Research & Projects

* Digital/humanities laboratories: Studying the implementation and impact of a new infrastructure for the humanities

This research project has been conducted in the Media Department of Aalto University. I presented the outcomes in the following conferences, workshops, and seminars:

  • U. Pawlicka-Deger, “A Laboratory as Critical Infrastructure in the Humanities”. The Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, UK (23 May 2019) (slides presentation)
  • U. Pawlicka-Deger, “Mapping a History of the Humanities and Media Labs”, Global Digital Humanities Symposium, Michigan State University, U.S. (21-22 March 2019) (slides presentation
  • U. Pawlicka, “Mapping the Humanities and Media Labs”, “DH Aalto” seminar in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Aalto University (07 February 2018)
  • U. Pawlicka, “The Laboratory Turn in the Humanities”. The Department of Media, Aalto University (03 October 2017)
  • U. Pawlicka, “The Emergence of Laboratories in the Humanities: Impetus, Implementation, and Impact”, the Society for the History of the Humanities’ Annual Meeting “The Making of the Humanities VI”, University of Oxford, Somerville College, UK (28 – 30 September 2017). (slides presentation
  • U. Pawlicka, “(Digital) Humanities Labs in Non-Western Contexts”, Global Digital Humanities Workshop, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland (29 – 30 May 2017)

Scholarly articles related to this project:

  • U. Pawlicka, Data, Collaboration, Laboratory: Bringing Concepts from Science into Humanities Practice, “English Studies” 98.5 (2017): 526-541. Doi: 10.1080/0013838X.2017.1332022

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.

  • U. Pawlicka-Deger, Laboratory: A New Space in Digital Humanities, in: Debates in the Digital Humanities. Institutions, Infrastructures at the Interstices, ed. A. McGrail, et al., Univ of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis [forthcoming]

The goal of this paper is to explore a laboratory unit in the humanities to grasp its uniqueness, understand its function, and discern its influence on the transformation of digital humanities. The assumptions that underpin the essay are as follows: first, the infrastructure of digital humanities has changed from an isolated, discipline-based center to an interdisciplinary laboratory; second, the concept of the digital humanities field has been modified by providing digital tools and services with activities of solving problems and conducting technology-based innovative research; third, digital humanities’ research practices have shifted from situated practices occurring in physical locations like centers and labs to virtual practices and collaborations through various platforms like Slack and DH Commons; fourth, digital humanities itself has been altered to be more of a method than a field. These changes in digital humanities have emerged along with infrastructure transformations propelled by laboratories.

To investigate the function and the influence of labs on digital humanities, I begin with a short examination of centers and explain their major features and then I analyze the laboratory unit. First, I juxtapose the scientific and social models of laboratories to trace the transformation of the laboratory concept from an experimental and instrumental physical place to a discursive and movable space arising around community and problems. Further, I present the history of laboratory “beyond the science” in the humanities and media studies, dating back to the 1980s and the early 1990s. Next, I investigate the complex landscape of digital humanities labs that have been launched in diverse locations, defined in various ways, and perform different functions. Finally, I indicate two significant impacts of the laboratory idea on digital humanities seen as “dispersed practices” that can be used in different departments and institutions, and “problem space” (Osbeck, Lisa M., Nancy J. Nersessian, et al. Science as Psychology. Cambridge 2011) defined not as a physical location but an environment that seeks to tackle specific and complex issues.

My perspective on the laboratory as “problem space” stems from a specific model of humanities lab represented by the Humanities Labs, founded by the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. This model functions as a “new architecture of multiple humanities laboratories,” where each lab is created around a central theme and involves faculty and students from across the humanities and other disciplines. Since 2010, the Humanities Labs have included ten laboratories; some are still supported, while others have been concluded. What distinguishes this structure is that each lab is set up for a fixed period and for a specific research problem investigated in innovative, interdisciplinary, and collaborative ways. This model shows that the laboratory in the humanities is a unique and crucial architecture to develop the field into practices performed in a “problem space” constructed around challenges beyond disciplines.

As a summary, I look at the current situation of the humanities labs and identify the urgent needs for their development to enhance the role of the lab as an innovative problem space rather than treating the place as the only strategy to revive the humanities.

  • U. Pawlicka-Deger, Lab History in the Humanities and Media (2019)

The last seven years are seen as a boom of laboratories in the humanities which number has increased sevenfold and which have already been called as “a second wave of humanities lab”. The proliferation and the fragmentation of laboratories have caused landscape changes of the humanities and media labs that go beyond the academy walls and space limitations. The multiplication of this new architecture has occurred along with a new vision of the humanities, distinguished by situated practices, technology and problem-based research, collaboration, community practice, and public engagement. The purpose of this article is to trace a history of the humanities and media labs, including the investigation of their forerunners like artistic studio and technoscience lab, the analysis of the mechanism of their establishment, and their models and missions. The goal is to capture infrastructure, conceptual, and methodological development in the humanities from the 1980s of the twentieth century to 2018. The paper comprises an interactive map of labs in the humanities and media studies established all over the world. Mapping and analyzing the phenomenon of the humanities and media labs from geographical and historical perspectives aim to address the following questions: how did the laboratory grow from a physical workspace into an ‘activated idea’ created around people and challenges? How did the transition occurr from the first experimental wave to the second wave of the humanities lab? How does the laboratory affect the development of digital humanities which has moved from an early model of center to this new innovative place?

