A Laboratory as the Infrastructure of Engagement : Epistemological Reflections

Urszula Pawlicka-Deger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number24
Pages (from-to)1-37
Number of pages37
JournalOpen Library of Humanities
Volume6
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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