Computing is Work! Siegen University, July 6-8, 2017

Organizers: Thomas Haigh & Sebastian Gießmann

Location: Artur-Woll-Haus, Am Eichenhang 50, 57076 Siegen, Germany. Free parking is available onsite. (map link) Siegen University

Times: Start at 9:30 on July 6. End at 13:30 on July 8.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Matthew Jones, James R. Barker Professor of Contemporary Civilization, Columbia University.
  • Matthew Kirschenbaum, Professor of English, University of Maryland.
  • Fred Turner, Professor of Communication, Stanford University.
  • Kjeld Schmidt, Professor of Work, Technology & Organization, Copenhagen Business School.


This conference, the launch event for the Social Studies of Information group in the Siegen University iSchool, brings together a distinguished group of international scholars to examine different aspects of computing and its history through the lens of work. We humans spend most of our waking lives working. Work includes cultural, intellectual, managerial, and emotional labor as well as physical toil. Despite this, most work by humanities and media scholars implicitly treats the study of work as marginal or uninteresting. Even the study of “digital practices” rarely engages with the specifics of the workplace, despite the importance of distributed micro-practices like clickworking. Information technology underpins the transformation of work today, as it has it in the past.

We welcome interdisciplinary contributions that address computing as work practice, both on a local, situated, infrastructural level. Speakers will be exploring many kinds of work, from the work of computerized literary production to the work of scientific research. We believe that close attention to the social processes of work has the cross-cutting potential to integrate a variety of historical, social and ethnographic research approaches, from labor history to the scientific ethnography to the study of media practices as cooperative accomplishments, into a revealing whole.


July 6, Thursday

9:30 OPENING REMARKS. Computing is Work! Thomas Haigh (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee/Siegen University) and Sebastian Giessmann (Siegen University)

10:00 ROUND TABLE. Computer Supported Cooperative Work as Theory and Practice 

  • Erhard Schüttpelz (Siegen University)
  • Volker Wulf (Siegen University)
  • Moderator: Dave Randall (Siegen University)

11:00 KEYNOTE. Matthew Jones (Columbia University): Data Mining is Work: Scaling Algorithms, Overcoming Friction, Redefining Knowledge. Moderator: Carolin Gerlitz (Siegen University)

12:30: LUNCH, local catering at Artur-Woll-Haus

14:00 PANEL. Scientific Workplaces

  • Jens Schröter (University of Bonn): Work will be 3D: Imaginary Workplaces and Volumetric Displays
  • Gerard Alberts (University of Amsterdam): Archiving is Work, Archaeology Even More
  • Moderator: Jörg Potthast (Siegen University)


16:30 PANEL. Structuring Labor

  • Roli Varma (University of New Mexico): Women at Work: Decoding Femininity in Computing in India
  • Nathan Ensmenger (Indiana University): Documentation is Work: Flowcharts as Temporal Boundary Objects
  • Moderator: Axel Volmar (Siegen)

19:30 DINNER at Gasthaus Peun (Oststrasse 15, 57074 Siegen. homepage)

July 7, Friday

9:00 KEYNOTE. Kjeld Schmidt (Copenhagen Business School): Coordination is Work: The Problem of Computerizing Coordinative Practices. Moderator: Erhard Schüttpelz (Siegen University)


11:00 PANEL. Workflows

  • Kari Kuutti (University of Oulo): “Muddling through” is Work: a Plea for Workflow Oriented Computing
  • Maria Haigh (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee / Siegen University): Stopping Fake News is Work: The Work Processes of Peer-to-Peer Counter Propaganda
  • Moderator: Peter Tolmie (Siegen University)

13:30 LUNCH. Local catering at Artur-Woll-Haus

15:00 PANEL. Institutions and Markets

  • Hallam Stevens (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore): Copycatting is Work: The Diverse Labours of the Shenzhen Electronics Markets
  • Ben Peters (University of Tulsa): Networking is Work: How Computing Institutions Matter even When Networks Fail
  • Moderator: Christian Henrich-Franke (Siegen University)

17:00 Prepare to move downtown for the evening keynote and dinner

18:00 pm KEYNOTE: Fred Turner (Stanford University): Bohemia is Work: Reimagining Digital Labor inside Facebook. Moderator: Ehler Voss (Siegen University). To be held in the Museum für Gegenwartskunst (home page here)

19:30 Head to CONFERENCE DINNER at Brasserie (Unteres Schloss 1, 57072, Siegen. homepage

July 8, Saturday (Artur-Woll-Haus)

9:00 PANEL. Fun and Games

  • Ksenia Tatarchenko (University of Geneva): Leisure is Work: The Making of the Soviet Computing Collectives
  • Laine Nooney (New York University): Games are Work: Notes from the “Little Silicone Valley”
  • Moderator: Nadine Taha (Siegen University)


11:30 KEYNOTE. Matthew Kirschenbaum (University of Maryland): (Even) Literature is Work! Word Processing and Literary Labor. Moderator Till Heilmann (University of Bonn).

13:00 CLOSING REMARKS. Thomas Haigh (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee/Siegen University) and Sebastian Giessmann (Siegen University)

13:30. CONFERENCE ENDS. Lunch bags will be provided, which can be consumed on the train by those heading out immediately.


Accommodation: Invited participants will be accommodated at the H+ Hotel close to downtown Siegen (Kampenstraße 83, 57072 Siegen – formerly the Ramada Hotel). We will provide transportation to and from the conference venue on the main Siegen university campus. If making your own arrangements you might also consider the new Holiday Inn Express Siegen.

Meals: Light snacks will be provided between conference sessions. Meals will be provided for invited participants as shown on the schedule. If you are making your own arrangements but would like to be added to the reservations for lunch or dinner (at your own expense and subject to available space) please contact us.

Logistical Contact: For questions about hotels, meals, and other practical matters please contact Anja Höse:


Medien Der Kooperation DFG