Seminar with Paul Arthur on Monday

Writing History with New Media
March 2, 1.15 pm
Paul Arthur
, Curtin University/Rutgers
Broadcast live here.

Digital history is a rapidly growing field that spans disciplines and can take many forms. New modes of publication, new methods for doing research, and new channels of communication are making historical research richer, more relevant and more widely accessible. Many applications of computer based research and publication are natural extensions of the established techniques for researching and writing history. Others are consciously experimental. Although computer technology started to revolutionise the discipline of history more than three decades ago, genres and formats for recording and presenting history using digital media are not well established. Are the new technologies fundamentally changing how we interpret the past? If so, in what ways?

We are really happy to have Paul Arthur visit. He will be a postdoc at HUMlab and the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies in the fall semester of 2009.

HUMlab Researchers in Second Life Theory Book

Myself and Stefan Gelfgren have been running various projects and experiments using the virtual online social world of Second Life for over a year now in HUMlab. Today we received a result from some of our work with a chapter published in Learning and Teaching in the Virtual World of Second Life, edited by Judith Molka-Danielsen and Mats Deutschmann.

There are a number of texts currently available on how to use Second Life and other virtual worlds in teaching and learning. The difference I detect in the volume to which we contributed is that it is somewhat reflective and theoretical. While suggestions are plenty in Learning and Teaching in the Virtual World of Second Life, there is also a strong focus on the contexts for learning and teaching using SL.

If anyone is interested in going deeper into the text, it can be purchased here.

My trip to the :: Transmediale :: in Berlin

The Transmediale is an international festival for contemporary art and digital culture. This year the Transmediale festival was about

“the intense fragility and inherent instability of human interaction with global systems.”

There were a lot of provocative projects to experience and discuss – on the connection between everyday practices, new technologies, global warming and the financial crisis. You would think these issues will definitely make you feel depressed, but in fact exploring ways to react to (rather than ignore) these challenges, felt quite empowering. There were some experts on the field, but as well artists, who understand themselves as researchers reducing the barriers between thinking and making.

When I decided to visit the Transmediale I thought it would be a good idea to not take the plane all the way. Shaken and tired from a night long bus trip I arrived in Berlin. To get around this gigantic city I bought an old, sky blue children bike. It was enormous fun to ride by the “Brandenburger Tor” heroically on my tiny cycle.

When I finally found the Transmediale building among the gigantic new constructions in Berlin Mitte, I was impressed by the quality and content of almost all performances and lectures on the program.

poster children

The exhibition was excellent, in particular a piece by Marina Zurkow, the animation “Poster Children”. Marina was one of my favorite teachers at ITP. In her work she uses several forms of narratives in animated videos to create dynamic layers of storytelling.


Next I was amused by Michiko Nitta’s morbid project Extreme Green Guerrilllas, a group of people who take green living to an extreme. They are ironically and playfully suggesting to eat merely pigeons and rats and solve overpopulation and resource problems through premature death, administered via an euthanasing earring.

The “Arduino guys” were at the Transmediale as well of course. E.g. co-founder of the Arduino project, Massimo Banzi. He talked about open-source electronics during the fantastic fair trade hardware panel, (you can watch all lectures online).

six apartmentssix apartments 2

Another of my most favorite projects was a split-screen video installation called Six Apartements by the Berlin based US-American artist Reynold Reynolds. The viewer observes people in different ages inside their apartments. Isolated and unaware of each other, each character in the film is listening to a TV set or radio channel in the background, exposing themselves to “information” on wars, catastrophes and facts on global warming. None of them takes any action in response to the things they hear about. It rather seems as if listening to the media gives them comfort in their quiet, empty rooms. This video installation won the second prize.

Some interactive projects were pretty nice as well:

jana linke

click & glue,…by Jana Linke ” is a system that locks itself in. A white latex balloon spins an ever-thickening web through the space using a hot glue gun and nylon thread until the balloon’s own threads bring it to stillstand.”

In the afternoon I met some amazing ladies of the faces mailing list, a group of female media artists and curators, keeping each other posted on events and exhibitions on gender, technology and art. Every now and then they meet in real life, drink coffee and do some networking.

During the lectures in the evening I felt a little desperate. The talks were focusing on global disasters awaiting us if we don’t change our consumer behaviors. I learned about encouraging, economically sustainable alternatives as well though, restoring my hope for change.

For example the open hardware or fair trade hardware movement.

What is it about? We have to realize that the production of most of our new technology (like the one we buy from brands such as SONY or Nokia ) is not only directly connected to extreme environmental damage. It is also actively supporting conflicts in African countries through illegal exchange of mineral resources against weapons produced in the West. The trade of “tantal”, an essential crystal for all mobile phones, has financed a cruel war in Congo that resulted in more than 3.6 million deaths to date.


The project tantalum memorial deals with this issue and deservedly won the first price of the transmediale Award 2009.

In general the Transmediale festival combined meaningful conversations and critical making with artistic practice. I can recommend watching the lectures online, most of them can be found on the website: