Victor Kaptelinin in HUMlab

Victor Kaptelinin from Umeå University‘s Informatics Department will be speaking about the subject of his book, Beyond the Desktop Metaphor, including the development of the metaphor, alternative metaphors and implementation and questions of design. The seminar begins at 13.15 CET and lasts about an hour. If you can not make it to the lab today, you can participate in seminar by watching the stream here and asking questions in our chat room (which is displayed during the seminar). Welcome!

Cutting edge Mommy

You hear about The Technology Generation Gap. And even if you think you are cutting edge, you realize that somehow you kids know just way more. Take the following THREE (sigh) scenarios I have encountered in the last week:

‘Look what I made at school today!’ Expecting a macaroni noodle, papier-mache, drawing of something wonderful, I looked down to a photo/poster of her and her friend colored and announcing that they are not only in love – but in the process of building a fort together at school. She is 6, but already can navigate the new Apple at school to take a picture with the iSight camera and create a document declaring her undying love for her school mate (of course, this is a precious artifact to be used at a later date :-P).

Being the cutting edge mommy I thought myself to be, I sat my 6 year old son (who *loves* computers) down and showed him RuneScape. ‘Mom, I have played this with my friends a year ago’. ‘And look, mommy, I click and it takes him forever to get to where I clicked. And why, when he goes fishing in the grass beside the lake, does he still come up with shrimp?’ and of course, ‘Can’t we just go back to Second Life?’. I may work in an amazing environment and know more about technology
than the average joe…but my 6 year old son is still ahead in the
games race.

Helping the school decide its future both physically and as to educational purpose, one teacher mentioned the need to teach ‘cutting edge technology’ such as powerpoint.

My daughter can already use web cameras to create content rich both textually and visually. Her twin brother is lamenting the response time of a kids MMOG. Powerpoint is not even on the map for these kids. And maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe our kids will use multimedia (YouTube, podcasts, photostreams, etc) to present their own knowledge in ways that will finally take us out of the digitalized overhead projection presentations. One key, I believe, is find *value* in information beyond the traditional paper/pen essay with a few links. To find the value in storytelling that is not necessarily linear and knowledge that does not fit into traditional and predefined boxes. This is a subject that Barbara brought up during her visit, and one I hope to return to again soon.

Alas, I have strayed from the original intention of this post. It was not to talk about educational revolutions, but rather to document my own surprise that my 6 year old twins somehow have learned to navigate the computer and web to create and explore knowledge in a way that is not the traditional, institutionalized, expected way. And they do so in an effective, and ‘cutting edge’ way.

I guess it is not the mommy who is cutting edge after all…

more disputations

We have paid some attention to Helena Pettersson’s disputation recently. I just had a look at the teacher education faculty website and they now specify disputation dates for other two other researchers with HUMlab-related interests. Both Eva Skåreus and Elza Dunkels are HUMlab friends. I am excited about the development of the collective research environment here at Umeå University.

Eva Skåreus: Digitala speglar – föreställningar om lärrarollen och kön i lärarstudenters bilder (September 21, 1.15 pm)
[Digital mirrors – conceptions about the teacher role and gender in pictures made by teacher trainees]

Elza Dunkels: The Kids are Alright – a Contribution to the Knowledge of Young People’s Net Cultures (September 28, 10 pm)

Still some time to go. Should be a great week! 

Pettersson’s dissertation

Boundaries, believers and bodies: a cultural analysis of a multidisciplinary research community
Helena Pettersson

