Digital Field Methods Institute

A Summer Workshop Surveying Experimental Digital Methods for Researchers in the Humanities

“We need, in other words, to invent an art of experiment
which can up the methodological ante. I am looking, then, for
a social science which promotes a rewoven empirics which,
most particularly, generates the quality of provocative
awareness. That means an experimentalist orientation must
be in-built which can start and restart association.”
~Nigel Thrift, Non-Representational Theory

The Digital Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin will host the Digital Field Methods Institute (DFMI) from July 3-14, 2023. DFMI is an annual event that offers emerging and established researchers opportunities to gain practice collecting, analyzing, and organizing data for publication while providing tools and technologies that participants can explore and experiment towards innovating new methods for scholarly research.

DFMI guides researchers to cultivate and innovate methods for responsible, accessible, sustainable, and inventive research projects that work with and through digital media. The institute takes place both online (July 3-7) and on-site (July 10-14) at the University of Texas at Austin, offering a range of shared readings, lectures & keynote talks, discussions, media practice, editing workshops, and project consultations.

DFMI events facilitate robust discussions about digital methodology; organize hands-on practice with digital tools for collecting qualitative digital research data; offer structured practice for processing that data for analysis; and provide extensive guidance for publishing scholarship that incorporate digital artifacts from fieldwork as part of that research’s composition.


DFMI 2023 | LANDSCAPES: Broadly Construed, Thoroughly Contested, Infinitely Iterated

“Indeed, maybe the very notion of ‘landscape’ has on occasions
worked to suture any underlying constitutive jarrings
and discontinuities, and evoked a surface which renders
that intertwining…knowable and fully representable.
Rather it is that a landscape, these hills,
are the (temporary) product of a meeting
up of trajectories out of which mobile uncertainty
a future is – has to be – negotiated.”
~Doreen Massey, Landscape as a Provocation: Reflections on Moving Mountains

This year’s institute will focus on exploring digital methods for the study of landscapes: broadly construed, thoroughly contested, and infinitely iterated. These landscapes are multiple and malleable, and they present challenges to researchers to account for ways that landscapes are complex and confounding. In response, researchers need to develop ethical and accessible methods for engaging landscapes in ways that keep open its possibilities.

…broadly construed

While landscapes may be seen as simple from afar, they are far from simple. We acknowledge the historical practice of landscape imaging/imagining is not the practice of passive observation of a neutral object as traditional representational modes (e.g. photography, painting, nature writing) might indicate. Bound up in landscapes are relationships that cohere locally but also span the globe across many scales and sites. These dynamics foreground that the media through which we engage a span of space is itself imbricated in the creation of what we come to know as the land. Such entanglements include the multiple modes that include culture, technological systems, and multispecies ecologies and more. As such, landscapes might also be thought to be the vast digital networks we inhabit, the extended social relations we experience, and even the contested chronologies we traverse. Landscapes then are threaded with and beyond symbolic complexes that include representations of the land but also its expansions and distortions through our experiences (Percy, 1954; Helmreich, 2009; Starosielski, 2021; Waterton, 2013 & 2019).

…thoroughly contested

As a visual art in western cultures, it is no mistake that the genres of landscape painting emerged alongside colonialism (Casey, 2002) and that landscape photography, in many ways, extended those practices (Ravela 2019; Hore, 2022). Such techniques of representing land through traditional methods to render it knowable, visible, and fixed into a territorial system of colonial expansion continue to enact violence, both slow and severe, on its inhabitants and the complex communities that compose them. These techniques must be contested through practices that affirm multiple ways of coming to know and relate (McKittrick, 2021). Researchers must experiment with non-modern methods that are multisensory, multiscalar, and multimodal through which we might experience landscape not as something to be known and owned but as an emergent and contingent co-composition of subjectivities, materials, livingnesses, and technologies (Mattern, 2016; Waterton, 2018).

…infinitely iterated

By exploring the multiplicity of landscape through practice with digital tools, we aim to reveal the entangled relations and interdependencies between heterogeneous agents–both biological and technological alike–with and through a landscape (Massey, 2006; Myers, 2017; Matterm 2023). In this we turn attention to the affordances of our technologies, asking how perceptions and representations of our environs shift as we take up those technologies and experiment with them.

While the weight of inherited catastrophe bears on how we engage with landscapes, we nevertheless create occasion to swerve from future calamity with each and every engagement (Jue, 2020; Blaser and M De la Cadena, 2018; Kember & Zylinska, 2012). How might we come to know landscapes in ways that draw out possibilities from other pasts to open other futures? Which techniques and practices of knowledge making would help us loosen our grips on claiming in definitive ways? What methods might we cultivate, or nurture, that allows for a continuous reinvention of how we come to experience and know landscapes?

2023 Speakers

Anchoring the workshops, DFMI will feature a series of keynote speakers whose work intersect with and challenge traditional research methods, each offering concepts and practices that compel methods to swerve towards inventing new modes of inquiry.