Rebuilding Laboratories

Lodge Room Edgbaston Park Hotel
Tuesday 19 November 2019 (09:00-16:30)

To find out more about this workshop please email


WORKSHOP LEADERS: Dr Urszula Pawlicka-Deger, Aalto University, IAS Vanguard Fellow and Dr Julia P Myatt, Acting Dean, Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences

Over the past years, laboratories have popped up in spaces which had never been designed for such purpose: in the city, libraries, and the humanities departments. The concept of the laboratory includes not only research and teaching labs but also open spaces and collaborative networks. There is not one lab model but many different types of labs, which have their own architectures and practices. The spread of laboratories has begun a new chapter in the history of the laboratory. Laboratories are thus rebuilt and relocated; however, their core values remain unchanged. One reason for turning various spaces into laboratories is to apply the laboratory ethos: collaboration, experimentation, and innovation. Laboratories in the humanities, therefore, raises many yet unanswered questions of reconceptualizing the role of laboratory, transforming research and teaching practices in a laboratory environment, and changing the position of the humanities in society.

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. Laboratories and other types of lab-based knowledge spaces will only grow along with the intensification of interdisciplinary and collaborative practices. The understanding of the meaning and the organization of laboratories and their role in empirical knowledge production is a prerequisite for designing a better infrastructure for scientific and scholarly research and teaching, and consequently, for developing the knowledge. Our 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.

Workshop topics include:

  • The epistemological and inclusive history of laboratories including: natural science labs, chemical labs, medical labs, experimental physics labs, media labs, the humanities lab, and more.
  • A laboratory infrastructure and situatedness: the critical role of institutional, material, social, and digital infrastructures in research and teaching practices.
  • A laboratory and knowledge production: social practices, co-creation, collaborative teaching, experiment documentation (a lab notebook), the material culture of scientific and scholarly knowledge creation, the role of technologies, instruments, and material objects in laboratory work, etc.
  • A laboratory and other knowledge spaces: the function of various models for institutional infrastructure in supporting knowledge experiments, interdisciplinarity, and collaboration.