Place Matters: Exploring New Sites of the Humanities Practices

54 Pritchatts Road (G10 campus map)
Wednesday 13 November 2019 (12:00-13:30)

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Place Matters

SPEAKER - Dr Urszula Pawlicka-Deger, Department of Media at Aalto University, Finland

From the 1980s, science and technology studies and the history of science have turned their attention to spaces for the experiments and production of knowledge. All sites of scientific inquiry have become objects of exploration to comprehend the interweaving of place and knowledge. With the publication of Laboratory Life by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar in 1979, a laboratory, in particular, has been considered as a gateway for understanding how scientific knowledge is constructed. Karin Knorr Cetina, Peter Galison, and David N. Livingstone, among others, sought to answer the following seminal questions: How does a space of inquiry determine the investigations carried out there? How is scientific knowledge created in a particular place? How do the buildings and sites entail specific practices and values and how do they shape the identity of researchers and fields? A place is endowed with the power of the transformation of the field as well as serves as evidence for these changes. While the study of scientific spaces is well-grounded, a discussion of the intertwining of place and the humanities knowledge has been largely unexplored. The rise of laboratories and makerspaces in the humanities, however, provokes us to ask similar questions: how these new spaces of humanities inquiry both transform and drive humanities research and teaching practices?

This presentation will explore new places for humanities inquiry (laboratories and makerspaces), which have spread in libraries and humanities departments in recent years, and to consider the implications of adopting science and engineering-based sites for humanities practices. Dr Pawlicka-Deger will begin with reflections on the impetus for establishing these places by reviewing reports on the humanities infrastructure and outlining the emergence of digital humanities field, which triggers the question of the role of physical spaces for humanistic work. Although digital resources are a prerequisite for conducting digital humanities research, the field is built strongly on a socio-material infrastructure: people, space, equipment, and technology. Therefore, to facilitate digital scholarship, digital humanities has established laboratories where humanistic knowledge is entangled with technology and, conversely, humanists are confronted with programmers and engineers. Pawlicka-Deger will identify the principles and practices (e.g., hands-on making, experimentation, interdisciplinarity, and collaboration) embedded in labs and makerspaces. Afterward, based on case studies, she will show their various constructions and applications in the humanities. The presentation thus seeks to reflect on how labs and makerspaces remake both a place for humanities inquiry and humanities practices themselves.

Networking lunch to follow.