Knowledge infrastructure workshop

UMSI Professor of Information Paul Edwards received funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation to hold a three-day workshop on knowledge infrastructures on May 25-28, 2012 in Ann Arbor. Knowledge infrastructures are robust internetworks of people, artifacts, and institutions which generate, share, and maintain specific knowledge about the human and natural worlds.

Start date: 4/1/2012
End date: 3/31/2013

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About 25 international scholars from many domains, including sociology, science and technology studies, computer science, human-computer interaction, and the digital humanities, participated in three days of intensive discussions and breakout groups. The discussions were organized around three central questions: How are knowledge infrastructures changing? How do changes in knowledge infrastructures reinforce or redistribute authority, influence, and power? And how can we best study, know, and imagine knowledge infrastructures moving forward?  

A report on the workshop, released in May 2013, argued that knowledge infrastructures need to be considered as wholes, rather than focusing on their most rapidly evolving elements. All infrastructures embed social norms, relationships, and ways of thinking, acting and working; when they change, authority, influence and power are redistributed. Knowledge infrastructures behave similarly, creating tensions and raising concerns best addressed early and often. As knowledge infrastructures evolve, attending to the social relations created and broken by new modes may help societies reduce the negative consequences of change.

The workshop also reflected on what kinds of research might best engage the question of knowledge infrastructures. Participants emphasized that research practices must innovate, rethink and rebuild rather than being bystanders or critics of current transformations. 

The full report on the workshop can be found here.


Data and Computational Research Officer Grant, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: $19,475

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant-making institution that provides support for original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economic performance. 

The workshop was also supported by partial funding from the following grant:

Collaborative Research: AOC: Monitoring, Modeling and Memory: Dynamics of Data and Knowledge in Scientific Cyberinfrastructures, National Science Foundation: $1,249,911

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…"