Making Change Through the Humanities, Oct 22-23, 2018 (#humchange2018)

Welcome to an international lunch-to-lunch workshop on “Making Change through the Humanities: Institutes, Ideas and Infrastructures” at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm on October 22-23, 2018!

Please see below for information on registration and event details. And please check back for updates and additions!

Lunch x 2 will be provided as well as dinner on Oct 22. The workshop will be followed by (brief) seminars and discussions in the afternoon of October 23:

“Mutualistic Systems Design: improving human and environmental health”. Natalie Jeremijenko.

“Infrastructural Humanities: The case of humanities centers”. David Theo Goldberg and Patrik Svensson.

There is a growing understanding that the humanities are needed to respond to a range of urgent societal, technological and environmental challenges.The response cannot be limited to providing valuable critique, but must involve different types of collaborative efforts, ‘making’ and agenda setting. Concurrently there is a related shift of the conditions of knowledge production as a result of digitization, new modes of scholarship, and ongoing changes in the landscape of higher education. In this context, there is a need for platforms that enable critical and constructive work, for example multi-modal experiments and algorithmic tools.

As a result of these developments, we see the emergence of new forms of humanities, which tend to be integrative, interventionist and infrastructural. They interact richly with conventional humanities but build new formations and collaborative capacity to respond to scholarly and societal needs. However, these initiatives are dispersed, operate across different areas, and do not have the capacity to meet the demand. 

The guiding question for the workshop is: How do we design the humanities (institutions, organizations, infrastructures, processes, policies) and build capacity to best meet current and future societal and scholarly challenges? 

Responses are expected to be: A) driven by humanistic and human considerations, curiosity and agendas; B) open to many different types of knowledge, practice and making (including art practice); C) collaborative (and not about the humanities in isolation); D) intellectual and critical (not just institutional or infrastructural); and E) anchored in particular examples, practices, processes, and infrastructures.

How do we engage in such work without the human/humanistic/artistic becoming something “sprinkled” on at the end or framed as harmless public engagement? Is it possible to imagine a humanities that plays a key role not only in providing important critique and framing challenges, but also in working out outcomes (sometimes materially building things and systems) together with others? What kinds of human and humanistic infrastructure – both scholarly and civic – may we be interested in imagining and constructing? What kind of humanistic leadership do we need now and in the future?

The workshop is meant to empower future leadership in and through the humanities.

The workshop brings together participants with an interest in the humanities/the human playing a central and active role in taking on contemporary challenges both inside and outside the academy. The participants will bring to bear their experience from diverse types of platforms and “spaces in between” to address the work at hand, across different disciplines, domains and modes of engagement, and often (but not always) with partners outside the university.

The workshop will be conversational – built around semi-structured conversations rather than ‘presentations’. There will not be any slides.

Three perspectives will serve as starting points for the discussion:

1) Technical universities/colleges as platforms for human/humanistic work. Schools of technology and engineering are clearly central to societal development. Institutions such as these are at the heart of the operation producing socio-technological systems and infrastructures – increasingly the fabric of our societies. We will use the Royal Institute of Technology, where the workshop will take place, as one case study.

2) ‘New’ humanities as platforms for critical-constructive work. The surge of integrative humanities – including environmental, digital and urban humanities can be seen as a response to large societal challenges relating to the environment, digitization and urbanization. Often placed outside and between the conventional disciplines, new humanities initiatives/programs/perspectives tend to be socially engaged with at least some interest in ‘building’. Another set of ‘humanities’ – including disability studies, queer studies and ethnic studies – also have this intermediate, intersectional, and ‘active’ engagement with categories that are central to the human/humanistic – including gender, race, power and ‘ability’. Additionally, processes such as ‘critical making’ are relevant here.

3) The ‘institute’ as a platform for humanistic work. Institute here is used as an infrastructural proxy to encourage the imagination of future platforms for the humanities. We will reflect on humanities institutes and centers (in their diversity and history as a key humanistic infrastructure), as well as a range of other platforms such as library and critical making labs and environmental health clinics to envision the institutes needed to make meaningful change through the humanities.

