Every new journey begins with preparations, like, a lot of them. This one started already some three years ago, when a couple of colleagues from the Department of Humanties sat together to discuss the state and future of the department. And while we found many diverse and innovative lines of research in the different institutes, the relative absence of projects and scholars engaging with digital or computational research was striking to us. This was even more true, as one of the main research priorities the University of Luxembourg has deined for itself revolves around the notion of Data Science. And the same holds true for the funding priorities of the national funding agency, the FNR.
Against this backdrop, by involving many different colleages from the department and faculty, and by tinkering the idea of creating a department-level research lab that would tackle the specific opportunities and challanges of digitization from a scholarly point of view, the concept for the Culture & Computation Lab was born. The main idea behind the lab stems from two sources: a) the highly interdisciplinary setup of the Department of Humanities that includes a variety of scholarly disciplines, and b) the fact that among the many facilities in the research landscape engaging with digital change, hardly any seems to highlight the specific contribution the humanities can make to a better understanding and close monitoring of the fundamental change the digital revolution induces in all domains of cultural practice.
This rationale is the point of departure for our new lab, and for everything that it will bring about. We will tackle the rise of machine learning (“AI”) as a mass technique and its consequences for all aspects of everyday life – including research. In doing so, we will establish a critical culture-analytical perspective on the manifold phenomena that relate to it, such as social and cultural engineering, the politics of classification, or the role of the humanities as a critical mirror in a computaterized world. Beyond that, we seek to contribute to a cultural grounding of computational methods in disciplines such as Natural Language Processing to further its understanding of language as deeply rooted in cultural practice.