PhD student workshop

Some of us doctoral students affiliated with HUMlab are part of a local research network – the Digital Interaction Research Network (DIRN). The members of DIRN are doctoral students from the Humanities, Informatics, Pedagogy and Interactive Media and Learning, all with a common interest in the very broadly defined topic of digital interaction. We are now planning a workshop, which is to take place in HUMlab, August 21-22, where doctoral students will get to meet and get feedback on work-in-progress both from each other and from our invited guests: Jill Walker, TL Taylor, Patrik Hernwall and Patrik Svensson. Thanks to financial support from different working units and departments here at Umeå University (at the time being: Tvärvetenskapligt forum, HUMlab, The Faculty of Teacher Education, Department of Education, Department of Culture and Media and Department of Informatics), the network will be able to cover traveling participants’ costs for food and accommodation.

Take a look at the call for papers in the DIRN wiki and let us know if you would be interested in participating!

I’ve written about this game before… but it’s about time I touch on it again.

In short, the Endless Forest is a game that isn’t a game – there is no goal here… no slaying of vicious enemies and no gathering of gold. Instead, it is a peaceful, wonderful environment you can spend time in when the real world feels stressful and pressing.

You play a deer… and within this forest, you will encounter other deer – and the only ways you can communicate is through what language the deer have. You moo, you scratch, you sniff and you dance.

With the latest update of the game ( 2.0 ) there are new areas to explore… there are pinecones to munch on and frogs to follow – or become! There are things to gather so that when you encounter another deer in the forest, you can change their appearance. Give their antlers a garland of flowers, perhaps, or make a mask like a leopard for their face. That’s right, in the Endless Forest – you don’t get to pick what you look like. Others do it for you.

I can’t praise this game enough. It does not have the hectic, frantic rhythm of regular games but instead encourages a sense of curiosity and gentleness. It instills you with quiet glee as you and a fellow deer jump around one another in happy surprise to meet by the waterfall, or as you quack and swim around the pond for the first time. It’s a game you play when you’ve had a rough day… and not to take out your anger on some stupid enemies, but to communicate wordlessly or to simply take a stroll through a forest where strange and magical things sometimes happens. Most of all, it’s a game that dares to be truly different.

I can’t help but applaud the creators.

deer1.jpg

The first deer I run into carries a garland of red flowers in its antlers. For a while, we strut around one another. We do a little dance, we run through a field of flowers… and when we stop, there is a strange, lovely sound and the other deer flares in bright gold – followed by the same light around me… when the glow fades, we both have garlands in our antlers. Excited, I roll on the grass to show my gratitude.

deer2.jpg

For a while, I keep company with two others, and we explore the forest together. One is more cheerful and friendly, and before I know it… there is a spark, a burst of gold, and my coat changes from brown to red. The other one has a leopard’s face, and when it calls out, the sound is eerie and ghostlike – different from the sound I make. I follow this one for a time, curious about its strange face.

deer3.jpg

deer4.jpg

It is only when I’ve changed garlands a few more times and rested next to another deer for a while – to change the colour of its coat – that I decide that enough is enough and it’s best I close the program down before I become obsessed.

I miss my deer-self when I shut down. I want to shake my antlers, stomp my feet and moo my merry heart out – typing feels dull and unemotional.

new Ph.D. theses

Today and tomorrow two informatics Ph.D. students (based at the Department of Informatics) will defend their Ph.D. theses. Both Anna Croon Fors and Mikael Jakobsson have a HUMlab connection and we are particularly happy about them finishing. Also, of course, their research is most interesting and topical. PDF versions of their theses can be found here:

Anna Croon Fors
Being-with Information Technology: Critical explorations beyond use and design
Download pdf here (2,4 MB)

Mikael Jakobsson
Virtual Worlds and Social Interaction Design
Download pdf here (3,5 MB)

HUMlab congratulations go to Anna and Mikael!

Movement and slices

I have been thinking a lot about tools and online ‘reality’ and mediation lately…pretty much since the class that Jim and I taught on Web 2.0 when someone mentioned the desire of having all their apps in one place. For a long time, I wanted that too. I wanted something handy. One stop shopping! But then I realized that it is through the slices, the glimpses of the habits from my online contacts, that I am transported into another place – far beyond my pretty office.

We are what we do (flickr).
We are what we want (collecting, del.ici.ous).
We are our habits (times and status of my skype contacts).
We are what we present (blogs – not only on the surface, but also between the lines).

Our online habits create a fairly clear picture of who we are…possibly clearer than what we are able to present ourselves. I don’t think I want all my tools, which link me to my network and contacts, located in one place. And it is not only the tools which give me this sense, but also the motion they create. I see updates and people coming online. The movement of my screen creates the sense of company- a sense of ‘not alone’. Somehow, I don’t see how one tool could give me all of that.