Commentary on Mathias Klang’s seminar Disruptive Technology: Effects of Technology Regulation on Democracy

I managed to take in Mathias Klang’s seminar Disruptive Technology: Effects of Technology Regulation on Democracy over the HUMlab internet stream, in the comfort of my own home…as they say. The archived stream will be online soon so I thought I would blog here what it was that I found most interesting about Mathias’ presentation rather than recount the whole thing.

My own research seems to be following many of the same leads that were present in the seminar but I am taking the approach that what we recognise or understand as a text is changing (being “disrupted”) as an effect of technology. Mathias approaches these disruptions from the perspective of judicial law. But it is not law that is the center of focus rather Klang stated in his seminar; “Life is organized around technology”. This is a big statement and one that could be debated for a long time. My own perspective rests more with exchanges or dialogue that must have technology in context, and resist as much of the dreaded determinism as is possible in market driven economies (“Buy this it, will change your life” type scenarios). I happen to be reading Yochai Benkner’s “The Wealth of Networks” at the moment and recommend it to anyone interested in new technology, law and social change. Benkner writes that “property also constrains action. The rules of property are circumscribed and intended to illicit a particular datum – willingness and ability to pay for an exclusive control over a resource.” (Benkner 2006:24). This is the dilemma for Klang, myself and many others like us; we are stuck between the “organizing” and the “life”. The organizing is somewhat behind the life and they often move into open conflict with each other. Law is from the organizing side of the equation and it is often used to maintain equilibrium. The dialogue between the two is often patchy and at times non-existent. Control is the aim.

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watching the spam roll in (and out)

Our system admin just called me over to tell me that the new blog server is choking up because something is trying to reach the old MT blog. What it looks like, from reading the blogs, is that what ever spam bot(s) was hitting us with thousands of comment spam is now trying very hard to reach the old installation – but alas, failing miserably. This is one type of failure that I quite enjoy watching!

Mathias Klang in HUMlab

Tomorrow Mathias Klang from Göteborg University will be in HUMlab. Mathias is known primarily for his work with the open source and free culture movement. He is the Swedish representative for the Free Software Foundation of Europe as well as head of Creative Common Sweden. The abstract for his talk can be found below.

[28 september, kl. 15:00]
Disruptive technology: Effects of Technology Regulation on Democracy
Mathias Klang, Göteborgs universitet

Social interaction is partly shaped by technology being used. Therefore technological innovation affects modes of social interaction. While gradual technological innovation is often assimilated, some changes can be more disruptive. This research examines the democratic impact of attempts to control disruptive technology through regulation. This is done by studying attempts to regulate the phenomena of online civil disobedience, viruses, spyware, online games, software standards and Internet censorship – in particular the affect of these regulatory attempts on the core democratic values of Participation, Communication, Integrity, Property, Access and Autonomy. By studying the attempts to regulate the disruptive effects of Internet technology and the consequences of these regulatory attempts on the IT-based participatory democracy this work shows that the regulation of technology is the regulation of democracy.

You can also watch his seminar live: (link only becomes active tomorrow at 15).

Welcome Mathias 🙂

Welcome friends :-)

The HUMlab blog
Patrik’s Sprawl
Emerging Communications
One of my favorite analogies of a blog is the living room. A warm and cozy place to invite friends for a little snack and conversation. HUMlab has used Movable Type to structure its living room for the past three years…but just as the time comes to recover the old couch and paste up a bit of new wall paper, so is it time to restructure our blog. The HUMlab blog is now using WordPress MU, a platform which I find exciting due to the community of passionate developers and supportive users. With this change, a few stylesheets have been reupholstered, but their placement in our living room remains the same. So please, come in, have a bit of coffee, and join in the conversation. We can’t wait to talk with you 🙂





Information about the first HASTAC In|Formation Year event:

Katrina: After the Storm Summit, Sept. 27-30 at
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

A year after hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Louisiana and Mississippi gulf coasts, rebuilding efforts are finally moving forward. But it’s the remaining, deeper tears in the region’s social fabric that will be the main focus of a unique series of dialogues and events at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (and webcast online at designed to build community, connect diverse local and national audiences and ignite real and long-lasting positive change.

Using advanced multicast audio and video technology, the summit also will connect members of the U. of I. and local communities with virtual communities at many venues.

Lectures, panel discussions and other activities will focus on topics ranging from understanding and predicting dangerous weather, disaster preparedness and deployment of mobile hospitals to re-imagining public schools and the role of social entrepreneurship in rebuilding communities. Also, ongoing throughout the summit will be MiX TAPEStry: A Hip Hop VR Experience, a collaboration between the U. of I. Krannert Art Museum’s Collaborative Advanced Navigation Visual Arts Studio (CANVAS) and Duke University that will give middle school students hands-on experience with virtual-reality technology while learning history.

For those unable to attend the “Katrina: After the Storm” events in person, a live webcast feed will be available on the HASTAC website. Please register at and then visit for more information. [Quicktime, VLC or other MPEG-4-compatible media player required.] Podcast and vodcast versions of the webcasts will also be made available after the event. Everyone is invited to contribute to discussion about the events and related issues on the online forum (

digital humanities initiatives

Sometimes I use this space to list interesting resources and initiatives to do with digital humanities (just in case you do not know about them already):

Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. As Geoffrey Rockwell points out they have a new director (and some very good people including Matthew Kirschenbaum). They call themselves an “applied think tank for the digital humanities”. Their model reminds me somewhat of IATH. I am thinking of things such as the fellowship program. It seems that MITH have a more precise (and possibly stronger internal) research agenda. They indicate pattern recognition as a core theme.

