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PARTHENOS-project.eu
The infrastructural Turn in
Humanities Research
ESU Leipzig, 2016
Dr Jennifer Edmond
Trinity College Dublin
PARTHENOS-project.eu
Research Infrastructure, Knowledge Infrastructure
To begin with the historical dimension, it is worth
noting that it was in the field of Humanities that the
idea of an RI was first born. It is not possible here
to write a cultural history of RIs but it is most
insightful to note that as early as the 3rd century
B.C., the imperative to collect, organise and
conserve the knowledge acquired in the service of
the advancement of knowledge gave birth to the
first ever ‘Information Centre’ in the form of the
Mouseion, a cultural centre, university and library
founded in Alexandria under the successors of
Alexander the Great. The positive consequences of
this ambitious venture soon became obvious, as
the production of various RIs in the form of
Grammars and Lexica proliferated.
PARTHENOS-project.eu
Part 2: The ‘Long Now’ of Research Infrastructure
Indeed, it has been suggested that the ‘long now’ of cyberinfrastructure:…is
about 200 years. This is when two suites of changes began to occur in the
organization of knowledge and the academy which have accompanied – slowly
– the rise of an information infrastructure to support them: an exponential
increase in information gathering activities by the state (statistics) and
knowledge workers (the encyclopedists) on the one hand and the
accompanying development of technologies and organizational practices to sort,
sift and store information.
P. Edwards, S. Jackson, G Bowker and C Knobel, Understanding Infrastructure: Dynamics, Tensions and
Design, http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/49353, last accessed 16 November 2012, 3.
PARTHENOS-project.eu
2006: A Turning Point
Publication of the ESFRI Roadmap: ‘to describe the scientific needs for Research
Infrastructures for the next 10-20 years, on the basis of a methodology recognised by all
stakeholders, and take into account input from relevant inter-governmental research
organisations as well as the industrial community.’
European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, European Roadmap for Research
Infrastructures, Report 2006, 5
PARTHENOS-project.eu
2006: A Turning Point II
 Publication of ‘Our Cultural Commonwealth’
 http://www.acls.org/cyberinfrastructure/ourculturalcommonwealth.pdf
PARTHENOS-project.eu
Research Infrastructures as ‘below the level of the work’
 [operating] without specifying exactly how work is to be done or exactly how information is to
be processed (Forster and King, 1995). Most systems that attempt to force conformity to a
particular conception of a work process (e.g. Lotus Notes) have failed to achieve
infrastructural status because they violate this principle (Grudin, 1989; Vandenbosch and
Ginzberg, 1996). By contrast, email has become fully infrastructural because it can be used
for virtually any work task.
 Edwards, Jackson, Bowker and Knobel, Understanding Infrastructure, 17.
PARTHENOS-project.eu
Challenges to the (Digital) Library
 Capacity to maintain what is produced by scholars (from shelves to racks)
 Capacity to enable new methodologies (beyond reading to‘distant
reading,’ from history to ‘transnational history’)
 Capacity to be open (or indeed ‘inside out’), and to facilitate ‘data soup’
 Capacity to maintain high‘up-front’ investment mentality
Moretti, Franco. Conjectures on World Literature. New Left Review 1, Jan/Feb 2000.
PARTHENOS-project.eu
Challenges to the (Digital) Library
PARTHENOS-project.eu
Thank you
www.parthenos-project.eu
Jennifer Edmond
Trinity College Dublin
edmondj@tcd.ie www.tcd.ie

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Parthenos Training: Infrastructures - The infrastructural turn

  • 1. PARTHENOS-project.eu The infrastructural Turn in Humanities Research ESU Leipzig, 2016 Dr Jennifer Edmond Trinity College Dublin
  • 2. PARTHENOS-project.eu Research Infrastructure, Knowledge Infrastructure To begin with the historical dimension, it is worth noting that it was in the field of Humanities that the idea of an RI was first born. It is not possible here to write a cultural history of RIs but it is most insightful to note that as early as the 3rd century B.C., the imperative to collect, organise and conserve the knowledge acquired in the service of the advancement of knowledge gave birth to the first ever ‘Information Centre’ in the form of the Mouseion, a cultural centre, university and library founded in Alexandria under the successors of Alexander the Great. The positive consequences of this ambitious venture soon became obvious, as the production of various RIs in the form of Grammars and Lexica proliferated.
  • 3. PARTHENOS-project.eu Part 2: The ‘Long Now’ of Research Infrastructure Indeed, it has been suggested that the ‘long now’ of cyberinfrastructure:…is about 200 years. This is when two suites of changes began to occur in the organization of knowledge and the academy which have accompanied – slowly – the rise of an information infrastructure to support them: an exponential increase in information gathering activities by the state (statistics) and knowledge workers (the encyclopedists) on the one hand and the accompanying development of technologies and organizational practices to sort, sift and store information. P. Edwards, S. Jackson, G Bowker and C Knobel, Understanding Infrastructure: Dynamics, Tensions and Design, http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/49353, last accessed 16 November 2012, 3.
  • 4. PARTHENOS-project.eu 2006: A Turning Point Publication of the ESFRI Roadmap: ‘to describe the scientific needs for Research Infrastructures for the next 10-20 years, on the basis of a methodology recognised by all stakeholders, and take into account input from relevant inter-governmental research organisations as well as the industrial community.’ European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, European Roadmap for Research Infrastructures, Report 2006, 5
  • 5. PARTHENOS-project.eu 2006: A Turning Point II  Publication of ‘Our Cultural Commonwealth’  http://www.acls.org/cyberinfrastructure/ourculturalcommonwealth.pdf
  • 6. PARTHENOS-project.eu Research Infrastructures as ‘below the level of the work’  [operating] without specifying exactly how work is to be done or exactly how information is to be processed (Forster and King, 1995). Most systems that attempt to force conformity to a particular conception of a work process (e.g. Lotus Notes) have failed to achieve infrastructural status because they violate this principle (Grudin, 1989; Vandenbosch and Ginzberg, 1996). By contrast, email has become fully infrastructural because it can be used for virtually any work task.  Edwards, Jackson, Bowker and Knobel, Understanding Infrastructure, 17.
  • 7. PARTHENOS-project.eu Challenges to the (Digital) Library  Capacity to maintain what is produced by scholars (from shelves to racks)  Capacity to enable new methodologies (beyond reading to‘distant reading,’ from history to ‘transnational history’)  Capacity to be open (or indeed ‘inside out’), and to facilitate ‘data soup’  Capacity to maintain high‘up-front’ investment mentality Moretti, Franco. Conjectures on World Literature. New Left Review 1, Jan/Feb 2000.

Editor's Notes

  1. http://www.esf.org/hosting-experts/scientific-review-groups/humanities-hum/strategic-activities/research-infrastructures-in-the-humanities.html