My new open access article has been published in the Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. Based on the ethnography of King’s Digital Lab, I analyse Feasibility documents and propose a theoretical and methodological approach towards the study of documents in digital research production. The full article is available here.
Documents have been increasingly recognised as important objects of investigation in Science and Technology Studies (STS); however, so far, much less attention has been given to the study of documents produced in Digital Humanities. The author proposes therefore to use the method of the ‘STS of documents’ and analyse Feasibility documents that aim to assess technical and design requirements based on research questions and to organise a project workflow. Drawing on the ethnography of King’s Digital Lab, the article investigates Feasibility documents produced by the lab within the Agile-based Software Development Lifecycle framework. The article aims to show that Feasibility documents (1) inform ethnographic work about lab workflow and management and in doing so, are able to capture the interconnectedness of work layers and practices; (2) enable an empirical analysis of digital research projects and the process of translation from research questions, to methods, to technical solutions; (3) are critical structuring objects that structure the research process and relationships between involved actors and are structured by local institutional strategies and decisions. The author conducts a ‘feasibility analysis’ that reveals the project management and development stages: the analytical process (the translation of research questions into technical solutions); the production process (the move from technical and design practices to research answers) and the infrastructure and management process (project workflow and sustainability solutions). Drawing on Agre’s critical technical practice and Digital Humanities’ theories of critical production, the article seeks to shift attention from end-product digital artefacts towards the complex process of their creation, which can unpack a range of social, technological and management issues. In doing so, it also aims to provide a methodological framework for the analysis of documents produced in Digital Humanities that have the potential to unearth new questions about the socio-technical nature of digital production.