The theme of the current report reflects our thinking around how humanities knowledge is gaining in significance, which is increasingly by engaging in broad and complex problems that require multiple competencies. – Sverker Sörlin
As a teaser we are republishing the following piece (pp. 14-15). If you want to read the whole thing, download the report and read it here.
Our Work Environment
From two hectic but very exciting years with numerous new projects, employees and events, the pace indeed slowed down somewhat during 2019 at the Division. We continued to fill our calendars with both bigger and smaller events. We also ordered noise-cancelling earphones and started a subscription to plants for our corridors. We stopped expanding and instead settled on a number of around 50 employees, which remained steady through the end of 2020. During this period, we also hired our third administrator, making the admin team complete.
Trying to think back to 2019 during an ongoing pandemic is slightly challenging. We remember that it was the usual busy year full of events and full of the small things we all took for granted then. We started the year with an on-site Higher Seminar with our doctoral student Jean-Sebastién Boutet, and we continued with Marco Armiero’s Docent lecture. Per Högselius held his inaugural lecture as a new professor in history of technology. These events were likely framed by cake in the kitchen. We also initiated a Thursday afternoon fika, a regular coffee break for the intake of cake and other sweets. Our work environment was very much stomach-steered. Work place meetings would always involve the traditional “fralla” or bun. Our two corridors were filled with employees and guests, we met over a lunch, a coffee and a chat in the kitchen most every workday. Our families joined us for the annual picnic to kick off the summer break. To kick off the fall term, we travelled to Falun and climbed down into the old copper mines. A happy crowd decorated for Christmas before we all sang carols to a nice cup of “glögg” before the Holidays.
Being such a social work place, with a spirit built on collegiality, food, and a friendly atmosphere on site, the pandemic and the new restrictions it entailed were a huge adjustment and a struggle for many of us. In March 2020, new regulations sent us all into home office and our guests were forced to return to their home countries. Our workplace meetings moved to Zoom and the archives around the world were left unexplored. The spontaneous chat over a coffee in the kitchen seemed impossible to replace in the digital space. Some of us ended up in complete lockdown with kids at home, adding Teletubbies to their workday. On top of this, we experienced Zoom fatigue from all our online meetings and we developed a vulture neck after sitting crouched in a bad working position at a temporary desk for far too many hours.
Was it all that bad? No, we did manage to create some great memories together after all. In June we had an open-air party to celebrate Daniele Valisena’s PhD defense. In August we had a “hub” kick off, where we met in smaller groups spread out over Stockholm in colleagues’ gardens, discussing teaching and work environment both in smaller groups on site and over Zoom. We had a small and spread-out mingle for Jesse Peterson when he defended his PhD thesis in October, with cheese, songs and tears in the kitchen. Not to forget that at long last we could welcome our overseas colleagues to our online Division meetings. In addition, we got to enjoy the unexpected delivery of a piano to the Division in Real Time during a work place meeting!