Global Game Jam 2016

GGJ2016-v5

During last weekend of January (29-31/1 in HUMlab-X) HUMlab hosts for the second year in a row The Global Game Jam.

The Global Game Jam is the world’s largest game jam event (game creation) taking place around the world at physical locations. Think of it as a hackathon focused on game development. The structure of a jam is usually that everyone gathers on Friday late afternoon, watches a short video keynote with advice from leading game developers, and then a secret theme is announced. All sites worldwide are then challenged to make games based on that same theme, with games to be completed by Sunday afternoon.

People are invited to explore new technology tools, trying on new roles in development and testing their skills to do something that requires them to design, develop create, test and make a new game in the time span of 48 hours.

If interested learn more about The Global Game Jam here:

http://globalgamejam.org/

Local registration:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1RJ0XccbnWG26JkrNgE8qiYYG0fmWLRDxiaHLMcMlcTE/viewform?c=0&w=1

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Participant reflections on the Gender and Status Competition Workshop @ HUMlab-X – Part I

On November 26 and 27 2015, the Umeå Group for Premodern Studies (UGPS) held an international workshop at HUMlab-X on Gender and Status Competition in Premodern Societies (GSC 2015), with the financial support of the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, the Umeå University Faculty of Arts, and the Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS). The workshop organisers were Professor Jonas Liliequist (History), Dr. Anna Foka (HUMlab), Stina Karlgren (History), and Lewis Webb (History).

The goal of the GSC 2015 workshop was to focus on how gendered behaviours and appearances have been used as a means for status competition, and how such status competition shaped both intra and inter-gender hierarchies. We were particularly interested in the physicality and materiality of status competition, namely the ways in which gender and status were negotiated and performed through speech, emotions, gestures, facial expressions, body language, comportment and clothing as well as material objects and visualized symbols. One of the central aims of the workshop was to integrate theoretical perspectives on emotions and senses with gender analysis on a micro-sociological and inter-personal level.

Image1ConferenceThe workshop was an immensely fruitful dialogue across disciplinary boundaries, with contributions spanning from Classical Antiquity through Medieval Europe, through the Early Modern Ottoman Empire, to Premodern China. The participants came from a diverse range of backgrounds, which led to many provocative interdisciplinary and intersectional discussions. More information about the workshop and the contributions is available at #gscumu2015 and https://genderandstatuscompetition.wordpress.com/

Image2InterdisciplinarydiscussionsInterdisciplinary discussions

The workshop organisers want to acknowledge the wonderful staff at HUMlab, particularly Karin Jangert, Johan von Boer, Jim Robertsson, Anna Misharina, and Elin Andersson. The workshop ran so smoothly due to their wonderful work and support.

Several of our participants provided us with their reflections on the workshop and HUMlab-X. We include some of their voices below.

Martha Bayless, Professor of English, University of Oregon:
I went to the HUMlab to talk about medieval board games, but I came away with thoughts on half a dozen other subjects — family snapshots from the Roman Empire, the gender of medieval hats, fan fiction, place, cognition, and beavers.  I understand that this is because this is what the HUMlab does: it brings together people and ideas from adjacent disciplines and facilitates an interchange that enlarges everyone’s views.

Image3MarthaBaylessMartha Bayless

This process reminds me of the scholarly research on networks and the “strength of weak ties”; if you want new connections or new ideas, you don’t look among your closest friends (or scholarly colleagues), because you already know their friends or colleagues and their ideas.  You look among your more distant associates or friends of friends, your “weak ties,” because they have knowledge and connections you don’t yet have.  So bringing together scholars in adjacent disciplines, as HUMlab did for November’s Workshop on Gender and Status Competition in Premodern Societies, is to use those “weak ties” to cross-fertilize and enrich the knowledge of scholars from the Classical era to the Early Modern period.

