Grants, Fellowships & CFPs

UCHRI Technohumanities: Exploratory Workshop on Experimentation

Event Date: Monday, February 19th, 2018

UCHRI invites University of California faculty, graduate students, and recent PhDs, as well as independent scholars and artists, to submit letters of interest and paper abstracts to attend an all-day workshop on the topic of experimentation and the humanities. The aim of this workshop will be to explore innovative agendas, develop partnerships, and formulate ideas for new methodologies that advance multidisciplinary, multimodal examinations of the topic. The workshop looks broadly at the topic of experimentation to include innovative practices; the “experimental” in both historical and contemporary frames; explorations of trial, error, and the scientific method; and cross-disciplinary dialectics. Likewise, participants should find inspiration in exploring the topic’s diverse iterations in order to form collaborative research studios on humanities experimentation during the 2018-19 academic year.

Eligible Applicants

UC faculty, graduate students, and recent PhDs; non-UC faculty; independent scholars; artists; media professionals.

Maximum Award

Travel, lodging, and meals to attend the event; potential opportunity for additional funds to participate in the year-long research studio.

Award Announced (Expected)

March 2018

Funding Source

The Horizons of the Humanities initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation.

Program Details

In Spring 2018, UCHRI will host an exploratory all-day workshop on the topic of experimentation and the humanities to facilitate face-to-face networking and proposal development among groups of scholars and artists. The exploratory workshop will bring together up to 10 competitively-selected UC faculty and graduate students, journalists, artists, and other public scholars for one day of networking, sharing research ideas, and building an interdisciplinary research team on a new topic.

The purpose of the exploratory workshop is to forge research collaborations and partnerships beyond those typically found within traditional academic structures. To that end, we encourage applications from both UC humanities and non-humanities faculty and graduate students who are working on the topic of humanistically applicable experimentation. We are open also to proposals from public scholars and artists from throughout California working along these lines. In a roundtable setting, participants will present brief accounts of experimentation in their  humanities or humanities-related research, on their experimental methods, applications, impacts, and assessments.

While establishing research affinities during the workshop, we encourage participants to think broadly about the topic of experimentation and to explore interdisciplinary, multimodal scholarship and methods, as well as an expanded definition of research outcomes. Promising research collaborations that emerge from this workshop will be considered for a longer-term research working group as part of UCHRI’s Horizon of the Humanities Initiative in order to conduct a year-long Experimentation Studio. Studio groups will design interdisciplinary projects as well as one public program in conjunction with their project, which the team will carry out with administrative support from their UCHRI collaboration.

Topic Details

“If you want to be a productive researcher, you have to conduct your experiments in such a way that you can be surprised by the outcome, so that unexpected things can occur. This only happens if, on the one hand, experiments are precisely set up but, on the other hand, are complex enough to leave the door open for surprise.”

—Hans-Jorg Rheinberger in conversation with Michael Schwab

Experimentation, once the province of science, is no longer an unfamiliar term in the arts and humanities both as a method and as an object of study.  Concomitant with the rise of digital technology, there has been a resurgence of interest in process-oriented and open-ended research methods such as visualization, mapping, simulation, and modeling, all of which share some processual overlap with experimentation. These and other new practices are changing the epistemological basis on which humanities research is conducted, and are helping to create new kinds of knowledge.

Experimentation, and its role in shaping humanistic thought, takes on a particularly urgent meaning at a time when ecological crises, media proliferation, resurgent authoritarian populism, and economic precarity combine to blur long-cherished distinctions between humans, and technologies. Algorithmic governance and lively nonhuman agents all force new imperatives upon humanist inquiry. Here, experimental engagements with the contemporary can offer generative imaginations of both creative and repressive futures.

As a collaborative practice, experimentation calls on humanists to develop new modes of research that are attuned to principles of community, dialogue, and cohabitation. In a moment when there is intense pressure on humanists to produce quantifiable knowledge in the form of clear “outcomes”, this studio calls on scholars and practitioners to reflect on experimentation as a method for critically addressing the instrumentalization of the humanities in the university and more generally. The studio will be a space for interdisciplinary, collaborative work committed both to the process of generating experimental knowledge-making and outcomes in the humanities. We encourage collaborations between humanists, artists, and scientists that combine modes of experimental practice to redefine the shape and outcomes of knowledge.

We invite letters of interest from scholars, artists, and researchers that (a) include a paper abstract, and (b) reflect on experimentation as an object of study and as a research method. Potential areas of inquiry include:

  • Historical legacies of experimentation as an expression of creativity as well as power
  • Experimental dialogues between the human, social, and natural sciences
  • Experiments as sites of collaboration, collusion, and deception
  • The democratic experiment and the future of collectivity
  • Experimentation as work and play
  • Experimental thinking as epistemology and/or cultural value system
  • Role of experimentation in the blurring of distinctions between human, machine, and animal; animalization of human life/anthropomorphizing of the animal and machinic, technologics
  • Dialogues between experiments in humanistic and artistic practices.

Application Details

Applicants must apply online via UCHRI’s FastApps system. Required documents include:

  • Curriculum Vitae/Resume of the participant
  • Letter of Intent (800 words max) outlining your interest in the topic of experimentation and how a collaborative engagement would contribute to your research profile.
  • Brief abstract (350 words max) of the project(s) to be presented at the workshop

Successful applications should clearly demonstrate interest in broad, inductive accounts on the subject of experimentation from a multi-disciplinary point of view. Though participants will be given an opportunity briefly to outline their own contributions to the theme of experimentation, they should expect to design collaborative projects that may not be direct outgrowths of their own research.

For program related questions, please contact Alison Annunziata, research programs manager:

For technical assistance with FastApps, contact

Please include the name of the program for which you need assistance.

*Your proposal information and biography may be used in publications should you be chosen to participate.

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