The Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe is Digital Humanities Lab that is a public based center that partners with the University of Luxembourg as well as national government ministries and national archives and museums. It has multiple projects that examine “European integration,” which interrogates sites such as publications, research data, tools, services, public networks, skills and many other forms of institutionalized and academic knowledge infrastructure (“CVCE”). It also looks toward the sustainability of European fundamentals from economic to environmental models and its integration into global communities (“CVCE”). I decided to focus on this space after looking at ten to fifteen different lab spaces because I wanted to find something that was in conversation with Braidotti. Interestingly this lab osciallates (for me at least) between illustrating between what Braidotti describes and the complete opposite as some projects are very posthumanistic in their approach while others “use the following human-centred methods to assist development projects: interviews and questionnaires with our users, development of static and interactive wireframes, user stories and prototype testing, and short iterative development cycles to produce useful products” (“CVCE”). Therefore I think it is an interesting site of study to consider if we can ever have a posthuman space and what it truly means to be posthuman.
Braidotti states that as through the qualitative shift in humanity’s reasoning that “discourses and representations of the non-human, the inhuman, the antihuman, the inhumane and the posthuman proliferate and overlap in our globalized, technologically mediated societies” (2). Therefore this alters or calls for an alteration of infrastructure at the base level of society. This type of rhetoric is reiterated in the language of the Digital Humanities Lab at the Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe, which unlike many other Digital Humanities centers is a public based center that partners with the University of Luxembourg as well as national government ministries and national archives and museums. Perhaps because of its unique position in that it is not responsible to university restrictions and protocols this type of digital humanities research illustrates some of the more posthuman aspects that Braidotti discusses. As Braidotti argues the shift to the posthuman displaces the anthrocentrism in Humanities witnessed in the heavy emphasis on the creation and interrogation of infrastructure by the CVCE. However, this is done in relation to the national effects of infrastructure and knowledge production and thus illustrates Braidotti’s optimistic view that this in turn actually “opens up new global, eco-sophical dimensions” (145). For example, the CVCE proposed a new project titled BLIZAAR, which obtains information on the organizations, source documents and researchers involved in academic institutions in Europe (“CVCE to Start BLIZAAR”). This project then uses the humans and their technology as a basis to develop new types of visualizations in order to understand the limitations and possibilities of visualization. There is a connection to Pickering’s mangle through the connection between the influences of the machines and humans, or Latour and Woolgar’s argument about the co-evolvement of the social and the sciences. However perhaps what is different is the level of detail through which this development is applicable. I struggle to see the “newness” of this argument that Braidotti is making and see its reiterative value.
Furthermore this argument of the multiple posthuman future of the multi-versity is potentially reflected in the CVCE. For Braidotti, “a university that looks like the world of today can only be a ‘multi-versity’, is an exploded and expanded institution that will affirm a constructive post-humanity” (184); the CVCE is connected to dozens of organizations, institutions and hundreds of researchers, and accessible online and much of the research is done virtually. I wonder if this is what Braidotti imagines when she talks about the potential of the future. In Braidotti’s argument she states that the university should not function to prepare people for the labour market but “also for its own sake” (185). But what does “for its own sake” mean? How can we achieve knowledge for its own sake if the university always has a corporate interest?
Perhaps it is through her statement that: “affirmation, not nostalgia, is the road to pursue: not the idealization of philosophical meta-discourse, but the more pragmatic task of self-transformation through humble experimentation” (150). Therefore experimentation could be the variable that defines the posthuman aspect that influences the development of the multi-versity. One of the problems that this experimentation breeds is questions of identity. This has been raised by Alan Liu in his essay in the PMLA in 2013 as well as through Matthew Kirschenbaum. By using experimentation, the humanities are still“epistemologically grounded and consequently they enable the contemporary Humanities to clarify their own methods and mechanisms of knowledge production. However, the very interdisciplinary nature of these new research areas does not facilitate the task of providing a new synthesis of the field. This wealth of approaches therefore re-opens the old question of the generic identity of the Humanities as a discipline” (Braidotti 156). How do questions of identity then explore the problems in the institutional structure? One of the ways in which this centers engages is through the idea of posthuman ethics as it “implies a new way of combining ethical values with the well-being of an enlarged sense of community, which includes one’s territorial or environmental interconnections” (190). Therefore is it through the ethical values and thus resulting communities that the Humanities finds its new identities?
I realize this blog post was very rambly, but this text very much raised more questions than provided more answers.