lab design

Some notes from my discussion with Bruce Damer on the design of our new space:

  • Having fancy, nice borders in wood for large screens accentuating the many screens rather than trying to make them seamlessly connected.
  • Having a folkore theme (Bruce’s suggestion)
  • Using fabrics hanging from ceiling – configurable, can be used with LEDs behind. Attach points needed. Would allow us to change the look of the lab quite drastically.
  • Importance of sound. Modern IT environments tend to be very occular. Bruce says that they will make parodies on our obsession with the visual and pixelated screens in 50 years.
  • All-analogue areas. Having a place/places where there is little digital presence. Maybe using velcro. With velcro boards people could have their own space. Bruce made a point about people being hesitant about removing what other people have written. Veclro boards could allow project or individual space. But we would need somewhere to store them.
  • Creative labeling of areas/functions.
  • I mentioned white board paint which would make it possible to use walls as white board areas.
  • (added) Virtual presence through the use of peripheral displays (at seminars for instance). 

visiting Bruce, virtual world timeline project and more

I had a great time visiting Bruce Damer yesterday. Bruce and Galen Brandt were among the first international guests to visit the lab, and they have been an important influence since then. Another reason for me posting this entry here instead of in my own blog is that we hope that Bruce and Galen will visit sometime next semester.

One of things that make visits to the farm interesting is that there are often other guests there. This time I got to meet Lorenzo Hagerty. He runs the Psychedelic Salon (mainly podcasts but also other material). While I do not too much about ‘the psychedelic’ (apart from the obvious) I know that the link between this movement and cyber culture is recurrent (and probably not totally uncontroversial). The direct reason for Lorenzo’s visit was a digitialization project. They are digitizing the so-called trialogues with Terence McKenna (using at least three computers and tape decks at the same time).

Bruce and I had a series of intense project meetings in different places on the property. We are ready to get going proper with the Virtal Worlds Timeline Project. Subtitle: Origins and Evolution of Social Virtal Worlds. More information about this project later. It is very exciting and there is a lot of interest. Here is some of the already available material:


There is a lot of material and much of it has been digitalized.

Bruce and I also had a great conversation about the expansion of the lab. I will report on some of the ideas that we brought up in another entry (probably tomorrow). I will also soon blog about signing the bus on my own blog.

Ethnography in design

As a linguist investigating communicative patterns and language use in technologically mediated communication, I very much enjoy trying to apply my findings to inform interaction design. As part of my seminar on multitasking on Tuesday (November 21 at 1.15 pm CET), I will illustrate the role that I believe ethnography and linguistics might have in the design process by referring to my most recent study.

There seems to be an interesting conflict between those who think that ethnography cannot inform design and those who view it as a valuable tool in the design process. In his recent thesis, Mikael Jakobsson describes this dispute and refers to how those arguing against ethnographic research have mainly focused on how the subjective and context-dependent findings of these types of qualitative studies cannot be generalized. He counters this by arguing that context-dependent findings can be of importance in that we can get situated and thorough explanations of the actual meaning of phenomena, which we can never get from quantitative studies. Another discussion of the conflict is found in this paper by Magnus Nilsson on the role of ethnography and workplace studies in CSCW.  

Questions like these I hope to discuss further on Tuesday. Please join us! If you cannot make it to HUMlab, the seminar will be live streamed and you will be able to interact via a text chat. The links will be posted here in the blog on the day of the seminar.

My abstract is available in the extended entry.

Continue reading “Ethnography in design”

bruce tells me

Bruce Damer tells me that there is “A lot of stuff to show you!”. On Saturday I am going to visit Bruce in the mountains of Santa Cruz discussing new projects and developments. One of the projects we have been talking about for some time is a kind of innovative time line/collaborative space/media archive in relation to social virtual worlds in the 1980s and 1990s. See this CNET article for some of Bruce’s reflections on this. Exciting stuff.

