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Developing out of a solid base: Sybille Lammes new academic director of LUCAS

As of November 1st 2019, Sybille Lammes, Professor of New Media and Digital Culture, will be the new academic director of the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS). She succeeds Anthonya Visser, who has been the institute's academic director since 2014. It is a three year-long appointment. We asked her about her future plans for LUCAS.

‘I have always found LUCAS to be a very interesting institute because it brings together so many different disciplines’ Lammes says. ‘The interdisciplinary approach suits me; I have worked in various centres where many interdisciplinary ties have been formed and I hope that with this background I can provide positive and fresh input to LUCAS. It also is a solid institute. LUCAS has a good organisation with firm financials, and excellent support if it comes to doing research. This has already resulted in successes, as well as a very nice report of the review committee. I can build further on that’, Lammes explains. 

Sybille’s plans for LUCAS

What will the focus be on in the coming three years? As academic director, Lammes hopes to discover and understand broader disciplinary links and to develop a matching vision that will make all groups of the institute feel at home. ‘I think it is important to stimulate cross connections between the three research clusters of LUCAS, without weakening the power of individual fields and disciplines. This is of academic and international importance within the humanities and increases Leiden's spot on the map’, Lammes says. ‘In this respect, I consider the formation of interdisciplinary relationships outside of the university to be very necessary as well, certainly in the sense of the impact that we, as an institute and a faculty, can have on society. The humanities need to not only be applied to research, on the contrary. There are also all kinds of creative ways to connect with current developments in society. We should not only offer solutions, but we should also engage in debate more’, argues Lammes. 

The humanities need to not only be applied to research, on the contrary. There are also all kinds of creative ways to connect with current developments in society.

Lammes has a background in Media Studies and wants to effectively bring the related knowledge, experience and network to her new position. ‘LUCAS has a lot to offer in the field of Media Studies, but it could be developed further and this is where we have some catching up to do. With the legacy of Johan Huizinga in the back of my mind and the archive about this legacy that has been digitalised, I see opportunities for that to grow’, says Lammes. ‘It is important to me not only to focus on contemporary media, but also to look into other potential of LUCAS.’ As a researcher, she also has many international networks in which she remains active: This can have a positive influence on the way in which LUCAS can differentiate itself from other universities or institutes. And how the institute can connect to certain trends.’

Combining it with research and education

In her new position she will have less time for research and education, but she remains active as a researcher and teacher for two days a week. ‘Fortunately I can continue teaching my favourite subject, Big Media; a first-year course within the new English-language bachelor's programme in Arts, Media & Society, Lammes says. ‘The course is about the meaning of digital media in present-day life; think of big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms. I think it's important for students to become well-read in such topics and to be able to think about current implications. Also to be and to become critical citizens.’

About Sybille Lammes

Lammes attended the Theatre studies programme at the University of Amsterdam, specializing in Film and Television studies. After having been a lecturer there, she got a permanent job in Utrecht, joining the new master's programme New Media & Digital Culture. That is where her interest in game and play arose and she received an NWO Veni grant for research on the subject of postcolonialism and games. She received an ERC grant for research into digital cartography, on which she worked as a visiting scholar, together with the University of Manchester. After working at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies (CIM) of the University of Warwick, she has been Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at Leiden University since 2017.

She is currently researching setting up a Playlab on history in collaboration with Angus Mol and Aris Politopoulos, is working on the role of play in society with researchers from the University of Melbourne and is in the research start-up phase on play and politics with Frans Willem Korsten and Sara Polak.

Lieselotte van de Ven
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