Image4UmbertoGrassiUmberto Grassi

The wonders of technology were on display in the HUMlab, with scholars Skyping in to do one session from places as disparate as Sweden, Lebanon and the U.S. As futuristic as this was, I personally was also impressed by the down-to-earth reminders of place at the HUMlab — the here-ness that distinguishes it from other places.  Coming as I do from a university (the University of Oregon, in the U.S.) built mostly in the interchangeable-box era of construction, I was struck by what a distinctive place the HUMlab is.  Completely glass on one side, the view out the side of the lab goes straight to the Ume river, which travels alongside the building.  Over the course of our workshop the sun rose, hovered just above the horizon, made its way down the river, and then set again a few hours later, never having ascended into the upper sky.  Thus even the placement of the HUMlab’s glass wall lets its residents know: We are here, in northern Sweden.  To confirm this, when we went out to the river during a break, we spotted a beaver swimming close to shore.

Image5SkypediscussionsSkype discussions with Martin Huang, Lovisa Brännstedt, and Nadia Cheikh

In my role as a historian of medieval culture, I have become increasingly aware of the sense of place in traditional culture.  Storytelling traditionally bore a strong relation to place and landscape: stories would be created to explain natural landscape features, and the landscape would then serve as an engine for further storytelling as people naturally asked “What is the story behind this rock/hill/standing stone?”  But when stories are collected by outsiders for larger audiences — from early anthropologists to the Grimm Brothers — the stories are typically denatured and stripped of their place-names and sense of the particular.  Thus stories, like places, become anonymous and arbitrary, no longer moored to their environment.

Image6EvaAnderssonEva Andersson

But we are now starting to recover the role of place in cultural memory, and to see that place is not inconsequential, but can have a cognitive function.  Edwin Hutchins’ book Cognition in the Wild (1995) demonstrated the ways in which cognition can be outsourced or “distributed” — in his example, how ship navigation is outsourced into the design of the ship — the ship, in effect, does part of the thinking.  In traditional societies this is also true of landscape and cultural memory.  In How Forests Think, for instance, Eduardo Kohn has discusses societies in which whole ecosystems become part of the human cognitive system.  Modern developed culture, by contrast, is much more mobile and transient, and places have far fewer associations for us.  Places become emptied of particularity and nearly interchangeable: in the famous saying of Gertrude Stein, “When you get there, there isn’t any there there.”

Image7StinaKarlgrenStina Karlgren

It is distinctive about the HUMlab, then, that when you get there, there is a there there. With its complexities, innovations, and thoughtful design, the HUMlab is almost a cognitive system in itself.  The approach along the riverbank reveals a series of glass-sided university rooms: a gym, a library, a commissary, and finally the Bildmuseet (art museum) and HUMlab.  It’s as if the buildings are saying This is where we do the exercising, this is where we do the research, this is where we do the eating, and once the basics are taken care of, This is where we do the thinking.  The thinking happens all over HUMlab: even the floor contains a vast electronic screen like a huge magic carpet.  The chairs are, almost uniquely among conference chairs, extremely comfortable.  Much of the furniture is on wheels — tables, chairs, sofas — for flexible arrangement.  Those afflicted by jet lag can take refuge in the large canopied blue sofas that almost serve as comfortable cupboards.

Image8JonasLiliequistJonas Liliequist

The versatility of HUMlab was demonstrated by Anna Foka’s talk on the modern popularization of gladiators.  She projected images on the wall — or rather on the sort of monumental objet d’art that serves as a screen — while a map of Classical gladiatorial arenas glowed on the floor.  The group then moved into the inner room where she screened clips from gladiator films.  In an adjacent room images of gladiators were projected onto wall screens, and a fourth small glass room held state-of-the-art equipment for playing gladiatorial video games.  The multiple locations, media, and representation of gladiatorial games made the presentation not just a talk but an experience — the audience had the HUMlab to think with.

