Robert Gould’s seminar

Among the many points Robert Gould brought up in his seminar yesterday was the importance of stories and storytelling as a prime facet of the human experience. Although he discussed visual arts in many forms, in discussing artists he was most interested in a distinction between what he termed ‘creatives’ and people who are merely technically proficient at using artistic tools. Creatives have a strong underlying philosophy or belief about what they create, they can answer questions such as “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What is unique about me?” and “Is there something unseen which is greater than me?” Non-creatives, on the other hand, deal with surfaces—there is no depth. The singular passion and vision of a creative is what is significant, what makes an artist capable of expanding the world view of humanity.

Gould’s remarks represent humanism at its finest. I’m sure most people in the humanities would agree with his comments on some level; storytelling is visible in history, in sociology, in religious belief, as a foundation for political systems, as a basis for education, etc. I’m reminded of a postgraduate commencement ceremony I attended a few years ago. Each faculty dean addressed the students who received their doctorates on that occasion. The dean of the medical school talked about the risky job market and difficult working situations, the dean of the natural sciences school discussed the importance of continued research and outside financing. In contrast, the dean of the humanities faculty congratulated the students because their work generated human truths.

Or, if you prefer a non-academic’s view of the matter, I can note that Gould’s advice to any aspiring artist echoed
Henry Rollins’ famous mantra to his fans. “Read books.”

The second week of September 2006 in HUMlab

This week in HUMlab is filled with activities. Tomorrow our course “ICT for Humanists” will have its first introductory meeting. Over 25 students have signed up to take part, and we’re really excited that it’s finally time for kick-off! On Wednesday a teacher from the literature department will bring her students here to work with electronic literature, and as Patrik has already pointed out, Robert Gould will be giving a seminar as part of the HUMlab seminar series. Other activities include a research seminar on ICT and religion, which Stefan G. is organizing together with the department of religious studies, and an information session which Magnus will have with their students about how they can collaborate with HUMlab. On Friday, we will have a planning conference together with Blekinge Institute of Technology with focus on how to strengthen research within the area of ICT and the Humanities in Sweden.

On top of this, there are of course all the regular activities with students and staff using the facilities for their work. There’s always such a great energy early in the semester and it’s great to be in the midst of it all!

Robert Gould seminar on Wednesday

On September 13, 1.15 pm, Robert Gould will give a seminar in the lab. Robert is a world-famous artist, designer and illustrator. He is a mythic artist who is well-known (among other things) for his fantasy book covers (for instance for Michael Moorcock’s and Louise Cooper’s fiction).

[September 13, 1.15 pm]
Myth, Media and the Culture of Commerce
An overview of the present social and media culture and the impact on artists who choose to transact their work with the media marketplace.

The seminar will be live streamed and it will be possible to remote participate through Skype.

for the sake of love…

After a couple of weeks beeing at home, impressions of the time in UCI are slowly starting to let themselves be expressed through words. And while I´m looking at notes from the seminar I come to think of HUMlab as a really important actor in this interdisciplinary field between humanities and technology. More than once, the importance of feeling, frustration and innovation was mentioned as central terms in shaping this arena. One of the terms I found most fascinating was introduced by John Seely Brown. He talked about innovation and how innovation can be found in the interplay between art and media. He also mentioned the dichotomy professional and amateur and how these terms are beeing challenged by a new group, pro-amateurs, a hybridisation where innovation easily can be found. Further, he explained the meaning of the term amateur deriving from the latins amator translated as lover. Amateurs, Brown claimed, are searching new ways, experimenting and challenging simply because they love doing it. This non-focus on economical benefits made me think of the importance of feelings behind exploring the borderland between humanities and technology. Hence, these actions can´t simply be done with an economical profit in mind. More than that, I think that creativity, frustration, dynamics, conflicts and playfullness, all important ingredients in IT and humanities, are deriving from amateurs, lovers, people who are devoted in different ways. The speech certainly inspired me thinking about HUMlab as a forum for encouraging experiment, practises, meetings and discussions and the need for amateurs, people who are willing to play with established categories just for the sake of love. In that respect I do hope I never become professional.

coveillance and ubiquitous textuality

I have been interested in what I term ‘ubiquitous textuality’ since completing my D-paper a few years ago. The subject of my D-paper was a comparison of narrative forms in the 1959 novel by William S Burroughs “Naked Lunch” with those found in a selection of online digital narrative texts. The role of random chance and multiple authors in the writing of Naked Lunch I found very interesting and comparable to collaborative and random examples of digital text generation. Ubiquitous textuality could be described as textuality on contact, whereby a subject is inserted into a representative media as part of “real life”. Surveillance is an obvious example, but moving through a designed city space is another way of interacting with a textual form within the perspective of “reality”. From that point I later took up machinima film as another example of ubiquitous textuality, were game play and online interaction can be fashioned into narrative. I continue studying machinima as an interesting form of mediated narrative-play interaction. This long term interest in ‘ubiquitous textuality’ led me to the phenomena of “happy slapping”.
Continue reading “coveillance and ubiquitous textuality”

Reporting from EUROCALL

I’m now attending the EUROCALL conference in Granada – an interesting conference in a beautiful place! In connection with this year’s conference, I have been working with a team integrating a virtual strand including a conference blog. Yesterday we had a workshop introducing the tools and finding bloggers . More than 10 people signed up to help with the blogging, so hopefully the reporting will be lively! Visit the conference blog to learn more and to chat in realtime with Granda delegates and others participating at a distance: http://eurocall2006blog.blogspot.com.

Ravi’s thesis

Ravi Purushotma visited HUMlab in May 2005 and left an imprint on the lab: an undergraduate student from MIT who was one of our keynote speakers for the symposium on language education and information technology we organized. He came to the lab on roller blades, did a great talk, talked about running lecture mp3s at 150% speed or more and was a very nice presence in the lab. Ravi has now posted a draft version of his MA thesis: “Communicative 2.0” (although he asks readers to suggest a better title:). I have read through the text quickly and it seems excellent – also in its hypertextual presentation. In particular I think Ravi points to some very basic and serious flaws in traditional and contemporary language education. Throughout he suggests alternative strategies in a very engaging way.