COMPASS – A Research Hub on Knowledge Circulation

Older compass against a grey background.
Boat compass from Smithsonians collections/National Museum of American History. Harold Dorwin

COMPASS is a research hub devoted to the study of knowledge in motion. It is named after an artifact that transports and packages knowledge, and as a patented invention also embodies the control of knowledge, the order and segmentation of space in legal as well as material form. A compass is both a metaphor for movement and the concrete object directing that movement.

COMPASS is a research hub devoted to the study of knowledge in motion. It is named after an artifact that transports and packages knowledge, and as a patented invention also embodies the control of knowledge, the order and segmentation of space in legal as well as material form. A compass is both a metaphor for movement and the concrete object directing that movement. 

With COMPASS we want to establish a home for interdisciplinary studies of the multiple ways by which the creation and circulation of knowledge is enabled and disabled. COMPASS is based on the premise that the conditions of this circulation can be approached as a dynamic between forms and norms of knowledge.

Forms and norms of knowledge


While text remains central for the dissemination of knowledge, the material and mediated conditions for knowledge circulation are currently being transformed, impacted by changes both within and outside academia. Knowledge travels in many ways: in bodies and objects, through performances and exhibitions, in spoken and recorded form.

The multiplicity of forms is matched by a multiplicity of norms: from artisanal knowledge guilds to non-disclosure agreements, from shrink-wrap clicking to open access, forms and norms of knowledge co-exist in various materialities and various regulatory practices.

COMPASS sits in the intersection where texts, performances, images, and objects clash and co-exist with norms, regulation, classification, informal and formal modes of control and dissemination regarding the mediatic molding and circulation of knowledge.


The seminars are open for all and are usually held in English. For links to Zoom, please contact Per-Anders Forstorp or Polina Ignatova.

Our ambition with COMPASS is to

  • Establish a forum for discussion and collaboration between different actors interested in the conditions for knowledge circulation
  • To initiate, conduct, and support innovative and interdisciplinary research in the field
  • Experiment with new approaches, forms, and networks to develop the understanding of how knowledge is set in motion (or not)
  • Actively work for increased integration of research and education in the field.

COMPASS activities will consist of

  • Research
  • Regular seminars initiated by COMPASS or held in collaboration with other environments
  • An annual COMPASS symposium
  • Course development at undergraduate and postgraduate level with an emphasis on critical/theoretical perspectives regarding research on research/science communication.


Programme SPRING 2024

The COMPASS seminars are organised in collaboration with the various research environments at the Department of Culture and Society.

Exhibiting Nuclear Power – A Cultural Analysis of Visitor Centers at Nuclear Power Plants in Sweden and Germany

Hannah Klaubert

Date and time: March 7, 13.15-15.00, Venue: Tvärsnittet (KH557, Kopparhammaren 7, Campus Norrköping).

Hannah Klaubert is Post doc at the Department of Thematic studies (Technology and Social Change) employed in the Nuclear Natures project funded by VR.

With the emergence of nuclear technologies, and more specifically the spread of nuclear power plants, another new institution spread across the globe – the nuclear visitor or information center. It is part industry museum and marketing tool, part educational destination for school kids and technophiles, and it informs visitors about radiation, radiation safety, power production, and nuclear waste storage. In this seminar, I discuss my ongoing research into these exhibition spaces as arenas for the negotiation of contemporary civil nuclear imaginaries in Sweden and Germany.

I propose two different lenses through which to study the exhibitions: First, following literary theorist Caroline Levine, a “new formalist” reading which focuses on the ordering and patterns involved both in the setup of the physical spaces and the narratives put forward in the exhibits themselves. And second, I suggest another analysis focused on affect and embodied experience. The architecture of the exhibition pavilions, the interactive displays, and other playful elements create affective experiences which render the boundaries between the exceptionality and the normality of the nuclear permeable. Taken together, these lenses help to uncover how the visitor centers work towards the containment of nuclear fears – both from the public and the nuclear industry, since they are also an expression of the anxieties of the nuclear industry about civil opposition and their strategies for managing public anxieties about the technologies that it controls.

