Meetings Big and Small

For me this last week has been filled with meetings. These have been on both sides of the screen and have provoked me to think about the nature of who I am and how I interact with others.
It all started when I signed up for Myspace music because many of the people I make sound with were already there and it is an active (if somewhat commercial and mall-like) scene. Having done this I was contacted on site by an old friend who have not seen since 1995 in Sydney. He seems to be now living on a small tropical island in the Pacific Ocean (drinking coconut milk, watching the sunset and making music). Following this I began working with Billy Marius, a student here at Umeå University who has come to HUMlab to realize a second year project in his Museology studies. Billy is from the Republic of Congo and he has spent 10 years living and working there with the pygmy peoples. His project is concerned with archiving and presenting the large amount of multimedia field materials he has gathered in his time with the Pygmy. As well he hopes to build a medium for dialogue between the Sámi in Sweden and the Pygmy in Congo based largely around performance. This project is intersected and permeated with meetings and exchanges and this is one of the things that makes it so interesting. I look forward to spending more time working on this with Billy.
A final meeting that I had in my week of meetings was finding a sign of a person who had a big influence on the directions my life has taken. When I was 18 years old I left school and took a job in the local hospital where I grew up. I lived with my grandmother, spent my weekends either working or in pubs, spent my money on new clothes and my car. My breadth of vision was as small as the conservative town I was born in. Then one day a shop opened in the middle of the town that seemed to be selling nothing. In it a strangely dressed woman sat, painting small child like pictures all day. My sister and I visited the shop and met its proprietor. She was a visiting American artist who had managed to get and artist in residence position at the local university for a year (1987). She grew up in New York, had graduated from Yale university and her take on life was very much about the wonderful in the ordinary. She drew the kids that were different in the town into her shop, we hung out there and met others who were more interested in the abstract than the ordinary. Sort of like a one room Her name was Bird (of the Phoenix Movement) Brenner and she still seems to inhabit the edge judging by her website, although it has not been updated for a while. In 1988 I started at university myself, motivated by Bird and the people I met in her space. My dream was poetry and the life of a poet.
Meetings are important and some meetings can even change your life.

Documenting meetings

When I got to the lab today Jim Barrett and Marius Billy were there discussing Marius’s paper/project on Pygmy/Sámi culture and dialogue. Marius is a museology student and Jim is a graduate student at the English Department here (doing work on electronic literature). Jon from the lab and others were also helping. And randomly Peter Sköld, director of the Sámi research center at Umeå University, walks in to do something very different.


They talked quite a lot and are going to meet later this week. HUMlab meeting of the week (so far) I think. I was also able to discuss digital cultural heritage issues, grid computing and future cooperation with Peter.

The Endless Forest


There are things we’ve become used to, even to expect and demand, from almost every computer game we come across. We expect some kind of violence. We expect a goal, something to reach for. We expect, not strangely, that there is to be some competitive element – especially if it is a multi-player game. Even those of the simplest kind have you competing in one way or the other – against the computer, against other players, or even against yourself and your old high score.

Who would’ve thought that, instead, a multi-player game could be a soothing environment where you can encounter other players under peaceful circumstances – greet them, perhaps play a little, and then move on?

In Endless Forest, there are no goals, no weapons, no way of conventionally communicating with other players. You can’t type, “omg, lol!” the way you might in any other online game. You play a deer, in an eternal forest, and your interactions are much what a deer’s interactions might be. You can jump, sniff the other deer, scratch your back against a tree or strike a pose as you listen for sounds from deep in the woods. There are no hunters and no prey. If you like, you can leave the game open for hours and all that happens is that your deer lies down and goes to sleep.

Instead of ‘names’, we get to have symbols that symbolize our characters and that others may recognise us by. Sometimes, you’ll prance around a sleeping deer and moo, toss your head, and hope the other will wake up. When they do, maybe you’ll do a few jumps of joy, and the two of you will bounce off into the trees, circling one another, hanging out, before parting ways. When you walk into one another, there is a soft, golden, magical glow.

It’s a very relaxing experience. It’s not a game in any conventional sense, and right now, it’s pretty basic… but it’s wonderful, I think. Innovative and beautiful. I had the game up and running for six hours yesterday while watching telly. Now and then, I’d hear a moo, and run up to the computer – and there I’d see other deer, sometimes in bigger groups, sometimes alone, prancing around, examining my sleeping form or just running by through the woods. When I’d get up on my feet, some would run back and greet me, sniff at me before moving on again.

Does it sound simple and stupid? It would be, if you’re looking for a regular game. If you just want to try something different, it’s perfectly lovely. I can’t wait to see where they’ll take this. What other things will be implemented.

Here is my deer resting on the ground with a few others, peaceful in the woods. The glyph with two small boxes on top of a swirl belongs to me.


Go here to read more about the Endless Forest, and download it as well. Hope to see you among the quiet trees: