workshop on datamining

Today and tomorrow we will do a workshop on datamining in the lab. We have some national and international participants as well as researchers from various departments here at the university. Quite an interesting mix and, for instance, today we will discuss both chemometrics and dialectological data. We will have a reception at the BildMuseet and there Christina McPhee will also tell us a bit about her video installation that is showing there (the installation opens today).

Finding patterns in large data sets relates to many disciplines and businesses, of course, and datamining represents a set of methodologies and problems that bridge disciplines in interesting ways. We are also interested in visualization, datamining interfaces and the issue of “data shadows”.

Today’s Christina McPhee seminar

December 13, 1.15 pm CET
Datascapes, Topologies and the Sublime v.2 : La Conchita
Christina McPhee

Patrik and Christina 1

La Conchita is a community in north Ventura County whose inhabitants have been subject to massive debris flow mudslides in 1995 and 2005, and persist under the threat of continuing and inevitable recurrence. The most recent event on January 10, 2005 caused the loss of ten lives and the destruction of a central part of the village. Since last spring, I have been documenting the site of the mudslide through digital and medium format photography and digital video. My interest is to create a multivalent site study of the topology of disaster and trauma. La Conchita remaps the problematic of living with disaster in California in immediate, raw terms, since the trauma is always already here. The electronic media strategies in this body of work consist in layering of multiple modes of information, as a palimpsest, within which alterity and disjunction integrate diverse kinds of visual information within a documentary series of site observations. Together with USGS and NWS data on the topologies of flow, rain patterns and other scientific modes of visualization, research desires visual analogies to sites of trauma seen in a ritual context. Triangulating between study of the limited range of scientific forecast or remedy, and documentation of the continued local intensity with which the site inspires vernacular sacred gestures, digital media may amplify leaps and elisions between observed “fact” and subjective response, as the sense of place emerges, less through a psychological subject (psyche) than through a pervasive multiplicity of data arrays (a landscape of data). In this regard, the sublime comes into play, since a mathematics of chaos determines the scales of time and periodicity in the always already traumatized place of La Conchita. The sublime and the datascape conflate in a way that suggests some analogies to the landscape of automatic cinema described by Deleuze in Cinema2: The Time-Image (1985/1989).

Live broadcast from here (link active during seminar).

HUMlab blog thoughts

This is not an old blog. We started in January 2005 and are still experimenting and finding out. Jose Fraser’s comment/question to a previous entry made me think about our blog as a construct and a place. This is what I wrote on January 16, 2005:

We have decided to make this blog our principal English (institutional) presence. One reason is because so many of us are bloggers and also because we want to bring in other people. Also, I think it makes sense to let the blog and our regular Swedish website be different (with different affordances) rather than just creating a mirror copy.

Continue reading “HUMlab blog thoughts”

intersective processes

In working with the area “the humanities and information technology” part of our work concerns the collaborative exploration of mutually interesting possibilities – often in between established areas and fields or through testing the boundaries of established disciplines. This process always involves myself (and others involved in HUMlab) having a true interest in the other disciplines and being willing to learn more about them and their interrelation with the humanities and information technology. It is a finding-out process and I think one of the most important things in such venturues is respectfulness.

Today I had a meeting where we discussed intersections and possiilities in relation to the University Library. The day before yesterday I met with the ‘Esthetics’ Department (teacher education department responsible for art, music and handicraft) and the same day I also participated in a comparative literature research seminar on electronic literature. All of this worked out in interesting ways and I think most of the people involved are interested in continuing these processes. That is something I have learnt – that you need to take a processive apparoach (however restless you are).

While we tend to suggest that people visit HUMlab – this rather strong studio envrionment and untraditional technology space – I hae also learnt that respectful meetings and these processes also require me/us to visit other spaces (which we do quite often and I all the time). So, taking part in a research seminar at the literature department also involves facing their seminar culture, their subject and a rather rich context. We had a good discussion and there will probably be a continuation this coming semester. Similarily, Jim Barrett went to the Art School yesterday to talk to them about the upcoming Christina McPhee events. I find the intersection between two strong (studio) environments very interesting.

This coming week we will several intersective events. Christina McPhee will talk about her art and art-technology (involves art history, the art school and others). Martin Dodge will address the construction of driving spaces (in relation to technology such as automatic traffic lights, GPS, cameras etc.). There will a datamining workshop where faculty from chemistry, Scandinavian langages, linguistics, geography, law and other disciplines will participate as well as people from various companies and organizations. This should be great fun! Here the main point of intersection is the interest in a methodological field and it will be interesting to see how things work out.

edublog awards

I am pleased to announce that the HUMlab blog has been shortlisted in two categories in the edublog awards! We are nominated in the categories Best designed/most beautiful edublog and Best group blog. We are quite honored to be listed beside some great names!