Rekommenderad läsning: Sastre‐Juan, Jaume, and Jaume Valentines‐Álvarez. “Fun and Fear: The Banalization of Nuclear Technologies through Display.” Centaurus 61, no. 1–2 (February 2019): 2–13.


The Europe that Gay Porn Built, 1945-2000: Notes from Portugal and Spain

João Florencio

Date and time: May 22, 15.15-17 (followed by postseminar), Venue: Comenius, Hus Key, Campus Valla. 

João Florencio is Professor at the Department of Thematic studies (Gender studies) at LiU.

In this talk I will be presenting my new research project, “The Europe that Gay Porn Built, 1945-2000,” a collaboration between Linköping University, The University of Exeter (UK), Birmingham City University (UK), The Bishopsgate Institute (UK), and the Schwules Museum (Germany). Having just begun, the project seeks to map the ways in which the transnational circulation of gay erotica and porn magazines will have contributed to the creation of a shared European gay imaginary, a way in which gay men were able to image each other across the borders of the different political regimes of postwar Europe. While doing so, I will present some early reflections on the research I’ve just carried out in Portugal and Spain.

Graduate Course

That knowledge circulates, or perhaps rather, is supposed to circulate, seems obvious. But packaged in what forms, and under what conditions and norms?

Together with Tema Culture and Society and the OA journal Culture Unbound COMPASS gave the graduate course Knowledge in Motion: Between Forms and Norms during the 2022 Spring term. The course will be given again in the Spring term of 2023. Read more in the course description.

Previous seminars, symposium and courses 

Autmn 2023

Taboo Words and Self-censorship: Has Social Sensitivity Gone Too Far, or Are We Blind to Our Own Complicity?

Lars Liljegren

Whereas we claim to live in an enlightened era, where state censorship of provocative ideas or words are often regarded as a thing of the past in Sweden, there are signs that the freedoms of speech once fought for and won may be gradually lost again. Interestingly, however, is that what were, traditionally, laws enforced by the state on its citizens have now become something informally imposed upon citizens by other citizens. Are we living in a so-called “cancel culture?” Some accuse those behind this seeming backswing of being too “woke”, while those accused argue that those in an empowered position, such as white Europeans, men, teachers etc., must be much more careful about the way they speak of, and address, those in any kind of socially weaker position. 

Translation is one professional field (of many) where having a social sensitivity is key to success. Indeed, a failure to understand what words are allowed in the culture for which one translates has historically led to fines, prison or worse. Taking my own research on translation and /self-/censorship as a point of departure, I will first present a brief overview of what has often been considered taboo, and the effects this has had on the translator’s choices. I will then present some relatively recent events, such as how the 2020 translator into Swedish dealt with the N-word in Huckleberry Finn, the debate on the 2005 introduction of the ice cream “Nogger Black”, the recent burnings of the Koran, the concept of safe spaces at universities, the power of social media in cancel culture, and so on.

The presentation will then open up for a discussion on the effects of self-censorship on society and on our view of history.

Lars Liljegren is universitetslektor and head of English in the Division of Language, Culture and Interaction at IKOS.

Recommended reading: 'You are Cancelled: Virtual Collective Consciousness and the Emergence of Cancel Culture as Ideological Purging' by Joseph Ching Velasco (Rupkatha Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies of Humanities, Vol. 12 (5), 2020, pp. 5-7


Tystnadskultur - orsaker, konsekvenser och förändringsmöjligheter

Malin Wieslander, docent i Pedagogiskt arbete, LiU

I Göteborgs Stad larmas om tystnadskulturer och otillbörlig påverkan bland socialtjänst och kommunhandläggare. Företag som tystar sina anställda vårdbiträdenen när de larmar om misskötsel på vård- och äldreboenden. Poliser som vågar inte framföra synpunkter om polisens arbete utifrån rädsla för repressalier från sina chefer. Tystnadskulturer på arbetsplatser och i olika institutioner kan leda till att missförhållanden fortgår, vilket kan få förödande konsekvenser för samhället och dess individer.

