Digital Art Fellow (affiliated to HUMlab + Umeå Institute of Design)

My name is Stefanie Wuschitz. Many of you might have already met me at HUMlab in the last three months, but I haven’t introduced myself on the blog yet, so here we go:

I’m from Austria, where I did an MFA at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. My thesis was an animated documentary on a group of Palestinian girls in Lebanon.


I had been mainly working with video, animation and conceptual sound projects, when I started a Masters of Interactive Telecommunications at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In this program I worked with new technologies and open source software like Arduino, Processing and Mobile Processing. I got excited about the things that can be done with cutting edge technology when it’s in the hands of people who don’t understand themselves as engineers, but rather as designers, artists or activists.
I now see databases, mobile phones, dynamic websites, sensors or microcontrollers as modules that can be implemented in an art piece. Re-using and re-purposing this kind of media can be a way of reflecting on the impact the very same technologies have on our society when used in the traditional context (like the military, free market or mass communication). But as well changing the impact.

When I came to Umeå for my digital art fellowship here at HUMlab, I planned to work on my own art projects, but to as well give workshops to encourage women to play with new technologies.


I founded an interactive art studio called “Miss Baltazar’s Laboratory”, a group of artists, designers, engineers, musicians and computer scientists. In the group you get inspiration or technical help from all the participants for your own creative projects.

We hack everyday objects, build and tinker with electronic devices, share our knowledge, skills and equipment. I try to encourage in particular girls and women to try out physical computing for creative expression and new forms of communication.

We meet every Thursday, at 2pm in the room opposite of HUMlab.

Everyone curious is welcome!
miss baltazar's laboratorymiss baltazar's laboratorymiss baltazar's laboratorymiss baltazar's laboratory

For the summer we plan to host a larger event, similar to “Miss Baltazar’s Laboratory”, but with international guests and consisting of several workshops going on for a whole week (Eclectic Tech Carnival).

A different group called “Umeå Flash” meets every Tuesday at 7pm at Café Mekka, discussing new forms to use public space as a platform for creative intervention and art. “Umeå Flash” organizes flash mob like performances and is not connected to the university.

My own project about female body images is coming along well too. I’m using Arduinos with XBees, that will enable three female sculptures to “communicate” with each other and the audience. The result is hopefully on display on January 23rd.


I’m working on a series of interactive mobile phone animations, that are displayed on 4 mobile screens simultaneously. The animations are targeted to teenage girls and deal with issues around body and self image, giving the user a platform to start a conversation in real space.


You will find me mostly at HUMlab and the Interaction Lab of Umeå Institute of Design, I’m affiliated to both of them. Please don’t hesitate to email me if you have questions concerning my work or would like to come to one of the mentioned groups:


An Image From the HUMlab Island

The museum studies students working in HUMlab with Second Life have been building a lot in the last week. The island is looking great with an eclectic mix of structures which seems to be harmonising quite well. I am looking forward to the completion of their work when it will be given a public presentation in world.

From DigiBarn to Metamedia

Yesterday I visisted HUMlab friend Bruce Damer in the Santa Cruz Mountains and a very good conversation about collaboration, ongoing projects and future ventures. Bruce is doing great work in very diverse fields. We had a look at new farm project where they are integrating a stage, a hippie bus and a kind of solar tower-study (some pictures here). He is working on a Ph.d. project that is definitely not small-scale: EvoGrid:

In one version of the EvoGrid known as “Broad”, existing A-life simulations will be connected together into a common network allowing, say, the virtual ants from one simulation to travel into a virtual forest of another. Each A-life simulation would be enriched by the flow of increasingly complex objects and their collective biological realism could rise. In the second version of the EvoGrid, know as “Deep”, we plan to create a multi-core, grid-based high performance simulation system in which with the right mix of properties, spontaneous adaptive complexity and the emergence of simple, life-like entities might be observed. EvoGrid Broad is a vision of a life simulator involving “intelligent designers”, whereas EvoGrid Deep is more akin to an “Origin of Artificial Life” experiment.

We also discussed the Virtual World Timeline project, where Bruce and others are looking into using a Flash-based timeline now. Here are some of the virtual worlds movies upload at the Internet Archive. HUMlab is part of this project, and we are looking at possible future development including getting external funding for a research infrastructure project and possible a more target research project as well. Also, Bruce told me about some of the last developments with the Digbarn Computer Museum (which is just amazing, see e.g. first fully functional microcomputer and the LINC event).