Image9AnnaFokaAnna Foka

Anna Foka’s exploration of gladiatorial games jibed well with my own presentation on a more miniature display of martial prowess: the board games of early medieval northern Europe. Three of these were popular for more than a thousand years: tables (a race-game much like modern backgammon), hnefatafl (a chase- or battle-game with a central king-piece), and “wood-sense” (a battle game), played in Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Norse settlements.  These were far from the trivial, even marginal pursuits they are in modern culture; expertise at the board game was a mark of kings, a way of demonstrating power in war even while peace reigned.  They were assigned mythological status — in the Old Norse Voluspà, the gods play their board game at the creation of the world, and at the end of time, after the world is destroyed, the golden playing pieces will be found in the grass, ready for a new world and a new game.  A king was supposed to wield his playing pieces like a god.  In medieval Wales, high officials were even granted a symbolic board game when they assumed office; in Anglo-Saxon England, kings were buried with their sets.  Innumerable stories show the martial and supernatural power of the game.  But what does this mean when women try to play a game associated with supreme masculine prowess?  My paper looked at several instances when women intruded into the masculine preserve of board games — an early presentiment of the gender scandal that became the recent “gamer-gate.”  To sum it up: women who played board games were thought to be alarmingly dangerous.

Image10MehmetKalpakliMehmet Kalpakli

The other papers at the Workshop were multi-media, lively, and stimulating.  I was particularly fascinated by Eva Andersson’s talk on the similarity of medieval men’s and women’s clothing (it turns out hats were the key to sexual dimorphism); by Ursula Rothe’s account of the “family snapshots” on the sculptural tombs of the far-flung reaches of the Roman Empire, complete with lapdogs; and by Godelinde Perk’s fan-fiction theory of the life of notorious medieval complainer Margery Kempe.  I am of necessity leaving out a great number of equally engaging talks.  The workshop was very ably organized by Jonas Liliequist (who gave a wonderful talk on romping and raillery), Anna Foka, Stina Karlgren and the redoubtable Lewis Webb.  It was the cross-fertilization of scholarship at its most dynamic, a result of both the people and the place.

Image11LewisWebbLewis Webb

Ursula Rothe, Baron Thyssen Lecturer of Classical Studies, The Open University:
We arrived in the Arctic landscape of Umeå in winter to the warmest possible reception for the Gender and Status Competition in Premodern Societies conference. It was exciting to meet all the delegates from around the world at the get-together the night before proceedings began, and the conference itself showed what a huge variety of research fields could usefully be brought together to discuss the topic of gender and status in an interdisciplinary way: ancient Rome, imperial China, early Islam, medieval Scandinavia and Italy, French and English Renaissance writing and the poetry of the Ottoman Empire.

Image12UrsulaRotheUrsula Rothe

It was fascinating to find links between these diverse areas and to put one’s own individual research into a wider historical context. The themes for the sessions were well-chosen, and aided the cross-disciplinary dialogue: ‘Games, brawls, and jokes’; ‘Conspicuous consumption’; ‘Elite ceremonies’; ‘Inscribing identities’; ‘Patronage networks’; ‘Embodied performances’. We were put up in the University of Umeå’s very smart HUMlab-X with its high-tech audio-visual system and extremely capable staff, who were on hand throughout the conference to make sure everything went smoothly. It was a thoroughly successful event, and our thanks go to the organisers of the conference for all their hard work getting us all to Umeå and making it such an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Image13FabianPerssonFabian Persson

Yiqun Zhou, Associate Professor of Chinese Literature, Stanford University:
It was a memorable conference. Discussions with knowledgeable and intelligent colleagues from a wide range of fields, in a setting that was cordial, relaxing, yet stimulating—what more could one ask for? The diversity of the participants’ backgrounds not only made it easy to acknowledge your own ignorance and to learn from others, but also constantly gave you new insights into your own research. As befitted academic activities of the best kind, this conference disseminated ideas, inspired curiosity, and promoted collaboration among scholars who normally would not have been engaged in a dialog.

Image14YiqunZhouYiqun Zhou

Thanks to the amazing organizers and fellow participants, my first encounter with Scandinavia was a most rewarding and pleasurable one. For some time to come, I will be thinking about the sun setting before 3 o’clock outside the conference hall, as the splendid screen of HUMlab lit up with Anna Foka’s gladiatorial fights; and about Jonas Liliequist’s romping Swedish soldiers and Federico Barbierato’s well-connected Venetian nuns.

