Hi all, yesterday we had our third Feminist Frequency screening with the theme Movies. Lovely with a feminist angle on popular culture (and everything else in life off course). Next weeks theme is video games, hope to see you there! /Leonela
Oliver Bendorf is an interdisciplinary writer, artist, and teacher, currently living in Madison, Wisconsin. He holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is now earning an MA in Library and Information Studies. His book of poems, The Spectral Wilderness, is forthcoming from Kent State University Press. In March, he participated in the HUMlab workshop: Digital gender: Theory, Methodology and Practice
“Digital Gender, like any good event, quickly became much more than just the workshop– it became a state of mind; a method; a movement; #DG. There are magical things happening at HUMlab, and it’s not just the baked goods, though those are plentiful and certainly don’t hurt. HUMlab is hi-tech but not at the expense of coziness– think touch screen floors under a plush rug, bean bags and our live-tweets projected onto yet another screen — and this to me seems one possibility of the digital humanities: that they are ultimately about the human if they are to matter at all.
I arrived at Digital Gender with hand-painted slides, or scans thereof, of my initial research questions into the trans-digital hand. My fellow workshoppers’ projects and feedback fueled and inspired me to continue with this research, and cracked open my sense of possibility for what it might mean to “do” and “think” digital gender.
From Micha Cárdenas‘ very first invitation to us to breath, to Nishant Shah‘s suggestion of the USB as the “universal slutty being” for how we swap and share digitally, to Lewis Webb‘s and Anna Foka‘s historicizing of digital “slut-shaming” and gender on-screen, Carl-Eric Engkvist‘s workshop that had us designing games, and Jenny Sundén‘s virtuality, futurity, and temporality in digital transitioning, Roopika Risam on race in digital feminist spaces, Julienne Corboz on the limits of the digital in gender field work in Afghanistan, Annette Markham on method, remix, resistance, ginger coons with a workshop on on concealing gender in digital spaces, Camilla Hällgren with miniature art as feminist research, Viktor Arvidsson on people and things, people as things, people thinging…
And the best part is that there was more than this, more talks, more ideas, and a pretty excellent archive of it at #digitalgender2014 on Twitter. I peruse the hashtag when I feel the need to tap back into the stream of information and ideas that flowed through HUMlab in March 2014. I think about Digital Gender every day, and can’t wait to get back to HUMlab, but in the meantime I know that digital gender is here and now, as well as then and there, and that the work continues; the possibilities expand outward, always more to breathe, more to share, always more to remix and resist. Thank you HUMlab, Patrik Svensson, Anna Foka, the whole organizing team, and every participant for this Digital Gender state of mind!”
10 – 30 April 2014 @ HUMlabX, the Arts Campus at Umeå University, Sweden
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, Noon – 4pm
(17, 18 and 21 April Closed)
Opening: 10 April between 4 – 6 pm
HUMlab is a humanities-led, interdisciplinary digital lab at Umeå University in Sweden. For the last seven years, HUMlab has given support to Second Life artists by hosting their works on SL HUMlab Island for constructions as well as organising exhibitions at HUMlab’s Real-Life multimedia venue.
In 2007-08 Humlab hosted on its Second Life sim Goodwind Seiling’s “N00sphere Playground” for the Virtual Moves exhibition at the National Gallery in Copenhagen. Later, it further supported Avatar Orchestra Metaverse for their constructions and premier performances of “XAANADRuul” and “The Heart of Tones” before providing a home for the Yoshikaze “Up-In-The-Air” virtual artist residency programme in 2010. Since then, HUMlab has been a host for nine Second Life artists in Yoshikaze artist residency as well as one artist talk by Kristine Schomaker on her project “My Life as an Avatar.” The work conducted in HUMlab and Yoshikaze by virtual world artists and creators has led to a number of academic publications and conference presentations and also resulted in two self-published artist books. Another outcome of HUMlab’s engagement for the advancement of virtual worlds and art was their assistance in bringing an ambitious mixed-reality project by Goodwind Seiling to fruition. The project “Experimentation #1″ was based on the use of Kinect to control avatar movements and would have been unable to be realised without HUMlab’s support.