I am evidently on my way to the US again. I will do several talks and a range of meetings. The talks:

Nov 29. Borderlands: Ideas, Infrastructures and Implementations in Digital Humanities. Brown University.

Many digital humanities initiatives place themselves somewhere in between traditional humanities and information technology. In this talk I will explore the borderlands of digital humanities through looking at some of the ideas, practices, spaces and technologies associated with digital humanities.The first part of the talk will be concerned with digital humanities on a more general level based on my own experiences from several types of initiatives and institutional models. I will relate some of these models to each other and briefly discuss certain challenges facing Digital Humanities as well as responsibilities and possibilities. In relation to this, the question of cyberinfrastructure for the digital humanities will be addressed. For example, do we need grid computing and 4K projection screens?In the second part of the talk, I will mainly focus on HUMlab. HUMlab is a meeting place for the Humanities and information technology at Umeå University in Sweden. I will discuss our model, implementation and technology-rich studio space in some depth. Borderland moments will be described as well as some exciting projects and future plans

Dec 1. Visualizing the (Digital) Humanities. McMaster University.

In this seminar I will start out from a general discussion of the visual in the humanities and in the digital humanities, and a critique of traditional ‘humanities computing’ which tends to be predominantely textual. I will base my further investigation on several projects from different areas including art history, history, antrophology and linguistics. Key points of discussion include the materiality of interfaces, added values, innovation strategies, and the role of the visualization. Among relevant technologies are geographical information systems, multi-spectral analysis and virtual worlds. Digital culture also gives us highly visual study objects such as computer games, social software and electronic literature, and these will be considered. The final part of the talk deals with physical lab and studio spaces for the digital humanities. How is the visual articulated in such collaborative work spaces? It will be suggested that the humanities may benefit from working with many, individual screens in collaborative settings rather than immersive environments such as CAVEs. HUMlab at Umeå University will be used a case study and I will describe a planned (and funded!) expansion of the lab which will add thirteen new screens to the studio space.  

 I am really looking forward to this. More later.

HUMlab Doctoral Researchers on

Stefan and Jim in HUMlab

Stefan Blomberg and I were among several video game researchers working at Umeå University who were interviewed by a while back. The first installment of the interview is now online at Gameplayer TV. We give brief explanations of why we are interested in researching computer games and why we think it is important. Most of the segment is in Swedish but I speak in what could be called English…..

My network

As a teacher, I learned to call the students in my classes ‘my students’ or ‘my kids’ (depending on their age) and now in my current project I find myself referring to the network I am examining ‘my network’. There is something in the time and dedication (and nurturing?) you put into something that gives you a sense of communion with it.

Last night I was finally able to produce something with my dataset. Johan and I have spent weeks coding and parsing and playing. And now after about 6 hours of manually removing half a line from 190 pages of URL’s, we produced the following images:

These are all from the same dataset, but in different layouts. What I am concerned with is the lack of linking. Blogging is know for its linking. This leads me to consider several conclusion:  A. Bloggers are becoming more text based in their writing (something I will look at using the corpus I am creating. B. This is a cross section of the blogosphere that does not really capture networks well. or C. I have a major flaw somewhere (hoping this is not the case). Testing to see if C is true, Johan is running the data through a new parsing script for comparison. I also want to look at how the dataset was captured.

[tags] SNA, dataset, linking, blogs, blogoshpere [/tags]

MacArthur Foundation Initiative “Digital Media and Learning”

Many of you probabaly know about the new MacArthur initiative already, but I thought I would mentioned it here anyway as part of my traveling in the US reflections. It is about “Building the Field of Digital Media and Learning”:

The MacArthur Foundation launched its five-year, $50 million digital media and learning initiative in 2006 to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. Answers are critical to developing educational and other social institutions that can meet the needs of this and future generations. The initiative is both marshaling what is already known about the field and seeding innovation for continued growth.

