slow blogging

I do not think it is good enough for an institutional blog to have had no blogging activity for almost a week. Or maybe it is? Does it reflect nothing happening in the lab and with the people involved in the lab? I do not really think so.

In any case I am delighted to announce our next guest blogger: blogging star and hypertext/blog/new media thinker Jill Walker. We are very much looking forward to her two weeks of guest blogging.

Art and Technology II

Mark Steven Meadows
Title: Difference Engine III
Dev.Date: 1999
Genre: Installation (physical museum project)

Tomorrow I will be leading a short course on Art and Technology in HUMlab. Obviously a vast topic, but I thought I would approach it in as simple a way as possible.

Briefly my methodology will be centred on the digital and also on how the material tools of creation define the sort of art that is being made. Small reference will be made to works older than a few years, although the theory used should apply all the way back to Leonardo.
I hope the mass of works I’ve accumulated will encourage discussion. Something that is interesting I have noticed that since I last led the HUMlab Art and Technology short course in September 2004, the amount of streamed and interactive video art on the web has increased enormously. Flash and Java QuickTime pieces seem also to be also increasing in frequency.

I plan to follow themes rather than the genres I used last year in the course. This is due to the great number of works available online. The themes I have come to are:

* Convergence
* The Body- The Cyborg
* Performance- Reality
* Biology
* Narrative

If anyone is interested in the course but has not yet registered on the HUMlab website they can do so at the start of the session at 13:00 on Thursday 10 March in HUMlab under Ume

Peter’s Seminar

Today Peter was in lab talking about the way that designers portray their own realities, often inadvertently, in the world that he or she designs. It was a very interesting seminar and Peter made many note-worthy statements such as citing Foucault about there always being a present discourse in a space. In these spaces, you are always connected to what has gone on before.

Peter stressed that games are much more than ‘just a game’ they are spaces in which the myth of the magical circle (the play space


Some of HUMlab’s friends are involved in the Darvin@Home project. From the mission statement:

It is our hypothesis that compute space is now or soon will be sufficiently rich and complex to support a reasonable “lifelike” simulation of the processes and products of evolution.

The Darwin@Home project is a challenge to multiple, independent teams to construct platforms in software, hardware or a combination, to test this hypothesis. In recent years, several platforms have been built that suggest that this goal is attainable. We believe that by pooling efforts and creating a shared community of interest, we will quicken the journey along the path of innovation.

These are issues that should be highly relevant to any humanities and information technology enterprise.

The idea is to create a system similiar to seti@home. Let’s see how how it goes!

Internet researchers in Ume

Here at Umeå University quite a few scholars from different departments and backgrounds study aspects of online interaction, all approaching the topic from somewhat different perspectives. Some examples include Daniel Skog at the Informatics Department, who’s investigating design and interaction in virtual communities, Elza Dunkels at the Department of Interactive Media and Learning, whose research deals with net cultures, and Stefan Blomberg, who’s affiliated with the Department of Culture and Media and HUMlab, where he researches gaming cultures. In an attempt to create a platform for exchange of ideas over traditional boarders this group of postgraduates and myself have initiated an informal network for doctoral students within this field at the university. The first aim is simply to make sure that everyone knows about what’s happening at the other departments, and in the long run we hope that this might lead to fruitful collaborations. On March 15th at 14.30 there will be an informal meeting at the Department of Interactive Media and Learning. If you would like to join us, please contact

tomorrow’s seminar

Producing Massively Multiplayer Online Games: The Politics of Inscriptions

Peter Zackariasson, Umeå School of Business and Economics

 March 8, 1:00 pm (CET).

When producing an artifact designers translate their cultures and assumptions about society into these. Thus the artifact will act as an extension of these people’s beliefs and understandings, prescribing action of future users. In my research I study the production of an online computer game where more then 100 thousand gamers interact. This game, Anarchy Online, has as many others in the same genre expanded tremendously since the end of the 90s. As games these refuses to be kept in the magical circle of play. Its impact on real life makes it important to understand what politics that are built into games like these, and specifically Anarchy Online.