Image15FedericoBarbieratoFederico Barbierato

To be continued in Part II.

God jul och gott nytt år!

Jonas Liliequist, Anna Foka, Stina Karlgren, and Lewis Webb

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Guest blogger Professor Pelle Snickars: “Streaming Heritage: ‘Following Files’ in Digital Music Distribution”

The research project “Streaming Heritage: ‘Following Files’ in Digital Music Distribution”, funded by the Swedish Research Council, is now in its second year. The project team consists of Pelle Snickars (project leader), Rasmus Fleischer, Anna Johansson, Patrick Vonderau and Maria Eriksson. The project is located at HUMlab where developers Roger Mähler and Fredrik Palm do the actual coding.

In short, the project studies emerging streaming media cultures in general, and the music service Spotify in particular (with a bearing on the digital challenges posed by direct access to musical heritage.) Building on the tradition of ‘breaching experiments’ in ethnomethodology, the research group seeks to break into the hidden infrastructures of digital music distribution in order to study its underlying norms and structures. The key idea is to ‘follow files’ (rather than the people making or using them) on their distributive journey through the streaming ecosystem.

Kpc wintergatan222 130507 EBE_MS-Office

Photo: Elin Berge

So far research has focused basically four broader areas: the history and evolvement of streaming music in general and Spotify in particular (Fleischer), streaming aggregation’s politics and effects on value and cultural production (Vonderau), the tracing of historical development of music metadata management and its ties to knowledge production and management that falls under the headline of ‘big data’ (Eriksson), and various forms of bot culture in relation to automated music aggregation (Snickars).

One article has been published, and more preliminary results are to be presented in a number of upcoming articles and conferences during 2016. Eriksson, for example recently submitted an article around digital music distribution increasingly powered by automated mechanisms that capture, sort and analyze large amounts of web-based data. The article traces the historical development of music metadata management and its ties to the field of ‘big data’ knowledge production. In particular, it explores the data catching mechanisms enabled by the Spotify-owned company The Echo Nest, and provides a close reading of parts of the company’s collection and analysis of data regarding musicians. In a similar manner, Johansson and Eriksson are exploring how music recommendations are entangled with fantasies of for example age, gender, and geography. By capturing and analyzing the music recommendations Spotify delivers to a selected number of pre-designed Spotify users, the experiment sets out to explore how the Spotify client, and it’s algorithms, are performative of user identities and taste constellations. Results will be presented at various conferences during next year. In addition, Snickars has continued working with the HUMlab programers on various forms of “bot experiments”. One forthcoming article focuses the streaming notion of “more music”, and an abstract for the upcoming DH-conference in Kraków (during the summer of 2016) is entitled: “SpotiBot—Turing testing Spotify”. It reads as follows, and gives an indication of the ways in which the project is being conducted:

Under the computational hood of streaming services all streams are equal, and every stream thus means (potentially) increased revenue from advertisers. Spotify is hence likely to include—rather than reject—various forms of (semi-)automated music, sounds and (audio) bots. At HUMlab we therefore set up an experiment—SpotiBot—with the purpose to determine if it was possible to provoke, or even to some extent undermine, the Spotify business model (based on the 30 second royalty rule). Royalties from Spotify are only disbursed once a song is registered as a play, which happens after 30 seconds. The SpotiBot engine was be used to play a single track repeatedly (both self-produced music and Abba’s ”Dancing Queen”), during less and more than 30 seconds, and with a fixed repetition scheme running from 10 to n times, simultaneously with different Spotify account. Based on a set of tools provided by Selenium the SpotiBot engine automated the Spotify web client by simulating user interaction within the web interface. From a computational perspective the Spotify web client appeared as black box; the logics that the Spotify application was governed by was, for example, not known in advance, and the web page structure (in HTML) and client side scripting quite complex. It was not doable within the experiment to gain a fuller understanding of the dialogue between the client and the server. As a consequence, the development of the SpotiBot-experiment was (to some extent) based on ‘trial and error’ how the client behaved, and what kind of data was sent from the server for different user actions. Using a single virtual machine—hidden behind only one proxy IP—the results nevertheless indicate that it is possible to automatically play tracks for thousands of repetitions that exceeds the royalty rule. Even if we encountered a number of problems and deviations that interrupted the client execution, the Spotify business model can in short be tampered with. In other words, one might ask what happens when—not if—streaming bots approximate human listener behavior in such a way that it becomes impossible to distinguish between a human and a machine? Streaming fraud, as it has been labeled, then runs the risk of undermining the economic revenue models of streaming services as Spotify.

