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.
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.