Beyond information infrastructures, there are knowledge infrastructures. It has taken a long time, but we now have the capability of generating, storing and distributing data and information relatively seamlessly – be this personal information through social media or scientific information through cyberinfrastructures. However, knowledge is the next horizon.
Our current forms of knowledge production are still, sadly, rooted in the disciplinary matrix developed at the time of the enlightenment. We store knowledge again in traditional forms – books and scientific articles – despite the wealth of possibilities afforded by new information technologies. And we have attempted (and failed) to distribute knowledge work by providing information infrastructures – many have been built and few have come.
In this arc of research projects, the EVOKE Lab and Studio is working on each of these fronts with international teams of researchers. Through the Re:Enlightenment project, Bowker and Knobel are working with scholars in the social, natural and human sciences to reconceive the nature of knowledge work within and outside of the walled cities of the University, which are peppered with disciplinary siloes on their grounds. In our work on new modes of knowledge expression, we are both designing new kinds of knowledge bearing artifacts and analyzing them as they emerge elsewhere. Finally, through grounded ethnographic analysis, we are exploring how knowledge work can be effectively distributed and using this work to influence policy – through our groundbreaking report on Understanding Infrastructure to our recent report funded by the NSF and the Sloan Foundation on Knowledge Infrastructures. Through a series of studies of infrastructure development for the sciences, the formation and persistence of scientific teams and the deployment of a knowledge broker in the pursuit of transdisciplinary earth systems dynamics we take the whole package – information, social settings and policy to seek to understand how we can help build knowledge infrastructures commensurate with the major problems we face – climate change and sustainable energy use for example.
The EVOKE Lab and Studio is a unique nexus for exploring the three together: as we address any one dimension, our work is enriched by the other two. Our work on building robust knowledge infrastructures is not about herding cats, it’s about forging new alliances which can lead to a rich and much needed transdisciplinary future.