Finally, during the following weeks the project group will do presentations in the U.S. The first one is called, “Spotify Teardown”, and consists of a project presentation and roundtable at the Center for Information Technology and Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara. On the one hand the presentation will have a focus on methodology, background research and preliminary findings, and on the other hand try to initiate a discussion with three focused areas: (1.) ”Ethical and Legal Limitations”: What are the ethical/legal issues that arise in relation to activist projects, and how to tackle them? (2.) ”Metaphors for Research”: What metaphors are useful, or more useful than conventional metaphors such as “platform” or “platform responsibility”? and (3.) ”New Qualitative Methods and Old Disciplinary Frameworks”: What are the key challenges of working with qualitative, inter- and pelle175transdisciplinary methods in institutional environments? In addition, Pelle Snickars will also do another project presentation in New York at Cuny (The City University of New York) at the conference, ”Digging Deep: Ecosystems, Institutions and Processes for Critical Making”.

Pelle Snickars is Professor of Media and Communication Studies, specialising in digital humanities at Umeå university, with an affiliation to HUMlab.

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Konstverket “Vinden bär oss med sig” invigt

Ett rum i betong, sparsamt möblerat, utan väggar och tak, där man kommer att höra telefonsamtal mellan människor från hela världen. Den 4 november invigdes konstverket “Vinden bär oss med sig” av Mandana Moghaddam och parken “Vindarnas torg” utanför Humanisthuset. HUMlab har deltagit i arbetet med konstverket genom att hjälpa Mandana Moghaddam med inspelning av ljudet i verket.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFoto: Mattis Lindmark

Vid invigningen talade förutom Mandana Moghaddam också Roger Granberg, fastighetschef Akademiska hus region norr, Inger Höjer Aspemyr intendent förmedling Statens konstråd och Anders Fällström, prorektor Umeå universitet

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HUMlab gives perspective to Nature

Imagine that you are shown a spectacular photograph of a magnificent scene from nature, one that is unfamiliar to you. Can you distinguish which parts have been digitally processed? How do we perceive the natural environment as filtered by means of digital technology? Studying nature might seem a far cry from HUMlab’s activities, but digital technology plays a major role in how people perceive and interpret nature.

finnarnejFinn Arne Jørgensen (left) is Associate Professor of History of Technology and Environment at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Umeå University. He is a researcher in the field of Digital Environmental Humanities and an affiliated researcher at HUMlab.

“Humanistic researchers have an important task in trying to increase digital literacy, in other words our ability to interpret and recognise material that has been produced or processed digitally. One example is pictures of the earth. We have all seen pictures of the earth taken from space – a beautiful blue planet with distinguishable continents and clouds. Many of us almost certainly believe we are looking at a photograph, that this is what earth looks like, whereas in actual fact what we are seeing is a visualisation of data collected from satellites. This visualisation often leaves out data showing the vast amount of objects, satellites, space junk and other stuff surrounding the earth. People have a doctored image of the earth without realising what enormous consequences this can have, for example in the climate debate,” says Finn Arne Jørgensen.

