New project – “iAccept: Soft surveillance – between acceptance and resistance”

Last Friday we had a startup meeting for the project “iAccept: Soft surveillance – between acceptance and resistance”. I, as PI, was granted 3,9 million Swedish kronor (approx. € 390.000) from the “Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation”. The project will start in mid-2017 and run for three years. The project group consists of colleagues with a variety of competences and a multi-disciplinary background, who in their previous research have touched upon related issues, but from different perspectives and angles. The project group consists of Anna Johansson (Humlab), Coppélie Cocq (Humlab), Jesper Enbom (Dept. of Culture and Media Studies), and Lars Samuelsson (Dept. of historical, philosophical and religious studies).

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Above: My picture from the Banksy “Laugh Now” exhibition, at Moco Museum, Amsterdam

When using for example Facebook or Google we accept their terms of condition, stating for instance: “By using or accessing Facebook Services, you agree that we can collect and use such content and information in accordance with the Data Policy”. Some might think this is just and fair, others see it as a severe and intrusive form of surveillance.

This project highlights this complex field through a humanistic multidisciplinary approach, and will contribute to broaden a rather polarized debate on surveillance, democracy and digital media. The starting point for the project is the view on soft surveillance as a double-edged sword. The interpretation of surveillance is a matter of how we structure and understand our life in the future, and hence it is a question for humanistic research – as an important complement to existing research.

The iAccept-project will study the paradoxical relation between how we on one hand contest what is seen as unjust or intrusive surveillance, but on the other hand voluntarily give away personal information through our use of for example social media, smartphones, credit cards and shopping behavior – information often open and free to use for compiling data sets to map and interpret our lives. The large amount of digital information we produce provides never before seen possibilities for harvesting data, linking different data sets together and thereby get new information about our lives and actions.

This project studies surveyors and the surveilled and their/our attitudes and ground for surveillance practices. While governmental surveillance (hard surveillance) is given lots of attention, both as regards how it is done and how people respond to it – primarily from a social science or law perspective, less attention is given to surveillance done by commercial and noncommercial actors (also known as soft surveillance).

Stefan Gelfgren, Director, Humlab

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Umeå Institute of Design student presentation

#Alcoholaddictionawareness

This presentation on ‘mobility justice’ is a way to talk about different relations around mobility in Umeå. And to highlight the power differentials that come into play in any form of mobility, and the different affordances that different people are able to make use of, or appropriate, in becoming mobile (or not).

How can the municipality address justice issues around public transportation? Is a smart city infrastructure fair? What are the socio-cultural norms that affect transport use? What are the common perceptions of public vs. private transport? Who’s responsibility is it to care and maintain transport infrastructure? What about equal access? These are some of the questions that will be taken up during the event. 

This presentation is brought to you by interaction design students of Umeå Institute of Design as part of a 5-week course on ethnography and co-creation. The event will be held in English and is open to the public. And no prior preparation is needed to attend, just your enthusiasm to engage with the topic. 

Note: The student presentations will remain accessible as an exhibition till the end of the day.

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Visiting Student Researcher at Stanford/CESTA

In the fall of 2016, I was a visiting student researcher at CESTA (Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis), the digital humanities hub at Stanford University. During two months I had the opportunity to meet great scholars in my field (in this case people engage in digital text methods), observe the inspirational and collaborative research conducted at the Literary Lab, and every day go and work in CESTA’s creative and open space on the top floor in the Wallenberg Hall (when I was not reading in the beautiful Green Library).

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In my PhD project, I use different methods to study the ideas that shaped why and how the Swedish state communicated with the citizens in the 1960s and 1970s and, in particular, how the changing concept of information in post-war western societies configured the idea and use of governmental information. I use, for example, digital quantitative text methods, were I am especially interested in text mining the corpora of Swedish Governmental Official Reports (Statens offentliga utredningar, SOU, 8000 published since 1922–), as a way to study the “voice” of the Swedish state and the governmental discourse of information and media issues.

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During my visit at Stanford, I worked on a topic modeling project (with LDA/Mallet) to find co-occurring topics within the SOU corpora, as a way to situate (in my case) the information topic, i.e. the information discourse, in a cluster of interlinked topics and reports. Thus, to better understand the information politics in broader political framework in the context of the report series. Thanks to my supervisor Pelle Snickars, I have the opportunity to collaborate with Roger Mähler at Humlab, who helps me to develop my research from a technical point of view. As a result of my two months work, I presented some findings at a workshop in Vancouver (“How to do things with millions of words?”) and had an open seminar at CESTA in the beginning of November.

As a PhD student (in media and communication) with a digital humanities profile, I am also affiliated with Humlab where I am engaged in with different projects concerning digital text methods. Last but no least, I want to thank Humlab for supporting my visit at Stanford!

// Fredrik Norén

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Tensaii Experience Cypher™ A series of workshops held in HUMlab-X

Recently the firm Tensaii had a series of workshops called Tensaii Experience Cypher™ in HUMlab-X and this is how they describe themselves and the method behind the workshops:

“Tensaii AB is a consulting and user experience design firm. We are an inspiration agency that help our clients to realise and validate their ideas, fast and cost-effective. We are experts in the process of designing meaningful and valuable experiences.

Tensaii Experience Cypher™ is inspired by IDEO and Google Ventures – Design Sprints that focuses on speeding up the process of product development to save money and time. Our unique focus for the Tensaii Experience Cypher™ is knowledge transfer, cooperation and that we are all teachers with the each one teach one mindset. 