  • U. Pawlicka-Deger, Laboratory Turn in the Humanities (2019)

The main purpose of the paper is to track a path of the formation of laboratory turn in the humanities to understand the contexts and reasons for the creation of lab phenomenon. I investigate the infrastructural, scientific and cultural discourses that particularly gave rise to widespread the idea of laboratory beyond the science in the social science, the humanities, and also outside of the academy in urban space. Then, I analyze the humanities labs to see the impact of these discourses on the development of lab structures and practices in the humanities. Based on the lab’s statements and missions, I indicate four different lab models in the humanities: technoscience, the workstation, the community, and virtual. These four models grow out of various origins and discourses. Therefore, the humanities labs do not represent an unified operating structure but they are a cluster of various models which have their own architectures, functions, and practices. As a result, the humanities labs do not purely imitate the science lab but adapt this new structure for its own purposes and needs. Hence, the humanities labs developed its own unique models that can be apply to different fields and departments.

* Situated Research Practices in Digital Humanities

It is a “Digital Humanities Quarterly” special issue edited together with Dr Mila Oiva from the Department of Cultural History at the University of Turku. Please see the CFP here. The issue will be released in 2019.

* Open Science and Digital Humanities

As a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Media and Research Data Management agent in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture at Aalto University, I conducted interviews with Aalto researchers asking them the following questions: “Do you want your research data to be accessible?” and “Do you open your research data?”. The results of my interviews were significant. Most scholars are willing to share their data, but they do not do this because of the uncertainty regarding open data practices. I noticed the following concerns related to opening research data: maintaining data integrity, identifying the ownership right of data, protecting sensitive data, misunderstanding and misusing research data. Similar observations were presented during “Embedding Openness and Scholarship”, a workshop organized by the University of Helsinki on 14th March 2018. Information Specialists from Helsinki University Library indicated barriers to sharing research data; one obstacle was to measure the value of own research data and based on that, decide on their opening. Further, Per Öster, Director of the Research Infrastructures unit at CSC – IT Center for Science, stressed that there is a need to integrate services and infrastructures and engage with a broad range of stakeholders to build the trust and skills in open science. As Öster stated, the trust is required for adoption of an open approach to scientific research.

Open science requires restructuring research infrastructures and services to build a new model of scholarly interaction and collaboration. Digital humanities offers repositories (e.g. DARIAH-DE, CORE), platforms (e.g. Humanities Commons), and virtual research environment (e.g. TextGridLab) for cooperating, sharing, and opening research data. However, technical facilities and services alone are not enough to develop a new mode of research. Opening data belongs to a new culture of research where one piece is still missing: trust.

The hypothesis is that a trust is a key determining factor in opening research data. It is crucial in conducting a study when we collaborate with other researchers, share our findings and use others’ research outcomes. Opening data is a transaction itself that requires a trust and a confidence. No trust means no data open that is a principle of open science. The trust is thus required for developing a new research approach.

Hence, my motivation is to examine a trust in opening research data in digital humanities. The major purposes are to explore the practices in open research data, investigate the scholars’ confidence in sharing the data and institutional services that drive a new culture of research. The project is conducted within a framework of digital humanities, open science and research data management. It is based on a case study of open research data in Finland.

The paper will be submitted to the edited book “Access, Control, and Dissemination in Digital Humanities” edited by Richard Mann and Shane Hawkins (Routledge)

* Research Data Management (RDM) in ARTS

As a data agent in ARTS at Aalto University, I have performed the following tasks and more are still in progress:

  • Coordinating the deployment of Research Catalogue, an international database for artistic research, at Aalto University (November 2018- )
  • Training researchers on research data management practices: workshops on RDM at the Department of Media of Aalto University. The goal was to disseminate knowledge on RDM practices, including the use of DMPTuuli, metadata, licensing data, and digital repositories (April – May and October 2018)
  • Co-organizing “Aalto Data Day” (25.05.2018)
  • Advising on the special guidelines of DMPTuuli (Data Management Planning Tool) for ARTS at Aalto University (March 2018)
  • Designing research data management cheatsheet for ARTS at Aalto University (January – February 2018) The cheatsheet is available here.

* Electronic Literature: Theory and Practice

The extensive research on electronic literature was summarized in my
PhD thesis, titled “Literature and New Media. Theory and Practice”, completed in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn. As a Fulbright scholar, I conducted my research in Electronic Literature Lab in Creative Media and Digital Culture at the Washington State University Vancouver WA, and also as a visiting researcher in the Department of English at Stony Brook University. The outcomes of this research project include several publications and monographs (please see “Publications” section).