Men vad kännetecknar en tystnadskultur och vilken inverkan har den på medlemmarna i dess miljö? Vad orsakar att en tystnadskultur ens uppstår och går den över huvud taget att förändra? Med utgångspunkt i forskning om tystnadskulturer och visselblåsning samt med empiriska exempel från polisen, belyser seminariet både kulturella och strukturella faktorer som främjar tystnad och skapar utmaning för förändring.

Rek. läsning: Wieslander, M. (2018). Learning the (hidden) silence policy within the police. Studies in Continuing Education, 41(3), 308-325.

Spring 2023

Knowledge in Motion: Human - Non-Human Relationships

COMPASS Symposium 'Knowledge in Motion: Human - Non-Human Relationship' 11-12 May, 2023. The symposium will cover diverse topics of knowledge circulation in environmental studies, from history and zooarchaeology, to artistic and literary representations of animals, and human co-existance with various species. The symposium will take place at Linköping University, Campus Norrköping, and on Zoom in English.

Read more about the schedule, panels and presentations in the programme (PDF).


Incubator Programme

The incubator programme is for you who is a late-stage PhD-student or an early career researcher interested in developing research with a knowledge circulation aspect.

The programme consists of three seminars that will help you develop ideas and transform them into publications and/or applications. The programme is also a great networking opportunity where you will meet both junior and senior researchers with an interest in knowledge circulation. The seminars are held in English.


Seminar 1: Introduction of Compass and Knowledge circulation as a framework. Presentation of participants and ideas. Grants office, funding landscape with specific focus on knowledge circulation.

Seminar 2: Presentation of ideas and feedback

Seminar 3: Developing ideas, draft writing, outreach. Setting your own knowledge in motion.



Knowledge in Motion: Human - Non-Human Relationships

The symposium will cover diverse topics of knowledge circulation in environmental studies, from history and zooarchaeology, to artistic and literary representations of animals, and human co-existance with various species.


Read more about the schedule, panels and presentations in the programme (PDF).


COMPASS Reading Club

Join us for the discussion of Oili-Helena Ylijoki’s article ‘Projectification and Conflicting Temporalities in Academic Knowledge Production’ (Teorie vědy / Theory of Science, 38(1), 7-26. doi:10.46938/tv.2016.331). Feel free to bring your lunch.


‘Bruno Latour: From Laboratory Life to Metamorphosis’

Mattis Karlsson

Seminar in memory of Bruno Latour with the discussion of Bruno Latour obituary published by the Guardian and Bruno Latour (2003), 'Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam ? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern' (Critical Inquiry, 30, 225-248. doi: 10.1086/421123).

In collaboration with the research environment Tema Culture and Society.


‘Fiction and Research in Higher Education’

Anja Rydén Gramner, Katarina Eriksson Barajas, Johanna Dahlin, Simon Wessbo, Susanna Alakoski, Michael Godhe.

Using literary fiction in higher education is hardly a new phenomenon, but rather something that once was paramount but that subsequently have been pushed into the margins of the university curriculum, apart from its presence in the dedicated disciplines such as literature and aesthetics. In its place, and for many good reasons, specialized literature and scientific presentations constitute the main part of the syllabus of a course or a professional programme. Every now and then, however, we have seen a renaissance for the uses of literary fiction also in the contexts of specialized and professional programmes. The return of literary fiction, besides other forms of aesthetic representations, as a learning resource have been promoted as important for the student’s process of cultivation, education, or “Bildung”. Currently we can recognize a revitalized interest in using literary fiction in various higher education programmes.

We ask the following, and other, questions: What kind of knowledges and experiences can literary fiction provide? How can these forms of knowledges and experiences be explored in the context of the courses and programmes? How can insights from literature didactics contribute to good learning practices?

In this seminar we will share experiences from a number of educational contexts at Linköping University. The seminar consists of five very short presentations (15 minutes each) followed by a joint discussion.

Program outline:

  • Uses of literary fiction in the Global studies programme (Johanna Dahlin, Ann-Sofie Persson, and Karin Skill)
  • Uses of literary fiction in the Medical programme (Katarina Eriksson Barajas and Anja Rydén Gramner)
  • Uses of speculative fiction in the Communication, Society and Media production programme (Michael Godhe)
  • Literature didactics in higher education (Simon Wessbo)
  • On witness literature and Commentary (Susanna Alakoski)


In collaboration with the research environment Social Work.