I am most excited because this blog has truly been a group effort from its conception. Everyone from Linda our digital artist to Samuel our former (yet still fabulous) system admin to our director and all the graduate students have come together to create a space that represents the essence of our lab. I still think it is stimulating working with these people!

Christina McPhee: Memory Space and the Real

Christina McPhee will be visiting HUMlab from next Monday 12th December until the following Tuesday 20th December. A multimedial artist and theorist I first came to know of her work and thought through the empyre-soft skinned space email list, where she is both a moderator and contributor. In the physical world McPhee is based in “studios in downtown LA and in the central coast of California”. More from her Rhizome biography:

“her art practice in painting, multimedia, and sound art extends conceptual strategies in data and landscape, and to architectural design education. She studied literature, art history and philosophy at Scripps College, Claremont; painting and printmaking at Kansas City Art Institute (BFA valedic) and painting at Boston University (MFA). A childhood on the Great Plains trained her eye towards the subtleties of landscape in apparently empty space. Her digitally transformed landscapes mesh painterly, architectural and technological detail within an atmosphere of chiaroscuro and baroque complexity.” Rhizome.

The most recent of her works that I know of is the Carrizo-Parkfield Diaries, a multimedia installation piece that centres around “what is location, what is landscape, what is fiction, and who are we to tell the tale”. An earthquake makes us aware of the geophysical space we inhabit, how we record such an event contains much about how we construct that space. In the Carrizo-Parkfield Diaries;

“The San Andreas kicked in: tremors in rapid succession, the first and biggest at 6.0: big enough that if it had happened in one of the real California cities there would have been massive destruction. Out in Parkfield, where the seismologists have their field station: the fault obliged with a full day of events and more again this morning (5.0). Merzian instabilities in the data shadows. Is the landscape “someone” who reads ‘my’ data flux or am I a remote sensor for the flux: a strange loop”

The data of the earthquake is captured in McPhee’s art, image, sound, film, space.

“Sound art is a mode of super awareness as if one is singing in the interstitial spaces between one present moment and the next present moment: a hyper now.” Christina McPhee 2005

McPhee herself acknowledges lineage to Kurt Schwitters and Marcel Duchamp in her work. I am particularly impressed by the spatial aspects of her work, the tectonic plate scale of Carrizo-Parkfield Diaries, the life of objects, the depth of the image as fractal layer builds on fractal layer and the place of us, the breathing organism, in the machine.

There will be workshop on Tuesday:

[13 december kl. 13:15]
Strike/Slip: Datascapes, Topologies and the Sublime
Christina McPhee

Californians accommodate to seismicity, via amnesia and the shock of recall, within a landscape that serves up intervals, between tremor and nothing. The Fault manifests its most obvious display at Carrizo Plain, sometimes called the “Cadillac of earthquake geomorphology” about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles where the M 8.5-9.0 Fort Tejon Quake occurred over 150 years ago, and offset the banks of Carrizo’s Wallace Creek by thirty feet in a couple of seconds. The Fault appears quiet here. Documentation must address what’s felt, what’s in the air, what’s feared and what may also not be seen. I work onsite at the San Andreas Fault at Carrizo Plain, and the alkaline Soda Lake at its centre. Nearby at Parkfield, the fault, present in only subtle visual signs, is a continuously active seismic landscape: a recent 2004 6.0 quake yields a rich archive of open source geologic data. The digital video and chromogenic prints open onto things about to be remembered, or things lost. They incorporate traces from geomorphologic seismicity subsurface maps at Parkfield, and take on names from the ground motion data and seismic geomorphic visualizations from the 2004 Parkfield quake. Place becomes both an intimate and inhuman seismic memory.

This is a chance for us here in Umeå to meet and listen to an important artist in a seasonal time when the space of landscape exerts such an influence over us, the wintery embrace and the living memory.

The weblog authorship identity series, Part 1

I had the beginnings of a discussion with a friend this evening which had spun off the question, ‘is wikipedia a valuable tool’. While this is a popular meme bouncing around both email lists and the blogosphere right now, I believe that the question concerns not so much the tool as the assumption. When is information gleaned from the Internet valuable? When is it a trust worthy tidbit? When can you trust your source? My friend brought up blogs as an example of trust building over time, and while I agree, I do have one reservation. Let me start my argument by saying I agree whole heartedly that blogs do build a sense of trust overtime. However, until pared with other means of communication, this trust can be somewhat superficial (see either the Kaycee Nicole scam or the question of the person behind the fabulous belle de jour). As I wrote previously, the problem is not with the tools (wikipediea or blogging), but with our assumption, or rather with the metaphors we use to conceptualize these tools.