The seminar will be streamed live (and archived for later viewing) – link will be posted here later. Most likely the language used for the presentation will be English (but there is a slight risk of language shift in case their are no non-Swedish speaking partipcants present).

independent gaming discussion

Yesterday evening I had a stimulating discussion with Ben Cummings and Nathan Piazza from University of Virginia about independent gaming (among other things). This is a current and important topic and something that I would like to learn much more about. Much of game studies seems to be concerned with mainstream gaming (and the game industry is … the game industry). This is an area where there is a need for creative-practical-analytical work from academia (I think).

An immediate result of our discussion will be an inworld discussion (using Traveler) on independent games/gaming later this semester – if everything works out. Nathan and Ben are going to particpate and hopefully we can get another couple of interesting people take part in this. Maximum number of participants is probably 15 or so. Send me an email if you are interested in particpating. Hopefully we will also be able to record the dicusssion and make it available as a stream afterwards.

visualizing networks over time

Yesterday I found an interesting piece of software called TeCFlow which visualizes networks over time. It uses email archives, phone logs, and chat archives as fodder. The fact that networks change over time is not new and interesting, rather *how* these networks change. The paper uses weather mapping as an analogy to network mapping through the comparison of dynamic interaction flows. A QuickTime video clip can be seen here.

I am still in the process of exploring the program and wonder if it is possible to take blog archives and map their network changes. In the last paper that Lilia and I wrote, we discussed the importance of change in weblog networks, specifically in relation to theme. Also, I wonder how and if Blogtrace, a program developed by Anjo and Lilia, could work together with this program. It Blogtrace could be used to identify networks and could generate their output in a compatible format, could you upload these files into TeCFlow and measure their change over time? (btw, Blogtrace does much more than identify a network. This is about synchrony.)


The program for the ACH/ALLC 2005 conference has now been published. This is an important conference and also set within the tradition of humanities computing. A search for “game” on the titles page does not result in any hits. Two instances of “virtual” etc. The focus is often on text, tools for textual analysis and metadata.

A few of the titles I find interesting (and that relate well to HUMlab):

Jessop, Martyn: In Search of Humanities Computing in Teaching, Learning and Research

Spiro, Lisa: Integrating a Massive Digital Video Archive into Humanities Teaching and Research

McCarty, Willard: Human Computing: Modelling with Meaning

Ruecker, Stan: Humanities Visualization Interface Design

Robey, David: National Support for Humanities Computing: Different Achievements, Needs and Prospects [panel]

Multidisciplinary advantages

The National Agency for Higher Education has today published an evaluation report (in Swedish) describing the present day situation in the English Departments at the different universities and colleges in Sweden. The English Department here in Umeå gets a quite good review, and one of the recurring themes is the potential that lies within the cooperation with HUMlab. Some flattering quotes (my translations):

“Umeå’s HUMlab enables advanced multimedia projects and can be used both in undergraduate and graduate education and in research.”

“The cooperation with HUMlab provides opportunities for new types of C and D essays as well as doctoral theses in which multimedia is used, something which appears to be unique in Sweden.”

I would have to agree that the collaboration with the English Department is a good example of how the multidisciplinary approach that HUMlab facilitates can be realized in practice. For example, at the undergraduate level, students participate in projects and write essays together with HUMlab, where they make use of technology as a tool and as a space for constructing and learning; three of us doctoral students have double affiliations with this Department and HUMlab, and for us the technology doesn’t only influence the methodology we use, but also our humanistic objects of study; students, administrative personnel and teachers attend practical short courses, and the latter group is also represented in the ITAS network and some teachers participate in the online activities that the network organizes, and so on…

This type of cooperation I think is what makes HUMlab such an interesting work place. Here, the different disciplines can meet without too much having to be compromised, through combining the theoretical expertise to be found at the respective departments with the technological and theoretical expertise in the lab. This is a fruitful collaboration which I think would be difficult to accomplish if HUMlab was a department of its own.