‘Funding Application Seminar: FORMAS’

Emelie Fälton and Polina Ignatova.

Tips on how to apply for a FORMAS grant and discussion of Emelie Fälton and Polina Ignatova’s FORMAS application. Please contact Polina Ignatova for access of FORMAS application draft if you want to read it before the seminar.

In collaboration with the research environment Tema Culture and Society.

Previous seminars, lectures and conferences

FISK: Fish Sentience Knowledge 

Discussion of Polina Ignatova’s ERC application grant: FISK: Fish Sentience Knowledge. 

In collaboration with Tema Q.

Experience writing for different contexts and audiences 

With Susanna Alakoski, author and visiting professor.

In collaboration with Social Work.

COMPASS reading group: Ignorance 

The theme for this meeting is ignorance - a follow up on Per-Anders Forstorp's inaugural lecture in April 2022. The following text will be discussed; Owen Whooley & Kristin Kay Barker (2021) "Uncertain and under Quarantine: Toward a Sociology of Medical Ignorance" in Journal of Health and Social Behaviour. 

Bridging academic and non-academic research praxes - interdisciplinary dialogues on ethics, collaboration, and knowledge production 

An interdisciplinary and international conference consisting of dialogues on ethics, collaboration, and knowledge production. More information about the conference here.

Haitian-American anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot, citing French historian Marc Ferro writes, “history has many hearths and academics are not the sole history teachers in the land.” It is a statement that raises the question of how academic and non-academic researchers in all disciplines and areas of research can not only recognize that knowledge is produced at different hearths, but also engage more ethically and collaboratively with what is produced in these different locations? Recognizing that searching for answers to this question cannot be left to arbitrary and haphazard engagements and encounters, but must be motivated, reflected on, and formulated clearly, this conference is designed as a platform for academic and non-academic researchers to engage in open dialog about the challenges and opportunities of bridging academic and non-academic research and praxes. 

COMPASS in collaboration with Tema Q and LiU Humanities.

What we know (and don’t) about ignorance 

Professor Per-Anders Forstorp's inaugural lecture.

Patents as Temporal Montage: Reading the Past of Future Knowledge 

Eva Hemmungs Wirtén, Professor, Tema Q, discusses her third essay for the PASSIM-project.

Time is so intrinsic to the way we regulate knowledge that we hardly see it at all. Set differently in copyright, patents, and trademarks, legal time is not the only time that shape our understanding of intellectual property. During “The American Patent System Week,” the 125th jubilee of the 1836 Patent Act celebrated in October 1961, the official narrative conveyed an image of the patent system as a sequential totality of past, present, and future. Instead, temporal dissonance reigned below the surface. To unpack these tensions and contradictions, this essay focuses on one of the main reasons given for the celebration: the issuance of the third millionth patent. Granted to Kenneth R. Eldredge and General Electric for “Automatic Reading System” on September 12, 1961, patent 3.000.000 was carefully chosen to become the perfect representative of its time, innovation-wise. Influenced, however, by Michel Serres’ observation that the contemporary can only be contemporary by “montage,” by an aggregate of different scientific or technological solutions of different times, I consider patent 3.000.000 a composite of three different temporalities. Examining time, that administrative or bureaucratic time involved in determining novelty of the invention; legal time, the protection granted by the patent, and finally mnemonic time, the often-overlooked way in which the patent system celebrates and remembers itself. By combining these temporalities, I want to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of patents and their complicated social life in the intersection of systems, texts, times, and technologies.

COMPASS in collaboration with PASSIM-project.

"From Fossil to Fact: the Denisova Discovery as Science in Action" 

Mattis Karlsson, at the Department of Culture and Society, defends his thesis entitled "From Fossil to Fact: the Denisova Discovery as Science in Action". Opponent is Staffan Bergwik, Professor, Stockholm University.

Who/whom are responsible for oral and written research communication? 