A rather impressive initiative and it is good to note that several ‘HUMlab friends’ are involved. I think this kind of major investment in the area can be very crucial for the future. In Sweden, this is probably the kind of funding that is most difficult to come by (well, $50 million is always difficult to come by) – especially funding for more research-oriented activities.

There is a white paper by Henry Jenkins on the challenges of participatory culture available from here and there is also a seemingly rich spotlight blog.

There is also an international aspect to the initative. This is from Mimi Ito’s blog:

But he also mentioned that the foundation will be looking to support international projects in this arena, something that has not been an element of this initiative thus far. My own sense, particularly because I do transnational research between Japan and the US, is that this international dimension is absolutely critical understanding how digital technologies are transforming young people’s cultural worlds. The distinctiveness of uses in different national contexts, as well as the ways in which digital technology is enabling culture flows that exceed national boundaries is something we really need to understand.

I agree with this sentiment and I will be interested in seeing what comes of both the initiative and any international endeavours.

My Second Life in Flickr

In the last month I have been spending a bit of time among the archipelagos of Linden Lab’s Second Life. This sprawling network of shared 3D space is becoming a popular topic for researchers and tourists alike. I have been exploring the architecture. I have stumbled upon several so-called sex clubs (think chat with video streams and still images negotiated by high-res cartoon – often naked – characters). As well there are huge areas of empty space where houses are left often open and shops empty. A sort of “Day of the Triffids” aura relocated to a tropical climate zone. My favourite spot so far is the New Media Consortium campus, but it is pretty empty when there are no activities on.

What I have been thinking about a lot in regards to SL is if it is a network, what is exchanged there? This has come about because I have also been getting active again in Flickr, the photo sharing network that is busy busy busy at the moment.

The thing is that in Flickr I really enjoy looking at photos that First Life friends all over the world are posting. In Flickr we exchange and share photos. The network structure of Flickr is broad; based on images, comments, linking, groups, favourites (using RSS and tags) and the Flickr blog. However, the physical presence I have in Flickr is composed only of my site. Navigation in Flickr is between individual and group sites.

SL is a network in the sense that a Mall is a network or indeed a campus is. Access to interaction is based on shared understanding of the space in a similar sense to genre. If I am in a gambling club in SL it is inappropriate to remove my pants. But what are we exchanging here? I think rather it is about participation and visibility. Much of this is based on how many Linden Dollars (L$) one has. I have not yet moved up from a Basic membership so I therefore have no $L- and few friends.

I was thinking if the image economy of Flick (or something similar, such as the link economy of could be made to compliment the L$ economy of SL things may get more interesting. Maybe there would not be so many conversations in SL that begin with “Do you know anywhere good to go?”

upcoming seminars

In total we have nine seminars scheduled for this semester. Officially two seminars to go:

[November 21, 1.15 pm CET]
Conversational implications of multitasking 
Therese Örnberg Berglund, HUMlab och Modern Languages, Umeå University 
[December 12, 1.15 pm CET]
Already False, Potentially True: epistemic commitments, virtual reality, and archaeological representation 
Matt Ratto, Virtual Knowledge Studio, Amsterdam

There is also some chance we might stage at least one extra seminar in December. More information later.

about not being there

Friday and in Luleå the world has, in just a couple of weeks, turned white and cold. Winter hence. I hope the same sun is shining over Umeå. Having an office (strange experience to actually be situated) as well as electronic possibilities to order books makes me act like an overwhelmed puppy and right now I´m scrutinizing Haraways Cyborg. Interestingly I ran across Friedrich Kittler who, in his latest book Musik und Mathematik (I´ve only read an extract in english) actually presents the first pure critizism of the Cyborg. To me, most comments I´ve seen tend to focus on developing Haraway’s thoughts but I haven´t found this antagonistic view before. Somehow it feels like a relief. Otherwise, the only one who seem sceptical about the Cyborg is Haraway herself.

Reading the blog makes it easier not being in Umeå. So to all in HUMlab, thanks for being here!