Experiencing ‘real’ nature
In his research, Finn Arne Jørgensen is looking at how digital technology affects our way of looking at and relating to nature.
“A lot of people have this notion that they want to experience ‘real’ nature, and that if they use technology to experience nature then this is not a genuine natural experience. But the fact is that nowadays, we never head out into nature without various technical aids: we might be wearing waterproof shoes on our feet, or a jacket that protects us from the wind. We can sleep in functional tents and lightres using matches or lighters. These types of analogue technology are a natural element of being in the forest and countryside, and they are not seen as obstacles to ‘real’ natural experiences. But digital technology is often regarded this way.”

HUMlab has advanced equipment that can be used for alternative visualisations of nature, by means of which scientists can investigate how our view of nature changes when it is shown to us in different ways. This also calls into question the image of nature as an unspoilt other.
“We cannot say today that any part of the natural world remains untouched; all the world’s eco-systems are affected by humans. This is what the relatively new concept of an anthropocene era focuses upon. The few remaining undisturbed natural places are to a large degree so because people actively monitor and protect them. It is therefore very important to investigate how new technology relates to nature. How is it used? Who uses it? Who does not use it? Digital technology and how it works is so much more than the technical definitions of it,” says Finn Arne.

Technology that excludes and includes
Another area that HUMlab’s researchers are interested in is how digital technology can affect political decisions. One such example is GIS technology and how it relates to the mining industry and reindeer husbandry. The industries are represented in a GIS system that then generates data for politicians who are to make decisions. The design of the sys-tem, what it includes and whose perspective it represents is therefore crucial to the future development of the natural environment and the mountain world.
“Humanists are really needed here to carry out critical research into how ‘the digital’ functions in interaction with nature,” says Finn Arne.

“This is a broad and largely unexplored field where Umeå University has come a long way. Places like HUMlab become incredibly important meeting places for building up such a new field of research. Helping researchers come together enables not only more research but also completely new perspectives in the research.”

 

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Vad händer med alla elektroniska prylar när vi inte längre vill ha dem?

Nyligen genomfördes konferensen ”From Media to Materialities. Mapping the afterlife of digital technologies” vid HUMlab, Umeå universitet. Konferensen samlade ett 30-tal svenska och internationella forskare som alla intresserar sig för vad som händer med det elektronikavfall (e-avfall) som följer med vår allt större konsumtion av tekniska prylar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFoto vänster: Jennie Olofsson, HUMlab

– E-avfall är ett växande dolt problem i världen, och det är ännu större än den enskilda mobiltelefonen eller tv-apparaten. Exempelvis så kan man räkna med att för varje 2 gram microchip som produceras, produceras också 26 kilo avfall. Även om vi i Sverige är relativt bra på att återvinna gamla datorer, tv-apparater och mobiltelefoner (nästan 16 kilo per person och år!) så är många nya produkter svåra att återvinna. För att förstå hur vi ska öka återvinningen räcker det inte med att bara informera om var återvinningsstationen ligger. Vi måste också förstå vad den nya tekniken betyder för människor, var e-avfallet finns och vilket värde det har. Det ville vi undersöka under konferensen ”From Media to Materialities”, berättar Jennie Olofsson, biträdande lektor vid HUMlab, och arrangör av konferensen.

Påminna om digitala produkters materialitet
Mobiltelefoner, datorer, tv-apparater, pulsklockan, matberedaren – antalet digitala produkter i varje människas liv ökar ständigt. Jennie Olofsson pekar på risker med att vi mindre och mindre ser elektronik som fysiska objekt,
– Ofta marknadsförs dagens elektroniska produkter som tjänster eller upplevelser, och detta kan göra att deras materialitet lätt glöms bort. Forskaren Jennifer Gabrys, från Goldsmiths, University of London, talade under konferensen om det nödvändiga i att ”re-thingify” (”åter-tingifiera”) våra elektroniska produkter för att vi ska kunna se dem som de plaster och metaller de består av, och därmed ta ansvar för vad som händer med dem när vi inte längre vill ha dem.