This year between 10 April and 30 April, HUMlab and Yoshikaze proudly present a group exhibition with all the artists who have been involved in shaping HUMlab’s engagement in supporting SL artists and their art. This include, besides those mentioned above, Alan Sondheim, Juria Yoshikawa, Garrett Lynch, Selavy Oh, Katerina Karoussos, Fau Ferdinand, Pyewacket Kazyanenko, Oberon Onmura, Alpha Auer, Maya Paris, Eupalinos Ugajin and SaveMe Oh. We would also like to acknowledge the following SL artists for this show: Machinimatographers Marx Catteneo, Mab MacMoragh, Steve Millar, and Evo Szuyuan, as well as Puppeteer Jo Ellsmere. The exhibition takes place at the newly acquired HUMlab-X at the Art Campus of Umeå University. We, who have been working with this project for seven years, would like to thank all the participants. Thanks are also due to the HUMlab technicians, poster makers, and HUMlab director Patrik Svensson.
Sachiko Hayashi (Yoshikaze Curator)
James Barrett (SL Humlab Sim Manager)
Carl-Erik Engqvist (RL HUMlab Artistic Leader)
Postgraduate Student, Discipline of Classics, The University of Adelaide.
Assistant Dean, Lincoln College, North Adelaide.
HUMlab @ Umeå University is a space like no other. It is a digital h(e)aven for artists, activists and academics to meet, debate, and collaborate; it is international, interdisciplinary, and interconnected.
How did I, an Australian postgraduate student, find myself at HUMlab?
It all began with a chance meeting at a conference.
In October 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting HUMlab’s Anna Foka at the University of Adelaide’s Subversion and Censorship Conference 2013, which was convened by Prof. Han Baltussen. Anna and I bonded over our mutual passion for wine, (ancient) women and the digital.
After the conclusion of this conference, Anna spoke with me about HUMlab’s Digital Gender Workshop 2014, an interdisciplinary workshop with the theme of “gender research in the digital sphere”. I was intrigued – what might an ancient historian bring to such an event?
As ancient historians and digital explorers, Anna and I employ diachronic lenses to examine women and the digital; that is, we use a comparative historical approach to explore static and dynamic elements of the female experience over time. I thought I could bring this marriage of the analogue and the digital to the Workshop.
In my research, I explore the experiences of Rome’s women in the Second Punic War (218 – 201 BCE), a conflict that led to major social upheaval in Ancient Rome. During this war, men and women publicly interrogated, criticised and suppressed female sexuality. This ancient suppression of female sexuality in the public sphere finds a modern parallel in the public “slut-shaming” of women in the digital sphere. I decided to produce a paper for the Workshop on these parallels, and, to my delight, the abstract for my paper was accepted.
In Jan/Feb 2014, I began to prepare for my adventure to Sweden. I am forever indebted to Emma Ewadotter, Karin Jangert, and Elin Andersson from HUMlab for their generous assistance and advice during this process (and throughout the Workshop). After a passport was procured, (2 x 26 hour) flights arranged, grants applied for, and accommodation organised, I was ready for Scandinavia.
I arrived in Umeå on Monday 10/3, and I was met by two wonders: snow and Swedish hospitality. After exiting the Umeå Airport terminal, I stood outside, giddy as a child, enjoying the snow. Mid-giddiness, I was met by Anna and Viktor Arvidsson, who bundled me into their car, and drove me to Viktor’s apartment.
Once there, I enjoyed that greatest of Swedish rituals: Fika. This ritual is roughly equivalent to a coffee break, but it includes coffee, pastries and conversation, and is performed multiple times throughout the day.
This ritual seems to be a synecdoche for the Swedish spirit: life is to be shared and reflected upon.
On Tuesday 11/3, Anna gave me a tour of HUMlab at Umeå University, and introduced me to many of the staff and researchers there. The facilities are striking: the spaces are carefully considered, flexible and fluid; technology is organically integrated within.