On a day to day basis, MITH functions as an applied think tank for the digital humanities, both in furthering the excellence of its Fellows’ research and in cultivating its own innovative research agendas–currently clustering around the broad theme of pattern recognition. Our work unfolds in a generous physical space, complemented by programs and events that include team-consultations for faculty digital projects, weekly Digital Dialogues (brown bags), frequent visiting speakers, themed Coffeehouse Conversations, courses taught in our seminar room, and ongoing interaction among fellows, students, and staff. Many of our events are open to the public.

Another interesting, more recent initiative is the Digital Humanities Quarterly. Here is a welcome message from the website:

Welcome to Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ), an open-access, peer-reviewed, digital journal covering all aspects of digital media in the humanities. Published by the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO), DHQ is also a community experiment in journal publication, with a commitment to:

experimenting with publication formats and the rhetoric of digital authoring
co-publishing articles with Literary and Linguistic Computing (a well-established print digital humanities journal) in ways that straddle the print/digital divide
using open standards to deliver journal content developing translation services and multilingual reviewing in keeping with the strongly international character of ADHO

DHQ will publish a wide range of peer-reviewed materials, including:
– Scholarly articles
– Editorials and provocative opinion pieces
– Experiments in interactive media
– Reviews of books, web sites, new media art installations, digital humanities systems and tools
– A blog with guest commentators

Finally, I would also like to mention the National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Initative (US-based):

NEH has launched a new digital humanities initiative aimed at supporting projects that utilize or study the impact of digital technology. Digital technologies offer humanists new methods of conducting research, conceptualizing relationships, and presenting scholarship. NEH is interested in fostering the growth of digital humanities and lending support to a wide variety of projects, including those that deploy digital technologies and methods to enhance our understanding of a topic or issue; those that study the impact of digital technology on the humanities–exploring the ways in which it changes how we read, write, think, and learn; and those that digitize important materials thereby increasing the public’s ability to search and access humanities information.

Things are moving!

Next time I will bring up some non-US initiatives.

Religion and ICT

A few days ago I held a seminar, “Religion on the Net, and religion in the heart”, at the Department of Religious studies concerning ICT and religion (in a broad sense). We read Christopher Helland’s text “Online Religion as Lived Religion” and had a discussion ranging from how to define religion today, to what impact the digital revolution have had on traditional churches and denominations.

In my own research I’ve been interested in how social transformations relates to religious. In my dissertation I studied the changed perception of religion in the late 19th century Sweden. In a later book I wanted, very broadly, to integrate perspectives from both the history of ideas with church history in order to describe and analyse how the role of religion has changed in Northern Europe over the last five decades (i.e. from the Reformation until today). And, in short, if we want to understand the role of religion in contemporary society the digital transformation of society needs to be accounted for.

The “digital turn” raises many questions concerning religious faith and practices of today. For example: What does it mean for traditional religious structures and ritual practices that faith moves from physical buildings and the physical congregation to cyberspace? What happens with traditional clerical hierarchies in cyberspace? How does religion online differ (if so) from religion off line? Is it possible to keep faith in an absolute truth when the pluralistic nature of the Net tends to promote pluralism and relativism (the flipside is an increasing fundamentalism)?

There are many more questions and a lot of research to be done. However, the seminar concluded that if people live their religious life on Internet, and if churches and various religious representatives are online, theologians have to go online as well.

Amazed and intrigued

I’ve been amazed and intrigued almost every day the last weeks. A couple of weeks ago I started my position as research co-ordinator at HUMlab. Previously I’ve worked as a senior lecturer and researcher in the History of Ideas at the Department of Historical studies, a department which can be described as digital Hades compared to the HUMlab environment. What a difference!

Now, every day I discover the possibilities of various forms of ICT I’ve never seen before. I’ve also started to realise how little I’ve known about, and been aware of, the huge impact of the digital revolution in many people’s personal lives, and in my own life as well.

It was in the end of last year I knew that I’ll work for HUMlab this autumn. And that’s why I promised myself on New Year’s Eve that I’ll digitalize my life during this year – and I’m on my way. A few days ago I “moved” my agenda into my cell phone.

However, since I have my intellectual roots in traditional humanities I still have a critical (but curious) attitude toward ICT and its impact on social transformations. After this year I’ll evaluate my personal digitalization project and see if I’ve gained something, or if it is more reasonable to go back to my normal analogous life.

Sunday fragments

Robert Gould’s talk in the lab on Wednesday had a great deal of energy, wisdom and examples. For instance, we were introduced to Shane Acker‘s work. I also quite enjoyed the crowd and the discussions before and after the seminar. There was a mix of people there. The most sizeable group came from the Design Institute. We hope to have them visit again soon! We posted some information there a few days before and the turnout was great.

We had a good session with teacher trainees in literature in the lab on Thursday. Here are Jim Barrett’s notes for his session on electronic literature. We had a number of “stations” in the lab and the students tried out traditional hypertext works, modern eletronic literature, different kinds of computer games and in-betweens. What made it great in my eyes was partly the engagement of the teacher: Kerstin Munck. She participated in the planning and implementation of this class in a very committed way. The key is to do it together. And I loved the way the students engaged with the media and the related literary (and other) issues.

HUMlab people are out traveling and conferencing quite a lot. Here are Therese Örnberg’s reports (1, 2) from the EuroCall conference that ended about a week ago.

Stephanie has been working on a new setup of for the HUMlab blog and hopefully we will be able do a platform shift-over in one or two weeks.