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MLA 2017 – Knowledge Infrastructures in the Humanities

[The deadline for submissions to MLA 2017 has passed. Additionally, and embarrassingly, I misstated the deadline for submissions, which should have been 18 March rather than 18 April — since the deadline for submissions to MLA 2017 was 1 April 2016. I apologise to anyone who may have been waiting to submit a proposal.]


Knowledge Infrastructures in the Humanities

What are the knowledge infrastructures, both material and social, that underlie the everyday work of knowledge creation that we undertake as scholars working in the humanities? How do they function? What are the infrastructural “things” and “relations” that influence or determine the nature or scope of our thinking and the forms of our outputs?

In their introduction to a special issue of Science & Technology Studies, Karasti et al. write that

Because knowledge infrastructures always embody some kind of political agenda, because they ‘grow’ on a pre-existing installed base – ‘piggybacking’ on other infrastructures–they pose multiple sources of friction, conflict, or resistance activities . . . . Of particular importance for the study of . . . knowledge infrastructures . . . are the processes by which pieces of knowledge are produced, circulated, repurposed, boxed, contested, or validated. This may imply looking at, among other things, how ‘raw’ data become ‘cooked’ to produce information, how a standard is enacted, in what ways a system gets repurposed, or how new representations are constructed to quantify risks for the environment.

This panel is an attempt to explore the material and social aspects of knowledge work in the humanities in ways that are often taken for granted or de-emphasised in favour of theoretical abstractions or critical distancing.

Proposals might (for example) discuss the organisation of space and people in universities, including classrooms, campus layouts, libraries, etc; the materials of knowledge making, including notebooks, computers, writing utensils, server farms, etc; sites of collaborative creation in the humanities, including wikis, Google Docs, or perhaps whiteboards; or the role of shared software infrastructure in university administration via platforms for managing enrolment, courses, human resources, records, etc.

Particularly welcome are proposals that discuss material infrastructures in terms of contested power or political identification.

If accepted to MLA17, this panel will be non-traditional. Papers will be pre-written, circulated internally, and published on MLA Commons prior to the session. During the panel, participants will present 5-minute synopses of their work, with the remainder of the time devoted to discussion and questions.

Please send a 250 – 500 word abstract and a brief biographical note (2-3 sentences) to daniel.j.powell[at]kcl.ac.uk by 18 April 2016.

Do not hesitate to be in touch informally about a proposal, either at the above email or on twitter @djp2025. 🙂

NB: This is not a guaranteed session at MLA, but will be packaged and submitted as a Special Session proposal. Participants must be  MLA members (or have their membership waived) by 7 April, and no more than two participants (including the session leader and respondent) may be from the same institution unless the institution is a key aspect of the session.

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