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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Art installation in HUMlab-X: Field

During March 2015 HUMlab got the opportunity to work with artist Johannes Heldén and exhibit his installation Field, specifically built for the HUMlab-X.

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The interactive installation Field investigated the role of humans in the ecosystem, and how animals and plants are struggling to adapt when their habitat is changing due to human impact on the environment.

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Field consisted of an interactive landscape animation for the HUMlab-X floor screen, a 3D printed sculpture suite depicting how a species mutates (Jackdaw Corvus monedula), a text animation and an ambient-based, evolving soundscape.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Photos: Mattis Lindmark

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Why HUMlab? — A talk with Zephyr Frank and Fred Turner

Stanford professors Zephyr Frank and Fred Turner are both part of the Media Places research programme, and have visited HUMlab on several occasions. What are the challenges of working with international research projects? And how did the Umeå/Stanford collaboration start?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAZephyr Frank (ZF) (Top image)
is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, CESTA, Stanford University.

Fred Turner (FT) (Bottom image)
is Associate Professor of Communication and Director of Stanford’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Stanford University.

How did the Umeå-Stanford collaboration start?
Stanford Human Resources 2014FT: I had known Patrik Svensson for a few years through Matt Ratto, a former post doc at Umeå University. In 2008, Patrik approached me because he wanted one of my PhD students to apply for a post doc at Umeå University as well. The person he had in mind was Erica Robles-Anderson, the first PhD student I supervised, and I was of course very keen for her to succeed in her future career. I was very sceptical at first – should I really send Erica to a Swedish university in the far north? So I spent an afternoon with Patrik and quizzed him: how will this work? What is HUMlab? And the answers he gave were wonderful! So Erica Robles-Anderson went to Umeå for a year and came back so much smarter than when she left, and she got one of the very best jobs in our field, as a professor at NYU (New York University). After that, I wanted to work more with Patrik in particular and more with Umeå University generally.

ZF: So there was this pre-existing relationship, which I think was part of what inspired Patrik to then propose this Media Places initiative. My team, the Spatial History Project, came in at a time when Patrik was putting together the proposal for the research programme together with other people at Stanford. As we talked about how we could collaborate, we focused on two dimensions. One was direct support for research: Fred’s research, my research, and research done by post docs and graduate students. Second (and equally important), was collaborative work. This work could be both in terms of events where you have formal gatherings, share research and build networks of scholarship, and also actual collaborative work where scholars from Stanford and scholars from HUMlab would work together on projects. So that was the vision, and that is how it all came together. After that followed a process of matchmaking to find the right partners, and soon the Literary Lab at Stanford wanted to join the project. A cool thing about that is that bringing my Spatial History project and the Literary Lab together was one of the main reasons why the CESTA lab was created in the first place. The Wallenberg initiative brought us formally together!

How can one succeed with international research collaborations?
FT: The key thing to successful collaborations is people and relationships and time. A lot of folks want to collaborate with Stanford University in all kinds of different ways and we say no almost every time. The collaboration with HUMlab has been almost uniquely successful. I think that is very much due to Patrik’s persistent creative efforts to engage us, not only engage us in terms of resources, but also engage us in terms of ideas.

ZF: Absolutely. Another thing that distinguishes this project in a particularly fruitful way is that it is research-driven but still open-ended. I mean, obviously everyone is working hard and is concerned with delivering, but instead of saying “to get funding you need to do this exact thing”, this collaboration is more like “we are interested in each other’s research so let’s get together!” There is a kind of openness to the collaboration, which to me makes me feel like it is much more sustainable. As I sit here today, I have every expectation of this collaboration continuing as long as I am involved with CESTA.

FT: I think another thing that Zephyr pointed to is that unlike other universities that have come to us and basically said, “please bring Stanford to us!”, Umeå University came to us and said, “we have something really interesting going on, want to talk?”, and we said, “yes, absolutely!”. I think we both found that what is going on at Umeå University is interesting in its own right and very engaging for us, and that has been really important to our collaboration.