The theme was – integration and diversity in Umeå. We had students from the design school, the university and other interested people. During five phases and from hundreds of ideas, three were prototyped by three separate and independent groups. The three results showed solutions that focused on having a meeting place with activities to help natural integration through joyful activities. Some of the activities were games, food, dance, clothing and more. One team had a digital app or service to find the meeting place, RSVP and what theme it was.”

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Closer to a virtual reality – a short course by Humlab

Recently the interest in virtual reality has come to life again after having been dormant since the 90’s. Since then much has happened in terms of both hardware and software. A couple of years ago companies and enthusiasts started showing up around the world presenting different solutions that might be able to deliver what the technology was unable to do twenty years ago.

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In 2016, we have seen the launch of three major VR bets. Oculus, which is backed by Facebook, was the first to launch this new generation of headsets in the form of the Oculus Rift. The game company Valve in cooperation with the HTC is behind the Vive and during the autumn came PlayStation VR from Sony.

In addition to these quite expensive and relatively sophisticated systems, there has been a series of cheaper solutions with headsets in plastic or cardboard that you can use to watch VR apps on your smartphone.
The development takes place primarily within the computer game and entertainment industry, but interest is also evident from research, education, arts and other areas.

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At Humlab we are involved in several projects where we test the technology and explore what it could be used for. As part of Humlab’s short course series, we provide introductory courses and workshops where participants will have the opportunity to try out the technology and discuss its capabilities and limitations. The first course was given on November 16 and more chances will come in the spring term.

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New project in collaboration with Uppsala University – textometry and topic modelling

Ben Martin, History of ideas, Uppsala University has been granted a project on ”The Culture of International Society: How Europe’s Cultural Treaties Forged a Global Concept of Culture, 1919-1968”. Martin is working in close collaboration with Humlab for analysing the material. Humlab is part of developing tools and methods for data retrieving and analysis.

From the description:

Martin will examine the historical emergence of a global concept of culture in the twentieth century by analyzing a rich and largely untapped source: cultural treaties between states. That culture can be used to legitimate power is well established. This is also the case in international relations, where contrasting ideas about “culture”–cosmopolitan versus nationalist visions, for example–have been used to justify systems of domination over states and peoples. An anti-racist consensus on the equal value of the world’s cultures is a premise of today’s post-colonial world order. But where did that concept of culture come from and how did it win out over rival visions, above all the notion of “Civilization” associated with European imperialism? How are such global concepts formed and disseminated? Cultural treaties–legally binding agreements on what forms of culture shall be exchanged between two or more nation-states–offer a good source for a historical investigation of these questions. They illustrate how states agree on what culture is, what culture can and should do, and to what degree states should promote or regulate it. Through a comparative, multi-method study of the cultural treaties of several Western European states from 1919 to 1968, my project explores the emergence of a global concept of culture, based on the hypothesis that this concept, in contrast to earlier ideas of civilization, played a key role in the consolidation of the modern international order.

Working in close cooperation with digital humanities specialists at Umeå University’s Humlab, Martin will explore the source material offered by these treaties by approaching it as two distinct data sets. First, to chart the emergence of an international system of cultural treaties, they will use quantitative analysis of the basic information, or “metadata” (countries, date, topic) from the complete set of cultural treaties. Their analysis of this data will identify historical trends in the emergence of a global network of bilateral cultural treaties and to compare that to the global webs established by multilateral agreements. Second, to identify the development of concepts, they will observe the changing use of key terms through quantitative analysis of the content of these treaties. By treating a group of cultural treaties (from Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, between 1919 and 1968) as a single data set (or text corpus), they will be able explore the treaties using textometry (the statistical analysis of lexical data) and topic modeling—the computer-assisted analysis of the frequency of and interrelations among key terms in large groups of texts. Topic modeling will identify which key areas of cultural activity were regulated by the treaties over time and by world region. Third, to see and compare the transnational networks forged by these agreements, they will link data from the text and metadata analyses to map coordinates via geographical information systems (GIS), creating historical maps to reveal patterns and simultaneous developments better than historical narrative can. Finally, to determine which treaties were most copied, and to isolate elements that rendered some more successful than others, they will create evolutionary visual models, what Franco Moretti calls “trees”, that chart the preservation or elimination of key features of the treaties over time. Humlab will provide technical assistance in curating data, methodological development, text analysis, network analysis, and the use of GIS and other mapping and visualization technologies.

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Advances in Digital Humanities with new PhD course at the Faculty of Arts

During the fall term 2016 Humlab provides a new PhD course, Digital Humanities II: Applications. The course offers a specialization in theoretical and critical perspectives in digital humanities through seminars and individual digital projects.

Stefan Gelfgren introducing the course
Stefan Gelfgren, Director of Humlab, opened the course with a discussion on the topic of Digital humanities or humanities in a digital age?

The course is a deepening and continuation of the course Digital Humanities I: Introduction which was given during the Spring term 2015. Humlab has received funding from the Wallenberg Foundations for the course in the context of a commitment to research and younger scholars in the digital humanities.

Gísli Pálsson, a doctoral student in archeology, will work during the course with the project The farm-as-network: tracing the tendrils of agency across Iceland‘s medieval landscape.
Gísli Pálsson, a doctoral student in archeology, will work during the course with the project The farm-as-network: tracing the tendrils of agency across Iceland‘s medieval landscape.

The course will conclude with presentations of the individual projects on January 10, 2017.

For more information, contact:
Coppélie Cocq
Responsible for pedagogy and education, Humlab
coppelie.cocq@umu.se

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