planning

Even though this photo is from a few months ago it is still current.

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Topics discussed on the whiteboard: a possible HUMlab-2 and an upcoming atamining workshop. It reminds me: we need to think about whiteboard functionality if we end up expanding the lab.

Vectors

Vectors is a new online publication – Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernecular – and definitely worth checking out.

Vectors maps the multiple contours of daily life in an unevenly digital era, crystallizing around themes that highlight the social, political, and cultural stakes of our increasingly technologically-mediated existence. As such, the journal will speak both implicitly and explicitly to key debates across varied disciplines, including issues of globalization, mobility, power, and access. Operating at the intersection of culture, creativity, and technology, the journal focuses on the myriad ways technology shapes, transforms, reconfigures, and/or impedes social relations, both in the past and in the present.

Tara McPherson, the editor, is doing some very impressive work. I met with her at Stanford in October last year at a HASTAC meeting.

presenting the lab

Today I will present HUMlab to a group from the Telematica Institute in Enschede, Netherlands. The title of my presentation is ‘The aquarium and the cyborg: HUMlab as an environment of interdisciplinary convergence.’ I will speak about how the humanities and digital technology are anything but mutually exclusive and how HUMlab is a place where disciplines converge in new and innovative ways. I value greatly the experiences I have had in HUMlab and am very excited to share a place that has become such an important part of my academic life.

new media pedagogy two or three decades ago

AUTHOR: Jill Walker

I’m reading old Hypertext papers and found Andries van Dam’s keynote for the first ACM Hypertext conference in 1987 (or ACM library). van Dam created the first working hypertext system at Brown University in 1967 in collaboration with several other scientists, including Ted Nelson, and also greatly inspired by Doug Engelbart. He’s also known for his important work in computer graphics. He’s still at Brown today. What particularly interests me is the ways in which van Dam used the multi-user hypertext system(s) at Brown for teaching in the humanities.

His description of the way they used hypertext with literature students struck me with its similarity to the ways many of us want to use blogs today.
Continue reading “new media pedagogy two or three decades ago”

Mobile language learning

Yesterday we had an online meeting with members of the ITAS network in a Yahoo Messenger voice chat. The topic of the discussion was “Mobile technology in Language Education”, and we had invited Agnes Kukulska-Hulme from the Open University to take part and share some of her thoughts on this topic, one of her areas of expertise. In one of the articles that the participants were asked to read as a preparation, Jozef Colpaert contemplates why we have not yet seen a mobile learning hype among educators and argues that in order for there to be a period of hype there also has to be amateur development. Agnes made an interesting point claiming that while we do see amateur development also in this area, the students are the ones leading the way here, and since most teachers are lagging behind there’s also no hype among this group. This lead to an interesting discussion on whether the potentials for mobility that students often do take advantage of in educational situations will ever be integrated in the rest of the educational system or whether these two learning environments will continue to develop as separate phenomena. 

The other article that we read for the meeting is written by Bryan Alexander, who among other things discusses how also research changes with mobile technology, and as an example of this he mentions the Moblogging Jokkmokk Project which we carried out last year. The advantages with this use of mobile technology are manifold, and in our discussion we came up with a few different ideas for how something like this could be done with language learning in focus. For instance, a group of students (or teachers) could go to a country in which the target language is spoken and via mobile technology they could report back to the rest of the class. Students back home could also interact with them through the same technology and steer them in their investigations. This should result in an authentic task based language learning experience. 

Returning briefly to the issue of non-hype, this state of affairs became very clear when I tried to find suitable preparation literature for this meeting. I had problems finding anything with specific examples from mobile technology in language learning. For instance, browsing through the abstracts from the last EUROCALL conferences I only found a few examples even including the word ‘mobile’, although I suspect this year’s conference will have more such contributions. Agnes did refer to a successful case from Australia in which students had practiced vocabulary via text messages in cell phones. I hope to be able to hear more about this at the Language Education and Information Technology conference that will take place here in HUMlab in May, in which Agnes will give a presentation. Looking forward to that!

Next HUMlab seminar

A brief notice about an upcoming HUMlab seminar. Jonny Holmström from the Department of Informatics at Umeå University will talk about Creative, effective and communitarian: An exploration into peer-to-peer filesharing networks.

 April 5, 2005. 1:15 pm CET. Live stream will be available.

 Jonny heads a research project on this topic and needless to say, it is a topic of some public interest. Here is a recent article from Svenska Dagbladet (all links in this section to Swedish sources). Some of the controversy relates to the Swedish Anti Pirate Agency (I was going to link to them but their site has apparently been attacked. The debate is particarly heated now because of a recent police “raid” on a Stockholm-based ISP and and upcoming legal restrictions.

This will be a very interesting and important seminar!

It’s an Invasion!!

The lab has been invaded by students in their 9th year of studies today.

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I think that this type of initiative is so important today. It breaks down traditional barriers between the humanities and technology and serves to exemplify different options of studying while at university. It is, however, a bit loud!

The Strand: Venice, CA

AUTHOR: Jill Walker

After spending all day at home tending to a child just sick enough not to go to school, I’d really been looking forward to exploring a brand new web phenonmen this evening: The Strand: Venice, CA. It’ll make an excellent first post as a guest blogger at HUMlab, I thought to myself. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out.

Let me explain: The Strand is the latest web exploit of the people who made the Blair Witch Project. It’s an episodic drama using video, a weblog and a discussion board, and the first episode was released today. It even has a plan for making money. This episode is free, but from here on in you have to sign up for a micropayment account with Bitpass and pay 99 cents for each episode. Sorry, webisode.

Interestingly, the micropayment isn’t the only method employed to Keep Readers Out. Each webisode is, it seems, a 600 MB video that you have to download over BitTorrent. It’ll only play on specific versions of Windows, with very specific software. The “Detailed instructions” in the email inviting me to come look at this are as long as my arm.

Unfortunately for The Strand, I’m a Mac user. There’ll be a Mac version, they promise. Later. Why is that hard to arrange if it’s just video? What about Linux users? What about future users of Windows 2007? What about the woman who told me about The Strand, a Windows user, but she just sent me email saying she’d spent hours trying to download those 600 MB.

I think I’d rather just reread Online Caroline instead. Though that web drama is nearly five years old, it’s still surprisingly avante garde. It actually crafts a narrative that suits the medium instead of using the web as a complicated means for distributing 600 MB of video.

But then, you know what? They’re not really trying to make a narrative suited to the medium. They’re interested in “long tail broadcasting”, traditional film and video production for niche markets. BitTorrent, in theory, lets them do that, and clearly in a few years the technology for this will be easier and won’t scare as many members of that niche market away. They’re exploring production and financing models for a method of distribution that might be the future of cinema.

So far it doesn’t look as though they’re creating new kinds of narrative, though.

evaluation of HUMlab

HUMlab has been around as a permanent university unit since 2000 and it makes much sense to evaluate something that is new and different. Systematic evaluation is becoming much more common in Sweden (but still nothing like in the UK) and many established subjects have been evaluated by the The National Agency for Higher Education. HUMlab, however, does not fit any of these categories – which is rather nice. Therefore the Humanities Faculty decided that we should undergo external evaluation. Fortunately the review group was really excellent: Inge Jonsson (former vice chancellor of Stockholm University), Fred Karlsson (Dean of the humanities faculty at Helsinki University – as well as professor of linguistics) and Katherine Hayles (Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at University of California at Los Angeles – as well as professor of English).

Today the evaluation was made public:

The evaluation itself by professors Inge Jonsson and Fred Karlsson (in Swedish)
An international evaluation report by professor Katherine Hayles

The press release from Umeå University can be found here