Digital history & historiography

Knowledge Infrastructures and Digital Governance workshop

operas workshop
Organised in the framework of the OPERAS-P project, the online workshop was held on 7 and 8 September 2020 with the aim of combining theoretical and practical perspectives on issues that are constantly developing as a result of the wide-ranging forms and aims of research infrastructures and the challenges facing digital governance.

The Knowledge Infrastructures and Digital Governance workshop was held over two afternoons on 7 and 8 September 2020. It was organised for WP6 of the OPERAS-P project by Valérie Schafer and Lars Wieneke (C²DH, University of Luxembourg), who co-lead Task 1 for reflection on new forms of governance, especially using digital technologies. The aim of this event, held online due to the ongoing public health situation, was to combine theoretical and practical perspectives on issues that are constantly developing as a result of the wide-ranging forms and aims of research infrastructures and the challenges facing digital governance – whether based on generic or specialised tools, on infrastructures that are proprietary or shared, open or closed, more or less decentralised, etc.

The organising committee (Pierre Mounier (OPERAS, OpenEdition, EHESS), Suzanne Dumouchel (OPERAS, TRIPLE, Huma-Num, CNRS), Sherri Barnes (UCSB Library, COPIM), Janneke Adema (Open Humanities Press, ScholarLed, Coventry University, COPIM) and Cameron Neylon (Curtin University), all of whom also chaired a session) was delighted with the variety of proposals and approaches, a variety that was palpable in the choice of infrastructures or tools themselves, which ranged from DARIAH (contributions by Christoph Kudella and Francesca Morselli) and Archives Portal Europe (presentation by Marta Musso) to DEIP and Meoh. The methodologies and theoretical approaches were just as wide-ranging, with STS strongly represented, as emphasised by session chair Francesca Musiani (Internet & Society Center, CNRS), but equally fascinating contributions on inalienable infrastructures by Marcel LaFlamme (Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft), on care, on the role of multistakeholderism (in the address by Maxime Bouillard and Gaël Van Weyenbergh from Meoh) and on infrastructural genealogies and legacies. The audience’s attention was drawn to this last point at the very start of the workshop, with the keynote by Patrik Svensson (Professor of Humanities and Information Technology at Umeå University and Visiting Professor of Digital Humanities at UCLA). His keynote entitled “Shifting Frames: Towards Humane Infrastructures” highlighted the profoundly human dimension of these sociotechnical infrastructures and the agencies and configurations they involve (keynote available here, see also references). He also issued an invitation to reflect on the question of scales, low tech, etc. With a focus on values, “good governance”, negotiations and institutional and political challenges, participants were therefore encouraged from the outset to explore and embrace multiple perspectives on knowledge infrastructures and their digital governance. Challenges related to the digital economy and openness were a central thread in the contributions of the first session, which introduced DEIP (Decentralized Innovation Protocol), an Open Innovation Network designed to foster international and interdisciplinary collaboration among innovators, researchers and industry experts (see PPT). This digital ecosystem introduces a merit-based multidimensional reputation system and incentive models. The address by Samuel Moore was also an opportunity to explore the approach adopted by the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) project and more specifically its work on governance (presentation available here). The focus of the second session was DARIAH, in particular the way in which it fosters cooperation and paves the way for sustainability, with the contribution by Christoph Kudella (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, DARIAH-DE) (see PPT) and the presentation on “Institutional Dynamics in Research. Processes of Co-creation in Research Infrastructures” by Francesca Morselli (DANS-KNAW, DARIAH, University of Verona). Here again, theoretical aspects (such as the notion of the “forkability” of a project), pragmatic issues and case studies were used to showcase infrastructures in action, explore their internal and contextual complexity and emphasise their need to be embedded in both the national and international landscape. Opening the second day of reflections on the notion of inalienable infrastructures, Marcel LaFlamme (Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft) referred to feminist anthropologist Annette Weiner’s contributions to exchange theory as a means of encouraging reflection on maintenance and temporalities (presentation available). In “Networked Governance and Multistakeholder Cooperation”, Maxime Bouillard and Gael Van Weyenbergh (MEOH), with Valérie Schafer and Lars Wieneke (C²DH, University of Luxembourg), reported back on a round table at DG2020 and drew on the design experience of MEOH to invite participants to explore notions of trust and asymmetries associated with multistakeholderism.

Marta Musso’s contribution, which pieced together the cultural and political background of Archives Portal Europe and identified some of the issues and solutions facing it, inspired participants to reflect on the uses and institutional relations at work in this multilevel international aggregator, while also raising questions linked to multilingualism. This empirical analysis was complemented by Linda Sīle (Centre for R&D Monitoring (ECOOM), University of Antwerp). She drew on an exploratory study of twelve national databases for research output currently operational in Europe to present an approach based on a matrix-like constellation that aims to highlight the complex shaping of these systems.

The concluding remarks and questions from the audience, some of whom also shared documentation and experience, highlighted issues that merit further analysis, from one participant’s proposal to develop a typology of governance models for research infrastructures, as has been done in other fields of governance, to the need to consider both the legacies and the failures of these systems.