HUMlab in Second Life: What’s Happening on the Island

Activity on the HUMlab Island in Second Life has been building in every sense of the word lately. Isenhand Nightfire has built a geodesic dome, given it the title Sustainable Communities and is working with biosphere models and sustainable energy technologies. The Avatar Orchestra Metaverse has been practicing on the island and have set up an animation on a large wall. Oz’s castle is in place and awaits some content, namely the DigitalSpace Traveler Museum. As well I have started working on the first teaching and meeting house on the island. Here are a couple of images of the work so far:

In a week or so we should be able to start experimenting with streaming media and gathering an audience in the meeting and teaching area. Of course it needs a roof and I am hoping this will be a dome. As for walls I think trees, vines and shrubbery.

Inter-lab collaboration and an environmental archaeology database

SEAD logoA collaborative venture between The Environmental Archaeology Lab and HUMLab, under the name of SEAD – The Strategic Environmental Archaeology Database, is scheduled to get underway in early May. The aim is to create a web-accessible, tool-rich and GIS-ready database to support research into past changes in environment, climate and human impact, based around environmental archaeology and Quaternary geology data. These data – which are the results of the quantification of fossil insects, seeds, pollen and soil properties – are our only source of information on these changes in prehistory. Changes in species compositions and numbers are the consequences of changes in environmental factors, such as hydrology, temperature and vegetation which vary both naturally and according to human influence. By looking at records of these in lake, bog and archaeological sediments we can reconstruct environmental aspects of the past; and the past, as we all know, is the key to both the present and the future…

How does HUMLab fit in? Among other things, by providing a multidisciplinary forum for ideas, collaboration and outreach. SEAD will be run as an open development project, and so involvement is welcome from all angles. We are also recruiting, and if the project sounds like fun then please check out the job ad here. Later on, we will be interested in having students (at all levels) get involved in both developing software modules and undertaking research.

Have a look at our preliminary website, and feel free to send me a mail at if you would like to know more or get involved.

a two-year postdoc fellow position at HUMlab (deadline May 5)

The Humanities Faculty at Umeå University advertises seven two-year postdoctoral positions , and one position targets the digital humanities. This position is part of a large-scale initiative to strengthen research in the humanities and information technology at Umeå University. The intended focus is the digital humanities as a field and more overarching issues such as the development from humanities computing to digital humanities, cyberinfrastructure for the humanities, studio spaces in the digital humanities/related areas, creative technology-supported practice in the humanities, critical making, and interdisciplinary collaboration in the digital humanities. Projects may be influenced by science and technology studies, design studies and other relevant approaches and disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged. Apart from the primary focus on the digital humanities, projects may relate to the following research areas: participatory media, digital cultural heritage, digital art, critical perspectives and electronic literature.

The applicant should have a Ph.D. in a relevant discipline, and the Ph.D. must be no older than three years (at the date of the application deadline).

HUMlab is a lively and convivial studio space with a wide variety of activities, research, technologies and cross-disciplinary interaction. It is expected that you will contribute to such the environment during your two years as a post doc. You are therefore expected to live in Umeå during the post doc period.

The application should include:

  • a complete curriculum vitae
  • a list of publications
  • a plan for the two-year research project (5-8 pages)

The position is salaried. Salary is dependent on experience and will be negoitated individually. Other benefits may be negotiated. Please indicate any expenses that are relevant to your planned research project in the application.

The application should be sent to by May 5, 2008, and the reference number Dnr 312-1625-08 should be given. Information in Swedish is available here.

Contact person:

Patrik Svensson
+46 (0)90 786 7913

HUMlab is a digital humanities environment at Umeå University in Sweden. The basic idea behind it is to stimulate innovative cooperation in a dynamic interdisciplinary setting. Here the humanities and the arts on one hand, and modern information and media technology on the other, interface and collaborate, both in real terms and virtually. HUMlab attracts students, lecturers, researchers, artists, engineers, media people and many others. In this unique technological and creative studio space, a lot can, and does happen.

