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.

Infrastructure of Engagement

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.

My new article on re(designing) spaces for humanities practices

I am pleased to see that my new open access article “Place matters: Thinking about spaces for humanities practices” has been published online first in Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. This essay was written as part of my Vanguard Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Birmingham. It is open access so please feel free to read it online and download it for free here.

This essay reflects on the role of place for humanities practices and contributes to emerging discussions on infrastructure for the humanities and socio-material conditions of scholarly knowledge production. I provide a theoretical framework for studying venues for humanities work drawing on the phenomenological approach to the concepts of place and space, the pedagogical perspective on learning spaces in higher education, and epistemological studies of scientific places. Next, I analyse the landscape for the reconfiguration of humanities venues and present arguments for engaging with space by referring to the functioning of digital humanities. This essay shows that place is an extremely important resource, seeing as it is endowed with the power to drive new practices, institutionalize a community, and consolidate a discipline. Therefore, humanists should reflect critically on the ‘architecture of the humanities’ and engage in making their own spaces that determine practices, communication, and well-being.

“The Laboratory Turn”: My article in the DHQ

My open access article “The Laboratory Turn: Exploring Discourses, Landscapes, and Models of Humanities Labs” has been published in the Digital Humanities Quarterly (2020, 14.3). I was very much looking forward to it. Check it out here!

The goal of this paper is to track the path of the formation of the laboratory turn in the humanities and understand the conditions, meanings, and functions of humanities labs. The first section investigates three discourses that gave rise to the emergence of a laboratory in the humanities: the transformation of the humanities infrastructure within the university, paradigm shifts in the social sciences, and the expansion of cultural categories of innovation, the maker movement (the proliferation of makerspaces), and the idea of community. Next, I present a history of the laboratory in the humanities and determine the shift from a laboratory as a physical place to conceptual laboratory. The last section analyses five models for humanities labs based on laboratories’ statements and operations: the center-type lab, the techno-science lab, the work station-type lab, the social challenges-centric lab, and virtual lab. I seek to show that the laboratory turn has emerged in the humanities as a part of a wider process of the laboratorization of social life, which has been occurring since the 1980s. Next, the study indicates the role of digital humanities as the driving force behind building a laboratory space, which supports situated practices, the collaborative, and technology-based projects. The article shows that the humanities lab does not simply imitate the science lab but adapts this new infrastructure for its own purposes and needs.

“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.

“Literatura cyfrowa. W stronę podejścia procesualnego”

Z przyjemnością mogę powiedzieć, że moja publikacja podoktorska Literatura cyfrowa. W stronę podejścia procesualnego już ukazała się drukiem! Poniżej zamieszczam ustęp ze wstępu oraz fragment recenzji naukowej Prof. Wojciecha Józefa Burszty.

“W 2011 roku, kiedy rozpoczęłam badania, literatura cyfrowa analizowana była z perspektywy historycznej awangardy, teorii narracji i semiotyki. Na gruncie polskim był to czas przed głoszonymi i rozpowszechnionymi zwrotami w humanistyce: praktycznym1, nie-ludzkim (nonhuman turn) i cyfrowym (rozwój humanistyki cyfrowej), które wyznaczyły nową perspektywę badawczą. Obecnie wskazać można przejścia teoretyczne w historii literatury elektronicznej: od cybersemiotyki i cyberstrukturalizmu do studiów zorientowanych na obiekcie (object-oriented studies) i jego operacyjności, od tekstualności do procesualności, czy od interpretacji do doświadczenia. Pojawiające się zwroty i przesunięcia znacząco wpłynęły na praktyczny i teoretyczny rozwój literatury elektronicznej. Literatura cyfrowa jest tematem dyskusyjnym, ewoluującym i interdyscyplinarnym. Stąd staram się oddać w swej pracy jej dynamiczność, wielokierunkowość i wielogłosowość: od problematyki jej definiowania przez eksplorowanie metodologii teoretycznej po obecne wyzwania związane z kondycją współczesnej humanistyki i wzrastającym wpływem nauk ścisłych na humanistykę” (ze Wstępu)

Literatura cyfrowa to swoista hybryda intencjonalnych „społeczności praktyki” (w sensie nadanym temu pojęciu przez Ėtienne’a Wengera) i możliwości nowych mediów. Stąd – jak słusznie zauważa autorka tej książki już na wstępie – „napisana dziś praca teoretyczna, jutro okaże się tylko częścią historii”. Krótka jeszcze historia rozważań nad rolą internetu, technologiami komunikacyjnymi czy choćby prace poświęcone telefonom komórkowym sprzed kilku lat dowodnie pokazują, jak niepewne i tymczasowe bywają diagnozy, które w momencie ich formułowania sprawiają wrażenie „przełomowych”. O wiele zatem bezpieczniejsze, i tę drogę wybrała Urszula Pawlicka, jest podejście „procesualne”, analizujące procesy, teorie, praktyki i dokonania literatury w środowisku cyfrowym od momentu ich pojawienia się do dnia dzisiejszego (który najpewniej od jakiegoś czasu jest już zapisem o walorze ledwie historycznym). (prof. dr hab. Wojciech Józef Burszta)

Serdecznie zapraszam na stronę wydawnictwa Katedry!

Literatura cyfrowa. W stronę podejścia procesualnego, WN Katedra, Gdańsk 2017. http://wnkatedra.pl/pl/p/Literatura-cyfrowa.-W-strone-podejscia-procesualnego-Urszula-Pawlicka/22522528