Infrastructural Interventions

Digital Humanities & Critical Infrastructure Studies Workshop Series 

Organised by King’s Digital Lab, King’s College Department of Digital Humanities, and Critical Infrastructures Studies Initiative (

Lead organizer: Urszula Pawlicka-Deger 

21-22 June 2021

The Digital Humanities & Critical Infrastructure Studies Workshop Series aims to enliven discussion about infrastructure from the perspective of Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, as a contribution to the emerging field of Critical Infrastructure Studies. The first workshop in the series, “Infrastructural Interventions,” brings together leading thinkers in Digital Humanities (DH) to critically interrogate the economic, political, and socio-technical dimensions of contemporary infrastructure. The workshop will take place on the Microsoft Teams platform. (How to join a Teams meeting.) Registration for this event is open on Eventbrite:

The growing body of literature on the concept of infrastructure — in science and technology studies, media studies, cultural studies, and DH — prompts questions about why infrastructure is essential for studying people’s practices, what kinds of subjects are embedded in infrastructural systems, and, in particular, how the world can be transformed through infrastructural interventions. A focus on infrastructure reveals the materiality of practices, as a set of conditions that are laid down by various actors: academic institutions, cultural units, technology companies, publishing houses, and governmental bodies. Surfacing the relationships between these heterogeneous entities can give us an insight into the manufacture of substrates that are not fixed, but relational objects. Infrastructure is an articulation of materiality that is constantly in formation across space and time, as Nikhil Anand et al. argued in The Promise of Infrastructure (2018). A thing is therefore in the process of becoming infrastructure and composed of socio-technical assemblages that emerge from tensions between institutional actors, policies, and knowledge practices. These tensions — expressed as a clash between functionality and sustainability, standardisation and resistance to universality, open and closed technologies — located in infrastructure make it a valuable object of critical inquiry. DH can contribute to debates about modern infrastructure by offering unique humanities-centred theoretical and practice-led analyses of infrastructure and possessing the capacity to unlock a range of technical, socio-cultural, and political perspectives.

In this workshop, DH theorists interrogate the nature and fragility of infrastructure at individual, social, and planetary scales, and attempt to reconfigure their nature from social justice, feminist and decolonial perspectives. The following questions will guide us through the discussion: How, precisely, did our contemporary digital infrastructure evolve? How are different actors challenging, contesting and creating alternatives to official data infrastructures? How can DH infrastructure be informed by an analysis of power—and even actively challenge existing power imbalances? How might DH infrastructure reject the hierarchical and other divisions that currently structure DH work? How can digital humanists reimagine and rebuild the world differently through infrastructure?


21 June, Monday – 17.00 – 20.00 (UK time) 

17.00 – 17.10 Introduction by Urszula Pawlicka-Deger, King’s College London, UK 

17.10 – 17.50 Keynote by Alan Liu, University of California, Santa Barbara, US – “Digital Humanities and Critical Infrastructure Studies: An Overview,” 40min (chair: James Smithies) 

Abstract: In this talk, Alan Liu provides an introduction to “critical infrastructure studies” and the place of the digital humanities in it. What have been the main approaches to infrastructure that today make the topic of such compelling socio-political, technological, media-informatic, cultural, historical, and artistic interest across the disciplines? How are the digital humanities positioned in relation to those approaches; and what is “critical” about that relation? Useful links for citations and other material mentioned in the talk: 

17.50 – 18.05 Discussion 

18.05 – 18.10 Break 

18.10 – 19.00 Session (chair: Urszula Pawlicka-Deger) 

  • Laura Mandell, Texas A&M University, US – “Revitalizing the ARC Infrastructure through Linked Open Data” 
  • Matthew K. Gold, CUNY Graduate Center, US – “An Open Opportunity: Free Software, Community-Supported Infrastructure, and the People’s University” 
  • Susan Brown, University of Guelph, Canada – “(Re:)platforming” 

19.00 – 19.20 Discussion  

19.20 – 19.25 Break 

19.25 – 19.55 Projects discussion  

This session will be devoted to the presentation and discussion of infrastructure-focused DH projects. How can DH projects (e.g., digital archives, collections and tools) address critical and social issues through the perspective of infrastructure? What are the project’s main contributions to Critical Infrastructure Studies?

  • Advanced Research Consortium (ARC) – Laura Mandell, Texas A&M University, US (
  • Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (CWRC) – Mihaela Ilovan, CWRC, University of Alberta, Canada (
  • CUNY Digital History Archive (CDHA) – Stephen Brier and Chloe Smolarski, CDHA, City University of New York, US (
  • – Dean Rehberger, Matrix, Michigan State University, US (
  • Humanities Networked Infrastructure: HuNI, Australia – Toby Burrows, University of Western Australia, Australia (
  • Ticha Project – Brook Danielle Lillehaugen, Haverford College, and Felipe H. Lopez, Haverford College Libraries and the pueblo of San Lucas Quiaviní, Oaxaca (

All projects will be published on a YouTube channel of Initiative. Check out for the above projects and more: 

19.55 – 20.00 Conclusion 

22 June, Tuesday – 17.00 – 19.10 (UK time) 

17.00 – 17.05 Introduction by Urszula Pawlicka-Deger, King’s College London, UK 

17.05 – 17.50 Session 1 (chair: Urszula Pawlicka-Deger) 

  • Lauren F. Klein, Emory University, US – “What Does Feminist DH Infrastructure Look Like?” 
  • Paola Ricaurte Quijano, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico – “The Fragility of Data and the Right to Infrastructures” 
  • Jonathan Gray, King’s College London, UK – “Missing Data and Making Data: Data Infrastructural Interventions” 

17.50 – 18.10 Discussion 

18.10 – 18.15 Break 

18.15 – 18.45 Session 2 (chair: Arianna Ciula) 

  • James Smithies, King’s College London, UK – “Rewinding our Assumptions: Digital Infrastructure as Emergent Phenomena” 
  • David M. Berry, University of Sussex, UK – “Towards Critical Digital Humanities: Explainability and Interpretability as Critical Infrastructure Practice” 

18.45 – 19.05 Discussion 

19.05 – 19.10 Conclusion 

You can find more details and abstracts on the Critical Infrastructures website:  

The workshop is part of the MSCA project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 891155.