Finding a home for interdisciplinary research: Dissolving disciplinary boundaries through the development of an audio/spatial installation

STAY HOME explores the multiple experiences of, and within, the home during the pandemic with a view to examine more long-term changes in our conceptualization, experience, and concretization of the home. A complex phenomenon such as the home requires a multi-faceted research team, and STAY HOME involves researchers from the fields of architecture, science and technology studies, theology, and history. These four disciplines have rarely, if ever, been brought together, but this interdisciplinary constellation provides the necessary knowledge to examine what has happened to the home as a physical, social, existential, and technological site during the pandemic. However, bringing together these disciplines also raises questions regarding interdisciplinary research and collaborative research outputs. The scholars of STAY HOME produce individual PhD-dissertations and research by design experiments, but like many other interdisciplinary teams, must overcome disciplinary boundaries and develop new ways of collaborating when working on joint projects.

In this blog post, the STAY HOME research group presents their collaborative process with developing an audio/spatial installation through interdisciplinary research methods. This endeavour solved some of our challenges of creating a dialogue between the four disciplines involved in the project, but it also tested our skills regarding scholarly communication across disciplinary boundaries, and, finally, opened some unexpected research perspectives. The installation, entitled IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK reflects upon peoples’ experiences of home during lockdown through an audio/spatial bodily experience for the general public. It was shown as part of the larger exhibition BEHAVIOUR/WELFARE at the Royal Danish Academy – Architecture, Design, Conservation from September 2022 to March 2023.

We begin by introducing the STAY HOME research group, its ambition and object of study, as well as the individual projects being undertaken by the researchers. Then we describe our collaborative process in more detail, including the challenges faced, and continue by showing how this process informed shared and individual insights. On this basis, we conclude with some insights that might be useful for other interdisciplinary research groups. We suggest that the development of a common ‘boundary object’[1] (Star 2010), in this case the IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK installation, enabled exchanges and insights across disciplines, which can also inform individual monodisciplinary projects.

Interdisciplinarity in the context of STAY HOME

The COVID-19 pandemic upset many functions and boundaries of the home. It reminded us that such functions and boundaries are culturally and socially defined, and that they shift across time, impacted by historical circumstances. The pandemic served as a catalyst, foregrounding material, and digital boundaries as well as experiences, social structures, functions, and dysfunctions of the home. For many people, the pandemic gave a new perspective on the lives we live in our homes. These shifts as well as their potential to inform future homes are the object of study in the project STAY HOME: The Home during the Corona Crisis – and after (2020-26), which is funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.

The creation of STAY HOME was spurred by an intention in the PI-group to engage with the covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions from an ambitious interdisciplinary perspective, while at the same time having a strong foundation in research fields related to the Humanities. The aim has been to contribute to ongoing research on, and around, the corona pandemic and to gather methodological insights from the interdisciplinary work, and from the ongoing concern with public outreach prepared by the project editor. STAY HOME is led by Professor of Church History Mette Birkedal Bruun, whose experience with interdisciplinary historical research into boundaries and zones that demarcate privacy and the private at the Danish National Research Foundation Centre for Privacy Studies serves as an inspiration for STAY HOME’s even more comprehensive interdisciplinary profile.

STAY HOME’s core research group is comprised of a postdoc and three PhD students, each of whom is responsible for an individual research project exploring a particular aspect of the home. Working within Science and Technology Studies, PhD Student Katja Pape de Neergaard examines the increasingly digitally networked home, how the materiality of home and digital technologies enacts everyday privacy, and individuals’ lived experiences with navigating networked homes during a time characterized by uncertainty. Historian Katrine Rønsig Larsen historicizes the experience of family violence in her PhD dissertation. Through historical cases and interviews from the pandemic, she explores how individuals have interpreted and conveyed their experiences with domestic violence in ways that evolve historically. Architect and Assistant Professor, Nicholas Thomas Lee’s post-doctoral research project entitled, ‘Dwelling in a Time of Social Distancing’ examines the unprecedented demands that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the domestic interior and its architectural arrangement, with a particular focus on novel domestic morphologies and threshold places. In her PhD dissertation, theologian Anne-Milla Wichmann Kristensen focuses on the pandemic as an experience of crisis, using the German American theologian Paul Tillich’s notion of ‘kairos’ (the opportune moment) as an analytical key. The STAY HOME editor, sociologist Emma Klakk, has a double function as academic coordinator within the research team and communicator mediating between the scholars and the general public on the STAY HOME homepage (mainly Danish), social media channels, and at workshops and other events.

Our collaborative process: Research by Design and creating the installation

Our collaboration began with the establishment of focused reading sessions organized around four central concepts: Home, Phenomenology, Archive, and Thresholds. We each selected research texts, which could shed light on these concepts and at the same time, give each researcher the opportunity to present literature from their respective disciplines. The reading sessions were a way to get to know each other’s disciplines without having to agree on a shared notion of the central concepts, but rather to learn the different nuances, which we individually brought to the study of home. However, the reading sessions primarily facilitated theoretical encounters. An urgent question for us thus became how we could move on to include empirical material in these discussions, and how we could seek to facilitate new insights collaboratively. The desire to address these questions initiated the idea of developing a physical installation, as a type of ‘boundary object’ with a point of departure in the Research by Design method. Discussing the notion of ‘boundary object’ was an early inspiration in our process towards the installation. The term captures the disciplinary liminalities that we navigated in our endeavour to find common ground.

A process diagram showing the development of the IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK installation.
A process diagram showing the development of the IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK installation.

Research by Design as promoted by academics such as Halina Dunin-Woyseth, Leon Van Schaik and Johan Verbeke (2014) is a systematic approach where the practice of design is utilized as the primary means to develop understanding and new knowledge. Birger Sevaldson defines the Research by Design method as, a special research mode where the explorative, generative and innovative aspects of design are engaged and aligned in a systematic research enquiry.” (Sevaldson 2010, 11). The specific Research by Design method deployed for the development of the IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK installation involved a series of workshops where ‘Inputs’ taking the form of a co-authored abstract based upon the earlier reading sessions, historical references, as well as an archive of interviews, formed the point of departure for ‘Operations’, namely the creative development of the audio/spatial installation. Over the course of the creative process, we held a series of workshops where interim ‘Outputs,’ taking the form of demo sound-collages and spatial sketch ideas, were collectively discussed with insights from the individual projects.

