation “Mapping a History of the Humanities and Media Labs” which I am showing today, on March 21, at the Global Digital Humanities Symposium at Michigan State University. You can also find a link to an interactive map of “(Digital) Humanities and Media Labs around the world” created in StoryMapJS tool. The map will be available for a week so please feel free to explore it! If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me: urszula.pawlicka@aalto.fi

Global Digital Humanities Symposium

I am presenting my research at the Global Digital Humanities Symposium held at Michigan State University (March 21-22, 2019). The Symposium will be livestreamed at go.cal.msu.edu/globaldh. So if you are interested in the phenomenon of humanities labs, please join my session today, on March 21, at 2.40pm (EDT time zone)!

Below, the abstract of my presentation, titled Mapping a History of the Humanities and Media Labs:
The last years can be called as a boom of laboratories in the humanities created as a physical space and as a ‘placeless’ project (virtual labs, lab podcasts) for a specific purpose and for a fixed period. The multiplication of labs has led to a state of emergency when it becomes significant to investigate their objectives and operation. Hence, I pose the following questions: What does a laboratory mean in the humanities? How did a laboratory grow from a physical workspace into an action taken around people and challenges? How did the transition occurred from the first experimental generation to the second wave of the humanities labs?

My goal is to present a lab history in the humanities, digital humanities, and media studies within a global context from the 1980s to 2018. The main part of my presentation is a map of laboratories established in the humanities and media studies around the world. Based on a survey and laboratories’ statements, I created an interactive map with labs’ descriptions and timeline to analyze the concept of the humanities lab from geographical and historical perspective.

It is vital to understand the phenomenon of laboratory in the humanities that entails significant changes in the research practices and scholarly communication. The humanities labs do not represent a unified structure but they are a cluster of various models which have their own architectures and practices. Hence, the humanities labs do not purely imitate the science lab but adapt this new structure for its own purposes and needs.

‘The Making of the Humanities VI’

Last month I had a pleasure to present my current research on laboratories in the humanities during the conference ‘The Making of the Humanities VI’ taking place at the University of Oxford, Humanities Division and Somerville College on September 28-30, 2017. The goal of my presentation, titled ‘The Emergence of Laboratories in the Humanities: Impetus, Implementation, and Impact’ was to trace a history of the humanities labs, covering the impulse and the mechanism of their creation. Below, I have attached my abstract and presentation available also in the section of ‘Projects’.

The humanities has made significant conceptual shifts that include fostering strong innovative and collaborative research, employing technologies, and building a bridge between the academy, industry, and community. Above changes mean designing and defining the humanities anew. Creating an academic discipline requires an ‘administrative imagination’; that is to say, we must build a structure aligned with development strategy. Consequently, the humanities has undergone an ‘infrastructure turn’ over the past ten years and launched a new physical place: a laboratory. The emergence of labs in the humanities has been crucial for “redefining the role of the humanities” and “re-configuration of the humanities offered by computational technologies”; however, the proliferation and the fragmentation of labs have led to a state of emergency when it becomes urgent to investigate their significance, objectives, and impact.  

The goal of the presentation is to analyze three aspects of the humanities labs: its impetus, implementation, and impact. The first part aims to trace a history of the humanities labs, covering the impulse and the mechanism of their creation. This section includes also mapping out laboratories in the humanities established all over the world. The second part presents the complex landscape of the laboratories in the humanities, launched in various ways as a physical research lab, a makerspace, a virtual network, a community project, etc. The last part examines the features of laboratories that significantly reconfigure the humanities seen as an innovative, digital technology-based field, hands-on experimental research, situated practice, engaged in community affairs, and collaborating with local companies.

Free access to my new article “Data, Collaboration, Laboratory”

My new article Data, Collaboration, Laboratory: Bringing Concepts from Science into Humanities Practice has just been published in “English Studies” (2017, Doi: 10.1080/0013838X.2017.1332022).

You can receive one of 50 free eprints! Everyone who clicks on the link below will be taken to the full article. Feel free to share it with colleagues and friends, giving them free access to the article.


Humanities researchers have been looking for new tools and strategies to overcome what has been called, in recent years, a “crisis” in the humanities. These efforts maintain that it is possible to change the widespread view that humanities fields are arcane or irrelevant by changing conceptual frames in ways that show the humanities to be useful, accessible and actionable. Specifically, researchers have been claiming for the humanities frames and concepts from the sciences, such as the humanities “labs” that signal (in both name and design) quantifiability, verifiability and functionality. This tactic of borrowing categories from the sciences is part of a larger tactical turn that we may call “the scientification of the humanities”. The new field of the digital humanities, in particular, is a central site for this turn. With a focus on digital humanities practices, this article aims to describe the tactical meanings, in the humanities, of the borrowed concepts data, collaboration and laboratory, all of which strategically frame the humanities as a practical, innovative and profitable field. Ultimately, I show that the trajectory of scientification in the humanities follows a path from concepts to transformation.