Cyborg citizens and digital natives

In one of the many interesting presentation we have listened to today, Patrik Hernwall discussed the notion of Educology, and how, within this framework, the learning subject can be defined. Building on theories of constructivist learning, he suggested that the learning subject should be viewed as an active, intentional, meaningmaking subject in context. An important part of the context is the tools available and what actions they afford, and this reasoning brought Hernwall to the conclusion that it is fruitful to view the (young) learner as a cyborg citizen. For the cyborg citizen these tools have become a natural part of their everyday environments and, according to Hernwall (quoting McLuhan), extensions of their consciousness. During the presentation it occurred to me that there seems to be some overlap between the notion of the cyborg citizen the notion of the digital native (which network member Elza Dunkels makes good use of in her research). Would be interesting to compare the two more closely, but that will have to wait for another day – off for networking dinner now 🙂 .

DIRN impressions

It is a nice to attend a HUMlab event which is organized by others. The DIRN workshop seems to be working out well. There is a good group of people here – many relatively young Ph.D. students – and a fair bit of energy.

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I was very impressed with T L Taylor‘s talk. She raised quite a few interesting questions in relation to emerging behaviour in massively multiplayer games including legitimate play, collaboration leading to stratification, the function of databases and various add-on applications, participatory surveillance, (normalized) quantification of results and gaming experience.

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I quite liked her discussion of modding and user interfaces. She stressed the importance of the materiality of the interface. She argued that the UI fundamentally changes game play and social experience. When I did work on virtual worlds earlier I was conceptually interested in applications where you share a world although it would look different depending on whom you are and your past. Most virtual worlds do not provide this kind of functionality (beyond providing you with an individual viewpoint). What Taylor showed in terms of how differently the same scene can be materially represented was quite striking. It is like a cyborg world where a person you meet might have a complex interface projected on his or her retina drawing on all kinds of sensor and database data (and associated tools) – you would not know.

I am also looking forward to tomorrow when we will have closed sessions discussing Ph.D. work.

t.l. taylor

t.l. taylor, from the center for computer games research, it university of copenhagen, is talking about emergence in Everquest. It is being streamed here (will post archive link asap)!

Welcome Doctoral Students!

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HUMlab is excited to provide the venue for the first workshop of the Digital Interaction Research Network which will begin at 10:00. (The program can be found here). The first day will include keynote presentations by four researchers from Scandinavia , which will be archived and available on the wiki soon.

Jill Walker, Department of Humanistic Informatics, University of Bergen
T.L. Taylor, Center for Computer Games Research, IT University of Copenhagen
Patrik Hernwall, School of Communication, Technology & Design, Södertörn University College
Patrik Svensson, HUMlab, Umeå University

We hope to create a network of doctoral students within Scandinavia to strengthen research infrastructures in digital studies. Please check back for updates on the conference, as well as plans for this network. If you are interested in becoming a part of our network, please add your name to our wiki and we will get in touch with you shortly.

On a more personal note, I find that there is a certain buzz in the air this morning. Doctoral students are beginning to trickle in, faces light up in recognition or hands are clasped in introduction. If feels as if we are stating the importance of coming together as a unit in a field that we often find ourselves researching alone – back in the traditional humanities cloister of scholarship. We collaborate online, but within our home universities, we are often solo researchers. How exciting to be f2f!! And more importantly, how meaningful for future research and collaborations!

Poets as Word Avatars

I have recently joined a very active and interesting email list, WRYTING-L operated by West Virginia University. I have been receiving up to 50 mails a day and while some are very brief (one word) some are of essay length.
The list moves around issues of writing in a very broad sense. Well, it seems to touch often on writing but it discusses inscription in almost any form. This includes what could be termed avatar poems. This is why I now blog here. Following tips from the WRYTING List I have created two avatars which recite verse, one using my own text (using a text to synthetic voiced avatar) and a cut-up poem by Brion Gysin. The second one is in the voice of Gysin himself (he died in 1986). These avatars can be placed on a website or a blog (for a monthly rental fee) and made to recite (with a sense of presence) whatever you want to them to say. The messages can be changed by phone also.
The theoretical implications for this are interesting. The theme/genre of avatars and poetics seem to be a popular one at the moment, with such new texts as New Media Poetics, from MIT and Marie-Laure Ryan’s Avatars of Story both discussing the textual form.

directorial privileges

Part of my job is about buying equipment. It is something I quite enjoy. I have the privilege of being supposed to find ( (or invent:) new technological “needs” in relation to the humanities and information technology. This is often a very time-consuming and rigorous process – not least when purchasing expensive equipment. But sometimes this directorial power can be used in a more direct and less rigorous way. Hence I have recently ordered two devices:

The cube world cubes connect to each other and built-in gyroscopes:

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The stick figures inside can interact and vist each other. Really simple but quite interesting – conceptually. Quite right for the lab.

The second device is an animal.

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It is wifi enabled rabbit that can communicate with you and in various ways (and supposedly services and other rabbits).

Neither device is new, I guess, but rather interesting and I think they will make nice additions to the lab. Somehow this relates rather well to what Jennie just wrote about the importance of having fun.

Games and the art of having fun…

Yesterday’s lecture with Tracy Fullerman ended up in an exiting evening of games were the participants were asked to construct a game in groups. After two hours of intense work, we tried them out (under lots of laughter…) and I certainly realised the difficulties in construkting games. Anyway, practising and trying really gave me a deeper understanding of Game Design and I also think that working in this way is necessary in order to grasp the interdisciplinary field betwwen humanities and technology. Here´s where creativity can be found.

wednesday as in wikis

The third day in the SECT seminar and the mix of PhD-students, professors, assistants and teachers are really an assett in discussions. Listening to Larry Smarr from Calit2 UCIrvine and Craig Calhoun caused intersting reflexions on social networks and social movement. How these movements are affecting the society and already established communities (for instance national communities) was one topic. Globalization and new hierarchies were two others.

Things are passing by in such a great speed, wikis, blogs, NGOs, Open Source, gamestudies, user and producer and the relationship between them… sometimes I wish I had the capability to be aware of, and really grasp the full meaning of every word that is said.

However, tomorrow, Cultural Memory in the Digital Age, An evening with games, Tracy Fullerton and sixty curious persons.

Workshop talks

On Monday the DIRN workshop on digital environments will take place in HUMlab. HUMlab has not been involved in organizing the workshop even though some of the organizers are affiliated with the lab. It is a group of graduate students who have done a very good and independent job and they have attracted funding/support from various parts of the university. Read more here.

Anyone interested can attend talks on Monday by T L Taylor, Patrik Hernwall, Jill Walker and myself. I have listed the abstracts below. I quite like the range. The program can be found here (Tuesday only for registered participants).
Continue reading “Workshop talks”

SECT

Monday evening and I think I´ve just arrived to heaven. Sixty PhD-students, assistants, professors, teachers and students have gathered at the University of Irvine to discuss the relationship between humanitics and technology. These are all curious people that dare to question traditional borders and also presenting alternatives. What can we learn from MMOGs? How can we look upon hypertexts? What is knowledge? And not to forget, what can the humanities do to present a analytic perspective to technological medias? After a full day of activities (and I guess also because of the jetlag…) my head is really full with impressions but I have great hopes that the answer will be somewhat clearer during these two weeks.