While at HUMlab, I was fortunate enough to hear from one of the Workshop’s keynote speakers, micha cárdenas, who delivered a pre-Workshop seminar on “Post-digital Media: from the Transreal to Decolonization”. Micha is an artist, activist and theorist who uses hifi/lofi/nofi techniques to explore identity and intersectionality. She spoke about three of her projects: Becoming Dragon; the Transborder Immigrant Tool; and Local Autonomy Networks. Her projects are powerfully mimetic – they capture and reflect complex issues of gender, race and technology.
Following this wonderful seminar, Anna took me to the apartment where I was to stay during my time in Sweden. Once there, Karin helped me to orient myself in the neighbourhood, and gave me instructions for decoding the public transport system.
That evening, while navigating the local shops and restaurants, I learnt the value of the phrases “hej hej” and “tak”. It was surprising how far these simple Swedish phrases got me. I had a delicious Swedish-Italian fusion dinner at Pizzeria-Ristorante Taormina, and spent a significant amount of time rehearsing my presentation for the morrow.
On Wednesday 12/3, the Digital Gender Workshop was opened at HUMlab by Anna and Prof. Patrik Svensson. We were promised a wonderful programme, colourful debate and copious amounts of fika. I cannot mention all the presentations at this Workshop, but I will explore the ones that resonated with me.
Wednesday started with a keynote address from the wonderful micha, and I was struck by her proposal that the digital is wedded to Western logics, that new media could/should be post-digital, and that embodied movement can act as a pre-/post- digital technology of communication.
Maria Carbin, Eric Carlsson and Anna Croon Fors spoke about their proposal to explore Online Hate Discourses. Their collaboration across gender and media studies seemed thoughtful and timely, given the recent rise in gendered online hatred.
The marvellous Nishant Shah spoke of slutty digitality, online promiscuity, and stealth computing. He masterfully reinterpreted the USB acronym as “Universal Slutty Being”, and championed the reclamation of the term “slut”.
After fika and lunch, I delivered my own presentation entitled “Sexual virtue exposed: ‘Slut-shaming’ in cyberspace and on the streets of Ancient Rome”. I argued that time had not greatly altered the focus of the suppression of female sexuality, but the Internet has vastly increased its scope. I closed by demonstrating that the Internet can be used as a tool for/against this suppression. The feedback I received was wonderful and thought-provoking.
Later that afternoon, the artist/visionary Carl-Erik Engqvist led us in a workshop on Gender and Gamemaker concepts. We were broken into two groups to discuss and develop our games. Our group included Nishant, micha, Jenny Sundén, Annette Markham, Anna Johansson, and myself. We developed a simple game entitled “Drawing It Out”. The premise of this game was that art could be used to build empathy amongst 8-10 year olds around emotions such as fear and anger etc. In our example case, each player drew an image of something that scared them, and the other players then helped to reclaim each image, by adding positive or disempowering elements to the fearful image. The development process for this game was, in and of itself, drawn out, as we all wanted to develop a game that didn’t privilege or disempower individuals from different backgrounds. The rules we developed by the end of the workshop were simple and salient, building on micha’s and Annette’s work with the Theatre of the Oppressed.
On Thursday 13/3, the second day of the Workshop began. It was held at HUMlab-X, which is situated under the Bildmuseet at Umeå Arts Campus. HUMlab-X is full of screens, including a mind-blowing floor screen and a large screen for presentations. The variety of furniture in the room facilitates different forms of communication and reflection.
On Thursday morning, Anna spoke about digital representations of gladiatrixes, and proposed that we can evaluate gender in games by assessing the internal and external agency of characters (PCs and NPCs).
After fika, Jenny delivered a presentation entitled “Transdigital, Transgender”, where she explored the temporality of gender and sexuality by examining the transition of a steampunk automaton performer from Rabbit (M) to Bunny (F), and the fan responses to this transition. Jenny envisions transition as movement and re-inscription, and suggests that we could read “the feminine spark in the (Rabbit’s) hardware as a way of imagining and igniting the future differently”.
Roopika Risam then spoke about how discourses of toxicity have been constructed in online feminism, that this attribution of toxicity is generally ascribed to women of colour, and that hashtags such as #NotYourAsianSidekick have been used as a space for healing in response to these discourses.