The aim of this study is to analyze the construction of research culture and collaboration within the research studio Tools for Creativity, one node in the larger Interactive Institute. This studio is an arena that in today’s society is associated with boundary crossing, dynamics and variability: An environment with high-tech equipment, a staff equipped with diverse skills, and a flexible approach with the ambition of developing innovative tools based on ICT to strengthen human creativity. The present thesis is divided into four main parts. In Part One, culture as analytical framework is presented. This is followed by a presentation of field work, data and field site, the studio Tools for Creativity, and its employees. This includes a discussion of the methods of participant observations and deep inter-views. In the theoretical framework overview, perspectives used in this thesis is presented, including the so-called “new research landscape” debate, a background to this thesis. The introduction concludes with a chapter whith a reflexivity discussion including the making of the research self during field work and in the written text. In Part Two, entitled “Technology”, the informants’ definition of technology in relation ICT and the prototypes produced is ana-lyzed. The concepts “enlightenment optimism” and “romantic uneasiness” are presented as theoretical entrances to the chapter. This is the background for an analysis of the future- and speed-oriented discourse that characterizes the informants’ perception of technology. The aim of using technology to support human creativity, challenge presence and facilitate multi-cultural communication is further discussed. This is juxtaposed with another aspect of technol-ogy, namely the informant’s critique of technology’s impact on mankind, humanity and society. Part Three, “Re-search”, deals with interpretations and negotiations of the concept of research and the researcher conducted by the informants at Tools for Creativity. First, the concept of “boundary object” is presented followed by its use order to analyze the construction of research and the researcher in a multi-disciplinary arena like the studio. An important part of the making of the researcher is the trading of skills in the attempt of legitimizing the individuals’ efforts at conducting research. Here, focus is the negotiation of research as an activity between individuals representing the sciences and the arts, as well as those with formal education and autodidacts. Attempts to manage a broader research concept are placed in relation to academic quality demands. In this analysis, the point of departure is Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of symbolic capital. Here, gender is included as symbolic capital. Part Four is called “Reflections” and contains a discussion of the study and reflections concerning field work. This is followed by a summation of what happened to Tools for Creativity and Interactive Institute after finished field work.

 Full text pdf available from here (919 kb).

second life project emails

We made a decision to be very careful about documenting the process in relation to our Second Life project – partly inspired by Bruce Damer’s work. We will use this blog space a kind of repository. I have included some of the email conversations that led up to the project. Of course, we have been discussing virtual world precence in SL and and other environments for many years now. Emails included are more specific and recent ones.

Continue reading “second life project emails”

Helena Pettersson’s Disputation

Today I am going to Helena Pettersson’s dissertation. Her thesis, entitled Boundaries, believers and bodies. A cultural analysis of a multidisciplinary research community looks quite interesting. This is a case of seeing a person in the hall, hearing her speak in meetings, but having no idea that her work was so close to my own.

Congratulations Helena!

cross posted

(An aside: As the new head of the Humanities PhD student union, I
hope to help foster an environment where we are at least aware of the
topics being researched in our department. After all, great things can
come for cooperation, collaboration and seminars where students
researching similar subjects come together and discuss each others
latest findings 🙂 I wonder if a blog is the best way to do this. Or maybe a wiki would be better…then students can go in themselves and add /change their own pages as their research changes…

Blogger and Me (some uncertain refelections)

I have been keeping my own blog for over 4 years now. Until two weeks ago my traffic was limited to 10 or 20 hits a day. The something happened last Monday.

Now what happened I am not sure but I suspect it has something to do with a 362,87 kilogram gorilla called Google . I blog with Blogger, once the K-mart of the blog world it seems to be carrying a bit more weight recently, especially compared to how things were when spam blogs where everywhere on Blogger. I liked the egalitarianism of Blogger, anyone could join if they got to a connection and could read.

Then in 2003 Blogger was bought by Google. Nothing much changed for the first 12 months.

“Google recently acquired Pyra Labs, developers of Blogger – a self-service weblog publishing tool used by more than one million people. We’re thrilled about the many synergies and future opportunities between our two companies. Blogs are a global self-publishing phenomenon that connect Internet users with dynamic, diverse points of view while also enabling comment and participation. In the coming weeks, we will report additional details. Blogger users can expect to see no immediate changes to the service.”: Google statement on purchasing Blogger 2003

Controls were put on blog content. Certain phrases were banned (it seems mostly sexual) and image upload was added in 2005.

In August 2006 came beta Blogger and everyone was advised to sign up and shift their old blogs over to the new platform. I did and not much changed on the front end. However the database of Google started getting even bigger. It became easier to organize groups and publishing was made more one step for everything.

