Steina Vasulka in HUMlab 11 April

It is not everyday you have a living legend enter your life. Even if it only for a day. Steina Vasulka began life in Iceland in 1940. In the 1960’s she lived in Prague but in 1965 she moved to New York where she lived as a sound artist, musician and film maker. With her partner Woody and Andreas Mannik they founded The Kitchen in 1971. I quote from Steina’s CV:

In these early years, Steina and Woody collaborated extensively on investigations to the electronic nature of video and sound, and on producing documentaries about theater, dance, and music, with a special fascination for the New York underground scene. In 1974, the Vasulkas moved to Buffalo, where they joined the faculty of the Center for Media Study at the State Univesity of New York. At this point, their interest diverged: Woody turned his attention to the Rutt/Etra Scan Processor, while Steina experimented with the camera as an autonomous imaging instrument in what would become the Machine Vision series.

To give some idea of the environment of The Kitchen read this extract from a press release:

Alivision No . 2 [signifies] the awareness of an intelligent, yet not human vision. The act of seeing, the image source and the kinetic resources come from the installation itself, choreographed and programmed by the cyclical nature of its mechanical performance. [Steina Vasulka quoted in a Kitchen press release]

Throughout her career Steina has consistently produced provoking, beautiful and critical works of art using technology as a tool for thought and not a commodity or gimmick. We are truly lucky to be hosting a seminar by Steina Vasulka in HUMlab on April 11 2007 at 15:00 in conjuction with the Umeå University College of Arts.

For more background on Steina see these resources online:


Steina Vasulka Interview (Video from Sarajevo)

Interview with Icelandic magazine LIST

I will blog more on the vist by Steina in the coming days.

WIP conference for Humanities students at Umeå University

Konferens för doktorander vid Humanistisk fakultet 12 juni 2007

Humanistiska doktorandföreningen samt Humanistiska fakulteten vid Umeå universitet inbjuder till en konferens för doktorander den 12 juni 2007. Syftet med konferensen är bland annat:

• att öka kontakten mellan fakultetens doktorander
• att ge tillfälle till en övning i att presentera sitt doktorandprojekt
• att kombinera intellektuellt utbyte och social samvaro

Vi vet att det pågår intressant forskning bland doktoranderna samt att det kan vara mycket givande att över ämnesgränserna ta del av denna. Vi tror också att det för den enskilde doktoranden kan vara av stort värde att träna sig att presentera sitt avhandlingsprojekt utanför det egna seminariet – att så att säga prova på “konferensformatet”.

Vi vill därför inbjuda alla doktorander vid fakulteten till att bidra med en presentation som anknyter till hans/hennes avhandlingsarbete. Det kan vara projektet i sin helhet, eller någon mindre del av detsamma. Det behöver absolut inte vara något “färdigt” resultat utan kan lika gärna vara mer problemorienterat. Varje presentation disponerar 30 minuter – högst 20 minuter för muntlig presentation och 10 minuter för diskussion och frågor. Vi vill betona att det ska handla om “work-in-progress”. Alla ska därför känna sig välkomna – antingen de är i början eller i slutet av sina forskarstudier.

Konferensspråken är skandinaviska eller engelska. Det krävs inget skriftligt utöver en kort sammanfattning (abstract) som information i anslutning till konferensprogrammet.

Vi kommer, beroende på antalet anmälningar, att ha en eller två parallella sessioner. Vi vill inte tematisera sessionerna (“typ” en för språkvetare, en för histfilare). Detta för att understryka att detta är en konferens för hela fakulteten. Därför ska presentationerna vara anpassade för en bredare akademisk publik, inte för ämnesspecialister.
Konferensen äger rum den 12 juni i Humanisthuset. Den börjar kl 9 och avslutas med gemensam buffémiddag kvällen samma dag (förhoppningsvis på försommarvacker innegård).

Intresseanmälan med rubrik för presentation skall senast 17/4 sändas till Stephanie Hendrick, e-post: Det räcker alltså med rubrik. Sedan förväntar vi oss att de som anmält presentation senast 25/5 kommer med en kort abstract (“typ” halv A 4).
Varmt välkomna!

This invitation was sent out yesterday to all our PhD students. If, however, you are not on the list, email me and feel free to send this around. Also, everyone is welcome to listen in 🙂

cross posted from here

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Virtual Worlds Real Choices

I have been thinking about this post for a while. But what it is actually about I am not sure. Call it a statement on 3 dimensional interactive online virtual worlds. I have been floating around in Second Life (SL) since the middle of 2006. Before that I have experienced both ActiveWorlds and the now discontinued Adobe Atmosphere. But 2007 seems to be the year that 3D online environments bloomed and spread in a way that reminds me of P2P file sharing around 2001-02.

Here in HUMlab we use 3D worlds for a number of applications; teaching, modeling, simulation, meetings, and representation (story telling) being a few. The more I have been thinking about the different platforms there are the less I believe we should commit to a single one. Second Life is very popular at the moment, but I have a feeling that it is the one that leads the charge in the ‘normal’, that is it is the one that establishes the medium as a mainstream web/social application. Starting about the middle of last year (roughly when I got into SL myself, although I had known about it from the middle of 2005 when Professor Mary Flanagan used it in teaching a course I attended at Södertörn college) the number of 3D alternatives to SL have exploded. Here are a few that are approaching on the horizon or are recently online:

Xivio: a community based 3D chat world.

