Sussex Humanities Lab Open Thursdays

SHL Open Lab Thursdays are an informal opportunity for co-working, experimentation, collaboration, and dialogue (also in the garden when the weather allows) facilitated by SHL Research Technician Alex Peverett.

We invite people to come and use the space and meet others engaged with: Technology, Creative Practice, Hacking, Making, Experimental Technology, Critical Making, Techno Feminism, Gaming, Media Archaeology, Music, Digital Art, Practice as Research, and more.

These informal sessions are following on from the ECT maker meetups for experimental & creative technology last term where Sussex students and researchers met, co-worked and skill swapped. 

Drop in, no booking required. All welcome!

Sussex Humanities Lab, Silverstone, SB211

Embodiment Hackathon

One recent weeked, as April turned to May, a group of the curious gathered in the Sussex Humanities Lab was home for the Embodiment Hackathon, facilitated by SHL’s visiting artist-researcher Sissel Marie Tonn along with Dominique Savitri Bonarjee, Emilie GilesSam Bilbow, Fiona Miller, and Jonathan Reus.

“What am I doing?” Dominique Savitri Bonarjee reflects on the Embodiment Hackathon over on her site.

Researcher Guide to Writing a Climate Justice Oriented Data Management Plan

The Digital Humanities Climate Coalition, which began as an initiative between the SHL Experimental Ecologies group, and working groups within Edinburgh, Southampton, and the Turing Institute, has just launched the Researcher Guide to Writing a Climate Justice Oriented Data Management Plan.

This should be of interest to anyone who’s considering applying for UKRI funding (or any funding), or who is already running a project. It’s a slinky little two page guide exploring how we can reframe data management within research projects, to put appropriate emphasis on climate justice. It emphasises what can be done now, within existing frameworks. In an appendix, it also explores how the DMP section might transform in the future.

We expect to iterate fairly rapidly, and welcome all feedback and suggestions, as well as potential deeper collaboration. If you’d like to signal boost on Twitter, here’s James’s tweet launching the guide.

Kate Shields, artist-in-residence

SHL welcomes our new artist-in-residence Kate Shields, who will be developing the project GUTS over the next three months. GUTS explores the experience of living with the long-term chronic health condition Ulcerative Colitis. Kate writes:

My residency began officially on Friday, and my aim is to write about my process each week here. Through the Lab, I hope to approach the subject of chronic health in more community-minded and digital-based ways.

Read more here.

Three high contrast black and white images of a performance artist, spot-lit on stage, straining their muscles as they drag a toilet to which they are tied or chained. Across the three images, it seems to barely move ...

SHL Priority Areas — what are they and why?

A short reflection one year on 

By Sharon Webb 

In 2021 the Sussex Humanities Lab, one of the University’s four flagship research programmes, reviewed and re-evaluated its research structure. In an effort to amplify voices within the Lab, and to attract new voices and contributors from outside of it, we devised eight so-called priority areas that reflect current research and the expertise of our members. These priority areas allow us to highlight our research and provide a structure for our seminar and open workshop series, as well as a way to support strategic research development and grant capture. A year in, we are reflecting on how this structure has or hasn’t worked. Either way, through this structure we have managed, despite Covid challenges, to develop a programme of work which has provided crucial points of discussion, dialogue, debate, and growth.  

Our priority areas aim to further build research capacity across the University and to provide entry points to new Lab associates and to the wider community. We recognise that for some it can be difficult to know exactly what the Lab “does,” and we hoped our priority areas would help demystify that. The fact is, we do a lot: we are diverse, and we work in such an agile manner that it can be difficult to pin us down – this has its advantages and disadvantages!

We define ourselves as a Lab because we are a space of doing, of experimenting, of making (watch this space for a co-authored chapter on this very topic soon). Our collaborations cut across boundaries and as a group we all work in an explicitly transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary fashion. Our work is also value-driven, with a concern for ethics, equalities and diversity work, and by social justice and sustainability issues. In that regard, we are driven by a set of values explicitly written into the fabric of the University of Sussex, and indeed values embedded in our home school, the School of Media, Arts and Humanities. It is probably no surprise then that many of our priority areas reflect these values and concerns, cutting across disciplines and subject areas – such as ‘Philosophy of AI’ or ‘Uncertainty and Interpretability of AI’ , led by Beatrice Fazi (MAH) and Ivor Simpson (EngInf) respectively. ‘Experimental Ecologies’, led by Alice Eldridge (Music), is concerned with developing wider disciplinary understanding our (human and other organisms) environmental relations in the anthropocene, where the biosphere and technosphere are irrevocably linked.  In this way ‘Experimental Ecologies’ aims to foster:

post-disciplinary research where arts and humanities, natural and computational sciences, traditional indigenous knowledge, and everyday local experiences have an equal footing in addressing key environmental issues at human-environment interfaces.

