The various spaces of labs carry with them various implications and capabilities. In this regard, I’m mainly focusing on how “making” takes place based on the material and online infrastructures and interfaces of a DH lab. This train of thought was prompted by work like Jentery Sayers who articulates in his articles how the physical interactions in his labs lead to better material inquiries into older technologies. This made me think about the progression of our own class, along with the what we have been reading, and the implications or capacities of each lab space.
In the beginning of class, we spoke about humanities computing, and the digitizing of literature. I’ll preface that my interest in this online, or “non-physical” space of the “immaterial” lab is not to take away from the material assemblages that make computers, the internet and online communication possible. Instead I’m using the term “non-physical” superficially to think through the differences or similarities between computing as digitizing laboratory work versus makerspaces engaging with material technology objects. This is also not to ignore how these labs spaces can become hybrid spaces of material pursuit and online colloboration with members discussing projects in person or over platforms like Skype. Instead this is to acknowledge how some labs may have less physical interactions or material goals when digitizing, scanning, visualizing or representing data. This type of DH work can take place through non-physical collaborative spaces, and in some of the DH labs present today, still do. For the CATH lab, Professor Radcliffe explained that the CATH lab was a collective of collaborators, and not necessarily a space where people met. This type of non-physical lab can allow for various collaborations over the vast space of the internet (over cables and through servers!), while also taking place in non-lab spaces. Communication is digital, but it is not necessarily restricted by proximity. This space was expanded through the making of digital DH work and expanded through the use of technology. This expansion was not only about digital collection and interpretation, but also about creating digital work.
From this image of the lab space, we then learned about the makerspace and the media archaeology lab. In these “physical” spaces the material object of technology became a prime source of inquiry. These lab spaces allow for experiential learning as the material object becomes a new space for scholarly research. I was very fascinated by Sayer’s article “The Relevance of Remaking”, and all of the matters that Sayers attends to. I felt that Sayer gave more insight into the Parikka and Ernst readings from previous weeks. Those readings at first appeared to be about dissecting the material from the human in order to remove the material history from its cultural position. Sayer’s article shows that material research can be about “what isn’t at hand, or what we don’t know, or what we’re willing to conjecture. In this sense it borrows heavily from traditions in cultural criticism.” In this sense, research becomes imaginative, reconstructive, and somewhat immaterial. These questions raised by Sayers seemed to have very fascinating results. Here, Sayers details how processes or interfaces with “’dead’ or ‘obsolete’ technology in the MLab […] assert themselves.” In this example, Sayers and his team can “reframe normative histories of science, engineering, and technology that typically privilege the perspective of the lone white male inventor.” From Sayer’s article, I see how investigating material objects can situate technology in a wider historical narrative. In these examples, the makerspace appears to be a physical space for testing and handling cultural critiques and analysis in some very interesting avenues with critique informing material processes.
In Sayer’s work, this cultural handling is enacted through a community of collaborators who want to test both the technology and the user interfaces. This had echoes to Matt Ratto’s “Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life”, because the makerspace seems to resist on some levels essentializing and removing the relationship of technology and culture. Instead, it is work that engages both the material and the community in order to dissect how the two interact in processes: “in its focus on the constructive process as the site for analysis.” In Professor Emerson’s interview with Wolfgang Ernst, Ernst appears to paint this also as a work of re-configuring or “re-assembl[ing]” in order to excavate: “Taking machinic elements apart in order to try to reanimate their function is a way of media analysis in the strict sense: not restricted to textual interpretation but to diagramatic reading of circuit plans and material hermeneutics (media-archaeological philology).” This requires a re-working or resisting of the perceived dualism between human and technology, and instead encourages a type of collaboration with materiality in order to try and rediscover functionality in a physical space.
With all of these considerations, it appears that many lab spaces are trying to resist dominant functions of technology as a hidden process of output and efficiency. Working with “obsolete” or “dead” technology is re-envisioning history and various interfaces. Working with technology is acquainting researchers with the material spaces where technology and humans collaborate towards various goals. In some ways, provides further ways to see how there really are no “non-physical” labs, but I make this tenuous distinction to explore the various facets of the different types of work. The lab that I’ll be focusing on for the class discussion is a lab that focuses on digitizing work. The lab, the Digital Innovation Lab at UNC at Chapel Hill works on mapping projects, visual tours, and recovering narratives in history. I hope that in tomorrow’s discussion we can use this lab, along with Sayers’s labs and all of the other labs we’ve delved into in order to discuss the capabilities, differences, similarities, and implications of the varying material and digital work in DH labs.
Ernst, Wolfgang, interview by Lori Emerson. 2013. Archives, Materiality and the “Agency of the Machine”: An Interview with Wolfgang Ernst (February 8). Accessed November 28, 2015. http://blogs.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2013/02/archives-materiality-and-agency-of-the-machine-an-interview-with-wolfgang-ernst/.
Hertz, Garnet and Jussi Parikka. “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method.” Leonardo 45.5 (2012): 424-30. Print.
Ratto, Matt. “Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life.” The Information Society: An International Journal 27.4 (2011): 252-60. Print.