After lunch, Oliver Bendorf explored the transgender hand, proposing that it is synecdochic, that it has the potential for agency and betrayal, that it may/may not transition along with a trans person, and that (trans)bodies can be conceived of as integrated circuits.
Our keynote for the day was delivered by the sublimely animated Annette, with micha “digitally jamming” during the presentation. Annette explored remixing as a metaphor for thinking about thinking, and, controversially claimed that “we don’t need new methods, we need new ways of talking about what we do.”
On Thursday afternoon, we had a wonderful critical making workshop with ginger coons, where we explored online gender and Turing tests, and asked how we might identify or obscure gender online.
Friday 14/3 was the final day of the Workshop, and we were, once again, in HUMlab-X. I was struck, in particular, by two presentations, that of the artist/theorist Camilla Hällgren, and Viktor’s.
Camilla explored art as research and intervention, assessed constructions of “girlhood”, and proposed that crowdsourced identity may be a metaphor for the development of young girls. Camilla uses model train figures in her artwork to explore existential issues through visual contrast; her artwork explores big issues on a small scale, and asks what it might mean to be human in this big world. I was fascinated by her work entitled “A woman’s work is never done II”: it depicted female figures stuffing olives and rolling them towards an olive bowl. I thought it looked positively Sisyphean.
Towards the end of the Workshop, Viktor assessed the concept of a “thing”, and how the doing of things makes us do things in the way we do. He proposed a non-dualistic approach to conceptualising things, drawing on Taoist thinking, and argued that we do not do things through things but with them. Viktor claims that this approach allows us to re-construct what it is to be “human”.
If you’d like to know more about individual presentations, follow the Twitter conversation for the Workshop at #DigitalGender2014.
I spent the remainder of my time in Umeå with Anna and Viktor. They were wonderful hosts, and took me the Rex Bar & Grill, where I had my first taste of reindeer meat (delicious), and to Västerbotten Museum, where I learnt a little more about the Sami people.
On Sunday 16/3, I left Umeå with a strong desire to return.
Several provocative themes emerged from the Digital Gender Workshop:
- Remixing (the old/new, methodologies, knowledge)
- Fluidity and Temporality (gender, sexuality)
- Intersectionality and Transformation (praxis)
- Post-digital Strategies
- Debunking Digital/Analogue Dichotomies
- Art/Activism/Academia as Symbiotic Trinity
The Workshop provoked us to indwell our praxis, to question our digitality, and to abandon our dichotomies.
Such provocations, stemming from interdisciplinary interactions, would not have emerged concomitantly without HUMlab and the demiurgic Anna Foka. Many thanks – tak ad infinitum.
In March 2014, I found myself at HUMlab. I left enriched in heart, mind and friendship.
To remix Julius Caesar: Veni, Vidi, Vixi (I came, I saw, I lived).
The Faculty of Arts at Umeå University has advertised a total of 25 Ph.D. positions. At least ten of these positions have a digital humanities inflection. They are based on a double affiliation model, where the candidate is primarily based at a department and discipline with a secondary affiliation to HUMlab.
The digital humanities positions are within the following disciplines:
- Educational Work with a focus on Art Education, Music, Dance or Sloyd (3 PhD students, 2 DH).
- English Literature (1 PhD student)
- English, General, Russian or Scandinavian Linguistics (1 DH PhD student).
- Environmental Archaeology, with Digital Humanities orientation (1 PhD student).
- Environmental Archaeology within the MOBIMA–Mobile Imaging in Archaeology (1 PhD student).
- Ethnology with Digital Humanities orientation (1 PhD student).
- History with Digital Humanities orientation (1 PhD student)
- History of Science and Ideas with Digital Humanities orientation(1 PhD student).
- Media and Communication Studies -specializing in Digital Humanities or Media History or Streaming Media (3 PhD students).
- Religious Studies with a focus on didactics with Digital Humanities orientation (1 PhD student).
- Sami Studies(at least 1 DH)
Here is a link to the formal announcement with links to the departments and the departmental information. Please contact the listed people if you do not find enough information in English. Deadline for applications: March 31, 2014.
