Humanities Labs

A number of universities are experimenting with the lab model as a means of building faculty and graduate student research collaborations. This July 12 article by Maxine Joselow from Inside Higher Ed, “Conference Explores Humanities Labs,” surveys examples from the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, and Arizona State University:

“‘The University of Michigan has admitted fewer graduate students in humanities in recent years, partly in response to the job market and partly out of a desire to concentrate funding per student,’ [Peggy] McCracken said. ‘As a result, the number of humanities graduate seminars offered each semester has declined,’ she said.
The Michigan Humanities Collaboratory seeks to counteract the consequences of this decline. ‘We’re wondering if collaborative research is a way to involve graduate students in research that they might not be as prepared for as they used to be by taking graduate seminars,’ McCracken said.
Collaborative research can also benefit graduate students in terms of mentoring and publication, said Patrick Jagoda, assistant professor of English and new media studies and co-founder of the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab at the University of Chicago. ‘I have more time with my graduate students when they’re in the lab,’ he said. ‘I’m writing papers with my graduate students and building their CVs.’”

But will universities support faculty and students who develop collaborative projects when they seek graduate course credit or go up for promotion and tenure? Until we’re willing to evaluate and reward collaborative projects and publications, we need to be sure colleagues and students understand the risks while still encouraging them to be imaginative and adventurous.

Peggy McCracken directs the University of Michigan Humanities Collaboratory. The article also discusses the Nexus Laboratory for Digital Humanities and Transdisciplinary Informatics, led by Sally Kitch at Arizona State. University.

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