HUMlab Doctoral Candidate Guest on -empyre- for June

I will be writing as a guest for the emprye soft skinned space mailing list for the month of June. The theme for the month is Liquid Narrative:

“Liquid Narratives. The concept of ‘liquid narrative’ is interisting in that it allows to think about the unfoldings of contemporary languages beyond tech achievements, by relating user controlled applications with formats such as the essay (as described by Adorno in “Der Essay als Form”, The essay as a form) and procedures related to the figure of the narrator (as described by Benjamin in his writings about Nikolai Leskov).

How does the concept of narrative is related to comtemporary culture?
Can we really describe nowadays fragmentary and user agenced procedures of telling stories as narratives? Should they be considered liquid, since they are fluid, reshapable, pliable? How does devices such as the GPS and mobile phones change narrative? How technologies broadband internet and DVD different possibilities for storytelling?

To debate this topic, this month, we welcome Dene Grigar, Lúcia Santaella, James Barret and Sérgio Basbaum. They will discuss how their projects and ideas can be related to the notion of ‘liquid narratives’, or explain how they have been thinking about connected concepts (such as those of ‘liquid images’ and ‘liquid languages’, developed by Lúcia Santaella in her most recent book, to be published soon).” (Marcus Bastos)

“-empyre- facilitates critical perspectives on contemporary cross-disciplinary issues, practices and events in networked media by inviting guests -key new media artists, curators, theorists, producers and others to participate in thematic discussions.”

To subscribe to the -empyre- list go HERE (its free and very rewarding).

Full Body Joysitck Video

On Saturday 3rd May the Umea Institute of Design will begin the graduating show for 2006. One of the graduating MA students for interaction design has been working in HUMlab. Santiago Barriga has been working on game interface design and demonstrated his full body joystick in the lab recently. Here is a video stream of this demo. It is a bit heavy on the bandwidth so I recommend fast accessed machines.



Cyberinfrastructure is a term used to describe infrastructure and services used for research. The original report “Revolutionizing Science and Engineering Through Cyberinfrastructure:” by Daniel Atkins can be found here. Here it is said that

In summary then, the opportunity is here to create cyberinfrastructure that enables more ubiquitous, comprehensive knowledge environments that become functionally complete for specific research communities in terms of people, data, information, tools, and instruments and that include unprecedented capacity for computational, storage, and communication. Such environments enable teams to share and collaborate over time and over geographic, organizational, and disciplinary distance. They enable individuals working alone to have access to more and better information and facilities for discovery and learning. They can serve individuals, teams and organizations in ways that revolutionize what they can do, how they do it, and who participates.

While this particular bit may seem over-enthusiastic the report provides interesting food for thought and it seems that one important aspect is that services, people, collaboration are focused on as well as high-performance computing, grid computing, sensors etc.

In Sweden there is a relatively new committee for research infrastructure (KFI/VR) and I have high hopes for their work. Not least because it is not discipline-specific and it also brings in the Humanities and Social Sciences. It seems quite clear that research infrastructure is going to become more and more important to these areas in the future. HUMlab is an example of a cyberinstructural implementation. Right now I am in Lund and yesterday I visited the new center for language and literature studies here. They have a humanities laboratory. In the outer part there are some larger labs with quite a few computers. In the inner section there are smaller rooms – lab spaces. Here you can find eye-tracking devices and an echo-free room among other things. There is a cognitive science slant to the resources. A great deal of interesting things seem to be going on here and it is apparent that the establishment of this kind of resource also has coincided with structural changes and a reorientation of the Humanities.

Sachiko Hayashi in lab and through skype

Today at 13:15 CET the Japanese/Swedish artist Sachiko Hayashi will be presenting a seminar on Technology as the Medium: Artist as the Consumer. If you would like to participate in our seminar via skype, you can skype in to us through the button below or the one on the sidebar. We are still experimenting with alternative ways to create more interactive seminars and welcome your participation!

Call me!