Yesterday evening I met with Johanna Drucker, someone I wanted to meet for a long time. I have great respect for the work she and others have done at UVA (as well her own work – here is her 36-page CV) – not least in relation to tool making and thinking critically about tools (as well as actually producing tools). We had a really nice conversation about digital tools, digital humanities and many other things. I am going to be able to use of her new work in my digital humanities articles. In general, I think there is need of critical and creative work on digital tools for the humanities, and Johanna has been pushing boundaries and experimenting for a long time. She told me about a Text and Technology article from 2003 that I had not seen: Designing Ivanhoe. Great stuff!

Today I had a walk and talk meeting with Howard Rheingold. Howard is a HUMlab friend and I got an update on his current work including teaching at Stanford and Berkeley and a new book project (at this stage more the fact that there is such a project than any detailed information). It was interesting to hear about his work in “educational technology” (on a practical level). A productive connection is Howard’s teaching and thinking about ‘digital journalism’ which is well in line with current and planned work on Umeå University. Here is the workspace for his Stanford Digital Journalism Course. If you follow Howard online (or has read his work), you know that he really engages in a collaborative, multi-channel process about these “projects”. Very appropriate, of course, but also heartfelt and essential.

I also had a short chat with Stanford Humanities Lab co-director Jeffrey Schnapp today. It was Jeffrey who was my first digital humanities contact at Stanford and he has always been very helpful and generous. We had a chance to talk a little bit about institutional structures and ongoing work at SHL. Here is a new article by Jeffrey on “Animating the archive”.

In the late afternoon I met with Michael Shanks (also co-director SHL) and Tim Webmoor (whom I have been in touch with earlier, but never had a chance to talk to in person). It was great talking to both and seeing the current state of the Metamedia lab. Many new projects and ideas, engagement with museums and industry, intellectual curiosity and ‘practical’ engagement. We talked about (true) participation, digital humanities (again), representation and re-representation, epistemics (seems to be one of my most frequently used words right now), institutional setups, HUMlab’s expansion and more.

Two Seminars in HUMlab

Next week on Wednesday 19 November there is a double header in HUMlab (all times are Central European GMT+1):

At 13.15 Talan Memmott who is a writer/artist and Lecturer in English at Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, will talk about In[ter]venting Multi-Modal Rhetoric(s)/(a) Poetics of Emergence.
Abstract: This presentation will look at electronic literary practices and the modes and methods of meaning-making there in. Using my own creative work as an example, I will discuss how the poetic formation and rhetorical outcomes of my work are integral to the ‘text’ of the work, and integrated into what could be called an environmental grammatology. From programming to visual design, the word to the image, user interaction to instrumentality — we have moved from “Work to Text” to Work…
This is a joint venture with the Department of Language Studies and the Department of Culture and Media.

At 15.15 Christina Olin-Scheller from Karlstad University will talk (in Swedish) about Författande fans – om ungas läsande och skrivande på nätet.
Abstract: Unga nätkulturer, som en rad olika fanfiction-sajter, är många gånger kraftfulla informella lärmiljöer för barn och ungdomar. I fanfiction som handlar om att skriva vidare på redan publicerade fiktionstexter, tar läsarna kommando över fiktionen och utvecklar nya liv för karaktärer som Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker från “Star Wars” och manga-figuren Naruto. Den täta interaktionen mellan läsare och författare på fanfiction-sajterna skapar en konstruktiv skrivprocess som skolans formella lärmiljö kan ta intryck av. Seminariet behandlar frågor som rör skärningspunkten mellan unga nätkulturer och undervisning.
I samverkan med Språkstudiers höge seminarium i didaktik och litteraturvetenskap.

If you are suffering from distance the telematic body can help by accessing the stream from here (opens on the hour of seminar).

Space and Place in the Architext

My blogging here has been sparse these last few weeks (months??) due to a serious case of final stage thesis work. I have five months left as a doctoral candidate and a lot of writing to do. However, I have also been doing some teaching in this time in preparation for the post-PhD life, getting some experience and learning about the craft. Last Thursday I gave a lecture in HUMlab on Space and Place in Architexture for the museum studies students who have been working in the lab since the beginning of the term.
I based my presentation on two texts which have a profound influence on my thinking in recent years, Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1974/1991) and Edward S Casey’s Getting Back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World (1993). I drew from both works in an attempt to show some of the ways we can think about digital texts as representing space and place. Of course an obvious association is architecture, how built structures evoke meanings beyond just the functional. Likewise three dimension digital works, such as Second Life, call on the spatial arrangement of objects to evoke understandings of place and space.
I used Homi Bhabha’s The Location of Culture in the lecture for examples of how place and space create affect outside their own immediate (interlocking) spheres. One example from Bhabha is

‘Beyond’ signifies spatial distance, marks progress, promises the future; but our intimations of exceeding the barrier or boundary – the very act of going beyond – are unknowable, unrepresentable, without a return to the ‘present’ which, in the process of repetition, becomes disjunct and displaced. The imaginary of spatial distance – to live somehow beyond the border of our times – throws into relief the temporal, social differences that interrupt our collusive sense of cultural contemporaneity.