The STAY HOME team sitting around a table at a workshop.

Picture of the STAY HOME team sitting around a table at a workshop
The workshops included working with theoretical texts and interview data, categorizing material for the sound-collages, discussing spatial components, and giving feedback on sound collages and design sketches.

Three initial concepts for a spatial installation were developed by Nicholas; they were inspired from an abstract, collectively written by the research group. Of these three spatial concepts, the group decided to develop the idea for an audio/spatial installation based upon acoustic mirroring walls and audio recordings, during Workshop 02. In between subsequent workshops, Nicholas and Katja developed the spatial design and sound-collages based upon collective reflections and ideas from the group. During the development and refinement of the spatial installation, Nicholas took inspiration from a wide variety of examples of acoustic architecture, such as whispering walls, sound devices dreamed up by the seventeenth-century German Jesuit Scholar and polymath, Athanasius Kircher and various ‘sound mirrors’ utilized during the early twentieth century, as precursors to radar. Midway through the process, the initial sketch ideas for the installation were presented to the STAY HOME perspective panel, comprising of senior academics and researchers that represent the fields of anthropology, architecture, science and technology studies, theology, religious studies, and history, as a form of open interim peer-review[2].

Initial sketch of the installation depicting a curved wall making up five circular rooms.
Initial sketch concept for the IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK installation, presented during Workshop 02, by Nicholas Thomas Lee.

The difficulties dogging congenial peer-review of interdisciplinary projects was the focus of an internal seminar on interdisciplinary research and new forms of research publication with Professor Maja Horst (Aarhus University). The final IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK audio/spatial installation can be seen as the ‘Deliverable’ from this process. In addition to being part of the BEHAVIOUR/WELFARE exhibition at the Royal Danish Academy – Architecture, Design, Conservation, the project was also published at the STAY HOME: New Perspectives of the Home conference in November 2022.

Developed design sketch: a circular room within a curved wooden wall.
Developed design sketch of IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK by Nicholas Thomas Lee.

The final version of IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK presented at the BEHAVIOUR/WELFARE exhibition was assembled by ourselves in collaboration with architect and woodworker Anders Drøidal (OFR Design + Arkitektur), adding even more disciplines to our collaboration.

Three of the STAY HOME researchers assembling wooden parts of the structure.
STAY HOME researchers assembling IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK.

The installation comprises of a wooden construction supporting a curved ply-wood wall designed to perform as an acoustic mirror and three sound collages. Visitors to the installation are invited to take a seat and listen to the walls. The closer you sit to the wall, the louder the sound. The sound collages run in loops with no intended beginning or ending. Made of fragments of interview recordings from the first lockdown in Denmark, they recall themes of uncertainty and uncomfortableness, collapse of everyday contexts, and ways in which digital technologies mediated or disrupted interactions. The installation encourages reflections on the messy, composite, and diverse experiences of the home during the pandemic to call for considerations on future domestic practices.

Visitors in front of the installation at the vernissage of the exhibition.
The final version of IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK at the vernissage of BEHAVIOUR/WELFARE.

Sound collages as a tool for analysis between disciplines

In between the workshops, as described above, creative experimentation took place. For example, the production of original sound collages, crafted from ethnographic material from an archive of more than 200 interviews from the first lockdown in 2020 in Denmark: The Digitization of Everyday Life during the Covid-19 pandemic in Denmark (The VELUX Foundation), directed by Brit Ross Winthereik and Anders K. Munk. In our collaborative workshops, we had identified themes that resonated across projects and excerpts of interviews related to these themes. With these as a guide, Katja dove into the archive asking; what can we learn from this material about practices and experiences at home, and about the crisis? And what can we learn from exploring it through sound, in the form of voice-recordings accompanied by musical instruments and everyday sounds?

Screengrab of work-in-progress in the audio-software Ableton.
Screengrab of work-in-progress in the audio-software Ableton.

Working with the sound recordings brought attention to atmospheres, silences, and uncertainties that were otherwise overlooked in the interview transcripts. For one of the sound collages, we identified sounds of uncertainty and sounds usually left out of interview transcripts; ‘eh’, pauses, hesitations, slurred speech etc. These sounds of uncertainty represented to us how participants were struggling to make sense of their everyday lives at home during the pandemic. In the interviews, many did not even mention their home directly, because they were primarily concerned with trying to describe the overwhelming ambivalence and exhaustion, they felt by staying home during lockdown (de Neergaard, forthcoming). While the home was often absent from the conversation at first glance, it was very much present, and even problematized, as a place of confinement and a space that had to hold many ambivalent experiences.

In other sound collages, we let the diffuse sounds of the materiality of home and its surroundings take centre stage. Here, we reflect on the ambivalence of being home alone, yet still being in the (if only auditory) presence of bird chirpings from outside, the humming noise of dishwashing machines, one’s own sounds, neighbours, and chit-chatter from the media. Working with these sounds brought attention to all that happens when it seems nothing is happening in isolation, and how the home is subject to constant, yet subtle interference and exchange with elsewhere.

The work with sound exemplifies how working creatively with empirical material fosters attention to new, and sometimes subtle, themes in empirical material and produces new analytical insights. In total, we crafted three sound collages that were finalized with the help of composer Finn Cooney.

Exchanges between individual projects and our collaborative efforts

The development of the installation has affected, and been affected by, our individual projects. The process has provoked new questions, new methods, and analytical insights. For example, Katrine inspired the design process with perspectives from the history of emotions, which is reflected in the installation’s concern with how emotional experiences are formed, echoed, and refracted under changing historical conditions. Her specific research on experiences with family violence is furthermore echoed in the sometimes-dismal atmosphere of the sounds collages as well as in the sound collages’ investigation of the silences and struggles to articulate the new experiences of the home generated in the pandemic context.

Katja contributed with ethnographic insights around digital practices, boundaries and the (digital) connection between home and elsewhere. Katja notes that her own PhD has been influenced by the installation work in that she increasingly draws on critical archival analysis (introduced to her by Katrine) to discuss contemporary digital archives, and she has continued to develop the artistic research practices she initiated with her production of sound collages from ethnographic interviews.

