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!

WM Fellowship at King’s

The past few weeks were intensive, busy, and exciting! I visited the Department of Digital Humanities (DDH) at King’s College London on a Willard McCarty fellowship. It was a great pleasure to meet the academic staff and share research interests and experience. Thanks for all inspiring talks!

On 23 May, I gave a talk at the event “Humanities Laboratories: Critical Infrastructures and Knowledge Experiments”, hosted by the DDH with King’s Digital Lab (KDL), in conjunction with the Critical infrastructure Studies initiative. The event was chaired by Arianna Ciula (Deputy Director & Senior Research Software Analyst, KDL) and introduced by Prof. Willard McCarty. Next, James Smithies (Director, KDL; Deputy Director, KCL eResearch) gave a talk about a laboratory in the context of postphenomenology and presented King’s Digital Lab as socio-technical system. After that, Jonathan Gray (Co-founder of the Public Data Lab, and Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies, DDH) reflected on the development of the Public Data Lab, a unique model of lab as a network of researchers and research centres from across Europe established around questions of the data society. After that, I presented my recent work on humanities laboratories from the perspective of laboratory studies, critical infrastructure studies, and social lab theorists. The resources and photos will be soon published on the WM Fellowship’s website. Meanwhile, you can find my presentation under the “Materials” section!

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!

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