ZF: Another thing I would say is crucial to our collaboration is HUMlab and the space itself. In HUMlab, Umeå University has built something that is actually different from anything that we are familiar with. At least, that is certainly the case for me, I don’t know about you, Fred? There are several of us at Stanford who have been in HUMlab multiple times. We have experienced what it’s like in HUMlab and how people work there – that has been really influential and helpful! When our own lab in the Wallenberg Hall at Stanford was remodelled, it was built from ideas largely stemming from Umeå and HUMlab.

FT: Yes, there is a lot of mutual learning going on. We’re learning a lot from hanging out in HUMlab!

What are the biggest challenges in international collaborations?
FT: Distance is of course a big challenge. Another challenge is the different appointment systems at the different universities; as I am coming to understand Swedish academia, it is much more project-driven than the US system. In Sweden, you get funding for a particular project and you work within that project. The American context is much more structure and person-driven – we have graduate students, assistant professors, full professors and so on. Within those slots you are who you are and you are able to work within multiple projects. You are not funded by the project itself but by the position. That means that there are different modes of working and different expectations regarding deliverables in Sweden and the US.

ZF: I think that is a great point, I would second that. Figuring out the structure of the Swedish academic system is a challenge. But I still think it has been quite easy, because everyone at HUMlab has been really nice.

FT: Nice goes a long way!

ZF: I have felt comfortable talking with people in Umeå, even though I don’t fully understand their structural positions. I hope that it has been the same going in this direction!

FT: One challenge for us at Stanford is that a lot of people contact us because they want our name on their letterhead. That happens a lot – the people want the legitimacy of Stanford, but they don’t actually want to work with the people who work here. Patrik did not do that. He showed up, figured out who is who and was genuinely interested in working with us.

What have been the greatest benefits for Stanford from the collaboration with HUMlab?
FT: Personally, my research has taken a really strong turn towards thinking about space and media, in part because of this project. I have just finished a book that is partly funded by Media Places and the Wallenberg Foundation called The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties. The book is all about media’s integration into space, and that is a set of questions that I learned to ask by engaging with HUMlab, via Erica Robles-Anderson, via Patrik Svensson and by going to the lab itself. There is no greater kind of impact you can have than getting so far inside my head that you shape the books I write! The other thing that has been really nice is just seeing how work gets done in HUMlab and the diversity of intellectual questions that are asked there. Then I have gone back to my own world and asked, “OK, how can I encourage a wider range of questions here? How can we keep that tone of intellectual rigour and interpersonal niceness?” – which is a HUMlab thing and which I want here too.

ZF: From my perspective the greatest benefits have most clearly concerned people. We have been able to support four post docs, each of whom has brought incredible energy, talent and skill to our team. Bringing the resources to allow us to have these talented people as part of our community has been the most important thing. Second, personally I have been able to begin to collaborate with Thomas Nygren from HUMlab; he has really inspired me to think about pedagogics and how children learn about history. And last, the experience of going to Umeå: seeing the space and seeing how people work there has been really inspirational.

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“It is people who create successful creative environments”

More and more organisations are coming to realise the importance of creative work and want to get people with different experience and competence to meet. But how can we work to produce a successful creative environment? Emma Ewadotter, Karin Jangert and Jon Svensson are a few of the key individuals who keep HUMlab’s activities running and who work with these questions every day.

Emma Ewadotter (EE) works as an art history and visual studies researcher at HUMlab. She is also responsible for many visits and events in the labs and works with research support.
Karin Jangert (KJ) coordinates activities at HUMlab-X, the lab on the Umeå Arts campus.
Jon Svensson (JS) is responsible for support at HUMlab and has worked at the lab since 2002.

humlab_557_110415_ebeOne of Emma, Karin or Jon is likely to be the first person that researchers, companies or organisations will come into contact with when wishing to cooperate with HUMlab. They manage projects or are contact persons in all kinds of collaborative projects and work to develop HUMlab as a living, creative environment.

