Erica Robles, now at NYU, and I discussed infrastructure a couple of years ago using the term “humanistiscope” as a way of thinking about and packaging humanities infrastructure. We are doing other infrastructure-related work together now, but I am still thinking about the humanistiscope – and am now wrapping up a chapter on it and situated humanities infrastructure. This is the current version first paragraph (obviously a teaser mainly for infrastructurally inclined people):
The humanities have a complex relation to infrastructure. Humanists engage with infrastructure – the university itself, digital systems and tools, cultural heritage institutions, seminar rooms and networked computing – on a daily basis. They also carry out critical work on infrastructures through looking at matters such as the history of scientific instrumentation and the social, cultural and political situatedness of systems such as national infrastructures. However, when it comes to thinking about the humanities in terms of infrastructure, there seems to be a lack of both every-day systemic awareness and extensive critical work. Humanists do not thus necessarily think of what they do as situated and conditioned in terms of infrastructure, which leads to challenges when it comes to imagining and implementing new infrastructures. This challenge is also one of moving from critical sensibility to creative, if conditioned, making, which often does not come easy to the humanities. There is therefore a real risk that new humanities infrastructures will be based on existing infrastructures, often filtered through the technological side of the humanities, or predominant models from science and engineering rather than the core and central needs of the humanities. This is arguably a very important concern and possibility for the humanities. This chapter explores the conditions necessary to allow the imagination and implementation of humanities-based infrastructures as conceptually, critically and materially situated.
The humanistiscope is a rhetorical and actual device to help us think about and implement infrastructure. More on this topic later!