Ogoglio: an interesting project that will cluster 3D worlds (not yet in beta), rather than have them on a single server system as is the case with SL. My world on my computer will co ordinate with other worlds on other computers. A good idea I think.

Outback Online: Some of the more radical elements in SL that I have been chatting to have been speaking about this yet-to-be 3D platform. It has been nominated for a NextWeb award, even thought they have yet to show anything to the public. Could be interesting.

Moove: 3D chat that works on clusters from downloading onto your own computer. Moove seems to be trying to pick up those who want a nice environment to chat with friends, rather than the massive and unpredictable environments of SL.

Forterra: This is from the simulation and education end of the 3D scene with an emphasis on “organizations to train, plan, rehearse, communicate and collaborate just as they would in the real world”.

Kaneva: Although I have not been in here it has real SL feel to it (“Social Entertainment Network”, sculptured avatars, hook up with friends, communities, cool places and entertainment). Done by registering with a server and it is free.

In following the debates going on about Virtual Worlds and everything from sexual predators to educational possibilities, one theme that emerges is their relationship to what we collectively term reality. Henry Jenkins has an interesting post discussing how;

[The] digital world teaches us that the digital world is never totally disconnected from the real world. Even when we go onto the digital world to “escape” reality, we end up engaging with symbolic representations which we read in relation to reality. We learn things about our first lives by stepping into a Second or parallel life which allows us to suspend certain rules, break out of certain roles, and see the world from a fresh perspective.

I agree with Henry’s position. The idea that we are somewhere else in a so called ‘virtual world’ needs to be reconsidered. Such an understanding limits the uses and applications of a 3D environment. The growing popularity of these platforms is perhaps the catalyst for a shift of popular intuition. With such a shift can come opportunities for innovative and creative applications of the tools and experiences 3D worlds provide.

yesterday’s seminar

I really think yesterday’s seminar turned out well. I like the fact we have a range of different kinds of seminar speakers, and that one week, we have an internationally acclaimed researcher from University of Southern California do a seminar, and the follow week, two students presenting their undergraduate work.

Maria Wiklund, literature student, talked about her work on Harry Potter focusing on author intervention, participatory functions and structural properties of the work. Read Maria’s blog entry about the seminar here.

Robert Bhatt, student at the Program of Cultural Analysis, talked about his experiences and reflections from participating in an interdisciplinary project run by the Department of Computer Science. He discussed the role of a cultural analyst in this context as well as the design process.

They both did very well, and there were students from several programs present as well as a professor from comparative literature, graduate students from disciplines such as English and Ethnology, and others.

After the presentations proper, there was a session where Robert and Maria presented their ideas for D/MA level papers. Also, there was a more general discussion about doing such work together with HUMlab.

The setting was more informal than may be evident from the photos. We also had a coffee/discussion break. There was quite a bit of discussion, and when I had to leave for a video conference meeting at 2.55 pm, after about 100 minutes, the conversation continued for another 30 minutes (reportedly). Really great! One of things I appreciate is the cross-program/discipline discussions between students (and faculty).

Student seminar and exjobb possibilities

Today at 13.15 Maria Wiklund and Robert Bhatt will be speaking about their recently completed student projects as well as speak about their thoughts on writing a D-uppsats (senior paper) within the area of humanities and information technology.

[6 mars 2007 kl. 13:15]
Författarintervention online kring Harry Potter & Kulturanalytikern som medskapare i teknisk produktutveckling
Maria Wiklund, Litteraturvetenskap D & Robert Bhatt, Kulturanalysprogrammet

The seminar will end with a discussion of exjobb possibilities in HUMlab.

Seminar stream and chat will be up right before the seminar 🙂

forum on digital humanities, digital libraries and virtual museums

Tomorrow I am going to participate in a very interesting event on cyberinfrastructure in relation to the humanities and the cultural heritage sector. This event is truly on a massive scale. Some 20 sites from at least 6 countries will participate. Participants include Library of Alexandria, Cinece Supercomputing Center in Bologna, Oxford University, Tufts University, Library of Congress, Stanford University and UCLA. Here is a description of the event:

The purpose of the forum is to bring together an international group of scholars, librarians and information technologists to discuss the role of the applications of broadband networks or “thick pipe” internet (e.g. Internet2, RENATER, ENSTINET, GARR, GEANT and TERENA) in the cyber-infrastructure for Digital Humanities, Digital Libraries and Virtual Museums. During the videoconference there will be brief presentations of projects that show innovative ways of using high-bandwidth or highperformance computing for the humanities—uses that go beyond video-conferencing. The presentations will spark off a quite informal discussion on the four main themes of the conference. One objective is to provide ideas and direction for the technological community, to determine how “thick pipe” internet and the middleware that is developed, would best benefit the humanities, libraries and museum world. 

CENIC and Internet2 are conveners and Ed Johansen is the main organizer. Willeke Wendrich from UCLA is the chair. The forum will last four hours. Participants are in five time zones, and the start time ranges from 5 am to 3 pm local time. The four sessions are:

  • Virtual museums and digital libraries
  • Technology
  • Digital Libraries
  • Digital asset management/cyber-infra-structure

I will serve as the moderator for second session – technology – where we will discuss the last mile problem, applications and middleware, and the Humanities and outreach. There will also be four session-specific presentations. Should be fun! I cannot quite phantom the whole thing in action, but I am sure that things will work out!

Apparently there will also be a webcast available during the event. After the event, the recorded webcast will be available from here.