visualizing social bookmarks

I am very intrigued by the social affordances allowed in research blogging. The exchange of ideas and early/process criticism are one of the main reasons I blog. This exchange was strengthened, for me, when I discovered RSS and With, one can search through bookmarks, or even subscribe to someone’s links page. Now, you can even graphically search the tags through the combination of Touchgraph and While it does make pretty graphs, is this useful? Would you rather search for tags, or subscribers? When you find a group of information hunter/gathers you trust, their suggestion of a site automatically gives it some credence. Personally, I do find it useful, but I want both. I want to check what my network is subscribing to, as well as have an interface that visualizes related items to tags I am interested in.


HUMlab does not really have a territory to defend. We do things that others do not and when others start to do these things we do not necessarily have to continue (I am mainly talking about the university situation here). We can move on to other things. Maybe our territory is so big that it impossible to defend in the first place. I do not know. Or maybe there is a well-defined territory and I can say these things because no one has tried to colonize it yet.

While the HUMlab Blog should not be a link blog (at least I do not think so) I thought I might make sense to refer to a few sources and materials that are a rather important part of the territory discussed above. The kinds of things we would like graduate students in the humanities and information technology to be familiar with. This is just a tentative (and rather personal) start:

[online journal]

RCCS Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies
[cyberculture resource with an excellent collection of reviews]

electronic book review
[online journal – kind of]

Humanist Discussion Group
[email list with web archive, mainly humanities computing]

Technology and Culture
[useful resource page geared toward philosophy and education]

Human IT
[Swedish journal with many articles in English]

[Jill Walker’s blog]

[danah boyd’s blog]

What we might do if we find it useful is to create a presence for things like this. I just started one but it is rather empty at this point.

mission statement

The HUMlab Blog was launched about two weeks ago and and while there are still some technical glitches things are coming along. It is a new experience, of course, managing an institutional blog. It will take some time to find out how to do this. Based on our experiences so far I thought I would try to reflect on our blog and blogging. Some loud thinking:

Institutional presence: The HUMlab Blog is our main international presence. Therefore it is important to incorporate enough information about the lab itself, projects, people etc. as well as the blog proper. These sections will be less dynamic than the blog itself (of course) but we will need to make sure that they are updated. Also, one might well imagine that some of the issues discussed in the blog will reflect back on the more static part of the structure.

Topics/content: To me this is one of the most interesting issues. Do we need to be concerned about coherence? Range of topics? Obviously, a HUMlab blog should somehow relate to what goes on in the lab. Also it will serve as a source of information for local English-speaking people who are interested in HUMlab events (as well as anyone interested in streamed seminars etc.). For HUMlab friends around the world it should give a sense of what is going on, the current narrative etc. as well as general “presence”. The blog will hopefully work as a kind of extension of the lab and the basic of idea of HUMlab: creating a meeting place for the humanities, culture and technology. Personally I think photos serve an important
function in this context. The blog should also reflect current research, interesting people and events – among other things. I have a feeling that just like with the HUMlab in general one of the key aspects here is balance. It will also be interesting to see how the rhytm of the lab is reflected (or not) in the blog.

Authorship: So far only a few people have ontributed to the blog. This is a very important thing I think. We need to create a multi-person narrative and finding one’s individual voice in this context is not totally easy. In a personal (academic) blog there is often quite a lot of person. I wuold expect a little less of that here but definitely not entries devoid of person and passion. The blog should be an arena for creative thinking, expressing, reflecting and reporting. We have a range of bloggers associated with the lab and everyone will need to contribute to the HUMlab blog if this is going to work out. Of course, we also need to interact with out readers and we need to make sure that commenting works the way it is intended (technical glitch at the moment I think). A personal note: I think my own blog has moved a little bit towards the personal end of the spectrum after I started to blog here as well. I think that might be a good thing.

Expectations: An institutional, multi-author blog does not serve the same function as a personal blog. I do not think that people will follow us in the same way as they would a good personal blog. Hopefully, what we have to offer is different but very interesting and worth returning to. However, I do not think we can ever “compete” with personal blogs in that respect. People will not reload every 30 minutes to get a sense of what is going on in the lab. Or maybe they will?

Guest bloggers: This is one of the most interesting aspects of the HUMlab blog. We will have guest bloggers contribute to the blog – interesting people (some of which have visited the lab) who will guest blog for two weeks. It will be very interesting to see how this works out. Not least the guest bloggers’ interaction with the lab and the other blog voices. We have not tried to get the guest bloggers to blog about a certain topic or anything. The HUMlab is rather sprawling and we will use the blog to give these people an arena for expressing themselves. Of course my hope is that the guests will influence the other contributors and vice versa and that the discourse will be interesting to the rest of the world. Pioneering and provoking (how much provoking is ok?) thoughts and connections appearing first on the HUMlab Blog.

The blog’s place: It is very important that the blog relates to other HUMlab meeting places. The physical lab itself of course but also the virtual platforms we work with. For instance, our Traveler world is an important part of our online presence. Somehow we need to make these part of the blog or rather make sure that people find them. I am also toying with the idea of using the Brain (in a web version) to represent connections, threads and worlds.

Hopefully the HUMlab Blog will be this vibrant and exciting extension of the HUMlab. Or maybe HUMlab will become an extension of the blog? I think we will have to wait to find out. Many bloggers tend to be rather romantic about the medium and I think it makes sense to be open to the possibilities as well as to be realistic. If things do not work out the way I have outlined them above we might end up with a blog that simply reports about upcoming events in the lab. While that might not be a bad thing it is not the only thing we are hoping for. The potential is great and I have a very good feeling about the whole enterprise. It will be most interesting to see how the blog develops. Myself I intend to everything I can to make all the “romantic” dreams come true!

upcoming “short course”

Every semester HUMlab organizes about 15 short courses (3 hours each) on a wide range of topics: GIS, virtual worlds, blogs, the inside of a computer, PHP etc. The idea is to mix theory/talking and practice/doing. Most of the courses are held in Swedish but there are a few every semester in English.

