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

Picture of people and technology
Monday, October 22, 2018 - 3:00am to Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - 3:00am

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! The workshop will be followed by seminars and discussions in the afternoon of October 23. Please see below for information on registration and event details. And please check back for updates and additions!

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?

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’.

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.

For more information on the workshop and the list of invited participants, please see: 

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,


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