The Digital Studies cluster aims to provide a forum for MLaC staff, students and collaborators working on any aspect of the interrelation of the humanities and the sciences, identified in the School’s research strategy as one of our peaks of international research excellence. Its activities will promote both internal and external collaboration, cultivating shared interests within the School while also engaging with international partners. In addition to fostering intra-Durham research, the cluster will also form one node within the Digital Studies Network, which is run from the Institut de Recherches et d’Innovation in Paris’s Centre Pompidou and incorporates further nodes in Dublin (Dublin Institute of Technology), Berkley, Cambridge, Tokyo (Todai University), and Quito (Universidad Estatal Amazónica). We hope that events held in Durham might serve as a basis for collaboration with other members of the network and vice versa, and will investigate ways of sharing events with participants elsewhere, for example, by live-streaming seminars.
Two major recent growth areas in the humanities are Science and Technology Studies (STS) and the digital humanities. The former sets about exploring the cultural embeddedness of discourses of knowledge, while the latter seeks to reinvent the tools of cultural analysis for the 21st century. They are brought together in the nascent field of digital studies. Derived from digitus, referring to the distal limbs through which we manipulate tools and thereby organize the neuronal connections of the sensory cortex, digital studies is the study of the interrelation of culture and nature, technical prostheses and biological architecture. Drawing on works from the medical and cognitive humanities, as well as evolutionary science and the history of science and technology, it reconceives cultural studies around the different ways in which our tools – be they texts, paintbrushes, clothes, optical lenses, scientific discourses or modern computers – have, over the course of cultural history, transformed both the body and the brain. Related to this, digital studies looks into how ideas about what the human (aubhuman, posthuman, transhuman…) and humanity consist in are formed by scientific enquiry into the world, the cosmos and our place within them. It is interested, too, in questions of how the humanities can thrive in a cultural context that is increasingly dominated by a scientific and technological worldview; how our own therapeutic value can be preserved and reinvented through the creation of ‘third cultures’ that bridge the arts and the sciences, notably including through the cultivation of digital research tools.
The creation of the Digital Studies research cluster lends itself to a number of projects already being developed by MLaC staff in conjunction with the Centre for Humanities Innovation, the Centre for Medical Humanities, the Centre for the Coevolution of Biology and Culture, IAS, IMEMS, IHRR, iARC and DHDurham, and will look in the future to establish links with the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures, among others. Several funding bids in preparation will provide the blueprint for others to be developed through the digital studies cluster, and members will pursue impact projects with various industrial and governmental partners.
Contact Gerald Moore for more information.