More perspectives may be added before or during the workshop. Please be in touch with the curator to make suggestions.

The first complete version of the program will be published on the website by the end of August.

Invited participants
Please see below for a presentation of invited (and confirmed) participants. More invited participants will be added until the end of September.

Karolina Andersdotter [web], Librarian, Uppsala University. Andersdotter has worked as a library and information policy assistant at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions in the Hague and is now digital scholarship librarian at Uppsala University Library with a special interest in copyright and open access issues. Andersdotter has written about the sustainable information society, relating global challenges (as identified by Agenda 2030) and library information work.

Gargi Bhattacharya [web], Professor of Sociology, University of East London and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging. Bhattacharya has written extensively in the area of ‘race’ and racisms, sexuality, global cultures and the ‘war on terror’ including the recent books Crisis, Austerity and Everyday Life, Living in a time of diminishing expectations (2015. Palgrave Macmillan) and Rethinking Racial Capitalism, Questions of Reproduction and Survival (2018, Rowman and Littlefield). Bhattacharya is also the author of “How can we live with ourselves? Universities and the attempt to reconcile learning and doing” (Ethnic and Racial Studies, 2013).

David Budtz-Pedersen [web], Professor, Aalborg University. Budtz Pedersen is Head of Research at the Humanomics Research Centre, Aalborg University Copenhagen, PI for the project “Mapping the Public Value of Humanities” (2016-2019, supported by the Velux Foundation) and former Strategic Adviser to the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science. Budtz-Pedersen’s work focuses on science and innovation policy and management, and on developing new methods and practices for strengthening the impact of research in society.

Geoffrey Crossick, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Crossick is Chair of the Trinity Long Room Hub and the Crafts Council. Former roles include Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, Warden of Goldsmiths, and Chief Executive of the former Arts & Humanities Research Board. Co-author of “Understanding the Value of Arts & Culture: The AHRC Cultural Value Project” (with Patrycja Kaszynska).

Kate Elswit [web], Reader in Theatre and Performance at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. Elswit, author of two books and twelve peer-reviewed articles, is an academic and dancer whose research on performing bodies combines dance history, performance studies theory, cultural studies, experimental practice, and technology. A new project, Danham’s Data (funded by AHRC), is centered around performance and mobility, data analysis, and the case study of African American choreographer Katherine Dunham.

David Theo Goldberg [web], Distinguished Professor at UC Irvine. Goldberg is Director of the University of California-wide Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) and a leading intellectual and scholar on race, ethnicity and critical theory. UCHRI recently received a $10 million matching grant from the Mellon Foundation to advance collaborative, interdisciplinary humanities research and education throughout the UC system. Recent publications include “‘The Reason of Unreason’ Achille Mbembe and David Theo Goldberg in conversation about Critique of Black Reason” (Theory, Culture and Society, July, 2018).

Sara Hendren [web], Artist, Designer, and Researcher in Residence at Olin College of Engineering. Hendren’s work includes assistive and adaptive technologies, social design projects, and mixed media collaborations that engage technology and the human body. Hendren is currently working on a book on the unexpected places where disability is at the heart of design (supported by several grants, Riverhead/Penguin) and is the Principal Investigator for the Sketch Model initiative, funded by the Mellon Foundation, designed to bring three years of programming and partnerships with practitioner in the arts and humanities to Olin students and faculty.

Lilly Irani [web], Assistant Professor, Communication, Science Studies, Critical Gender Studies, UC San Diego. Irani’s research investigates the cultural politics of high-tech work practices, particularly in relation to two sites: entrepreneurial development efforts in India and the Amazon data processing outsourcing site Mechanical Turk. Publications include “‘Design Thinking’: Defending Silicon Valley at the Apex of Global Labor Hierarchies” (Catalyst, 4,1, 2018) and Innovators and their Others: Entrepreneurial Citizenship in Indian Development (forthcoming, Princeton University Press in Spring 2019). Irani collaboratively designs, builds, and maintains software (TurkopticonDynamo) that intervenes, resists, or demonstrates alternatives to existing platforms.