In order to summarize the connections between space, place and the types of digital works I have been researching I used the concept of ‘architexture’. A portmanteau word I thought of about a year ago, which I googled and found out that I was not the first to do so. In a paper from 1998 , Ross Farnell used architexture in relation to the writings of cyberpunk author William Gibson to explain “the effect of place, space and architecture on “posthuman” form and ontology” (Farnell 1998). While I am not focusing specifically on the “posthuman” applications of the term, I believe it summarizes well the convergence of the three elements space, place and architecture. Architexture aligns the important distinction between the text as a fixed and interpreted medium and the performative realities of mediated space in the post-industrial societies of the world today.

The notes I used for the lecture are on my teaching blog Augmented Reality.

Artereality and HyperMedia Centre

Earlier today, I read/reread two articles on two rather different enterprises at the intersection of the humanities, art, the humanities and the digital:

“Artereality” (rethinking craft in a knowledge economy). Jeffrey Schnapp and Michael Shanks. To be published in A 21st-Century Question, edited by Steven Madoff. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008.

“The Humanities HyperMedia Centre @ Acadia University: An Invitation to Think about Higher Education”. Richard Cunningham, David Duke, John Eustace, Anna Galway, Erin Patterson. Digital Humanities Quarterly, Volume 2, Number 1.

While the articles are very different, there are some similarities: engagement with education (undergraduate and graduate), working across disciplinary and other boundaries and the digital as a “vehicle”. But whereas the HyperMedia Centre article is fairly straight-forward and experience-based (and mostly looking at what has been done and giving advice), the Artereality is very visionary and presents a “big take” (which I quite appreciate):

Artereality establishes a short circuit between the academy and advanced arts practice and education with the aim of charging up the strongest features of both: rigor and discipline, imagination and technical skill, expanding knowledge and exploring the boundaries of communication, representation, and recreation. It seeks to address the splits and tensions evoked earlier: between pure and applied, thinking and doing, writing and making, knowledge and things, work and play.

I also appreciate the practical advice given by the HyperMedia article, and the frankness about the project discussed. It shows how difficult “in between” work can be in practice (not least administratively), but also how important it is to think about carefully about process, student peer review systems and general implementation.

I am very curious about the kind of Ph.D. program that the artereality article advocates:

Artereality, therefore, imagines a new quality of commitment to research and to crossdisciplinary depth that is integral to the future of advanced art education. To this end, it proposes to enhance the current terminal MA with PhD programs in Art Practice based upon high-level pairings between art practice and advanced inquiry in other fields of study. The aim is not a comprehensiveness inspired by neo-humanist urges or by nostalgia for simpler eras when art and science may have walked hand in hand. Rather, our manifesto sets out to make the case for the compelling and enduring character of craft and design in the knowledge economy: of making as a distinct and dignified realm of knowledge production in its own right, particularly when such making is stimulated and constrained by close contact with other contemporary domains of expert knowledge.

new books

i have picked up some new (or rather new) books when traveling.

Digital Critical Studies: A Reader
Arthur Kroker and Marilouise Kroker

This is from the first chapter:

From the spectacular emergence of new media innovations such as blogging, podcasting, flashmobs, mashups, and RSS feeds to video-sharing websites (MySpace, YouTube), Wikipedia, and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), the how and what we know of contemporary society, culture and politics is continuously being creatively transformed by strikingly original developments in technologies of digital communication. To the challenge of understanding the implications of technological innovations, Critical Digital Studies responds by developing a new method of critical digital studies: its scope – full-spectrum knowledge of the digital future; its method – media archaeology; its practice – crossing boundaries; and its goal – bending the digital future in the direction of creative uncertainty.

I am going to look at this framing critically in the article I am working on right now (The landscape of digital humanities). There are chapters by a number of important thinkers: Katherine Hayles, Lev Manovich, Eugene Thacker, Donna Haraway and Sara Diamond.

