Blogs: Point and Future

November was a busy month for me. I gave several presentations to a diverse mix of people about what a blog is, what it can be used for (obviously dependent on the audience), and where blogging is going. In a particularly lovely bit of convergence, this has also been a popular meme of discussion in several of my favorite blogs as well as a topic of discussion between some of my favorite people. Conclusions? Well, there are no hard and fast conclusions…this is a fluid and varied medium, after all…but I do have some ideas.

1. Blogs are more than the format we use to define them. One of our major problems in researching the fundamentals of blogging is that there are so many genres and we keep lumping them all together.

2. Blogging is a process NOT a product. It is extremely rare that blogs ever become a product (examples are books such as those by Salam Pax or Belle de Jour).

3. In academic blogging, we tend to blog our process – creating a wonderful opportunity to peer review the process rather than the final paper. Rarely are updates to this peer review blogged (not sure why, possibly the constant cycle of new topics/ideas). The ‘updated/modified’ version is often the published article. (similar to point 2)

4. while bloggers can become experts in their chosen topic, the reality is that their audience is often too small to generate any impact from their expertise (both the rule and the exception tend to be political bloggers…arguably experts in often narrow fields, they tend to preach to the choir – attract like-minded audiences- yet occasionally cause large repercussions through their diligence ex. Rathergate)

additional old vs. new media reasons by prolurkr

* The majority of their audience is still on the other side of the digital divide (those who can’t, don’t or won’t use computers and the Internet for information and communication).
* People don’t have the time or inclination to search and browse the blogosphere (or time to read more than capsules and sound bites on any subject).
* Most people are disinterested in news and information that is not (a) actionable, (b) easy to understand, and (c) suitable fodder for social conversation.

Right now, blogs are a buzz word…big media has jumped on the bandwagon and poorly attempted one-way media they dub a blog (personally feel that these one-way channels of communication fashionably called a blog have missed the point – except for the BBC…they GET blogging). So the big question echoing around the blogosphere…what is the future. Personally, I feel the future of the blog is here in terms of audience and reachability/impact. Although, as bandwidth gets cheaper, I believe that blogs will become increasingly more mobile and interactive – taking guerrilla news and virtual re-experience to a new and exciting level.

Contribute to the discussion, if you will. As a strong advocate for blogging, I believe that they are beneficial for a variety of reasons such as improving critical reading and writing skills, building networks, creating and identity online and over time. I am aware, however, that blogs are not the be all and end all of web tools. What is the point for you? Why do you blog and how do you see it changing in the future?

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Twenty Minutes in HUMlab

The Lab was a very active place around midday today. These images come from a 20 minute period around 2pm:

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Staff coffee break Our work experience student Anna.
   
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Computer Games as Story Telling Form course Stefan Blomberg, PhD candidate with HUMlab, teaching
   
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Progress of new computer installation Our new old computers
   

HUMlab flickr presence

As you might have noted we now have a Flickr badge on the right hand side showing photos from the HUMlab flickr account. Stephanie and I implemented this yesterday and today. We have uploaded a set of nine photos to get started. I see this blog as an extension of the lab somehow and I also believe that photos can help creating links and a sense of presence. Of course you have to click on the badge to actually see the photos in reasonably high resolution. This is something I have been thinking about for rather long now and we will see how it works out.

Some questions/comments:

Should we upload lots of photos? We have several thousand photos on our server. Presumably we do not need/want to include all. Probably uploading a few photos now and then makes sense – from recent activities or just recent great snapshots.

Would it make more sense to have a more static HTML version of the badge where the pictures would be larger? I kind of like this one though (even though I would not mind having 6 pictures instead of 12).

Right now we have uploaded 800×600 versions of photos. Somehow I feel reluctant to upload high resolution versions.

We also need to think about asking people in pictures whether they are ok with us publishing them.

It probably makes sense to use tags and descriptions. It would also be cool to link photos from seminars to seminar streams and personal websites (and things like that).

Another idea: When we have guest bloggers we could exchange the HUMlab flickr feed for their personal flickr feed (if they have one) or create a special feed for them. And if we tag photos we could have a special flickr display after an important event or to prepare for something interesting happening in the lab. I also see parallells with using many displays in a lab in a premediated manner – for instance to contextualize an upcoming event.

Comments and answers welcome!

Swedish articles

Some recent articles in Swedish (all from November 2005 and the first two from today):

“Umeåtjej målar för Disney” (Västerbottens Folkblad). Interview with HUMlab digital artist Linda Bergkvist).

“Litterära smakprov” (Dagens Nyheter). Johan Svedjedal on Google Print/Google Book Search (brief article/column). See also comment by Erik Stattin. Here is my my own recent (rather unnoteworthy) experience of finding online material (which would seem to support Erik’s argument).

“En Proust för Googles tidsålder” (Svenska Dagbladet). Karl Steinick on Lev Manovich’s work and Soft Cinema (Manovich visited Stockholm recently).

“Jan Kjaerstad uppgraderar romanen” (Svenska Dagbladet). Magnus Persson on Norwegian writer and media critic Jan Kjaerstad.

“Spel påverkar vårt sätt att vara i världen” (Svenska Dagbladet). Sam Sundberg on computer games, computer game studies, popular media treatment of games, learning and games etc. (an overview). Also on why computer games should be discussed in the arts/culture section of the newspaper.

“Använd bloggar i undervisningen!”. Interview (or rather an interview based on a talk) with Stephanie Hendrick (HUMlab Ph.D. student) in Kollegiet (in my view the writer has made the article somewhat too “popular”/sensational – a danger with this field). On using blogs in education.