The first English-language short course this semester is Art and Technology II. See description below. March 10, 2005, 1:00 pm-4 pm. You may register for this course through our website or through writing an email to

Art and technology have been partners since the earliest experiments with natural pigments took place in caves. In the last thirty years the interplay between the production of art and the technology used in that production has blossomed. In keeping with the possibilities and themes of HUMlab we shall be looking at mainly digital examples of the interaction between art and technology. We will begin with some of the most innovative examples of interaction between art and technology in recent times. Artists and theorists such as Stelarc (The Body), Brody Condon (Gaming), Marc Pauline (Robots), Sandy Stone (Performance Art), Roy Ascott (Cyberart), Joep van Lieshout (Art as Reality), Christa Sommerer (Art as Biology), Andrea Wollensak (Art as GIS), Mark Meadows (Art as Narrative) and others will be discussed and some of their works negotiated.

We will then look at some of the possibilities for art production in the environment of HUMlab where a range of technologies are available for creative projects. These include virtual modeling programs, 3D world programs, GIS programs, still and moving imaging programs, sound production programs, and hypertext document production programs. Finally course participants will form into groups and undertake a story-board, pre-production session where an artwork is sketched out around a theme encountered during the course. This is then presented by each group as a work in progress.

Sharon Traweek visiting

Yesterday Sharon Traweek from UCLA visited HUMlab. She had been invited to Umeå by the National Graduate School of Gender Studies. I learnt a lot from her just talking to her for an hour or so. When I read “Iconic Devices: Toward An Ethnography of Physics Images” (one of her papers) I realized that we share a strong interest in physical environments and their social and cultural meanings. Traweek has done research on Japanese “big science” among other things. We talked about structures changing, center-periphery, overlapping networks and more.

Embodied learning

Several HUMlab researchers have a strong interest in “embodied learning” in graphical virtual environments and in many of our educational projects we experiment with this notion. One example which has been previously mentioned here (and for instance in Patrik’s blog) is the Virtual Wedding project in Active Worlds, and another platform that we use is Traveler – a graphical 3D environment with voice communication and spatial sound where participants are represented by often perceptually unrealistic avatars (for example big heads).

Far-reaching contacts with the creators of the program and with parts of the OzGate community have led to many interesting joint activities. We host the European OzGate server here in the lab, and in return we get all the technical support we could ask for from Oz and his companions.


As part of the activities carried out by a Swedish national network for ICT in academic language education (ITAS) this platform is tested and evaluated as a space for practicing oral communication online in language education at a distance. Student groups meet inworld to carry out communicative exercises and the teacher is able to move about in the space and observe different groups communicating simultaneously without disturbing each other, due to the affordances of the spatial sound. We also use the space for discussion meetings with the ITAS network, and on Thursday the 27th of January at 5.00 pm CET there will be a new gathering on the topic “What works? Different communications media for different purposes in language education at a distance?”. An opportunity to test the program ahead of time will be given tomorrow, Wednesday the 26th the same time. Anyone interested in participating and trying this program out can contact me at


More information about the meeting is available here. You may also want to read my blog post about some of the issues that are discussed in the suggested literature, or this interview with Oz, which among other things touches upon issues such as virtual/real, representation, identity, graphic communication and the future of online communication.

Debate Aarseth-Jenkins on (computer) game studies

The photo below shows Henry Jenkins, MIT, and Espen Aarseth, the IT University of Copenhagen, a few hours before their much-anticipated game studies debate.

debaters at technology and project session (more here)

On January 18, 2005, HUMlab facilitated a discussion on game studies between Espen Aarseth and Henry Jenkins. The debate was part of a conference on the Humanities and Information Technology – The Technological Texture – that we organized. The idea was not to encourage confrontation but rather to allow two leading game researchers to discuss game studies, positions, traditions and study objects (among other things).

The debate is available as a realmedia stream from here. Enjoy!

Footnote 1: This stream should be seen as a part of the conference activities and the main focus was the in-lab debate rather than producing a “debate film”.

Footnote 2: The Linda who is mentioned in the introduction is Linda Bergkvist (HUMlab’s digital artist). Among the people taking part in the discussion are Jay Bolter, Lissa Halloway-Attaway and Muataz Naeem. If you participated in the discussion and do not find your name here, please contact us.

Where are the books?

We have a 3D model of the lab which we use in various contexts. For instance I used it when planning the projects and technology session for our recent conference. And working together with “our” 3D expert the model allows me to think about the future.

There are some discrepancies between the model and the world that presents itself when physically entering HUMlab.


For instance the model does not include any people and the point of view represented here is quite impossible outside the computer. And in reality, the collection of books represented here come from my own library (I believe a few sections of books have been reduplicated). I see our 3D model as a kind of experimental space.

I suppose this model is rather “realistic” and I tend not to be that that interested in recreating “reality” in the computer. But here a realistic model is quite useful (to show people the lab when they are not actually in the lab) and of course, also as an experimental platform for changing and developing the lab in various ways (What would the lab look like with 100 bean bags?).

Henry Jenkins at HUMlab

To keep up with the flow of ideas when Professor Henry Jenkins, the program head of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, author, theorist, activist and philosopher, presents a seminar would be a matter of concentration at the best of times but as he spoke last at the Technological Texture Conference after two days of intense discussions and presentations should excuse my patchy notes. I tried to get down as much as I could but I kept thinking about the implications of what he said and then jumping back into what he was saying only to discover he had moved on to the next point.
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