Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: April 1, 2022, 6:21 a.m. Humanist 35.628 - provoking collaborations

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 628.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2022-03-31 15:52:07+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: Fwd: Help with research?

Dear colleagues,

The following seems to me a very good way to involve others 
in one's ideas for research -- something worthy of imitating.



-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject:        Help with research?
Date:   Thu, 31 Mar 2022 15:30:43 +0000
From:   Agar, Jon <jonathan.agar@UCL.AC.UK>
Reply-To:       Agar, Jon <jonathan.agar@UCL.AC.UK>

Mersenne -

I was wondering whether people might be interested in some research
projects I have been considering, or might be able to give some pointers
on other projects.

Last year during Lockdown, when the archives were shut and research
stalled, I went through my notebooks and reviewed all the half-ideas I
had for future projects. I shared 36 of them as a twitter thread
<> with
links to short blog descriptions. Now I am reviewing them and thinking
about what to do next. What is clear is that some would benefit from
collaboration, some might require collaboration, some raise further
questions, and some might be basis of workshops if others were
interested in exploring them. It is the kind of conversation that would
otherwise have happened informally at face-to-face conferences, but
that's not quite the world we are in yet. So I thought I would ask about
a few promising ones here. Please do get in contact if any are of interest.

1) *Scale*. I am convinced that thinking more, and more deeply, about
scale will benefit history, sociology and philosophy of technology. I
set out some arguments on scale and technology in research idea no. 11
There I ask for case studies, counterexamples, ways of thinking about
intention, wonder about 'human scale', and note how we might move on
from traditional analyses.

*Call for interest and questions*: can you think of counterexamples? Is
there interest in a day workshop on the topic?

2) *Experimental historiography*. Several of the research ideas ask for
a more experimental or playful approach to historiography. For example
no. 20 imagined a single-source post-apocalyptic historiography
while no. 16 asked what kinds of stories emerge if sources are read for
their minimally intentional elements
and no. 2 asked what can we learn from artefacts alone

*Call for interest*: is there appetite for a day workshop, perhaps of
the kind outlined in here
in which people can try out and share results of historiographical
experiments? New methods and directions uncovered. Bold, interesting
failures welcome.

3) *Criminal shaping of technology*. In idea no. 32, described here
I asked: Does it make any sense to consider criminals as a ‘relevant
social group’ in SCOT terms? If so are there distinctive ways that can
be discerned of the criminal shaping of technology? Possible features I
noted include matters of deceit, parasitism, speed, bricolage, and violence.

*Call for collaboration*: empirically, what is needed to take this idea
further is access to a collection of artefacts made or used for criminal
purposes. Such collections are sometimes possessed by police forces for
instructive (and indeed memorial) purposes. Does anyone have access?
Would anyone like to collaborate in investigation?

4) *Is an entirely private science possible*? We are told that science
is not science until it is communicated. In this reflection on idea no. 22
I ask if there can be public spheres without science, or a science that
can be entirely private.

*Question*: does anyone have any leads on possible cases of entirely
private science? It would be almost be definition, hard to know about,
but it might be, for example, a personal archive collection that reveals
a person's long-standing, but entirely uncommunicated, conduct of science.

5) *History of Britain through elements*, as pitched here in idea no. 19
I do think this would be a neat way of exploring chemical, material and
national histories. Would it all be about carbon? Or iron? What's the
national story of beryllium? Manganese? Lithium?

*Call for interest*: could this be a public conference? or an edited
collection? what element would you pick?

Any responses very welcome. I've put a full list below - some are now
done, in some cases (it turns out happily) others had already done them,
some lead nowhere, some I am working on myself, and some are perhaps too
strange to take further at the moment.


Professor Jon Agar, Co-Head of STS, UCL

       1/2 Idea No. 1: Was there such a thing as curiosity-driven


       1/2 idea No. 2: Lionel Penrose and object historiography


       1/2 idea No. 3: Auto UK


       1/2 idea No. 4: Working Worlds revisited


       1/2 idea No. 5: Working worlds of interwar Britain, for Japan


       1/2 idea No. 6: Weed theory


       1/2 idea No. 7: Sci20 Rev


       1/2 idea No. 8: Critique of ‘what-if?’ histories/Markov Chains


       1/2 idea No. 9: What’s your CHOICE?


       1/2 idea No. 10: History of the Land Registry as part of a history
       of things we don’t know


       1/2 idea No. 11: Scale


       1/2 idea No. 12: Landscape of jamming


       1/2 idea No. 13: Citizen science history


       1/2 idea No. 14 Extend IUCN to ecosystems


       1/2 idea No. 15: Traces on the Martian shore


       1/2 idea No. 16: Minimal intention historiography –
       Historiographical Experiment #2


       1/2 idea No. 17: Algebra of history – Historiographical experiment


       1/2 idea No. 18: 1968 IMF/government computing breakdown


       1/2 idea No. 19: History of UK through elements


       1/2 idea No. 20: Post-apocalypse historiography: Historiographical
       experiment #1


       1/2 idea No. 21: Journal/disciplinary genealogical map


       1/2 idea No. 22: Do all public spheres have a science? Has
       entirely private science existed?


       1/2 idea No. 23: DSAC


       1/2 idea No. 24: Severn Barrage history


       1/2 idea No. 25: Colin McClare


       1/2 idea No. 26: Thatcher, PM, scientist


       1/2 idea No. 27: Peter Scott + global history


       1/2 idea No. 28: Britain, science, and international relations


       1/2 idea No. 29: Amersham


       1/2 idea No. 30: Airports as differential animal filters


       1/2 idea No. 31: Solaris short


       1/2 idea No. 32: Black Museum/Criminal shaping of technology


       1/2 idea No. 33: Radar science/flash/pulse science


       1/2 idea No. 34: Experimental History of Science (or Nature
       Writing) Conference


       1/2 idea No. 35: Wellcome science policy review


       1/2 idea No. 36: Cronon-style biotech


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