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

My article reposted in DHLib

Great to see that my article “The Laboratory Turn: Exploring Discourses, Landscapes, and Models of Humanities Labs” (Digital Humanities Quarterly, 2021:14.3) has been reposted on the Digital Humanities Program of Tsinghua University website. The team of this program established the first digital humanities journal (Journal of Digital Humanities, 《数字人文》, quarterly ) in the mainland of China in 2019. Here is the link.

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.

New article in DSH

I’m excited that my new article “Infrastructuring digital humanities: On relational infrastructure and global reconfiguration of the field” has been published in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (17 September 2021, Oxford University Press). It is open access so you can read and download it for free here.

Abstract:

How do the power dynamics of actors in digital knowledge production define the contours of global science and humanities? Where are scholars now in their efforts to improve a networked, global academic system based on the values of equal access to resources, inclusive participation, and the diversity of epistemologies? This article intervenes in these questions by discussing social dimensions of global knowledge infrastructure—connection, standardization, and access—to understand the specification and materialization of global digital humanities (DH). As digital practices expand across the world, the DH community struggles to ensure inclusive participation and equal opportunities in developing the field. This article shows that discrepancies in global DH lie at the root of existing infrastructure inequalities. Drawing on science and technology studies, it then argues that in order to overcome these imbalances, the academic community can seek the ‘infrastructuring’ of DH. Infrastructuring is an analytical concept that shifts attention from ‘structure’ to ‘process’ of co-creation in the vein of participatory design that foregrounds public engagement, shared interest, and long-term relationships with stakeholders to create networks from which equal opportunities and new forms of connections can emerge. This would involve building an inclusive network of unique nodes of local communities on top of the global knowledge infrastructure.

On the Method of the “STS of Documents” in Digital Humanities

I’ve published a new blog post ‘On the Method of the “STS of Documents” in Digital Humanities‘ on my research website dhinfra.org. In that post, I outline my ongoing ethnographic research at King’s Digital Lab and study of documents produced by the lab. Based on the analysis of 40 ‘Feasibility documents’, I have aimed to understand how they inform the lab management work and how they contribute to structuring the digital research process. To this end, I apply the method of the ‘STS of documents’ and analyse Feasibility documents in a manner similar to STS-based studies of scientific labs’ protocols and kits. The outcome of my analysis will be published in the Convergence special issue ‘Critical Technical Practice(s) in Digital Research‘. In the forthcoming article, I intend to show that documents can be studied as ethnographic objects that can help to reveal critical and socio-technical practices entangled with operational methods and local requirements. In the blog post, in turn, I reflect on the lab management and workflow by referring to a research project conducted in collaboration with King’s Digital Lab. You can find the essay here.

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.

“DH Lab” book

I am excited to share that my book “Digital Humanities and Laboratories: Perspectives on Knowledge, Infrastructure and Culture”, I am editing together with Dr Christopher Thomson (University of Canterbury), has been accepted by Routledge. The collection will be published as one of research titles in the Digital Research in the Arts and Humanities series.  

The book on “lab studies” in digital humanities (DH) aims to explore the connections between DH, labs, technology, knowledge, and culture. Following the rich tradition of laboratory studies in science and technology studies (STS), we propose to discuss the concept of DH labs from a broad range of perspectives: epistemological, infrastructural, technological, socio-cultural, and critical. The purpose is to make the discourse of the 1970s/1980s a starting point for reflections on how to interrogate the organisational structures of DH, and what can be offered to STS in terms of analyzing a lab from a new, critical perspective. 

This collection will also reflect on the ways labs contribute to digital research and pedagogy as they emerge globally amid varied cultural and scientific traditions. It’s been particularly important to us to bring together a global range of authors to ensure a diversity of perspectives. Our contributors come from various institutions from Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Spain, Taiwan, the UK, and the US. They include established scholars in the DH, heads of DH labs, practitioners from the GLAM sector, and scholars working at the intersection of DH, the history of science, cultural heritage studies, and software engineering. 

This is wonderful news and I am very much looking forward to working on this publication!

dhinfra.org

I’ve recently launched a research blog dhinfra.org related to my ongoing Marie Skłodowska-Curie project. I’ll share there my activities and outputs of this research and also publish posts about digital humanities infrastructure, scholarly knowledge production, and methodological approaches to the study of infrastructure.

What is happening behind the text?

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.