Challenging Methods

1. Lüneburg Summer School for Digital Cultures

20.–26.9.2015, Leuphana Universität of Lüneburg, Germany
Hosted by Di­gi­tal Cul­tu­res Re­se­arch Lab and the In­sti­tu­te for Ad­van­ced Stu­dy on Media Cul­tu­res of Com­pu­ter Si­mu­la­ti­on
Or­ga­ni­zed by Flo­ri­an Spren­ger and Chris­toph En­ge­mann

The in­au­gu­ral is­sue of the Lüne­burg Sum­mer School for Di­gi­tal Cul­tu­res ex­plo­res the ques­ti­on and chal­len­ge of me­thods in me­dia stu­dies and di­gi­tal cul­tu­res. Hosted by the In­sti­tu­te for Ad­van­ced Stu­dy Me­dia Cul­tu­res of Com­pu­ter Si­mu­la­ti­on (MECS) and the Di­gi­tal Cul­tu­res Re­se­arch Lab (DCRL), the Lüne­burg Sum­mer School for Di­gi­tal Cul­tu­res pro­vi­des ad­van­ced trai­ning in the stu­dy of me­dia, their theo­ry, aes­t­he­tics and his­to­ry. Fo­cu­sing on one spe­cial to­pic an­nu­al­ly, it af­fords a select group of gra­dua­te stu­dents the op­por­tu­ni­ty to work with dis­tin­gu­is­hed in­ter­na­tio­nal scho­lars from all fiel­ds of me­dia stu­dies in an in­ti­ma­te and high­ly fo­cu­sed con­text and pro­vi­des a plat­form for par­ti­ci­pants to en­ga­ge in dia­lo­gue with other doc­to­ral stu­dents from around the world working in si­mi­lar or re­la­ted fiel­ds. 

This year’s to­pic, Chal­len­ging Me­thods, re­acts to the de­man­ds for a dis­cus­sion of me­thods that re­cent­ly have be­co­me pre­va­lent in the con­text of me­dia stu­dies. His­to­ri­cal­ly and in­sti­tu­tio­nal­ly, this field of re­se­arch ori­gi­na­ted when scho­lars from a va­rie­ty of fiel­ds star­ted to con­front their di­sci­pli­nes and spe­ci­fi­cal­ly their me­tho­do­lo­gies with the ques­ti­ons of me­dia epis­te­mo­lo­gy. From tho­se in­ves­ti­ga­ti­ons of the hi­t­her­to over­loo­ked me­dia-theo­re­ti­cal pres­ump­ti­ons and me­dia prac­tices of their ori­gi­nal fiel­ds, a dis­cour­se emer­ged that was la­be­led me­dia stu­dies – “Me­di­en­wis­sen­schaf­ten”. 

In­cor­po­ra­ting he­te­ro­ge­neous ap­proa­ches ran­ging from phi­lo­so­phi­cal and aes­t­he­tic via eth­no­gra­phic and so­cio­lo­gi­cal to epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal and per­for­ma­ti­ve as well as in­ter­ven­tio­nist prac­tices and net cri­ti­cism, me­dia stu­dies has not de­ve­l­o­ped an over­ar­ching theo­re­ti­cal or me­tho­do­lo­gi­cal frame and ins­tead pri­vi­le­ged ob­ject spe­ci­fic ap­proa­ches. 

No­nethe­l­ess, it is wi­t­hin this ex­ch­an­ge among di­sci­pli­nes, and fos­te­r­ed by the tasks brought for­ward by di­gi­ta­liza­t­i­on, that the ques­ti­on of the re­la­ti­ons­hip bet­ween me­dia and me­thods re­cent­ly has be­co­me a pro­mi­nent field of in­qui­ry. This in­clu­des de­man­ds for a spe­ci­fi­ca­ti­on of me­thods in me­dia stu­dies. Data-dri­ven ana­ly­sis of lar­ge cor­po­ra of texts, vi­su­als or sounds have led to a re-ad­just­ment of the ques­ti­on of em­pi­ri­cal, qua­li­ta­ti­ve and his­to­ri­cal re­se­arch, whi­le at the same time rai­sing me­tho­do­lo­gi­cal ex­pec­ta­ti­ons. The sta­kes of di­gi­ta­liza­t­i­on, them­sel­ves im­portant to­pics of the field, in­ter­vene in the eco­no­my of sour­ces, their cir­cu­la­ti­on and avail­a­bi­li­ty, hence in the prac­tices of re­se­arch and in­cre­a­sin­gly turn out to be a chal­len­ge of me­thods for me­dia stu­dies. 

