three interesting interviews

Out There: Exploring Satellite Awareness
Institute of Network Cultures
Interview with Lisa Parks by Geert Lovink

Interview with Dan Sandin
interviewed by criticalartware coreDevelopers:
bensyverson, jon.satrom ++ jonCates
Audio/video available from here.

Intreview with Bryan Alexander on Web 2.0
Educause interview (Matt Bryan)

Both Dan and Bryan have visited HUMlab and I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa at UC Irvine a few days ago.

exploring the humanities and information technology part 2

This is the second post on the talk I gave at UC Irvine a few days ago and the response/discussion. Another question concerned the generalizability of view of the humanities and information technology I proposed (whether it might relate to humanities enterprises globally). I do not think I answered that question optimally. I should have made a dinstiction between the implementation of the Humanities and information technology at my own university, the associated strategies (som of which are definitely rather general) and the model itself which includes a general level – affecting the Humanities as a whole, IT as a tool, IT (and digital culture) as an object of study and IT as arena (place for creative expression and for cultural laboratories for instance). All these are relatively general. When I presented the model I also brought in two more levels: changing/transposing the Humanities and changing/transposing the university – both of these relate to the role of the Humanities and may be said to be more specific (depending on your local context). In my talk I did address the importance of your local environment and the difference between doing things at a full, comprehensive, one-campus university and a dispersed technical university college. Naturally you have to adopt different strategies.

Two isses raised by David Theo Goldberg concerned the aesthetics of “new media” and various associated institutional enterprises – a “distinct style” – and collaborative practices and reward systems for collaborative work in the Humanities. We discussed the aesthetics for quite some time – not least regarding (visual) representation in computer games, independent gaming and retro gaming. We talked about representational conventions, “realism” and game industry discourses – and about possibly getting fed up with this kind of style. Also, although we did not bring up this specifically, I think this relates to an environment such as HUMlab directly. I have often thought about the balance between “flashy” representation, new media props etc. and other parts of the humanities and information technology enterprise. When presenting a place such as HUMlab, there is a risk focusing to much on the former, I think, and not focusing too much about disciplinary depth, complex research issues etc. For me this has been a learning experience and I now know that the over-flashy presentation gives me a sense of missing out on important core elements. But I also think it is very important not to disregard technology, new media elements, performance etc. – these are also very important components. One point, I guess, is that HUMlab is a not a new media institute.

As for the second question, regarding collaborative practices in the Humanities and development of those over time, I do not feel that I have enough “time depth” to be able say too much, and I also know that David has worked with these issues exensively. It was from him I realized the importance of not only working collaboratively and encouringing such practices but also creating reward systems for multi-author and multi-disciplinary work. I referred to Willard McCarthy’s new book Humanites Computing and his discussion of the caricature of the lone Humanities scholar and we also discussed differences in the academic systems of the US and Sweden (for instance how the US tenure system may play a role).

I plan to write one more entry on the talk and the subsequent discussion. Comments on all this welcome!

exploring the humanities and information technology

Yesterday I talked about “Transposing the Humanities, Information Technology and Ourselves: Mapping Contemporary Modalities” at the Humanities Research Institute at UC Irvine. I started off discussing the humanities computing paradigm – which is different from my idea of “the humanities and information technology” – but very interesting in relation to what is going on in this area. I also think it is important to both acknowledge the importance of humanities computing and to analyze it critically. I also talked about examples of places where I have found that interesting work is going on and based on the work we do in the HUMlab I tried to point to some general strategies. And finally I proposed a multi-level model of the humanities and information technology.

There was a excellent group of people there and I am happy about the discussion – even though I myself felt a bit affected by jetlag and very long drive the same day. The UCHRI provides a very convivial intellectual setting, somehow, and I am starting to feel at home here. I will discuss some points that were discussed in this entry and another one that I will do later. Her is one important point was discussed (brought up by Lisa Parks):