Two other books:

Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World
Naomi S. Baron

Baron’s book has received some good reviews and looks interesting. It is a topic that sometimes is represented in too much of a popular fashion in book format. Without having had time to look at it properly it seems fairly solid and useful.

Ethnography as Commentary: Writing from the Virtual Archive
Johannes Fabian

Fabian’s book deal with the practice of maintaining archives and field notes in ethnography, and how electronically archived documents can shift the emphasis from the monograph to commentary. Partly based on a meeting with the healer Kahenga Mukonkwa. Review of his talk/book by Maximilian Forte here (from an anthropology perspective).

Digital Humanities and Humanities Computing in Canada

I did two talks in Canada on humanities computing and digital humanities this week. Yesterday (Nov 6) I talked about “The Landscape of Digital Humanities” at University of Alberta and on Tuesday (Nov 4) I gave a lecture titled “From Humanities Computing to Digital Humanities” at University of Toronto. It has been a very productive week and I have greatly enjoyed having discussions with a range of people doing interesting work within and outside the digital humanities.

Yesterday I had a chance to talk to Geoffrey Rockwell (my host), Stan Ruecker and Sean Gouglas (among others). They are all involved in the Humanities Computing program at UA. I know Geoffrey’s work from before (not least from my previous visit to McMaster) and it was great to catch up and see the development of previous and new projects. We talked quite a bit about methodology, rapid prototyping and tried out a new tool that allows for querying/concordancing a text, looking at frequencies and visualizing changes over time.  Very nice. I am very appreciative of Geoffrey’s approach to tool development, and I find myself quoting his work frequently in my own writing. Also, I appreciate the inclusive nature of both the humanities computing programme at Alberta and the Multimedia programme at McMaster – supporting multiple modes of engagement with the digital. This makes for interesting interaction between faculty and students with rather different “ways in”. I had an opportunity to meet some of the students in their lab environment and also at my talk later. It seems as if many of them have quite interesting projects, and it reminds me of the importance of supporting creative student projects – creative also in the sense of producing software.

It was great to have humanities computing specialists (with a sense of the history of the field) present at the talk. This will help me in my continued work on my three articles on digital humanities and humanities computing.  We talked a fair bit about names and the reason for ‘digital humanities’.

In Toronto, I was hosted by the iSchool and Matt Ratto who was a postdoc in HUMlab last year. I had a great stay in Toronto and I got to see Matt’s Critical Making Lab and talk to people like Alan Galey (who just moved to Toronto from University of Alberta) and Brian Cantwell Smith. There was quite a crowd at my talk and a good discussion afterwards. Wendy Duff, for instance, brought up the question of linear/non-linear in relation to my “story” of humanities computing and the importance of local, instituional context. This was a rather different crowd than the Alberta one, of course, and it was very useful to also get comments from people who are outside of humanities computing or the digital humanities. Another question was “Why digital humanites?”. Why would the humanities need “digital” when others do not. That is a kind of question that I had not anticipated, but it is useful to have to think about his – also because it helps making concrete the motivations behind a discursive transisiton to “digital humanities”.

CNN credits the grassroots media as important to Obama’s win


In the video above, the CNN corespondent mentions that grassroots media (bloggers, twitter, facebook) played an important part in the Obama race. This election was not only about this great man, but about a renewed feeling in the American dream. The feeling that together we can make informed decision, that we can effect change, and that when we believe that mistakes have been made we can come together and, well, make a change.

Go through the site, Obama in 30 seconds. You will see this meme reflected over and over in the videos.



Jenkin‘s was right. These videos were not about the candidate, rather the spirit of participatory culture transposed onto participatory democracy. Participatory democracy may seem like an oxymoron on the surface, but if you look at the historically low voter turn-outs in comparison with this election voter turn-out then democracy has been far from participatory for a long, long time. Has new media been the catalyst? I would venture no – not by itself. Blogs were widely used in the last election. I think it is a combination of factors. The mix of weariness of the current regime, the ease of new media tools, and a candidate that was perceived both as an underdog, but also an ‘everyman’. So yes, grassroots media was important in this race, and the youth using this media was important (see video below), but this is not nearly as much a reflection of the affordances of new media as a reflection of the sentiment of the everyman in America. We wanted change, and in the mantra of the Obama campaign we knew that change was just a matter of saying ‘Yes we can’

Embedded video from CNN Video

cross posted from here (with full CNN videos)