It is this si­tua­ti­on bet­ween new tech­ni­cal pos­si­bi­li­ties and an in­sti­tu­tio­nal con­so­li­da­ti­on that frames the Sum­mer School. De­s­pi­te the­se de­ve­lop­ments, it seems fu­ti­le to sim­ply pro­ject the long­stan­ding me­tho­do­lo­gi­cal de­ba­tes of so­cio­lo­gy, his­to­ry, or eth­no­gra­phy onto the re­spec­tive fiel­ds of me­dia re­se­arch. In this re­gard, the sta­kes of me­dia stu­dies lie in the as­sump­ti­on that me­tho­do­lo­gi­cal ques­ti­ons al­ways ques­ti­on the me­dia of me­thods: tho­se very tech­no­lo­gies and epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal pres­ump­ti­ons that un­der­lie all me­thods. 

This is the point of de­par­tu­re for the Sum­mer School. Ins­tead of ta­king ac­count of dif­fe­rent me­thods, we in­tend to crea­te an open and pro­vo­ca­ti­ve space for the re­flec­tion of the tech­ni­cal, epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal, his­to­ri­cal, and per­haps also me­tho­do­lo­gi­cal con­di­ti­ons of me­thods, eit­her un­der the reign of di­gi­ta­liza­t­i­on or re­gar­ding a re-for­mu­la­ti­on of spe­ci­fic pre­sup­po­si­ti­ons. As a fo­rum, the Sum­mer School "Chal­len­ging Me­thods" will in­ves­ti­ga­te the his­to­ri­cal si­tua­ti­on of the cur­rent de­mand for me­thods, the im­port­an­ce of tech­no­lo­gi­cal de­ve­lop­ments, and the sub­se­quent trans­for­ma­ti­ons of our own re­se­arch, wri­ting, and thin­king. 

Con­side­ring the ex­pe­ri­ence that me­tho­do­lo­gi­cal ques­ti­ons are most tho­rough­ly ad­dres­sed in dis­ser­ta­ti­ons, the Lüne­burg Sum­mer School for Di­gi­tal Cul­tu­res will bring to­ge­ther a group of around 18 young in­ter­na­tio­nal scho­lars with re­now­ned fa­cul­ty to in­ves­ti­ga­te the sta­tus and chal­len­ge of me­thods in me­dia stu­dies. Con­nec­ting scho­lars from dif­fe­rent fiel­ds, it aims to open up dis­cus­sions in me­dia stu­dies, whi­le at the same time of­fe­ring the chan­ce to in­ves­ti­ga­te the spe­ci­fic me­dia­li­ty of me­thods in other fiel­ds. 

The week long Sum­mer School is struc­tu­red as a se­ries of sha­red se­mi­nars, keyno­te lec­tu­res and three streams taught in small groups. The first stream will in­ves­ti­ga­te the pro­mi­se of di­gi­tal tools; the se­cond stream will tack­le the di­men­si­ons of a po­li­tics of me­thods; and the third stream will con­front me­thods as cul­tu­ral tech­ni­ques:  