I had built my own template over time. It was crazy but it had taught me everything (not much) I know about HTML. As part of Blogger beta we were invited to upgrade our templates. Two weeks ago I finally scrapped 4 years of stratified coding chaos and uploaded a new template.

Since doing this my new blog is now php, uses widgets, has comments (goodbye was great while it lasted) as well as and Digg links on each entry as well as tagging (actually came with the beta upgrade). Cool, I thought it is heaps easier to manage but it lacks some of the DIY charm I felt with my mongrel system of fore. But then I noticed something else.

My traffic has increased seven fold and is rising each day (so far). Why I wondered? It was not from people reading new posts. It comes all from (you guessed it) Google searches. I seem to be now much more searchable by Google. Maybe I am part of the Google cloud?

This is interesting from the perspective of search engine politics. When we search for something, no matter if it is on or off the net, we feel that our search is motivated by our need. We look for what we want. But really the search is within the perimeters of how we experience the need, as a product of what introduces that need into our experience. The question already presupposes the answer. This is more so when we are asking the question within the perimeters of a search engine. Our search is directed towards the answers that suit the search.

My experience with my Blogger upgrade has made me happy but I can’t help but wonder about the structures around my blog. The flows in and out of my blog are for the most part invisible to me but they contextualize its meaning for its readers. In a sense it contributes to making my presence on the net what it is. Thank you Google?

Film Series: Love, War & Robots

I wanted to let everyone know that we have organized a film series that will begin this Friday, and continue on subsequent Fridays through the summer (except for the mid-summer break).

The films were chosen around the themes of Love, War and Robots to match my research here at the HUMlab on Robot Ethics. A full description of the films, and why I chose them are available here:
Love, War & Robots

The first films will be a Double Feature of The Terminator and RoboCop, this Friday, May 11 at 3:30pm in the HUMlab.

I hope you can join us, and are interested in participating in a discussion of the films afterwards.

Here is the schedule through August:


May 11
The Terminator (1984) directed by James Cameron, 108 minutes
RoboCop (1987) directed by Paul Verhoeven, 102 minutes

May 18
Runaway (1984) directed by Michael Crichton, 99 minutes
Westworld (1973) directed by Michael Crichton, 88 minutes

May 25
Demon Seed (1977) directed by Donald Cammell, 99 minutes


June 1
Fail-Safe (1963) directed by Sydney Lumet, 112 minutes (black&white)
Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) directed by Joseph Sargent, 100 Minutes

June 8
Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) directed by Stanley Kubrick, 96 minutes (black&white)

June 15
War Games (1983) directed by John Badham, 114 minutes

June 22 – July 27


August 3
Blade Runner (1982) directed by Ridley Scott, 117 minutes

August 10
Love Machine (2001) directed by Peter Asaro, 110 minutes

August 17
A.I.:Artificial Intelligence (2001) directed by Steven Spielberg, 146 minutes

August 24
Ghost in The Shell II: Innocence [Inosensu: Kokaku Kidotai] (2004) directed by Mamoru Oshii, 100 minutes

August 31
Desk Set (1957) directed by Walter Lang, 103 minutes
Making Mr. Right (1987) directed by Susan Seidelman, 98 minutes

Upgraded and Bookcasting

I just upgraded the wordpress MU instillation. One change that I really appreciate in the new version is the dual editing window. I use scribefire to blog (I like being able to easily switch between my different blogs in the same window) and one feature that I use a lot is the dual window. Copying and pasting in a WYSIWYG window usually sucks. I don’t necessarily want the font I am copying from – nor do I want weird spacing. Copying it into the ‘code’ window and then formating it just makes life easier. Also, now that embedding audio and video is becoming more and more common, pasting a bit of code into the visual editor can ‘break’ things. The code window is, again, necessary. A nice addition MU!

new book

So! Speaking of audio, our director Patrik has recently released his edited book called, Från vision till pratik: Språkutbildning och informationsteknik, which (at the moment) has two audio files available for download. Check them out 🙂