The Skagen Institute

How might we think differently about our methods to better grapple with the complexity of 21st Century contexts?
The Skagen Institute was launched in 2013 to provide a collaborative infrastructure for scholars to innovate more radically in research methods for social and humanistic research. Conceived as a ‘safe space’ for experimentation, the Skagen Institute is initially geared toward academic scholars. Beyond the Academy, the Institute partners with other arenas where research and design play an important role in the process of understanding the social and human conditions of the 21st Century. The rationale for this Institute is based on the premise that normative definitions and parameters for research methods tend to constrain the creative and flexible adaptation needed to adequately address the complexity of contemporary social contexts. The post internet epoch demands better resonance and fit between qualitative research practices and the complexity of multi-mediated contexts. At the level of theory, researchers can consider some of the epistemological and ideological conditions within which we find ourselves doing inquiry in the 21st Century, which are tied closely to shrinking budgets, greater public scrutiny of academic research, and the push toward ‘big data.’ At the granular level of everyday practice, we can explore the creative everyday activities of good researchers, where curious people find pathways to meaning that both defy traditional conceptions of methods and also extend our understanding of ‘what counts’ as a part of one’s method. The activities and core values of the Institute challenge researchers from academic and non-academic arenas to think differently about how one might frame, conduct, and share social inquiry in the 21st Century.

The Skagen conference

The Skagen conference is an annual event held in Denmark in November, modeled after the idea of a working retreat where foremost experts join participants to collaboratively practice innovative, ethical, and robust methods for studying complex and digitally-saturated social contexts. During this week-long conference, participants spend intensive time interrogating and applying innovative and creative ways of knowing.

Skagen Conference 2018: Speculative Methods

This year, a team of international and interdisciplinary scholars gathered to consider how their approaches could incorporate more speculative methodologies. Professor Annette Markham led several creative workshops drawing on the playful critical pedagogical techniques used by Augusto Boal (Theatre of the Oppressed). Using counterfactual writing prompts, participants wrote short vignettes to explore different possible trajectories from a future-looking-backward viewpoint. These writing sessions were punctuated by evenings of fire dancing, storytelling, and card games. Both senior researchers and PhD students  participated. November 19-23, 2018, Klitgaarden Refugium in Skagen, located at the Northern tip of Denmark. 

Skagen Conference 2017: Migratory Methods

Skagen Conference 2017 featured Professor and artist Dalida Maria Benfield as guest facilitator. Founder of the institute for (IM)possible subjects and founder/facilitator of the transnational arts/intervention project Migratory Times. At the Skagen Conference, she drew attention to how the concept of migration can help us consider the politics, concerns, and possibilities for troubling and transgressing typical knowledge migration. This is particularly useful for PhD students and early career researchers to consider the fundamental purpose of inquiry in what Isabelle Stengers has labeled “Catastrophic Times.” Conference was held March 5-9. 2018, at Klitgaarden Refugium in Skagen, located at the Northern tip of Denmark. 

Skagen Conference 2016: Rethinking ‘Innovation’

The Skagen Conference in 2016 focused on how we might develop ‘transgressive methodology’ as a way to consider complexity of social contexts in the digital age. This workshop/meeting/retreat invited professional researchers seeking to learn more about how to innovate in qualitative methods, particularly as these can be used to shift from description to intervention, or from objects of analysis to flows and layers of meaning through analysis. This is particularly useful for PhD students to learn how alternative approaches can satisfy criteria for rigor and quality across many disciplines.

Skagen Conference 2015: Creative Future Making

In 2015, the Skagen Conference focused on innovative theories and methods for disseminating or sharing academic knowledge beyond the typical academic writing genre. Guest Professor Katrin Tiidenberg (Estonia) facilitated workshops wherein participants could explore short form writing for social media, or creative and fictional writing in short or long form. Participants considered conceptual and practical frameworks for justifying this type of work and discussed strategies for articulating the credibility of such knowledge production practices to various stakeholders.

Skagen Conference 2014: ‘Transgressive’ Methods

The inaugural Skagen Conference in 2014 focused on developing ‘transgressive methodology’ as a way to embrace and trouble what we see in the digital age as a significant mismatch between traditional norms and techniques for inquiry and the complexity of the social contexts these methods seek to comprehend.

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