JS: An important part of our work at HUMlab is to look after people’s ideas and develop them. To create collaborations between ideas, technology and humans who would not otherwise have met. Our role is therefore to be mediators and translators. We are of necessity not experts in a particular subject or a particular technology; our strength lies principally in our interdisciplinary competence, that we have basic skills in all of the humanities, art and technology and can thereby develop new methods of research and artistically creative work. We are experts in what takes place between these traditionally separated areas.

KJ: For a project at HUMlab to be meaningful, researchers or others who come to us for collaborations must be active themselves and move their projects forward together with HUMlab. We are not a consultant from whom a technical solution can be ordered, but rather we seek and support collaborations where we feel that the work is stimulating for all parties and that it challenges boundaries as regards both the humanities and technology.

What do you consider are the most important factors for successful creative work?
KJ: It is easy to take for granted that technology is the most important factor in creative work taking place in an environment like HUMlab. In my experience, it is rather people who create a successful creative environment. Technology and an exciting environment are important aids in creating creativity, but without inquisitive people who work actively to create opportunities for encounters, it does not matter what advanced infrastructure you have.

EE: Another thing that it is important to work with is to try to get people to meet even if they have different roles and tasks. At HUMlab we try to work non-hierarchically between, for example, technical staff and researchers. We are not so naïve as to believe that we can eliminate hierarchies, but on the other hand we believe that it is important to be aware of the hierarchies and power structures that exist.

What do you think is important to bear in mind when building creative environments?
EE: One thing that I think it is important to remember is that flexibility is not something neutral. A totally flexible environment easily becomes too sterile, a place that must suit everyone and for that reason suits no one. No one understands who can use such a place. May I sit here? Can I leave my things here? Who is in charge of the place? At HUMlab it is therefore important that it is permitted to leave tracks. People at HUMlab are not unimportant bystanders; they are there to create the environment. By allowing them to leave tracks, allowing them to rearrange the environment in the ways they need to, that is how HUMlab becomes more than just premises.

KJ: The physical environment is important but not necessarily because of its advanced equipment. I think creativity has much to do with how comfortable people feel in a place. To create successful creative places, we need to look at what goes on when people use the environment and then create the place with that as the starting point. I don’t think it’s possible to build creativity out of the infrastructure alone. We also need to study how people take advantage of the opportunities that exist at a certain place, how to make that place one’s own and how people choose to collaborate with each other. That is after all the most exciting aspect, that people seldom do what was planned to begin with!

JS: One mistake I think we can make is not defining what we mean by creativity, or thinking that creativity must be something big and bombastic. The very fact that we are in an environment like HUMlab, with different kinds of people, adds something in itself, even if we are not always actively meeting up and collaborating. Not being in a enclosed space, like a classroom for example, also means that we have an opportunity to be influenced by others. I think that kind of enabling, both small-scale and large-scale, is an important foundation for a functioning creative environment.

How are creative environments created?
KJ: When I first came to HUMlab as a student, I knew nothing about technology or what it was to be used for, and to be honest it didn’t interest me in the least to begin with. I like HUMlab because I have always felt welcome, the atmosphere was tremendous and I often met interesting people. That is why I came back — not for the technical infrastructure or the physical environment.

JS: Creative work doesn’t just happen because we have somewhere nice to work. It takes a great deal of effort by committed people. Well-planned events like conferences, workshops and student activities that can inspire and show us opportunities are important, but we also need to actively question our own structures and work methods. Activities in a creative environment must chafe a little and contradict themselves, otherwise everything will stagnate fairly quickly.

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Digital tools for humanistic research

konferens_humlab291_131206_EBEHUMlab employees Fredrik Palm and Roger Mähler develop technical solutions that support humanistic research. “Humanistic research projects create data that generally require a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to be able to be analysed. This means that there are rarely off-the-shelf technical solutions available,” says Fredrik Palm.

When researchers at the Faculty of Arts at Umeå University apply for funding for new research projects, the project plan often includes some kind of technical infrastructure. Perhaps a researcher wants to construct a database, find an efficient way to display his or her material, or is looking for a tool that analyses data in a specific manner. If they cannot develop the technical part of their project themselves, they can approach HUMlab.