Varför sparas telefonen i byrålådan?
En förutsättning för att elektronikskrot ska kunna återanvändas är att det lämnas in till en återvinningsstation.
– Per Berg, forskare vid Chalmers i Göteborg, hade försökt kartlägga vad som händer med våra teknikprylar när vi inte längre använder dem. Enligt hans undersökning är snitt-tiden vi använder en mobiltelefon innan vi köper en ny 3-4 år, men när mobiltelefon når en återvinningsstation är den i snitt 7-8 år gammal. Samma mönster kan vi se med datorer: vi använder våra bärbara datorer i snitt 4-6 år, men de datorer som kommer in till återvinningsstationen är i snitt 10 år gamla. Vi lagrar alltså stora mängder teknik i våra hem som vi inte använder, och vars material istället skulle kunna återvinnas och användas på annat sätt, berättar Jennie Olofsson.

Men varför vill vi inte göra oss av med teknik som vi inte längre använder? Kristina Lindström och Åsa Ståhl från Designhögskolan i Umeå hade i ett kombinerat forsknings- och konstprojekt rest runt till personer som har skänkt sina gamla mobiltelefoner till dem.
– Personerna som deltog i experimentet fick berätta hur det kändes att ge bort sin telefon. Flera berättade att den avlagda telefonen fortfarande hade ett värde för dem, men det var sällan telefonen i sig som kändes värdefull, utan dess innehåll. Man hade sparat bilder, filmer, meddelanden med mera på sin telefon, och detta innehåll var man både rädd om och ville inte sprida. Varför man ansåg att en telefon fungerade eller inte var inte heller helt beroende av telefonen i sig. En telefon som bara kunde koppla upp mot ett äldre nät ansågs inte fungera, trots att telefonens tekniska funktioner fungerade. En annan telefon ansågs icke-fungerande eftersom telefonen inte kunde använda vissa applikationer som man behövde, säger Jennie Olofsson. Det visar på ett av problemen med e-avfall: även om produkten i sig fortfarande fungerar så fungerar inte vissa uppgraderingar, ingångar och mjukvaror som behövs för att leva i ett ständigt uppkopplat liv.

Bild, workshop i maj

Bild ovan: exempel på elektronikskrot

Onyanserad mediabild av ny teknik
Jon Raundalen, från Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet, hade undersökt hur den digitala revolutionen visas upp i dagspress i Norge. I sina studier hade han kunnat se hur teknik som ämne förflyttats från specialtidningar och datortidningar, till något som kan finnas på förstasidan på norska kvällstidningar.
– När ny teknik beskrevs i norsk dagspress bestod rapporteringen dels av inköpstips och tester av nya produkter, och dels framgångssagor där till exempel skolklasser har kunnat utveckla sin undervisning med hjälp av ny teknik. Mycket sällan skrevs något kritiskt om ny teknik, och när det gjordes togs sällan problemet med avfall upp. Jon Raundalen pekade på att den mycket positiva rapporteringen om teknik kan göra oss blinda för de negativa aspekterna av den tekniska utvecklingen, berättar Jennie Olofsson.

Även på en samhällelig nivå finns förslag för att förbättra och effektivisera återvinning av metaller och elektronikskrot.
– Nils Johansson från Linköpings universitet berättade om förutsättningarna för så kallad ”Urban mining”. På grund av intensiv gruvdrift håller jorden nu på att passera gränsen då det finns lika mycket metaller ovan jord som det finns kvar nere i jorden. Mycket av den metall som finns ovan jord används inte aktivt, och det skulle kunna vara lönsamt att bedriva ”gruvdrift” för att få tag på dessa metaller. Nils Johansson tog ett exempel från en medelstor svensk stad, där gamla kablar har lämnats kvar i det underjordiska kabelsystemet när nya hade installerats. Man räknade med att 25 % av de kablar som var nedgrävda under staden därför inte var i bruk, och de innehöll en stor mängd värdefulla metaller. Dessa och andra liknande idéer visar att det går att hitta hållbara sätt att hantera e-avfall, säger Jennie Olofsson.