Anne-Milla’s research focus on the discussions of experiences of hope and, particularly, anxiety inherent in Tillich’s notion of crisis resurfaces in the claustrophobic tenor of the sound collages. Anne-Milla brings the digital interview archive into her theological work as a present-day counterpoint to Tillich’s twentieth-century theological works. This approach has proven to be a methodological provocation in a discipline, which is traditionally textually oriented, and her work prompted new questions regarding the selection, weight, and analysis of individual interviews. Furthermore, the installation has affected her perspective on the interconnection between the individual and the home consequently making the home prominent in analysing hope and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Nicholas uses the Research by Design method regularly in his own work, the interdisciplinary nature of the STAY HOME project has both challenged and furthered his own understanding of the method. Firstly, Research by Design has far greater acceptance as a scholarly method when working solely within the fields of Architecture and Design, however, when utilizing this method within an interdisciplinary research environment one is forced to be even more explicit about the process and its specific ‘Inputs’, ‘Operations’, ‘Outputs’ and ‘Deliverables.’ Secondly, another important learning for Nicholas has been the importance of explicitly acknowledging one’s research archive, particularly in relation to spatial references. During a design process, the Architect often uses many implicit historical references in developing and informing a proposal. During the exchanges with his three research colleagues at the workshops, it became apparent how important it is to clearly ‘cite’ spatial references, in the case of the IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK installation, examples of acoustic architecture as proof of the concept from a technological perspective.

Insights for interdisciplinary research groups: Takeaways from our collaborative process

Embracing theoretical difference and nuance

One challenge that interdisciplinary research teams often face is the need to establish a shared language across disciplines. This applies to the concrete terminology and concepts used within each discipline, but also to the underlying assumptions, i.e., how different disciplines methodologically approach a research problem, how they employ theory, and what empirical data they use and how (Siedlok and Hibbert 2012). The effort to identify and create common terminology is an elusive and time-consuming endeavour. The challenges arguably vary according to the particular disciplines that are brought into dialogue with each other, which may pose more or less deep disciplinary and vocabulary differences to overcome. In many cases though, attempting to reach a mutual definition of central underlying concepts can obstruct the productivity of conjoining different disciplines to explore new problems.

The process of developing the installation as a ‘boundary object’ between disciplines mitigated such challenges. Through the reading sessions, workshops, and feedback meetings, our collective and individual understandings of our core concept, home, became more complex and nuanced. In the reading sessions, we structured our theoretical encounters in a way that embraced nuance and complexity; we sought to understand the premise and traditions of each other’s disciplines, not to force them together into normative conceptual definitions. The notion of home thus became a (conceptual) place for us to meet as researchers, and a place from which we were able to venture into each other’s fields.

From theoretical encounters to analysis through creative production

To capture this theoretical nuance, and not least to use it to understand empirical material and the experiences of our interviewees, we used artistic research practices, namely the Research by Design method. We suggest that the installation, and perhaps more importantly the process that led to its realization, is a useful format to foster interdisciplinary exchange. Meeting in and around the installation stimulated attention to analytical insights, rather than disciplinary differences. Through the workshops and the design-related aspects of creating the installation, we facilitated a shared space, into which we could bring our academic perspectives, without a need to constantly define their differences. Meeting in and around the installation, as a ‘boundary object,’ allowed us to let disciplinary boundaries dissolve and be redrawn as needed, as we discussed empirical material, design ideas, and creative interpretations. We considered this work as reflection-in-progress, rather than a communication of shared results.

Interdisciplinary work produces disciplinary inspiration

The installation facilitated an experience for audiences to reflect upon the home, but it also produced important new reflections and inspiration for the individual research projects. Sceptics of interdisciplinary research may argue that it risks diluting the individual researcher’s academic profile and disciplinary standards. However, we experienced that the interdisciplinary collaboration led to an increased ‘groundedness’ in our individual projects and made each researcher feel more at home in their own discipline. We suggest that there are several, interrelated explanations for this. Interdisciplinary research compels each researcher to clearly state what their approach is, and the ways in which they approach empirical materials, which helps elucidate and raise their awareness of their taken-for-granted ways of thinking within their own discipline. As noted, it also provides each researcher with new analytical and methodological insights for individual projects and challenges their own research methods and field-specific assumptions.

Advice for prioritizing alternative formats of collaboration despite structural barriers

Complex societal questions demand interdisciplinary research perspectives, and more and more interdisciplinary research is being funded. However, the academic system is not always equipped to support the work conducted by interdisciplinary teams. As multiple disciplines are brought together, so are varying, and sometimes competing scholarly requirements, values, and standards for knowledge production. Creating common ground in this encounter can become a significant barrier because the research teams struggle to find a shared scholarly format. As we have shown, interdisciplinary work benefits from alternative formats of collaboration, but is often confronted with the lack of avenues and appreciation for such work. While our creative collaboration produced nuanced collective and individual insights, the installation format proved difficult to peer-review; it does not result in any publishable deliveries in the traditional sense, and as such, does not result in any ‘credits’ in the conventional academic system which prioritizes peer-reviewed written outputs. Additionally, individual researchers often work on mono-disciplinary projects, which must be peer-reviewed within their own disciplinary fields (Christiansen 2021). Such challenges can leave teams unable to disseminate shared insights, but also be a demotivating factor for interdisciplinary knowledge production.

To succeed despite concerns over lack of conventional publishing, we found that a generous academic and collegial culture is a crucial component. It requires courage and motivation to continue with efforts that do not have predetermined means of being published. In our case, prioritizing an inspiring work environment allowed for unique reflections that informed both shared and individual projects. In addition, prioritizing funding for the role of Emma Klakk as our project editor has been a central feature to completing the project. Emma has handled a lot of both visible and invisible administrative and communicative labour in the research process, which can otherwise easily exhaust many research projects.

Finally, we experimented with alternative formats for peer-interaction, all organized around the IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK installation and the STAY HOME conference, where the work and its process were disseminated to peers from a wide variety of disciplinary fields. Yet, challenges with facilitating constructive interdisciplinary work cannot be solved by individual teams alone. The academic community needs to think both critically and creatively about how such work is valued, to gain the much-needed insights from interdisciplinary projects.