More information about HUMlab can be found at

Umeå University is a full, comprehensive university with some 28,000 students. It is located in the city of Umeå in the North of Sweden (see map here). There is some more information about Umeå here. This page contains logistical information (getting to Umeå etc.).

Fresh Out of Ideas

Lars Cuzner, an artist researcher working in HUMlab, has just created a project where

An invitation and call for rejected proposals will go out to artists, scientists, project coordinators etc. These proposals will be entered into the database and the process of recycling from the intellectual landfill of dismissed ideas can begin. Other calls for rejected proposals will be done online as well as similar exhibitions in other places.

The ideas that have been rejected are given new life in Fresh Out of Ideas,

If we view each rejected proposal as an individual within a population, the individuals consist of DNA; e.g. we can view each sentence as a gene. Some texts have a combination of genes that are more successful than others based on criteria specific to the grant or call. When the criteria change, so does the relative fitness of the individual. The fittest individuals have a better chance to reproduce and hence their genes have a higher probability of being represented in the next generation. Through this process of selection, reproduction and gene mixing, new individuals/proposals with potentially higher fitness than their parents will be generated.
The fitness function of the genetic algorithm will primarily be based on the criteria of the call for proposals in question. In addition, the selection pressure can be adjusted and refined by means of specific concepts that the applicant supplies interactively by mapping grant topics, themes, key words, shared metaphors etc.

Fresh Out of Ideas is an application in the Rhizome 2009 Commissions. The winners of the Rhizome 2009 Commissions will be anounced in June 2008.

The HUMlab Island Comes to Life

During the last few days I have been working a lot on the HUMlab Island in Second Life. Since the establishment of the island in February the main function it has been put to has been as a platform for the art of Japanese/Swedish digital artist Sachiko Hayashi. As part of the Virtual Moves exhibition at the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Art Museum) in Copenhagen, the HUMlab Island hosted N00sphere Playground by Sachiko Hayashi for a month while the exhibition ran. Virtual Moves finished a week or two ago and since then we have been organizing the next stage of the HUMlab Island and it began this weekend.
The Island has been divided up around the central park area that still houses the beautiful N00sphere Playground. On one section of the island the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse is setting up for a series of performances and practices. Here is a taste of what the AOM does:

Video document of a performance of Wirxli FlimFlam’s “SLippery SLope”, performed by the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse in Second Life, 22 July 2007, at Haidplatz, Odyssey.

In another part of the island Oz Larg, a long time HUMlab collaborator has established a presence. Oz is a veteran of online virtual worlds, having been in them since 1994. We look forward to working with Oz. A project that is already taking shape with Oz is a museum to the Digital Space Traveler platform, one of the earliest 3D online shared multimedia environments, the inworld community of which Oz played an important role in.

If anyone is interested in doing research or creating work in the environment of Second Life, or has an idea for a project or is already working in the medium, please contact me, Jim Barrett via HUMlab. We may have a place for you on the island.

Finally, in case you are wondering what it looks like at the moment, here are a few images to give you some idea:

To visit the HUMlab Island, click or paste this link: You need to have Second Life installed on your computer, a free download from HERE.

Seminar tomorrow with Crit Stuart

After lunch tomorrow we will host a seminar with Crit Stuart, Director for Research, Teaching and Learning at the Association of Research Libraries. Crit was previously the Associate Director for Public Services for the Library and Information Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

[April 10 at 1.15 pm]
People + Pedagogy + Place = Possibilities: Re-engineering the Georgia Tech Library
Crit Stuart, The Association of Research Libraries

The seminar is a collaborative event organized by the University Library and HUMlab.

The seminar will be live streamed here. Below is the embedded version:

I am very much looking forward to this talk. I have a strong interest in place and learning, and this talk is very topical in relation to the ongoing expansion of HUMlab and our interest in physical, digital and mixed spaces.