The positions are full-time, salaried positions based at departments and disciplines across the humanities. It is essentially like having a proper job, although time limited for four years. The position can be extended to five years depending on teaching and other extra-Ph.D. work (this is normally not a requirement though). Candidates are expected to be active in the intellectual milieu and contribute to their department and HUMlab.
About HUMlab: HUMlab is a meeting place for the humanities, culture and information technology. We offer an intellectual and technological environment that is characterized by openness, passionate engagement, intellectual sharpness, generosity and international reach. We support individual-scholar work as well as large collaborative projects, and we bring together a diverse group of individuals. The infrastructure includes an 11-screen humanistic screenscape, a very large floor screen, a critical making lab, development servers, seminar tables and a beautiful oriental rug. Read more about HUMlab here. An example of recent event: Digital gender workshop. Here is some further context on HUMlab (a text I wrote some time ago in relation to another call). Also feel free to check our seminar stream archive. Two example projects: Media Places and the Strategic Environmental Archaeology Database.
Umeå University, the Faculty of Arts, the disciplines and HUMlab are investing in the intersection of disciplinary knowledge and the digital humanities (read: the digital humanities). Among other things, there is a new chair in media studies with a focus on the digital humanities (held by Pelle Snickars). Read about Pelle Snickars (the former head of research at the National Library). Another new recruitment is ancient historian Anna Foka – read an interview with her too.
Come and join us!
Dr. Nishant Shah is the co-founder and Director-Research at the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, India. He is also an International Tandem Partner at the Centre for Digital Cultures, Leuphana University, Germany and a Knowledge Partner with the Hivos Knowledge Programme, The Netherlands. Recently Dr. Nishant Shah visited HUMlab to participate in the conference “Digital gender: Theory, Methodology and Practice” (http://www.humlab.umu.se/digitalgender).
“When I was first invited to be a part of the Digital Gender conference curated by Anna Foka at the HUMlab in Umea, Sweden, there were many things that I had expected to find there: Historical approaches to understanding the relationship between digital technologies and practices and construction of gender, multi-modal and multi-disciplinary frameworks that examine the intersections of gender and the digital; Material and discursive descriptions of how we understand gender in contemporary realms. And indeed, I found it all there, and more, as a great collection of people, came together in dialogues of scholarly rigour, critical inquiry and political solidarity and empathy, to learn, to teach, to exchange research and scholarship. Given my past experiences of being at HUMlab and the incredible range of scholarship that was curated there, this came as no surprise.
However, the one thing that stood out for me was an incredible session on Game Making conducted by Carl-Eric Engqvist. When I first saw it in the programme, I was apprehensive. What can Game Making have to do with digital gender? What would we learn from trying to design a game? I have been in ‘doing workshops’ before where things don’t always go as planned. Especially with the new ‘maker culture’ movements and DIY hipster phases, I have often found myself disappointed with workshops that focus too much on the technological and the interface. And I was in two minds about this – surely, we could have spent the time in more traditional academic experiences – round tables, discussion groups, or even just increased time for the participants to present their work. And so when the workshop began, I was waiting for it to make sense – to see what the game making’ workshop could have in store for the motley group of people that had assembled there.
Engqvist started off by showing us three games that have inspired him the most and what he wanted us to take as our points of thought and from that moment on, I knew we were in safe hands. Engqvist was not interested in games for gaming. He was interested in games as artefacts, as ways of thinking, as modes of engagement into exploring, reifying and concretizing many of the questions around power and empathy. And more than anything else, he presented with us the idea that games can be pedagogic, they can be learning tools; and though they might be designed for young players, they can be ways by which we translate our academic knowledge and research into practice.
What emerged in the subsequent two hours, was a great exercise in feminist methods and knowledge meeting new pedagogy and discussions. The group divided into two teams and set out to make a game that would be suitable for 8-10 year olds, and questions ideas of power and imbalance in their lives. Here are some things that I learned from the conversations:
- The nature of true power: One of the most interesting discussions that emerged was where the power resides. Scripted games often give us the illusion of power by making the power of the script writer invisible. While games are often open to creative interpretation and negotiation, these are only within the context of the constraints of the game. How do we design games that are then transparent about their own limitations? Can we think of a game that is about building the game rather than playing a game? Can we think of game outside of structures of competition and winning, closer to the designs of the Theatre of the Oppressed?