Concluding remarks

Interdisciplinary teams face a number of challenges related to organizing collaboration, forming shared vocabularies, valuing ‘unpublishable’ efforts, and creating productive exchanges between collective and individual projects. In this blogpost, we have shown how organizing our collaboration around an audio/spatial installation as a boundary object for interdisciplinary exchange, helped mitigate such challenges. Using a Research by Design approach, we facilitated a shared space where we could let disciplinary boundaries dissolve and be re-drawn as needed. This process showed the benefits of embracing theoretical nuance, how creative practices fostered new perspectives on empirical material, and produced new methodological and analytical inspiration for our individual projects. We thus suggest that such a format of collaboration is beneficial for interdisciplinary teams, but also note that it requires patience, courage, and a supportive and generous leadership to succeed.

Notes

[1] In the article, This is Not a Boundary Object: Reflections on the Origin of a Concept (2010), the American sociologist Susan Leigh Star discusses the role of ‘boundary objects’, particularly in relation to collaborative endeavours, whereby it allows “different groups to work together without consensus.” Star identifies “interpretive flexibility” as an important aspect of any boundary object, while emphasizing that boundary in this case should be understood as “a shared space”, rather than “an edge or periphery”, particularly in relation to interdisciplinary work.

[2] We have benefitted immensely from collaborations with composer Finn Cooney, architect Anders Drøidal (OFR Design + Arkitektur), architect Peter Alexander Bullough (SUPERNATURE), Olivia Toftum, the STAY HOME perspective panel, Standard Practice, The Digitization of Everyday Life during the Covid-19 pandemic in Denmark, and all our interviewees. Furthermore, we thank the Carlsberg Foundation for funding our research and STARK GENTRÆ for sponsoring materials for the installation and assisting us in the reuse of the installation and the materials afterwards.

Research team

PI-group

    • PI: Mette Birkedal Bruun, professor of Church History, Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen, director of the Danish National Research Foundation Centre for Privacy Studies.
    • Co-PI: Brit Ross Winthereik, professor at Responsible Innovation and Design, Department of Technology, Management and Economics, The Technical University of Denmark.
    • Co-PI: Karen A. Vallgårda, associate professor of History, University of Copenhagen.
    • Co-PI: Peter Thule Kristensen, professor in History of Architecture and Interiors, Head of the master programme Spatial design, Institute of Architecture and Design, The Royal Danish Academy.

Editor

    • Emma Klakk, Sociologist and Academic Officer, Centre for Privacy Studies, University of Copenhagen.

Perspective panel

References

Christiansen, Agnete Solvej. 2021. “Forskerne vil gerne arbejde tværfagligt, men ofte bliver anstrengelserne ikke belønnet”. Sciencereport.dk: DFIR vil undersøge tværfaglighed og tværvidenskab (sciencereport.dk), accessed 13/07/2023.

De Neergaard, Forthcoming. Sounding uncertainties: Sounding as analytical strategy for engaging with digital ethnographic archives”.

Sevaldson, B. 2010. “Discussions & Movements in Design Research: A Systems Approach to Practice Research in Design”. FORMakademisk, 2010, vol. 3 nr. 1: 8-35.

Siedlok, Frank and Hibert, Paul. 2012. Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research: Course Reader (2017).  University of Strathclyde.

Star S. L. 2010. “This is Not a Boundary Object: Reflections on the Origin of a Concept”. Science Technology & Human Values 35(5): 601–617.

Verbeke, J. 2014. “This is Research by Design”. In M. Fraser (Ed.), Design Research in Architecture, An Overview. Farnham: Farnham: Ashgate: 137-159.

STAY HOME Conference

The STAY HOME project will host the international conference STAY HOME: New perspectives on the home on the 10th-11th of November 2022 at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen. We invite speakers to deliver research and design perspectives on the home as a physical, social, digital, and existential place in past, present, and future.

Call for Papers

What is home and how do we relate to, inhabit, shape, experience, and use it? Home is described in terms of shape, space, and scale, but also in terms of experiences, relationships, and emotions. During the corona crisis home became a central yet contested term. What does it mean to stay at home? What makes a home? What about those without a home? The pandemic might be a catalyst for thinking about home in new ways – not only as a safe or as a private space, but maybe also as an unsafe space or a space that is sometimes public or professional. We invite scholars to think with us about the home.

The aim of the conference is to share and discuss new perspectives on the home – in particular perspectives that emerge during crises and may inform future conceptualizations of human dwelling. We invite speakers to deliver research and design perspectives on the home as a physical, social, digital, and existential place in past, present, and future.

STAY HOME: New perspectives on the home is an interdisciplinary conference on the home hosted by the Danish research project STAY HOME: the home during the corona crisis – and after funded by the Carlsberg Foundation (2020-24).  The project investigates practices, experiences, and uses of the home during the corona crisis and afterwards, and includes subprojects on existential experiences, domestic violence, the digitalized home, and the spatial organization of the home. STAY HOME is conducted by an interdisciplinary team from the faculties of Theology and Humanities at the University of Copenhagen, The Royal Danish Academy: School of Architecture, and the IT University of Copenhagen. Read more about the project in English or Danish.

Keynote speakers

Professor Joanne Begiato, School of History, Philosophy and Culture, Oxford Brookes University. Preliminary title: Making the [un]happy home: emotions, bodies, and spaces in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.

Howard Crosby Butler Professor of the History of Architecture Beatriz Colomina, Princeton University School of Architecture.

Chancellor’s Professor Paul Dourish, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine.

Associate Professor Hanna Reichel, Princeton Theological Seminary. Preliminary title: Home/alone? – Technologies of haunting and belonging.

Topics of interest

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • Feeling at home
  • Sharing home
  • Domestic claustrophobia
  • Missing home
  • Absent homes
  • Home and mobility
  • Dwelling and belonging
  • Home as an existential place
  • Forced home
  • Vulnerable safety
  • Home without a house
  • Sense of home
  • Boundaries and thresholds of the home
  • Hybrid homes
  • Imagining home
  • Smart or invasive home

Date and location

The conference takes place on the 10th -11th of November 2022 at The Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen.