Art and Technology III

Next week on Thursday 24th November at 1:15pm I will be presenting Art and Technology III in HUMlab. “Konst och Teknik” (the Swedish title) is a short course dealing with some of the ideas and practices at the intersection of art and technology. HUMlab will be set up as a lage digital gallery for most of the day and I will be leading a group through a large number of examples and concepts under the heading Art and Technology. I think because it is the third time I have presented this course I have begun to understand how huge a topic it is. For this reason I thought to present it for the first time using themes:

• Narrative
• Space
• Interaction
• Collaborative
• Mixed
Continue reading “Art and Technology III”

digital wall

Last week I visited the Institute for Multimedia Literacy which is project of the Annenberg Center for Communication and part of University of Southern California. Here is one the most tangible things I got see.

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This is a digital wall that Anne Balsamo has been involved in developing. The actual implementation is rather old I think – from about 2000 – but different versions have been developed as far as content is concerned. I wrote about another kind of digital wall in an entry in my personal blog a few days ago and it is interesting to see this wall which is not about making more/bigger but rather about an innovative two-level interface (and a more qualitative-based difference).

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You move the screen along (notice the handles) and it is a very physical kind of interaction. As you move the screen along screen content will change according to where you are located in relation to the timeline. Here literacy is the topic of the timline. This kind of device is partly intended for museum-like installations I imagine. I they have students add content to it which provides an interesting model. The background is static (it takes a certain amount of time and money to create a new one I imagine). It would be interesting with a screen-based background but maybe you would lose out on tangibility then (and the cost would certainly rise). Another thing I wondered about was whether it would be possible to have multiple-layer content on the screen (for one section) – or some kind of application. That would require a touch screen but would potentially be very powerful I think. Possibly you would get away from the simplicity of the interface though. In any case, this is a very innovative interface and application.

forget the bells, i want a cell phone

On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about battery life with an old-fashioned bell on a string.

Irish are taking their cell phones with them to the grave
According to the Belfast Telegraph, Ireland’s obsession with mobile phones has sunk to new depths, literally, as a growing number of people are taking their mobiles six feet under with them to the grave.

Facing the sweet hereafter with phone in hand is a new take on the ancient practice of burying a loved one with personal mementos.

… “With the recent explosion in popularity of mobile phones and other personal electronic gadgets, people now see them as extensions of themselves that will follow them to the grave.

Some people, especially young girls, live their lives by their mobiles and feel it’s part of them,” he said.

“Some other people may be terrified they’ll wake up in the coffin, so they take along a mobile to ring for help to get them out,” he said. However, certain rules would apply, including making sure the mobile is switched off or on silent before it accompanies the deceased.

via smartmobs

Beyond the sensationalism of this post, it is quite interesting to think about the degree that we feel technology is an extension of us. It has become not only an artifact of our daily lives, but also something we value enough to ‘take with us’ – possibly a personified friend to help guide us into whatever we believe is to come…

New for Old Machinima

The medium of machinima is to be celebrated at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York in Saturday 12th November with 2005 Machinima Film Festival. The event is being sponsored by the MOMI and the The Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences.

Thinking about such an event brought me to the idea that it is the continuation of an alignment of machinima with older established Film discourse and the Cinematic Mode of Production generally. So, just for the heck (hack??) of it, what would be the alternatives? What could be a new way of presenting a flow of visual images synchronised with sound in a story telling environment that could not be discussed, critiqued or produced along the lines of Hollywood style dream (sleep) production? This has been bouncing around in my head since yesterday and I came up with a couple of possibilities.

Perhaps the most obvious is Art. But then what exactly does Art have to offer story telling in a film-like (a degree of difference stressed here) setting that has not been already done to death? The answer: Mathew Barney. I have seen some of the Cremaster Cycle of Barney’s films and really they seem to make little sense on a narrative level but they sure do tell stories. Each one tells hundreds of stories and never the same one twice. This cloud like production around multimedia would suit machinima where rules of physics, time, space and the sensual body do not apply.

The second source of aberrant inspiration in regard to machinima’s future is La Fura del Baus (‘The Fury of the Sewer Rats’), the Catalonian performance group who state on their website:

“DIGITAL THEATRE
Digital theatre is the addition of actors and 0 and 1 bits moving in the net.
Actors in digital theatre may interact from different times and places… The actions of two actors in two different times and places coincide in the network of infinite times and virtual spaces.
On the 21st century, geneticist conception of theatre (from the generation to the birth of the scene) will be replaced by an organization of interactive and intercultural activities.
Digital theatre refers to a binary language connecting the organic with the inorganic, the material with the virtual, the actor in the flesh with the avatar, the present audience with the internet users, the physical stage with the cyberspace.”

In machinima we have a new medium for expression which requires new approaches such as these two (there are many more no doubt).
Why should there be an avoidance of reconstructing machinima purely as a new film making technique?
Because with new tools come new possibilities. It would be a shame if this opportunity passed us by.

upcoming 3D modeling seminar

In about a week 3D artist Anders Kjellberg from the Department of Historical Studies will talk about his 3D work. How and why 3D modeling? He will show some of his work and discuss the process, tools and some philosophical perspectives on recreating realities (and creating non-realities).

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Anders uses Cinema 4D which is now available in the lab (one license only). In HUMlab we also Maya and 3D Studio Max.

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The seminar takes places in HUMlab, November 15, 1.15 pm CET. It will also be broadcast live and archived (both as a stream and an mp3 podcast). Language: Swedish (but the whole thing will probably be visual enough to transcend language barriers). Welcome!

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Anders Kjellberg’s 3D graphics website can be found here. the website features galleries and tutorials among other things.