  1. Tools of Methods – Chaired by Till Heilmann (University of Bonn), Keynote by David Gugerli (ETH Zürich)
    This stream asks how the in­crea­sed use of di­gi­tal de­vices in hu­ma­nities re­se­arch af­fects me­tho­do­lo­gy. Star­ting with an in­tro­duc­tion to the dif­fe­rent me­dia theo­re­ti­cal con­cep­ti­ons of tools the stream will in­ves­ti­ga­te the spe­ci­fi­ci­ty of di­gi­tal tools and ask if the no­ti­on of the tool chan­ges un­der di­gi­tal con­di­ti­ons. In light of this back­ground the group will in­ves­ti­ga­te the re­la­ti­on bet­ween new di­gi­tal tools like text edi­tors or da­ta­ba­se sys­tems and the evo­ca­ti­on of new me­thods as pro­mo­ted by the di­gi­tal hu­ma­nities. How can such re­cur­si­ve re­se­arch into the evol­ving di­gi­tal re­se­arch in­fra­struc­tu­res help us to un­der­stand our own chan­ging me­thods and al­low us to shape new ty­pes of me­tho­do­lo­gies, wi­thout me­tho­do­lo­gy be­co­m­ing an end in its­elf?

  2. Politics of Methods – Chaired by Hanno Pahl (University of Luzern), Keynote Nina Wakeford (Goldsmiths University of London)
    Me­thods play a cen­tral role in shaping the know­ledge re­gimes of sci­en­ti­fic di­sci­pli­nes. Stu­dy­ing the of­ten con­ten­tious his­to­ry of their in­sti­tu­tio­na­liza­t­i­on wi­t­hin a field al­lows an in­ves­ti­ga­ti­on of how the in­tro­duc­tion of me­thods pri­vi­le­ges cer­tain epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal po­si­ti­ons. Via com­pa­ring me­dia stu­dies to two es­ta­blis­hed di­sci­pli­nes – eco­no­mics and so­cio­lo­gy – this stream will ex­plo­re the his­to­ry and pre­sence of the po­li­tics of me­thods in their in­sti­tu­tio­nal and epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal ef­fects. How can such com­pa­ri­son not only help to pro­fi­le the spe­ci­fics of di­gi­tal me­dia stu­dies’ me­thods, but also pro­vi­de evo­ca­ti­ve po­ten­ti­al for ex­ch­an­ges bet­ween me­dia theo­ry, so­ci­al theo­ry and theo­re­ti­cal ta­kes on mar­kets and ca­pi­ta­lism? 

  3. Cultural Techniques – Chaired by Christina Vagt (Humboldt University Berlin), Keynote Wolfgang Schäffner (Humboldt University Berlin)
    The three pri­ma­ry re­gis­ters of cul­tu­ral tech­ni­ques (image, wri­ting, num­ber) can help to un­der­stand the role of ma­te­ria­li­ty and tech­no­lo­gy wi­t­hin the sci­en­ces and hu­ma­nities. In this re­spect, cul­tu­ral tech­ni­ques are mo­dern au­xi­l­i­a­ry sci­en­ces (an as­sem­bla­ge of me­thods and ob­jects) that can dis­rupt or sta­bi­li­ze spe­ci­fic ob­jects or me­thods wi­t­hin di­sci­pli­nes. The stream will ask its par­ti­ci­pants to prac­tice and re­flect on their own field of stu­dy and their me­tho­do­lo­gi­cal frame­work as cul­tu­ral tech­ni­ci­ans. It will also ques­ti­on, how the cul­tu­ral tech­ni­ques ap­proach, which so far has gai­ned par­ti­cu­lar trac­tion in his­to­ri­cal and epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal re­se­arch con­texts, can be made fruit­ful in con­texts of eth­no­gra­phic or in­ter­ven­tio­nist in­qui­ry.



Da­vid Gug­er­li
Wolf­gang Schäff­ner
Nina Wake­ford

External Faculty

Till Heilmann
Hanno Pahl
Christina Vagt

Internal Faculty

Christoph Engemann
Florian Sprenger
Boris Traue


Carolin Anda
Stefanie Bräuer
Sarah Brown
Elinor Carmi
Mathias Denecke
Judith Dobler
Brian House
Carla Ilten
Meg R. Jackson
Nils Menzler
Esther Meyer
Martin Müller
Eva Schauerte
Rory Solomon
Nathan Taylor
Kornelia Trytko
Scott Wark
Siyuan Yin