Types of presentations

It is possible to apply with a proposal for a paper presentation, a presentation by a research group or a poster. The conference language is English.

  • Paper presentations are 15-minute presentations based on original research.
  • Research group presentations are 20-minute presentations by a group of researchers working together.
  • Poster-presentations are graphic one-page posters (A2) exhibited throughout the conference and presented in a session dedicated to Q/A and discussion of individual posters.

Application process

The application must include the following:

  • Title of the presentation
  • Indication of type of presentation (paper, group or poster)
  • Full name, affiliation, country of residence, and email address of corresponding presenter
  • Indication of all presenters’ disciplinary backgrounds and affiliations
  • CV of all presenters (pdf)
  • Research abstract (150-300 words) indicating: research objectives, methodology, findings, future scope, and 3-5 key words(pdf)

Please submit your application here no later than April 15 2022 at 12.00 pm CEST/UTC+2.

The proposals will go through peer-review and answers will be sent out appx. 6 weeks after the application deadline. The abstracts are evaluated on the basis of:

  • Originality
  • Scholarly quality
  • Relevance to the conference themes and topics
  • Disciplinary and geographical variation among presentations

We might want to publish selected papers with hitherto unpublished research after the conference.

Practical information

There is no conference fee. The conference includes refreshments during breaks, and it is possible to buy lunch on-site.

We welcome geographical breadth. Non-European scholars may choose to present online if preferred. If you prefer to present online please state this in the application form.

A few travel bursaries up to 400 euros will be available as reimbursements after the conference. Depending on funding, we hope to be able to offer additional bursaries reimbursing travel expenses up to 940 euros.

The travel bursary application must include the following:

  • Motivation for attendance of the conference (max 150 words)
  • Budget showing travel expenses related to the conference
  • Indication of whether you will still be joining the conference or would like to present online if your travel expenses are not fully reimbursed

Please submit your travel bursary application together with your academic application.

Contact

Academic questions should be addressed to PI of STAY HOME, Professor Mette Birkedal Bruun: mbb@teol.ku.dk

Practical questions or questions regarding the application process should be addressed to editor of STAY HOME, Emma Klakk: emma.klakk@teol.ku.dk

Unravelling Silence and Noise in the Archives

Several complex but crucial questions in our interdisciplinary conversations on the archive have continued to resurface as matters worthy of reflection. What is an archive? How do we create them? And how can we mine our archives for individual and collective experiences of the home during the Corona pandemic in accordance with the scholarly requirements of our individual research fields? Since we at STAY HOME are researching materials as varied as architectural models, interviews, and historical documents, as well as working from different theories and methods, we often face dissimilar challenges and possibilities across disciplines. We have, however, also discovered aspects of our archival work which give rise to interdisciplinary conversations.

In this blog post, I will reflect on a series of readings and discussions on the archive carried out in the STAY HOME research group which helped elucidate shared thoughts and concerns. More specifically, I will focus on the varying ways in which silences are embedded in the archives and how these silences are created, negotiated and interpreted through the researcher’s interactions with archives.

Silence, Absence, and Fragments

Archives play a vital role in determining which pasts to preserve for posterity. Over the centuries, shifting archival paradigms have shaped different frameworks regarding the aims and processes of archiving as well as for establishing and maintaining archives (Cook 2013, 97, 196).

The undeniable significance of archives for collective memory and identity formation has led several scholars to critically examine who has established archives, when, to what purpose and to which effect. Consequently, many scholars have argued that archives are inextricably linked to power. Amongst others, Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook have argued that “archives are established by the powerful to protect or enhance their position in society. Through archives, the past is controlled.” (Schwartz & Cook 2002, 1). They point out how certain pasts are privileged and others marginalized, and through this process, how archives are permeated by silences and absences. This also makes archives an active site for the negotiation of social power (Schwartz & Cook 2002, 1). As Michel Trouillot pointed out in Silencing the Past (1995) we must keep in mind “the many ways in which the production of historical narratives involves the uneven contribution of competing groups and individuals who have unequal access to the means for such production” (xix). In other words, the processes through which some aspects of the past (and the present) are made invisible is connected to power, and it is vital to critically assess these power dynamics.

Rather than approaching silences as being destructive of the archives, some scholars have argued that researchers should seek to probe the many meanings hidden in and communicated through silences. Writing on oral history interviews, Alexander Freund emphasizes how silences are ambiguous and open to a multitude of interpretations:

Silences may express individual or collective forgetting, collaborative remembering, discomfort, reluctance, (self-)censorship, noncompliance, confrontation, reticence, politeness, fear, anger, deceit, taboos, contemplation, concern for the other, reflection, conformity, or that which need not be told. Some silences are explicit or obvious, others are not.

Freund 2013, 223

The STAY HOME group discussed whose experiences of the home our individual research projects are able to uncover and highlight. In combination, our four different projects give different perspectives on collective and individual experiences during the Corona pandemic, but we will, however, never be able to capture everyone’s experience. We will inevitably still have blind spots as a consequence of our archives and focus.

The Researcher’s Cut

Archival research is enmeshed in a multitude of knowledge practices. Archives are not only fragmented, but as the feminist scholar Maria Tamboukou suggests, archival research is thoroughly fragmented too. In the article “Archival Research: Unravelling Space/Time/Matter Entanglements and Fragments” (2014), she describes how archival work is both shaped by the archives themselves, the theories, notions, and demarcations the researcher is working from, as well as the space and time in which the research takes place.

While working in the archive, researchers always create an archive of their own, Tamboukou states. It is through what she terms “the researcher’s cut” that “archival fragments, theoretical insights, spatio-temporal experiences and material conditions and limitations” are gathered into a unity (631). In other words, the researcher’s questions, interpretations, theoretical insights and (de)selections exist as an interaction between spatial, temporal and material relations alongside similar selective forces within the archive itself (617). The researcher’s cut is therefore “never the consequence of a linear and closed causality of the research hypothesis, questions and theoretical insights that [the researcher] initially brought in the archive” (628).

According to Tamboukou, when we gather and create an archive we always do so from our own perspective. At STAY HOME, we have discussed how the fact that we ourselves have lived through and experienced the Corona pandemic will undeniably influence how we read and what we interpret from our archives. In some cases, it can even be difficult to separate our own experiences, what we have heard from relatives and other relations, and what we have read in our archives from one another. Our own personal experiences will inevitably become part of our archives.