As I am currently writing a paper that deals with this subject, I will continue with my blogging example. In an earlier post on my own blog I had written: ‘although many bloggers cringe with weariness at the questions, ‘are blogs journalism’ we have set up the metaphors surrounding them in such a fashion that they are asking for similar credibility. note i said credibility, not objectivity. there is a saying in the blogosphere that we will fact-check your, um, rear and there have been many cases of this fact checking ‘bringing down’ conventional mass media. of course, credibility lies along more than journalistic lines. credibility is also important in the building of relationships online.’


It is said that through metaphor and association we adapt to and learn about our world so it stands to reason that we use these real world metaphors when describing similar phenomena. The building of credibility socially and over time as we do in blogging and through the creation of wikipedia entries, within genres which we have endowed with attributes belonging to similar, yet different, genres of writing is not unproblematic. We must learn to analyze our sources, look at them as a having great potential, stop ignoring the man behind the curtain (gratuitous wizard of oz reference) and fact check.

I will write a series of posts this week (thus the overly grand title) about the metaphors of blogging, the notion of ‘truthful’ authorship identification and why we get so turned off by blogging fiction standing behind the great and glorious head of blogging fact (or Oz, if you prefer 🙂 ).

A rough abstract for the paper can be found in the extended entry.
Continue reading “The weblog authorship identity series, Part 1”

upcoming seminars December 2005

We have an exciting couple of weeks coming up. Among other things we will run a workshop on datamining, surveillance and visualization (December 14-15).

We will also have three HUMlab seminars:

[December 13, 1.15 pm CET]
Strike/Slip: Datascapes, Topologies and the Sublime
Christina McPhee

[December 15, 1:15 CET]
Code, Vehicles and Governmentality: The automatic production of driving spaces
Martin Dodge, University of Manchester

[December 19 december, 1:15 CET]
A Manifesto for the Humanities in a Technological Age
David Theo Goldberg, University of California at Irvine

These are some really interesting speakers. Welcome to HUMlab! No registration is required. All these seminars will also be broadcast live, archived and mp3:ed.

An additional note (for readers in Umeå): We will also host a lecture by David Theo Goldberg on “Racial Europeanization” on December 20. It will take place in Hörsal E (Lecture Hall E, the Humanities Building) at 1.15 pm.

Reporting at a distance about distance education

As a doctoral student interested in questions to do with language learning in distance education, I feel very lucky to be spending December in Milton Keynes. As you might know, this city is not only famous for its concrete cows, but also for hosting one of the world’s most successful distance education institutions, the Open University. During my visit, I am based at the Department of Languages, where I am working on a project which is closely related to my own research, and not least from a methodological point of view I think this will be very useful for me.

While here, I plan to visit some of the different centres where they do interesting research (eg. the Knowledge Media Institute, the Institute of Educational Technology) and hope to have some good discussions with the people working there. Tomorrow, I will get to discuss my own research, since I will be presenting at the INTELLECT research forum. I am very much looking forward to getting feedback on what I do from experts within the area. You can expect to hear more from me during my little fieldtrip!


I love watching movies.

It is strange how the internet has changed my way of viewing movies. Before I started to really embrace the information that’s out there, I might have read a review about a movie before I saw it… maybe one of the actors would have been on Leno, or I’d seen a trailer on the telly, but that would be it.

Now, before the movie even opens, I can watch the trailer the moment it’s out, I can read rumours and details in forums, I can look the actors up on imdb, check out what the writer of the script has been up to previously and if I’m lucky, there will be some footage from the set, maybe, as in the case of Batman Begins, someone will have sneakily filmed the batmobile roaring down the street of Chicago before any photos of the thing has been released.

Some movies, I hear about when they’re still just a rumour. The first little whisper of Tim Burton making a new stop motion picture made me perk my ears and drool a little, frantically looking for more information. The whispers were all over the place. Once the rumours were confirmed, I was frantic – it was true! Wow! I followed it from day one, the choice in actors, the rumours of the CG graphics, the arguments about the music – I heard it all.

A movie, to me, isn’t just sitting down and watching something. It’s the whole build-up from the first word I hear of it, to the days after having viewed it, that I spend talking about it – with people in real life, and people online. It’s expanded from an experience that lasts for two hours, to days, weeks, months – even years, in some cases.

As far as Corpse Bride goes, I’ve not been this frantic about a release since the LOTR movies, where I followed every casting choice whenever it was available, and oogled whatever little piece of information I could find.

Cruelly, though, not all movies are world wide releases the way LOTR was. It’s not fair, how the information is now available to all of us, all the way across the world – we can read and write and partake in all of it – but depending on where you live, you might end up having to wait six months longer to see it. Pah.

I can’t wait for the real world to catch up and let us view all movies as world wide premiers.

Some movies I’m looking forward to are,
the fountain, libertine and V for Vendetta

So if you hear anything of either, feel free to give me a holler.