Laudatio Dina Friis

Theorising Ambiguity: telling deliberately equivocal stories

Leiden, 22 June 2022

Dear Dina,

This afternoon, we have discussed with great pleasure methodological challenges, expectations, temporalities and positioning of your work, and enjoyed the engagement with your work.

It is a slightly overwhelming feeling that I stand here and give my very first laudatio as professor, because this is an exceptional PhD. So I understand a little better why professors deal with this kind of thing by pulling out some platitudes, like

-there are perfect dissertations and finished dissertations

Or one I use regularly:

-no one does it alone, but everyone does it their own way

The second part certainly applies to you! The first part may be much less true for external PhDs. And even less true for you. This is not to dismiss the wonderful friends who talked to you about the PhD over coffee or helped you proofread the final manuscripts, and the support of all your loved ones who kept faith in this project with you and never doubted you would finish. But it is the case that you pursued this work without the institutional and professional context that 99.9% of PhDs can rely on.

You were registered as a PhD in Leiden a decade ago. The last time we saw each other face to face was in 2013. Since then, you have worked on your own on the project, with the occasional consultation with Paul and I via Skype. We have all had enough of a taste of lockdowns to imagine the challenge of this kind of prolonged working from a distance!

This means that this dissertation and this degree are especially worthy of our admiration and appreciation. And because it was such a long and lonely and at times also lovely road, I want to look back with you. To help us get a sense of these 11 years, and here, I am fully a participant in the kinds of just so, post-hoc narrative creation that you raise in your dissertation,

I came up with a number of phases:

In the first phase, you were Penelope. Weaving away, making progress, but then undoing her work. There were certainly 4 or 5 complete versions of the first three chapters. You would write, be interrupted by a major life event, and return when things allowed, only to find that, now, you really knew what you wanted the dissertation to be about, and starting all over.

And I don’t mean rewriting, I mean writing again, from scratch. 

You were instoppable in this, and blew all advice to build on what you already had to the wind. With firm determination, you would start all over and do it right this time. You were really indomitable in this. There was no convincing you that a chapter should not be 84 pages long.

But looking back, again as you describe in your dissertation, I now get it. This was in an important way your writing space, your experimental lab, where the labour of writing and rewriting and writing again brought you to some of the insights in your book.

Then there was the olympic wrestling phase. At the point where you felt you had identified the main points you wanted to address in your dissertation, you also identified some opponents. This turned into wrestling matches, where you would pick a scholar and a central work in their oeuvres, and wrestle them to the ground, poking your intellectual fingers into all their soft spots, kicking their white underbellies with steel-toe boots, and not letting go until they begged for mercy. This was not pretty to watch—nor easy to read. Gradually, you accepted that you could also end these matches before they gave up the ghost, help the opponent up and shake hands.

Then things got lighter and started to flow. In this phase, I see the scholar at her desk.

One turning point was a meeting that from memory I will date to two years ago. Paul and I had read through your latest version of the first three chapters, indicated that they also contained the beginnings of chapters 4, 5, and even of a conclusion. That is how I remember it, but of course, we know that I am doing all kinds of network cutting and post-hoc classifying to come up with this narrative…

 In the course of this meeting, Paul noted that, actually what you were trying to do, was to theorise ambiguity. You wrote about this in the generous acknowledgements too. This phrase resonated with you.

Douwe Draaisma, professor of the history of psychology and number 1 influencer in our collective understanding of memory, has often said that no one looks out the window as much as writers do.

That holds for you too. In one of our follow up email exchanges, you wrote

Theorising ambiguity.

I’ve written it on a wall, a wall I look at through the window, from my desk when I write

That was the moment I knew. I knew you would finish this dissertation—it was there, you could see it, literally, the writing on the wall.

And now, Theorising Ambiguity, is written on this cover. And your wisdom, experience and expertise are recognized and celebrated today Dina, among your peers, friends and family. Here, in the heart of this academic institution.

To echo your stellingen,

the features that manage to temporarily unite people are unpredictable

I am deeply grateful that I could temporarily be united to this project. Your determination and unique sense of purpose were both the driving force and the challenge. I seriously doubt that I will ever meet anyone who can equal your dedication to intellectual pursuit. Paul and I are so so proud that you will bear this title and we hope that it will help you to follow your dreams and ambitions. 

Knowledge Infrastructures @EASST2022

Together with colleagues from the Knowledge Infrastructures Department of Campus Fryslân, we will present, organise and launch at the upcoming EASST conference in Madrid, from 6-9 Julu 2022

6 July 14:00 – 15:30

Room N106

Panel 010. ForeSTS

476. Imagining and evaluating olive orchards in Ege
Efe Cengiz, Anne Beaulieu, Carol Garzon-Lopez. Imagining and Evaluating Olive Orchards in Ege

6 July 14:00 – 15:30

Room N107


479. Selen Eren and Anne Beaulieu. To create better worlds: care for birds living now or care for data serving future?

6 July 15:30 – 17:00 Room N117 –

Panel 048. Transdisciplinary research: how to stay with the trouble and enable co-larning?