Concluding remarks

Our communal delving into the notion of the archive incited a variety of mutual reflections. Firstly, on the extraordinary limitations and conditions placed on collecting and establishing archives during the Corona pandemic, and its effects on which and whose experiences have been collected. Secondly, on the necessity of considering and listening for silences in our archives and the meanings hidden within them. Thirdly, on the demand for awareness of what has not found a place in our archive or in our researcher’s cut, and on the inevitable partiality of our archives and of our findings. And finally, and most importantly, on permitting these reflections to resurface and to persist.

References

Cook, Terry. “Evidence, Memory, Identity, and Community: Four Shifting Archival Paradigms.” Archival Science 13, no. 2 (2013): 95-120.

Freund, Alexander. “Toward an Ethics of Silence? Negotiating Off-the-Record Events and Identity in Oral History.” In Oral History Off the Record: Toward an Ethnography of Practice, ed. A. Sheftel and S. Zembrzycki (New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2013), 223-238.

Schwartz, Joan M. and Terry Cook. “Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory.” Archival Science 2 (2002): 1-19.

Tamboukou, Maria. “Archival Research: Unravelling Space/Time/Matter Entanglements and Fragments.” Qualitative Research 14, no. 5 (2014): 617-633.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1995.

The digital technologies and the body

In the beginning of the STAY HOME project, we continually returned to a discussion of phenomenology. Recurring questions arose concerning the understanding of phenomena and experiences related to home, body, digital technologies, boundaries, social relations etc. in our different research fields. In this blogpost, I take my point of departure in articles we have discussed in the STAY HOME research group for a brief pondering of the phenomenology of the body and technology. Furthermore, I reflect upon the relationship between human beings, technology and the home during the corona crisis.   

The body and the corona crisis as disturbance

In the philosophical concern with the structures of experience and consciousness, known as phenomenology, human beings are viewed as something different from other objects in the world. A human being is understood as a “being-in-the-world” constituted by its relationship to the very world that it inhabits (Zahavi 2018: 73, 79). It is a phenomenological viewpoint that disturbance makes us notice the objects and space around us in a different way. For example, we notice our body when we experience physical pain (Zahavi 2018: 75-84). The disturbance, which enables us to view our surroundings and ourselves in a different way, is important when examining how we behave within our homes during the corona crisis. We have found that the phenomenological understanding of the role of disturbances is illuminating in this context. One of the questions that grew out of our discussions on phenomenology concerned the effects of the disturbance of the corona crisis on the relationship between technology and the body in the home.

The body and the digital technology

Lars Botin, an associate professor in techno-anthropology and participation at Aalborg University, argues that digital technology is more than a mere object. He understands digital technology as something that “adopts” the human body. It becomes a part of the body and has an impact on how we can gain a perspective on the world. He argues that we do not need to slow down and hold back the evolution of technology and instead proposes a new path,

“…in which human-technology relations and evolutions lead toward a “eutopia” (eutopia = good-place) where our bodies reside and operate with technology on a meaningful and beneficial level. In this eutopia we are embraced by and embrace technology, in this case media and we evolve new identities and bodies that might be cyborgs, goddesses, and/or monsters.”

Botin 2017: 168

Botin argues that technology should be understood as an integrated part of the body (Botin 2017: 168). He avers that humans are constantly moved and shaped by technology and cannot maintain a static and controlling poise and that the media become flesh in this meeting (Botin 2017: 175). “…we are in a position to co-create, co-constitute, co-construct, co-design, and co-shape the way we are in co-relations with media, because we are  through and with the media” (Botin 2017: 176). In short, he understands the body as being always and already in the media and vice versa (Botin 2017: 177). The media as such becomes flesh and body (Botin 2017: 179). In this way, we have new ecstatic bodies, which are variants of the “thick” body, in the phenomenological sense of the physical body. He argues that the human and the digital technology should not be considered as conflicting, but that digital technology brings possibilities and a new bodily understanding (Botin 2017: 181). Botins understading of body and technology have been especially interesting due to the increased use of zoom-meetings, facetime and online activities at home.

The body, the media and the corona crisis

During the corona crisis, the digital technologies have come to play a larger role in education, business meetings, social events, counseling and private relationships because of the restrictions that require us to stay home and keep social distance. An Australian study made during the corona crisis in 2020 by Jess Hardley and Ingrid Richardson, showed that the mobile phone as digital technology was no longer experienced as part of the body because other devices were used more often, and thus the body and the phone can be said to have undergone an uncoupling. Hardley and Richardson investigated how mobile media are “situated” in the domestic environment and suggest that the covid-19 pandemic has altered our experience of “networked corporeality”. They discuss the ambiguity of digital intimacy in the uncoupling of mobile media and the body as a result of a rapid increase in both screen time and time spent at home (Hardley and Richardson 2020: 1). Further, participants experienced some form of detachment from their mobile phone, both physically and affectively, as other interfaces, desktop computers, laptops, tablets and iPads, became the preferred, predominant or required modalities of networked interactions (Hardley and Richardson 2020: 8).

According to Hardley and Richardson’s research, it seems that the participants were removing themselves from an understanding of certain technologies as part of their body. Does it mean that the corona crisis disturbed them in a way that made them view their surroundings anew? Did the changed perspective result in being more aware of their own bodies and their relation to digital technology as the mobile phone, because of the disturbance in their digital? It is interesting if the crisis could cause a disturbance in the relation between body and the mobile phone, and interesting to ponder what this means for the understanding of digital technology as part of our bodies as Botin argues.

Concluding remarks

The question whether digital technologies are a part of the body as an ecstatic body or if they are an extension of the body is interesting in the STAY HOME project for several reasons. In the STAY HOME research group, we have discussed the following questions: 1. what does it mean for the understanding and experience of privacy during the corona crisis if the digital technologies are our body and not something we can remove from ourselves? 2. If the bodily experience in the home can be perceived through digital devices, how does this affect our understanding of zones and boundaries in the home? 3. How can the digital technologies be used to control others and how can they be used to hide the reality, and show only a curated or a digital body in online meetings? 4. How can the understanding and experience of the digital technologies as part of our body or as an extension effect our existential experience of ourselves and effect our everyday being?