 

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Digital humanities reinforces its position

Johanna Drucker sees a future with a humanities that becomes increasingly digital

humlabJohanna Drucker is the Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Johanna Drucker is one of the leading researchers in the field of Digital humanities. During the course of her long career as a researcher, she has studied the history of the alphabet, typography, the history of graphical design and experimental poetry, among other things. She is also a well-known artist and works with books as art objects. She is currently planning for continued studies of visual knowledge theory, where one of the things she intends to investigate is what visualisations mean in humanistic research.

Johanna Drucker has visited HUMlab on several occasions, which has been very valuable as regards the development of creative environments at UCLA.
“I’m a great fan of HUMlab’s design. When we renovated our own premises, I showed pictures of HUMlab as inspiration. Scandinavian countries are generally very good at light design, something that we could be better at in the US,” she says. The collaboration between the two institutions is far-going and has involved postdoctoral fellows, small development projects and residencies.

Creative environments require effort
In her research, Johanna Drucker has studied the importance of aesthetics as regarding our understanding of a certain phenomenon; the design of the alphabet can, for example, influence our perception of a text. This has led to her also developing an interest in digital aesthetics, particularly in relation to humanistic research and visualisations of research findings. In connection with her interest in aesthetics and knowledge, she has also followed development where more and more creative pedagogical environments are being constructed at universities around the world.
“I don’t believe that we can build creativity by means of advanced architecture alone. Being cynical for a moment, it is naturally better to build beautiful workplaces where people are happy and can meet than to do nothing at all. I think that creative environments can promote creation and innovation, but it takes a great deal of effort to initiate creative processes. Creative work environments must have a well thought out design with a balance between openness and privacy. I also believe that it is important for the users to feel that they own the place, that they have the right to be there and that they understand what they are to do there. When an environment becomes too open, no one feels that they in particular have any right to be there.”

Will humanistic researchers need to know more about digital technology in the future?
“I think so. I recently discussed this particular question with the Dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. We spoke about introducing a compulsory basic course in ‘Data Culture’ for all doctoral students. A basic knowledge of digital technology will in the future be fundamental for humanistic researchers. Knowing how data is structured and how to handle data is a necessity for a modern researcher,” Johanna Drucker continues.

Knowledge of digital technology opens up for new research questions
Johanna Drucker believes that an important part of the development of digital humanities will be finding new techniques and new roles between researchers and people with digital expertise.
“I believe that everyone involved in research in the digital humanities field, both researchers and experts like computer or systems scientists for example, must help each other find new research methodologies. We researchers need to learn a certain amount of basic knowledge of technology, partly to be able to understand the research that we are doing, but also because this knowledge broadens our understanding and our context, and enables us to ask new research questions. For example, moving data between different media, turning handwritten text into digital text, digitalisation of works of art, etc., mean that we can approach the material in new ways. This in itself enables us to see new research questions that should be asked,” says Johanna Drucker.

“However I remain convinced that technical expertise will be needed in the future. I also believe that humanistic research will need the help of new kinds of experts, for example people who handle information professionally, that is to say librarians, curators and others. They fill a culture gap that neither researchers nor technicians know very much about.”

Digital development affects all researchers
Digital humanities is still a young field of research and in the USA there are still only a few post-graduate programmes in the subject. The research is also characterised as being developed as a result of individual researchers at a university happening to have a strong interest in the subject, rather than as a result of digital humanities being established intentionally by that university. In the USA, Stanford, UCLA and the University of Virginia are examples of universities that have gone a step further and established DH as a field/subject, and are among the most successful.
“I believe that in the future, digital humanities will be one of many methods or directions that can be used by humanistic researchers, in the same way that phenomena can be studied from a gender or post-colonial perspective today. Some will specialise in digital humanities while others will use its methodology and theory as needed. I am still waiting for digital humanities to have a deep impact on the intellectual focus of humanistic researchers. As digital humanities matures more in fields of research, people will come to realise that it is more than a buzz-word that can be entered in applications to make it easier to get a grant. We will all be using digital technology in the future and it’s a development that’s impossible to stop. So humanistic researchers can choose to either acquire knowledge and study this development or merely accept it without understanding it,” Johanna Drucker says.

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