The issue of whether information technology may have a transformative or agentive power in relation to society and the world around us – not least Europe and not least issues to do with multiculturalism and reconfiguration and what is going on in Paris right now. This is an important issue which is (probably) not directly part of my model of the humanities and information technology as it stands. I did talk about humanities responsibility in relation to this area (which is very important to me) and I mentioned more activist-based approaches. In practice I also think that some of these issues are raised in the meeting of art and technology. I mentioned Jan Svenungsson’s art installation Psychomapping Europe which has been discussed in HUMlab and I recollect discussions on the empyre list – and our collaborative blog project in relation to the 399th Sami Winter Market in Jokkmokk in the North of Sweden. I also come to think about the art piece Last Meal Requested. Here you definitely have this sense of being involved, social responsibility and technology possibly playing a (major) role. Isses such as globalization and various power relationas are also brought into the picture. It also reminds me of some of the “activism” that you find in some digital media settings – and processes such as globalization. Could this be part of Humanities-based initiative such as HUMlab – yes, probably (although it is somewhat beyond my own default reading of the Humanities). Of course, the study of our beliefs in technology and the discourse of technology are an integral part of a humanities and information technology enterprise. Myself I have worked rather extensively with educational technology and what i have seen there reminds me of the importance of being skeptical about the transformative power of technology. Often information technology is portrayed as a kind of cure to basically any problems or challenges in education – also extremely complex and multi-layered ones where technology is not really all that relevant. Consequently this kind of discourse may be a way of not having to deal with the essence of the problems or issues at hand. Looking at stories of technology and (technological) innovationsof the past it is also interesting to note that there seems to be a tendency to attribute “revolutions” to specific technologies while we may really be concerned with rich socio-cultural complexes and other technologies.

In any case, I am very glad that this question was posed and it definitely needs to be addressed in the model I am trying to develop (at this point primarily in an article on the humanities and information technology). Also, it relates to the role of art and technology in our lab and an interest I have in developing the “art and technology” side of things.


The day before yesterday I attended a very interesting one-day conference called SVIT 05. The focus of this conference centered around students’ ability to communicate using different media and IT. The morning was filled with a broadcast from Stockholm where leaders in the field of pedagogy from Sweden discussed how emerging technologies could be used in education. Mentioned were platforms like Lunarstorm, podcasting, and blogging. After lunch, there was a very interesting panel on digital story-telling through video. Many examples were shown, all short (ca. 1 minute long) and most were produced during a class period. Due to the different hosts of this conference, one factor was stressed – a factor that should always be stressed in these meetings: The technology exists, it is not that difficult to use, it works; but you must DARE to use it. Don’t be afraid that your students know more about the new technologies than you do, they probably do. That is not what it is about anymore. These are tools to create and manipulate their world, their knowledge and how they affect their environment. The different organizers (mainly from the public sphere) also stressed that the equipment is available for use from the community and that they will help the teacher figure out how to use it, and even make suggestion on how to use it creatively. It was a great message! I feel that we are in a generation of transition (still digital immigrants) attempting to assimilate traditional pedagogical methods with digital innovations, all the while ‘preaching to the choir’ – the digital natives. Many teachers are still digging in their heels when it comes to using technology creatively in their classrooms, but it is through conferences like these, where support and solidarity are prioritized, that these teachers may find the desire to embrace new ways of teaching.

I was the final speaker at this conference, and I spoke of using blogs in the classroom and how they improve writing, reading and critical thinking skills. I spoke of the role of the teacher changing from being an encyclopedia to that of a guidebook. We are not here to teach students everything humanly possible in the shortest amount of time, succeeding only when they can spit back everything we have said. Our role as teachers is to give the students the tools (not all digital, of course) and the motivation to learn for the rest of their lives. I ended by comparing the traditional classroom to a firewall (inspired from a wonderful blog post here), stressed how the most important skill we all must foster, no matter the subject matter, is critical thinking and then challenged the teachers in the room (who ranged from wood shop teachers to language teachers) to open up their firewall, imagine the possibilities and overcome the obstacles; something indeed possible with all the help and support being offered by the organizers and participants of the conference. It was an exciting end and I hope/think that I made an impact. (have heard from several participants about their interest in using blogs in the classroom). Sometimes it does feel like we are riding on the crest of new ideas; learning how to manipulate our world so that we assimilate our physical and cyber worlds into a plethora of new information and experiences. Ok, off the soap box and back into my studies. I am taking a class on SPSS and biostatistics and it is taking everything I have to keep up with the course work.

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