The questions raised in the research group will influence or be integrated into our future work. My own theological project will especially include the question of how the understanding and experience of the digital technologies affect us as human beings. Furthermore, with an increased presence of digital technologies in the home, questions of how we as bodies live in the home during times of crisis are crucial.

References

Botin, Lars. 2017. Sublime Embodiment of the Media. Postphenomenology and media: Essays on human-media-world relations. London: Lexington Books.

Hardley J, Richardson I. 2020. Digital placemaking and networked corporeality: Embodied mobile media practices in domestic space during Covid-19. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. December 2020. doi:10.1177/1354856520979963

Zahavi, Dan. 2018. Spatiality and embodiment. Phenomenology The Basics. Routledge: Taylor & Francis

The notion of home as a gateway for conversation across disciplines

In this blog post, PhD Fellow Katja de Neergaard reflects on a series of readings and discussions on the notion of home between the core researchers of the STAY HOME project.

Challenges when working across disciplines

Much work has been done to delineate the meaning of home, and many terms exist to characterise it: house, household, domestic space, dwelling etc. How a home is described differs across academic fields, and many definitions exist. The multiplicity of the notion of home was apparent in our first meetings on the STAY HOME research project; in the core working-group comprised of a postdoc and three PhDs, we quickly realised that we all brought different notions of the home with us. Maybe not surprisingly, the home is one thing to the architect, another to the theologian and a third to a historian. This poses a challenge in interdisciplinary research. Different notions of home place emphasis on different aspects of the home, influence what we focus on empirically and what we determine as significant for our analysis. Therefore, having different ideas of the home on an interdisciplinary research team can make it difficult to establish a shared vocabulary and direction.

In this blog post I first present some of the many approaches to studying the home, particularly related to my own field of Science and Technology Studies (STS). These are used to briefly illustrate how different notions of home hold different potentials for research because they foster different empirical and analytical paths. Finally, I show how the home served as a gateway into different disciplines of an interdisciplinary research team. By discussing different notions of home, we experienced a greater understanding of the perspectives we each represent. In his way, the notion of home became a (conceptual) place for us to meet as researchers, from which we were able to venture into each other’s fields.

The notion of home in STS

STS is concerned with the mutual relationship between science, technologies and society. Studies within STS focus on understanding how these realms interact and have effects. But even within this discipline, there can be many approaches to studying the home, some of which I will present below.

In some areas of STS, the home is considered in relation to the larger political structures and economies that it is part of. For example, Handel notes that houses are part of larger regimes “in which the home/house is a feature in a wide system of planning, political economies, and state policies” (Handel 2019, 1046). At the same time, others like Madigan et al (1990) note, that house and home are conflated in the term ‘home ownership’ and brings attention to how the physical house is also tied to individual economic resources, personal identity and security.

Other STS scholars examine the home as influenced by “cultural norms and individual fantasies” (Rapport 1998, 8). This includes exploring the relationship between the home and ideas of family, gendered aspects of the home, as well as idealised notions of home. For example, some examine how the distinctions of public and private sphere have produced a notion of home as a place of refuge from the surveillance and expectations of the ‘outside’, while others argue that a sense of security is not a given in all homes.

While cultural norms influence the home, the materiality of the home, including the lay-out, technologies, size etc., also “constrain or facilitate cultural and historical modes of relating between the people who share these spaces” (Mallett 2004, 66). To account for the dialectic relationship between social practices and the physical space, some conceptualise the home as a socio-spatial system. To Saunders and Williams (1988) the home is the fusion of the physical and social unit, and it is in this setting that social relations and institutions come into action and are re-produced. Similarly, Massey argues that place “is constituted by the particular social relations that occur in a specific location, the social effects that arise in this interaction and its ‘positive interrelations with elsewhere’ or outside (1992: 13). By its very nature then the identity of a place is ‘provisional’” (Massey in Mallett 2004, 70). From this perspective then, the physical attributes of the home are deeply intertwined with the relational aspects of the home, as well as the societies they interact with. Furthermore, casting the home as something also always in flux brings attention to processual and practice-oriented perspectives on the home. In this regard, Dourish and Bell argue that we should refrain from assuming that the category of home and domestic are “pregiven and stable, [and that] we need to look at the ways in which it is actively produced” (Dourish and Bell 2011, 6).

A final example of a perspective on the home found within STS, is to approach the home as an experience or a localisable idea (Douglas 1991, 289). Considering the home this way brings attention to notions such as homeland, community, a city, a set of relations or a sense of belonging. In this stream of thought, often propelled by feminist thinkers, the boundaries of home are impermeable. For example, some focus on the relationship between home and journeying, conceptualising the home as a “relational realm from which people venture into the world and to which they generally hope to return” (Case in Mallett 2004, 77). Such ventures out of the home are part of the constitution of home itself, because the movement occurs in relation to the home (Ahmed 1999). In much of this work, the home is examined as phenomenological experiences and states of being, rather than a fixed and stable unit.

The perspectives on home I have described above illustrate the multiplicity of the notion and show that there are many possible approaches, even within my own field. Furthermore, the examples make apparent how various notions of home place emphasis on different aspects of the home, and as such, influence what type of examination of the home is relevant. For example, examining the home as a unit in a larger political system requires a different mode of inquiry than examining the home as phenomenological states of being. Thus, making particular notions of home explicit is important because they influence the research-process by shaping our empirical focus and hold different analytical potentials.

The notion of home as a gateway

With all of these approaches available within one field, bringing together perspectives on an interdisciplinary research team can seem daunting. In fact, coming up with a shared definition on the project would likely prove impossible. However, in the process of grabbling with this and seeking to clarify our respective ideas of home, we realised that we achieved a greater understanding of each other’s disciplines. This became apparent when discussing a perspective that considers the relationship between technologies and societal development, and the effects onto the home. Through Dourish and Bell’s account of how bringing a technology like the vacuum cleaner into homes changed gendered ideas about carpet cleaning and introduced new standards of cleanliness, my fellow researchers were able to better engage with the role of technology from an STS perspective. Likewise, my own understanding was informed by accounts of how the home has been influenced by historic events such as the industrial revolution, which resulted in major changes to patterns of employment and re-configured the distribution of wealth, thereby changing the way domestic life was organised and imagined. Furthermore, I gained a deeper knowledge of how developments in relation to work-life, ideas of comfort and intimacy, become organising principles for the design of domestic spaces.