In this area, “an equal footing” is key, and this perspective and outlook informs much of work in other priority areas developed by Lab members. My own area for example, ‘Intersectionality, Community and Computational Technology’ (ICCT) highlights, challenges, and disrupts the way in which computational technology reproduces and reinforces various inequalities in society. It is concerned with, reflective of, and feeds into the value system of the Lab but it is also concerned with research that is driven by perspectives of equity and inclusion. Above all it is community driven, and its foundations are born from collaborative work with queer and intersectional feminist communities and research praxis – community perspectives are on par (on an equal footing) with academic ones. This priority area reflects existing work within the Lab, specifically through the ‘Feminist Approaches to Computational Technology (FACT) Network, the ARHC-IRC funded network grant, ‘Intersectionality, Feminism, Technology and Digital Humanities’ (IFTe), whose overaching objective is to:

‘un-code’ gendered assumptions, question our digital environments and systems, and embed intersectional feminist methods and theory within DH with a view to the creation of new DH futures

And more recently, ‘Full Stack Feminism in Digital Humanities’, a two-year project jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) and the Irish Research Council and part of their ‘UK-Ireland Collaboration in Digital Humanities Research Grants Call. This project aims to develop feminist praxis, methodologies, and ethics from within and across Digital Humanities projects and research. “Full stack” means we are concerned with issues related to inequalities in DH that span from the infrastructure layer to the representation layer – it reaches, and cuts, across all types of environments. In this sense, the Lab’s priority areas represent critical mass of research that grows through engagement within and across the Lab. 

You can read about all our priority areas and ways that you might get involved here: 

Our priority areas represent things that we care about, things that we want to grow, areas we want to foster and nurture. They are not static or fixed but rather a means for us to articulate our priorities but as we know priorities change as we as individuals, as members of society, as colleagues in a School/University develop. We nurture these areas not for the Lab’s own benefit but for the benefit of those that engage with us.  

So, reflecting a year on, does the structure work? Maybe it doesn’t matter what structure we have if the right conversations are happening, if the right collaborations are developing, and if ultimately our members, our community feel involved. Our research structure can only be judged by the collaborations and research they foster, and in this regard, I think we’re not doing too bad!  

Prepping Robo_Op (2021)

SHL Welcomes Two Research Fellows

Sissell Marie Tonn is working on foundational research and media experimentation for a new artwork The Sentinel Self – an immersive interactive narrative built in the game engine Unity, which will creatively explore the shared threat of microplastics to living organisms and their environments.

Ian Winters is working on the Domestic Light project, a timely work, conceived in and for a COVID and post-COVID world, which explores the nature of our relationship to the character of light, home, and the passage of time – through the spectral footprint of light in homes worldwide. The project will result in a series of new installation light-sound works in San Francisco and Richmond; a live online work showing the color of light/dark around the planet during the year; and a broad Bay Area community engagement program that includes a series of panel discussions, work-in-progress presentations, a LASER lecture and a special print/online publication in the Leonardo Journal.  

PhD Community Advocates

From the SHL newsletter:

We’re a group of PGRs who want to connect people and build a community of doctoral researchers and makers through activities based in fun, creativity and researcher skills development. We will be organising several ongoing events over the next few months including:

WALKSHOPS
The walk shop is a peer-led meetup group for researchers to walk out and share any research woes, plan the week, celebrate successes and stomp through procrastination blocks. Each Monday at 10 am, we will set off and walk out the week ahead. More info & registration

NEURODIVERGENT ART JAM
A series of art-making and creative writing workshops for PGRs who identify as neurodivergent, culminating in an exhibition to share creative work and raise the profile of neurodivergent experience at the University of Sussex.

Attendees can sign up for 3 two-hour long workshops, which will be limited to 10 participants and neurodivergent focused/friendly More info & registration (Funded by the Researcher-led Initiative Fund)

ARCHIVING AND DIGITAL SKILLS WORKSHOPS (coming soon)
This series of workshops act as an introduction to creative archiving and digital skills/methods, and will be held online and in person in the lab. Our workshops aim to be welcoming, interactive and a space for participants to think about and discuss their own research.

COLLABORATIVE PLAYLISTING (coming soon)
For when you want to get involved but don’t have much time to spare, we will also be running an ongoing series of collaborative playlists. For these playlists you will be able to suggest music you’d like to be included.

The Digital Humanities Climate Coalition

After some wonderfully galvanising encounters in late 2021, Digital Humanities Climate Coalition is now officially a thing. It’s a collaborative and cross-institutional initiative focused on what DH researchers (broadly construed) can do in times of climate crisis and climate transition, especially understanding and improving the environmental impact of DH research. Participants are based at HE institutions and DH Centres across the UK, Ireland, and Northern Europe. There are three working groups doing things over the course of 2022, plus a reading group. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, you can do so here.