Natalie Jeremijenko, Associate Professor of Art and Art Education, New York University. Jeremijenko is a world-renowned artist, engineer, and scholar who seeks to reimagine and redesign the built environment, data, energy, food, waste and distribution systems to improve human and environmental health. This work, which brings together environmental urgency and creative agency, is primarily carried out through number of live and public socio-technological-ecological experiments across the world. Jeremijenko is the founder of the Environmental Health Clinic at New York University and received the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours Award AO Officer of the Order of Australia.

Marisa Parham [web], Professor of English at Amherst College. Parham directs the Immersive Reality Lab for the Humanities, a workgroup for digital and experimental humanities, serves as a faculty diversity and inclusion officer, and was formerly director of Five College Digital Humanities. Parham’s current teaching and research projects focus on texts that problematize assumptions about time, space, and bodily materiality, particularly as such terms share a history of increasing complexity in texts produced by African Americans. Current book project: Black Haunts in the Anthropocene. Parham serves on the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities

Matt Ratto [web], Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. Ratto invented the term ‘critical making’ to describe work that combines humanities insights engineering practices as part of a long-term scholarly and entrepreneurial program. This program has generated a range of publications and other results, including a project that involves the development of a cost-effective software and hardware toolchain for the scanning, design, and 3D printing of lower-limb prostheses for use in the developing world. Ratto directs the Semaphore Research cluster on Inclusive Design, Mobile and Pervasive Computing and, as part of Semaphore, the Critical Making lab.

Pelle Snickars [web], Professor of Media Studies, Umeå University. Snickars’ research focuses the relationship between old and new media, media economy, digitization of cultural heritage and media history. Snickars is currently PI of several projects which explore the interface between the archive, interpretation and the algorithmic including “Digital Models. Techno-historical collections, digital humanities & narratives of industrialisation”, “Digital files – the press interface in 1800″ and “Streaming Heritage: Following Files In Digital Music Distribution” (which has resulted in two books on Spotify). Snickars was formerly Head of Research at the National Library in Sweden.

Sverker Sörlin [web], Professor of Environmental History, KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Sörlin is a scholar, policy adviser and writer with a broad interest in the formation and function of knowledge. Current research projects include historical images of Arctic futures and the environmental turn in the humanities and the social sciences. Sörlin recently received a European Research Council’s ERC Advanced Grant (€2.5 million) for “The Rise of Global Environmental Governance: A History of the Contemporary Human-Earth Relationship”. His most recent book is The Environment: A History of the Idea (Oct 2018, John Hopkins, with Paul Warde and Libby Robin).

Patrik Svensson [web] is Visiting Professor of Digital Humanities at UCLA, Professor of Humanities and Information Technology at Umeå University and the former Director of HUMlab at Umeå University (2000-2014). Recent publications include “Contemporary and Future Spaces for Media Studies and Digital Humanities” (in The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities, 2018), Big Digital Humanities (University of Michigan Press. 2016), “The Why and How of Middleware” (with Johanna Drucker. Digital Humanities Quarterly, 2016) and “‘One Damn Slide After Another’: PowerPoint at every Occasion for Speech” (with Erica Robles-Anderson. Computational Culture. 2016). He is currently writing a book on humanistic infrastructure.

The workshop is open to anyone interested, but registration is required and there is limited seating. While there is no cost for the event, registered participants are expected to be present for the entirety of the proceedings or cancel their reservation no later than a week before the event.

Please register online by October 5, 2018.

The workshop has received generous support from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and through Patrik Svensson’s chair at Umeå University (supported by the Wallenberg Foundation) and his visiting professorship in digital humanities at UCLA.

Patrik Svensson, organizer,
Francesca Albrezzi, event support and PhD Candidate, World Art and Cultures/Dance, UCLA,

Event resources will be added continuously until early October.