The start of the academic year is one of transition – the shifting to a new term, the forging of a new beginning, the meeting of new people. All three categories apply more particularly to me than usual this year: my name is Jenna Pei-Suin Ng, and I start this week as a new postdoctoral fellow in the digital humanities at HUMlab – generously funded by the Kempe Foundation – which not only marks the new academic term for me but also the beginning of my post-postgraduate career. This post also beams me into the relatively novel environment of a digital humanities research laboratory and a department – I am dually affiliated with the Department of Culture and Media (Institutionen för kultur- och medievetenskaper) – in which I hope to shift my research from film studies and technologies of digital cinema to a wider application of the digital in new media. In my postdoctoral project at HUMlab, titled “Refashioning Worlds, Transmuting Realities: Avatars, Simulants and the Effects of Representation in New Media”, I propose to explore the concept of representation (of self and the world) in new media, specifically through the key twin tropes of avatars and virtual reality. In particular, I wish to examine representation in the way of its co-constitutive interplay between old and new media and their effects for information technology, media theory and the digital humanities.
A little about my background: I was born and grew up in Singapore, where I graduated in law at the National University of Singapore (2000), and spent two years in private banking and finance practice at major law firms in Singapore and London before turning to film. Moving to London to pursue my postgraduate education, I obtained my MA and PhD in Film Studies at University College London (UCL) (more information can be found in my entry on the BFI Moving Image Research Registry), writing my doctoral thesis on time and the image, in which I investigated the relationship between different temporalities (of pastness and presentness) and the moving image, particularly enquiring how recent technologies of cinema, such as digital video, CGI and motion capture, reconfigure the temporality of the image. I subsequently decamped to Hong Kong before returning once more to Europe (London, briefly, to defend my thesis and eventually Umeå, Sweden, for this postdoc; I have pretty much turned inter-continental crossing into an art form……)
48 hours after I touched down in Umeå, I had to give a brief presentation to the university board, in which I commented on how impressed I was with my introductory tour of the lab and my satisfaction with my decision to come here, albeit I had just arrived and had only been here for a short while. One week on, and I remain just as impressed with the lab and the work I see being done here, as well as getting increasingly happier as I grow more comfortable with the space, faces become more familiar and I diminish the number of times I get lost around campus and town. I trust that, one year on, my fundamental reactions will not change, and I look very much forward to a happy and productive time here. Do, of course, feel free to be in touch should you share any of my research interests – I would be more than happy to hear from you, and I look forward to blogging more in this space about my work and its progress. It’s been great so far and I think I’m going to love it here – tack så mycket!