It became clear to us that the complexity of the notion of home presents us with an opportunity – it is a point of entry into our respective disciplines. Therefore, our aim is not to strive for one common definition of the home. Instead, we seek to inhabit the tension between these different perspectives and allow the notion of home to be a gateway from which we can venture into multiple disciplines. We see this a way of confronting ourselves with any preconceived notions of the home, while achieving a deeper understanding of other perspectives. In doing so, we hope to follow Mallet, who urges conversations about the home between disciplines “that both reflect[] and accommodate[] people’s complex and diverse lived experience of home” (Mallett 2004, 64).

References

Ahmed, Sara. 1999. ‘Home and Away: Narratives of Migration and Estrangement’. International Journal of Cultural Studies 2 (3): 329–47. https://doi.org/10.1177/136787799900200303.

Douglas, Mary. 1991. ‘The Idea of a Home: A Kind of Space’. Social Research 58 (1): 287–307.

Dourish, Paul, and Genevieve Bell. 2011. Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Handel, Ariel. 2019. ‘What’s in a Home? Toward a Critical Theory of Housing/Dwelling’. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 37 (6): 1045–62. https://doi.org/10.1177/2399654418819104.

Madigan, Ruth, Moira Munro, and Susan J. Smith. 1990. ‘Gender and the Meaning of the Home’. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 14 (4): 625–47. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2427.1990.tb00160.x.

Mallett, Shelley. 2004. ‘Understanding Home: A Critical Review of the Literature’. The Sociological Review 52 (1): 62–89. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2004.00442.x.

Rapport, Nigel Julian. 1998. ‘“Home and Movement: A Polemic”.’ In Migrants of Identity. Perceptions of Home in a World of Movement., edited by N J Rapport and A. Dawson, 3–38. United Kingdom: Berg.

Saunders, Peter, and Peter Williams. 1988. ‘The Constitution of the Home: Towards a Research Agenda’. Housing Studies 3 (2): 81–93. https://doi.org/10.1080/02673038808720618.

STAY HOME: an interdisciplinary research project

The corona crisis has demanded of individuals, families, and societies a complete re-assessment of the functions and boundaries of the home. The lockdown has required that private spaces accommodate typically public activities such as work, school, day-care, exercise, concerts, and religious congregations. Meanwhile, the everyday life of the household has become more segregated and hermetic. These shifts have made visible social, architectural, digital, and existential structures of the home, bringing to the fore risks and potential of relevance for future homes. 

Through an interdisciplinary approach, the STAY HOME project documents experiences and initiatives and identifies new insights and practices regarding the home during the corona crisis. It will trawl ethnographic archives and data generously shared by other corona projects, including The Digitalisation of Everyday Lives during the Corona-crisis (ITU/AAU) and the corona diary project at the National Museum of Copenhagen as well as data gathered by the STAY HOME scholars.

STAY HOME is directed by Professor Mette Birkedal Bruun, and the main research team consists of three PhD students and one assistant professor from four different disciplines at the Faculties of Theology and Humanities (UCPH), the IT University of Copenhagen (ITU) and The Royal Danish Academy, School of Architecture: 

Anne-Milla Wichmann Kristensen’s  work is anchored in Systematic Theology. This PhD project is concerned with existential experiences in the home during the corona crisis, especially experiences of courage and anxiety. It examines the corona crisis through the theological concept of kairos (the right moment), analysing it as an existential crisis, which enables a new perception of time and a new understanding of history and life. Anne-Milla will study an ethnographic archive through the theology of Paul Tillich, asking what the corona crisis means for the experience of courage and anxiety in the home during the 2020s lockdown. 

Katrine Rønsig Larsen’s work is anchored in Family History. This PhD project is concerned with the significance of the corona crisis for experiences with family violence. Employing a history of experience approach, Katrine will analyse the historically and culturally contingent experiences of family violence in the context of societal transformation. Rather than establishing a stable notion of what family violence is and how it is experienced, her dissertation aims to uncover the unstable cultural understandings of violence in the family and to historicise the experience of violence itself.  

Katja de Neergaard’s work is anchored in Science and Technology Studies. This PhD project is concerned with the effects of the lockdown and increased digitalisation on how privacy is understood and enacted. It examines how digital technologies influence individuals’ ability to control and negotiate the thresholds of privacy by asking the following question: How is privacy enacted and transformed as a consequence of an increased digitalisation of the home during the lockdown? By analysing an ethnographic archive collected during the first lockdown from March-June in 2020, and by collecting additional material through digital methods, Katja will interrogate the effects of a welfare state in a state of exception and the consequences on privacy, specifically. 

Nicholas Thomas Lee’s work is anchored in Interior and Spatial Design. His project entitled, Dwelling in a Time of Social Distancing examines the unprecedented demands that the current corona crisis has placed on the private home interior and its architectural arrangement. With a focus on forms of dwelling and how we design and inhabit the domestic built-environment the following question is posited: In the midst of a ‘crisis’ in domestic architecture that has been amplified by the current corona crisis and its associated lockdowns, how might the architect reconceptualise the spatial organisation of the contemporary dwelling interior to better accommodate the needs of its inhabitants? Through ‘research by design’ experiments, the project explores the potential of threshold spaces and polyvalent places in a series of prospective dwellings, in the form of physical scale models and 1:1 spatial probes. 

The interdisciplinary approach of the STAY HOME project is developed in an ongoing exchange between the four researchers and with historical research into the home and its social, spatial, technological and existential implications conducted at the Danish National Research Foundation Centre for Privacy Studies.

This research blog will be concerned with the STAY HOME researchers’ collaborative work with concepts, theories and methods. Taking our point of departure in interdisciplinary discussions and academic exchange within the research team, we will present thoughts and reflections on concepts such as homeexperience, archive etc., which prove to be relevant for our work. We look forward to engaging in and contributing to the dialogues and discussions about The Home and the influence of the corona crisis on the social, digital, architectural and existential characteristics of present and future homes. 

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