- Collective Empathy: The most dramatic revelation in the game making exercise was the engineering of empathy. There were many different suggestions on how to build empathy. One of the ideas was to put the players in simulations of real-life crises, asking them to take up different roles as antagonists and protagonists within the conflict, along with by-standers who can choose to be allies. However, drawing from legal narratives of rape, that demand that the rape victim be not subjected to re-living the experience through testimonies in court, we decided that it might be not fruitful to make participants re-live real-life trauma in the course of the game. Eventually, we decided that the way to escape this would be to let the participants be in control of their own simulations, and offer them ways of establishing trust and empathy.
- The power of narratives: In designing the narrative of the game, what came out was our own personal narratives of why we believe in the things that we do. How do we devise a game that has narratives of the everyday that can eventually transcend into becoming special? How does the playing of the game itself lead to repeated narratives, each customised to the situation? How do we create conditions and infrastructure that encourages users to iterate, repeat, remix and remediate ideas so that they become rich and layered narratives? And most importantly, how do we take something that is traumatic or troublesome, something that scares or angers us, and get the help of our fellow players, to reappropriate it, diffuse its hostile edge, and make it more amenable and something that we can cope with?
- DIY experiences: We recognised as a group, that we were more interested in a game that was about crafting experiences rather than designing learning goals. Or in other words, we wanted something so simple that it triggers something at the most visceral level, allowing the players to dig deeper into their own selves and come up with ideas that could resonate with the others. The ambition also was to have the gamers be in control of the intensity and thus define the parameters of their own gaming experience rather than be put into conditions or situations that might lead to further trauma.
- Teaching versus Learning: The largest chunk of our discussions pivoted around these two concepts. When designing a pedagogic game, how do we locate ourselves and the players? Do we assume the role of pedagogues who have specific messages to deliver, or do we assume the role of co-learners who will build a set of rules that create new conditions of playing every time? How do we further ensure that the games will have a feminist pedagogy of recursive and self-reflexive criticality along with a clear message of empathy, collaboration and togetherness?
What emerged through these five learning principles was a simple game that we called ‘Drawing It Out’. Here are the rules of the game, followed by some pictures that emerged as we played the game ourselves in the group.
Game: Drawing It Out.
Age: 8 and above
Materials: A number dice, a dice with different emotion words written on it: Shame, Anger, Frustration, Love, Fear, Hope. A tea-timer of 3 minutes. Sheets of blank paper, different coloured pens and pencils.
- Each member in the group rolls the number dice. The person with the highest roll gets to roll the emotion dice.
- The emotion dice lands on any one of the emotions. For example: Fear.
- The tea-timer is turned, and each player, sitting in a circle, gets three minutes to draw the one thing that they are afraid of.
- When the time is over, each player gets to talk about the thing that they are afraid of.
- Once everybody has explained their fear, they pass their sheet of paper to the person on the right. The tea-timer is turned. The next person draws something else on the sheet of paper – adding, remixing, morphing, changing the original drawing – to show how they can help in overcoming the particular fear. In the case of hopeful words like Love and Hope, the players add how they would increase and share in the feeling.
- Each time the tea-timer runs out, the paper moves on to the next person in the circle. The process is repeated till the sheet of paper reaches the person who had first drawn on it.
- At the end, each person looks at the sheet of paper they had begun with and the others talk about the ways in which they have added to the original drawing.
- The participants roll the number dice again and repeat the process. Participants are not allowed to draw the same thing if the emotion is repeated. The game can be played till there is interest or time to play it.
- The players get to take the sheets of remixed papers home with them as artefacts and signs of the trust established within the game.”
The Ambassador was very interested in HUMlab and the Digital Industry of the Umeå-Region. After visiting HUMlab-X, the HUMlab student ambassadors gave her a tour of the Arts Campus. During her visit she also met with representatives from Dohi Sweden and Algoryx Simulation!