Anne Beaulieu, Sarah Feron, Andrej Zwitter. Enabling Transdisciplinary Work: insights from a newly established faculty Campus Fryslân

7 July


Room N102

Panel 051. Methodological experiments in STS: exploring digital and (quali-) quantitative methods

Anne Beaulieu, Respondent

8 July


Handbook and anthropology of technology: book presentation

Short presentation on chapter

Beaulieu, Anne. 2022. Organising Knowledge for Sustainable Futures. In Maja Hojer Bruun, Dorthe Brogaard Kristensen, Rachel Douglas-Jones, Cathrine Hasse, Klaus Høyer, Brit Ross Winthereik and Ayo Wahlberg Eds., Handbook for the Anthropology of Technology, Palgrave


Room N102

Panel 078.  In-between metrics and global environmental assessments: valuing environmental scientists and valuing environmental knowledge

Thies Dinkelberg, Anne Beaulieu and Selen Eren. Movebank: how knowledge infrastructures shape the values the of data, technologies, animals and researchers

Award for education on academic integrity

UG Comenius project “Privacy in Research” one of the top 10 best practice according to the Council of Europe (news item)

In the framework of the Comenius Project, we developed a role playing game about privacy and research data. It was implemented in the minor Data Wise and has been recognized as one of the best practices by the Council of Europe in early 2022. The Comenius Project is dedicated to developing a series of resources to develop research relevant ways to teach about privacy and data. More about the Comenius project can be found on our site:

Data and Society–Our book is out!

Published version available from Sage and authors’ accepted manuscript available from our university repositories (U. of Exeter and U. of Groningen).

Rediscovering the ‘local’ in knowledge infrastructures, PhD Scholarship, apply by 15-11-2021

Major societal challenges such as climate change, land degradation or loss of biodiversity have been formulated through large-scale and centralized systems for global data. But recent calls for disaggregation and localisation of data point to the need to produce, handle and use data differently. How can these calls for the local be reconciled with decades of scholarship that insists that data have always been local? Explore this topic as part of a PhD with the Knowledge Infrastructure dept Campus Fryslân – University of Groningen. Apply by 15 November. More details on site of U. of Groningen. #PhD #scholarship #STS

Summer memories

A few days ago, I came across this photo from last July. This was my big smile finish for the Triathlon de Gatineau Olympic distance. A very fast swim, a very slow bike section and a relaxed run took me to the blue carpet. It was my first race post-Covid19 and I spent most of the run being incredibly grateful that I was actually on the course. My Dutch suit also got me a fist bump from the race director, since we share a surname. One of the other Beaulieus on the course, my little brother, cheered my arrival–he’d had time for a snack and a massage between his finish and mine!

Learning in the Anthropocene

Learning in the Anthropocene is the title of the lecture I will deliver at the opening of the academic year on 7 September in Leeuwarden.

Recent events have made us realise that we are part of a global system and living
under conditions often described as the Anthropocene—a label used to describe
human-induced changes to the climate. In her Gemma Frisius lecture, Prof. Anne
Beaulieu will share vital insights on what kind of learning is essential in order to
tackle the urgent problems we face.

See the full programme and the video of the lecture in the Grote of Jacobijnerkerk.

the university as expensive streaming service

What is the university without a physical campus? Since the spring, these variations on a meme have been putting forth an answer:

Why do some people think that this is what is left of the university, when stripped of its campus and shared physical space? The Data Research Centre reflected on the significance of infrastructure for higher education for the special issue on covid-19 of TH&MA, the journal for higher education management of the Dutch and Flemish institutions of higher learning. See the full edition here (in Dutch).

How do we value big data?

A nice question to sink your teeth into, thought Xiaoyao Han. Recently graduated from the Masters in Information Science from the Humboldt University in Berlin, Xiaoyao has joined Campus Fryslan and the Data Research Centre on 1 November. She will be working on a PhD project entitled Valuing Big Data. The project will be supervisied by Oskar Gstrein, Ronald Stolk and myself.

New project on energy, innovation and community

Imagine a group of people coming together around the shared project to produce energy locally, and who ways to benefit from more social connections, as well as cheaper and cleaner energy. That’s a recipe for a sustainable future!

This is the focus of a project for which funding has recently been announced, and entitled ‘Social entrepreneurship at the grid edge’.

Led by Charlotte Johnson (UCL), this project will explore how community groups can generate value through an energy system that is becoming more flexible and distributed. The project focuses specifically on demand side response and collective self-consumption opportunities.

Besides this great topic, another exciting aspect of this project is that it will connect critical infrastructure studies and place-based entrepreneurship theory, thereby linking two lines of work at Campus Fryslan on sustainable entrepreneurship (Emma Folmer) and on knowledge infrastructures for sustainability (Anne Beaulieu).

The project will include a comparative element between the UK and the Netherlands. This part of the project will be done by Esther van der Waal, who is just completing a PhD on Local energy innovators: collective experimentation for energy transition at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen.Dr Anna Rebmann (Kings College Business School) will also be involved.


A steering committee of stakeholders and academics will further support the project; UK Power Networks, Carbon Coop, Power2Change, Newham Council, Dr Sarah Darby (University of Oxford), Prof Sarah Bell (UCL IEDE), Prof David Shipworth (UCL Energy Institute) and Dr Anne Beaulieu (University of Groningen).