See you on skype 🙂

HUMlab Culture Outside the Lab

The next 24 hours sees a lot of HUMlab talent being shown to the community outside of the lab. As part of the Umeå City Culture Night this Saturday (20th May) four of HUMlab’s staff will be singing, showing art and making music. HUMlab digital artist in residence Linda Bergkvist will be showing images and masks at Pilgrim (Kungsgatan 55) from 17:00 until 20:00. Therese Ornberg Berglund will be singing as part of the Snowflake Singers (20 member choir) at 16.30 in Ã…hléns, at 19.00 in Café Station and at 20.00 in Cafe Schmäck . Jim Barrett will be playing didgeridoo outside of Indah Imports in the Renmarkstorget at 12:45, 14:30 and 19:30. Stefan Blomberg will be part of a Gameboy music performance at the Bildmuseet at 22.00 as part of the “Konst, som nu ungefär”‘ exhibition.
As an update to this entry Billy Marius who is doing Masters Research in HUMlab (and giving a seminar on his work on the 30th May in the lab) will be performing at the Rinkerby Festival next week in Stockholm. ‘Billy Marius and the Global Yodellers’ will present a fusion of Pygmy Yeyi and Sámi Joik.

studio space and game interfaces

HUMlab is a studio space. The photos below are from the combined game interface course, design project presentation and EU meeting we staged last week. On occasions like these I re-realize the importance of having technologies like these available in the lab, making noise and getting people together.


It partly about exploring the lab as a performative space. It was great having Santiago present his project. It really was a prototype installation. An idea. A concept. Thought-provoking and very interactive.



the paperless doll?

I played with dolls when I was young. I played with Barbie, paper dolls, and when I got to go to my cousin’s house I played with her most wonderful doll house for *hours*. Oh, how I coveted that doll house! And for me, playing with dolls was not a lesson in consequences, but a lesson in free play and wild imagination. My dolls could fly, teleport to different rooms, ignore someone, or sit in the kitchen until I was ready to play again. There were no consequences for leaving them alone for too long. I did not have to worry that they would cry themselves to death or starve or be taken away by cyber social workers. There was no place for that in my free play. I was able to drop the game and go play outside for a while, secure in the knowledge that things would be as I left them when I came back in, or finished dinner.

I just read a slashdot post about girls giving up their dolls for the SIMS.

philgross writes “According to the New York Times, lots of girls and younger teens are abandoning their dolls for the Sims. Says one professor, “We leave most of the social work in our society to women and The Sims lets young girls, in particular, work out their desires and conflicts about those relationships.” Says another, “Children generally want to create characters, but with girls we see them wanting to create a friend.” Meanwhile, says Will Wright, boys will “do the same stupid thing over and over again and be happy,” (and I wince looking at my vast collection of first-person shooters). The article does quote one 10-year-old boy who plays with Sims, and has learned valuable life lessons. “I learned don’t leave your baby crying or people will come take your baby away.”” And I learned that if you lock Sims in your upstairs torture chamber, with no tiles to sit, they eventually cry themselves to death.

As a former drama teacher, I am fully aware of the importance of roll playing. It is a vital part of a child’s development. But just as the paperless office is an over inflated myth, so is the paperless doll. The affordances of free play and SIMS play are too different to lose any sleep over the possible abandonment of traditional dolls.

Sachiko Hayashi in HUMlab

Sachiko Hayashi (Japan/Sweden) “3” from SERIES OF STILLS FOR ELECTOR-ACOUSTIC MUSIC CONCERTS (digital computer graphics for projection, 2004, Sweden)

