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.