RogerwebbRoger Mähler (left) is a senior software developer in HUMlab and has a master’s degree in Computer Science

“Together with the researchers, we develop a technical solution that is unique to their project,” Fredrik Palm says. “Our primary task is to listen to the researchers’ wishes and try to translate them into technical solutions. It is the dialogue and the collaboration between the researchers and us that is the crucial point; we would not be able to carry out the projects without the researchers and they would not be able to carry out the projects without us. That is why we never take on purely commissioned work; the results would not be good. Everything we do takes place in constant dialogue between us and the researchers.”

_MG_0977_WFredrik Palm (left) is the research and development coordinator at HUMlab. He has a degree in informatics and a teaching degree in history, geography, religion and social sciences.

Translates research plans into digital tools
“When researchers come to us, they often have an idea of the role that they want technology to play in their project, but do not know what kind of technical solutions are available or how to develop them,” Roger Mähler explains. “Our task is then to act as intermediary and try to find the technology that best suits their particular project. One great advantage is that we both have backgrounds in both the humanities and technology. I am a software developer and I have worked with, among other things, digitalisation of parish records and telecom billing systems and Fredrik has a double degree in systems development and teaching, more precisely religious instruction, history, geography and social sciences.”

Projects often involve a range of other competencies as well, and one of Roger’s tasks is to structure implementation processes and establish quality assurance mechanisms. One example of such work is a display system for multiplex visualisation currently being developed in HUMlab as an internal project. There is always a humanistic basis to the development work anchored in a broad knowledge basis and the available infrastructure.

“We have an important task when it comes to developing methodologies in humanistic research at the university. We help our researchers to be more aware when they select data and to understand what digital methods do to it. We discuss how and why we can visualise data. Most often, visualisation increases the understanding of the projects and forces researchers to pay more attention to details. There cannot be any gaps in the documentation that will later be visualised — the white spaces in the image are much more telling than the words ‘data unavailable’,” says Fredrik Palm.

Uncertain humanistic data
Data from humanistic research often contains uncertainties that mean that the information must be subjected to some special form of processing. When it comes to historical data, the analysis needs to consider uncertainty factors concerning how the data was collected, if the geographical tools that were used agree with the ones that are used today or what knowledge was available at the time the data was collected, just to mention a few examples.

“Together with the researchers at the Faculty of Arts we have built up a knowledge bank of the research that is conducted here. It represents a unique competence,” says Fredrik Palm.

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Global Game Jam Umeå 2015

48  hours. That’s what people got. Much like the action flick from the 1980s with the same title as the first sentence it was intense, sweaty, sleep deprived and dense with frustrated curse words. I’m talking about Umeå’s participation in the Global Game Jam 2015, between the 23rd to the 25th of January.  This is how the creator of the GGJ explains it:

“The Global Game Jam (GGJ) 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. It is the growth of an idea that in today’s heavily connected world, we could come together, be creative, share experiences and express ourselves in a multitude of ways using video games – it is very universal. The weekend stirs a global creative buzz in games, while at the same time exploring the process of development, be it programming, iterative design, narrative exploration or artistic expression. It is all condensed into a 48-hour development cycle. The GGJ encourages people with all kinds of backgrounds to participate and contribute to this global spread of game development and creativity.

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. In January 2014, we had 488 location in 72 countries create over 4000 games in one weekend…The GGJ stimulates collaboration and is not a competition.”

In 2015 Umeå was part of a movement including 77 countries and something around 524 locations, with around 40 local developers participating. This years theme was a question; “What do we do now?”

The result was everything from a co-op dinosaur “survive the Cretaceous apocalypse” game to “I lost my ticket on train and the conductor is getting angrier and angrier” game where the player got 2 minutes to find the ticket. There were even participants that brought with them an Oculus rift and created a game around the idea that the player was thrown into the role of an alien in a soon to crash UFO, trying to figure out the weird controls scattered all around you.

Overall the event was a huge success and we look forward to next years Global Game Jam!

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