On Monday 22nd May at 13:15 the Japanese/Swedish artist Sachiko Hayashi will be presenting a seminar on Technology as the Medium: Artist as the Consumer. I am sure this will be an interesting and relevant discussion from the practical perspective of a prolific and internationally respected artist. The abstract and keywords for the seminar are available here.
In her own words:
“Sachiko Hayashi is best known for her net art that involves examination of human nature with high use of interactivity, in which not only the retrieved intricate picture of its subject becomes its focus but also our own reaction toward what is being revealed through interactivity.”
I first became aware of Sachiko through her stunning and disturbing net art piece Last Meal Requested. This I have made part of my research project for my PhD as I believe it represents a bridge between various narrative forms operating under the banner of interactive media. One of the influences i detect in the piece are the assemblages of Joseph Cornell . The power and sad beauty of Last Meal Requested is surprising as it is a small work done as a Flash window. Not a famous medium for dealing with the heavier topics such as capital punishment. In my opinion it is the framing of very different media forms that makes possible Last Meal Requested’s intense force. This is accomplished by the interactivity of the piece that is the need for the viewer to participate in the work. To quote theorist and artist Mark Steven Meadows, “Interactive narrative is the most ambitious art form existing today because it combines traditional narrative with visual art and interactivity. Strangely enough, these three art forms share an important feature: they each allow information to be understood from multiple perspectives.” (M. S. Meadows, Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative px).
Sachiko Hayashi holds a BA in International & Cultural Studies with an award winning undergraduate thesis from Tsuda College, Tokyo, a MA with Merit in Digital Media from Coventry School of Art & Design, Coventry University, UK, and completed additional postgraduate studies in Computer Arts at the Royal Univeristy College of Fine Arts in Stockholm. Sachiko has exhibited work at Transmediale, Berlin, Not Still Art, New York, and European Media Art Festival, Osnabrück. Gallery shows include National Museum of Science and Technology, Stockholm, Boston CyberArts through 911 Gallery, Boston, Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater, NYC, Saitama Museum of Modern Art, Japan, the Palace of the Exposures, Rome. One of her computer graphics became part of the permanent collection of the Congress of the United States of America as part of “Reaction” by ExitArt, New York.
I would advise anyone interested in digital and interactive media, digital, electronic and video art and the theory surrounding these practices to come to HUMlab Monday 22 May at 13:15.

the lab is a lively place

I just got back from HUMlab. One group of people – members of a new European project from all over Europe – were evacuating our inner room to accommodate for this afternoon’s three-hour course on alternative game controls (history, examples, trying different platforms out etc.). The project people moved to another nearby space. The other parts of the lab were also well populated and at the far end Santiago Barriga-Amaya from the Umeå Institute of Design has set up some of his game control demo equipment.

Santiago designing one of the game interfaces (photo from an earlier occasion)

At 4 pm we will host a demo event showing some of Santiago’s work and allowing people to try it out. The EU project people will join us as well.

I am very happy about the range and amount of activities in HUMlab over the last couple of days. There is a lot of energy there and people with very different backgrounds and competences working together.

Politics, Games for Change and Darfur


The Games for Change game Darfur is Dying was developed by graduate students (Susana Ruiz, Ashley York, Mike Stein, Noah Keating, Kellee Santiago) from the University of Southern California’s Interactive Media Program.
This piece of viral information was sponsored by MTV and Reebok and is a simple idea; run, hide, run, find water and get back to camp. The camp is structured to provide information about how it is to live in such a refugee camp. Probably similar to many such ‘storage’ places for displaced and hunted persons around the world (Tibetans, Congans, Palestinians, Burmese, Chechens, Zimbabweans…the list is long). This is my primary criticism of the game Darfur is Dying; if it is trying to place the player in a position of subjectivity in relation to the crisis in Darfur it does so in a very gentle way, such as with the third person graphic relation as the chosen avatar runs between bushes and rocks to get water. It is a long way to the water (5 kilometres!!) and the struggle comes through to the player by the long time it takes to find the water and get back, while not much else is happening on the screen (armed trucks approach slowly along the same trajectory each time). Being caught by the armed militias only results in a text screen, breaking the narrative of the game but giving the player contextual information on Darfur. The village gives us some idea of the horrible logistics of what is going on in the Darfur region of Western Sudan (a country that is no stranger to war, violence and suffering) but to gather a deeper perspective one must look elsewhere.
However, I think the concept has some sound components to it. Using new media to spread awareness of social and political issues obviously has promise. The political and viral nature of Darfur is Dying and the Flash graphics reminds me of The Meatrix. It will never be a game played for fun, but it is perhaps a good introductory text to the topic (my knowledge of the Western Sudan, its history and peoples is not really extensive). This raises interesting issues on games as texts, information sources and learning objects.