With Cecilia Olsson Jers, associate professor of rethorics, Linnéuniversitetet Linnaeus University, as well as participants from the Communications Department at Linköping University.

Communicating research and research results to the already initiated is not usually a problem. Both the speaker/writer and listener/reader moves within a fairly familiar realm of language practices. For a PhD-student, however, it is neither enough nor sufficient to be able to communicate only with the already initiated. Being able to communicate with various groups of people also outside of the academy is actually codified in the goals for the graduate (PhD) level system of qualifications (Högskoleförordningen 1993:100). The goals focuses on the communicative practices of the PhD-student. What matters is being able and willing to use language with courage in order to promote clarity in research communication, without being overly reductive or simplistic – independent of who or whom are listening or reading. In this seminar, I want to discuss how the students can be encouraged to embrace these forms of communication, through giving examples from a PhD-level course in oral research communication.

In collaboration with Language and Culture.

The Birth of “Data Problems”: A Cultural Techniques Perspective on Some of the Major Concerns of the 1970s  

With Johan Fredrikzon, PhD, History of Ideas, Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University.

During the 1970s the problems of the environment and of the population were reframed in a manner that still much influences our conception of them. How to make sense of the interaction between forces of environmental pollution? How to uphold the privacy of individuals as the knowledge banks of governmental agencies were coordinated? In my doctoral disseratation Kretslopp av data [Cycles of Data] (Mediehistoriskt arkiv, 2021), I argue that we need to understand these problems – which superficially may seem far apart – as consequences of changes within data management. Beneath the political mobilization of environmental movements as well as the stormy debates of privacy during these years we find what I choose to call the infrastructures and cultural techniques of early digitalization. These, I argue, contributed to presenting the environment and the population as “data problems”. That, in turn, gave rise to a number of changes in administrative offices and state archives and the work carried out there. In my lecture I wish to highlight a few aspects of this development.

In collaboration with Language and Culture.

Traces on the Tundra Skin: Politics and Ontologies of Conservation in the Soviet Arctic 

With Dmitry Arzyotov.

The tundra covers 10% of Earth’s surface. Despite being home to Indigenous populations and a site for industrial development, to a significant degree tundra remains associated to the public with wilderness and emptiness and fragility. What are the genealogies of such perceptions? And how do they correspond to the histories of human-environment interactions in the high Arctic, including in the age of large-scale extractive industry? To answer this, the paper focuses on the relations between industrial and conservation projects in the Soviet Arctic tundra. Following the mechanical traces – in a strict material sense and as a metaphor – left behind from the military and the industrial developers of the region, the article examines three main interlinked “layers” of tundra histories in the 20th century: links between the tundra and the Other, the emergence of tundra as a fragile surface under the wheels of industrial all-terrain vehicles, and the complex history of one of the first tundra nature reserves (zapovednik) which coincided with the rise of the international discourse of biosphere. Thus the paper aims to overcome the marginal place the tundra occupies in much environmental history and move it closer to such prominent environmental objects as forests, mountains and seas.

In collaboration with Tema Culture and Society.

Medieval Knowledge Exchange: Strategies for Acquiring, Recording, and Disseminating Information about Fish between 1100 and 1400 

With Polina Ignatova, post doc COMPASS, IKOS

Modern ways of industrial fishing and fish farming subject fish to treatment which would be considered cruel and/or illegal if applied to terrestrial animals. This project is investigating the origins of our modern attitudes towards fish by looking into medieval ways of studying aquatic organisms. During this talk I am going to summarise the purposes and methodology of the project, and to introduce the audience to its first findings - namely, the representation of fish in bestiaries.

In collaboration with Tema Culture and Society.


Framework for courses in science communication

How can researchers at the start of their careers become better equipped to share their knowledge outside academia? 

In the report Framework for courses in Science Communication the authors present a three-part framework for courses in science communication.

The report is a result of discussions within a team of researchers and communication experts, Jesper Olsson, professor involved in COMPASS among them, In the report, team members share their reflections and recommendations, based on preconditions within and outside academia.

Read more and download the report at the Swedish Research Council's website.


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