Glassed-out stare: the latest in new tech anxieties

Ian Bogost’s analysis of the “glassed out” vacant stare of Google Glass users surfing the web is particularly interesting in that it allows us to think more clearly about the now-familiar way people mark distance from their immediate surroundings by staring down into their smartphones. Bogost cites Olsen, one of the Google Glass designers who explains that they were designed to allow people to not dissociate from their surroundings when checking something online. That may not be such a great thing:

The very invisibility of connection with Glass may form part of the problem. After all, Olsson’s head-down smartphone pokers are clearly signaling their relationship to the physical world, even if the meaning of that signal amounts to, “I am withdrawing from it.” So tempting as the “glassed-out” metaphor might be, it’s the wrong one. “Wearers” are not like users, zoned out and distanced from worldly interactions through artificial chemical supplement. Rather, they are weirdly, undecidably suspended between presence and absence. The glassed-out early adopters of wearable computers signal neither; they signal nothing at all.

Of course, we’ve been complaining about new ways new technologies make us less aware of the here and now for a very long time.



25. June 2013 by Jill
Categories: social media | Leave a comment

On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog – except the NSA

I was shocked to realise my students had never seen that classic cartoon about the anonymous dog on the internet. I suppose it is 20 years old. Luckily, Nitrozac has been making web comics since the 90s and definitely remembers. And just as in our class discussion of anonymity online, the conclusion is that anonymity is a thing of the past.


24. June 2013 by Jill
Categories: Networked Politics | Leave a comment

A Pinterest Story

I love seeing popular social media genres repurposed into something playful, into a story, into a game. Tiffany Beveridge‘s Pinterest board My Imaginary Well-Dressed Daughter is an example. It’s just a Pinterest board, but filled with fashion photos of children, each captioned by Tiffany as though they were photos of her fictional daughter “Quinoa” and her friends. The result is not exactly a narrative, but a series of snapshots that describes an idea of a group of elitist fashion-hungry children while poking fun at the fashion industry. And people like it: right now the board has over 20,000 followers. Do you know any other playful “stories” like this in social media?

A snippet of the Pinterest board telling the story of little "Quinoa" in a series of fashion photos of children.

A snippet of the Pinterest board telling the story of little “Quinoa” in a series of fashion photos of children.

21. June 2013 by Jill
Categories: Electronic literature, social media | Leave a comment

What are the Digital Humanities? What are they in Norway?

In Norway, the term digital humanities is not really established, although a lot of work has been done here that could well be called digital humanities – at the University of Bergen a few projects that come to mind are the classics: Wittgenstein Archives, which digitized and organised all Wittgenstein’s nachlass, Knut Hofland and Gisle Andersen’s Nyord i norsk, an engine that goes through Norwegian newspapers every day and finds new words, or Stadnamnsamlinga by the Nordic scholars in my own department, where recordings of how people say local place names throughout Western Norway are systematised, transcribed and made searchable. The computational linguists just down the hall from my office do amazing work, for instance building digital infrastructure for language research and much more that I should find out more about. I think projects like Dag Elgesem and Andrew Salway’s blog mapping should count, too, although some might say this is social science or communication studies rather than the humanities. And of course I would include our own ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base and the work we’re doing with the data there using network analysis, word clouds and visualisations.

Today I’m at a seminar at the University of Oslo called “What are Digital Humanities?“, organised by the very enterprising PhD student at ILOS Annika Rockenberger.

Espen Ore’s talk about the history of digital humanities in Norway asks why this rich tradition hasn’t led to a strong field of digital humanities in Norway today. Of course, it wasn’t called digital humanities back then, but there has been work on computing in the humanities since at least 1972. Humanistisk data was a journal published from 1973 until 1991, and in the second issue there is a list of humanities computing projects in Norway. Of course all issues have been digitised: charmingly scanned many years later so you can see the tears and dogears in the physical copies.

The front page of the second issue of Humanistisk datablad.

The front page of the second issue of Humanistisk datablad, 1/1974. This issue includes an overview of humanities computing projects in Norway at the time.

Espen Ore worked just down the hall from me at my first job, when I was a research assistent on the Lingo project building a MOO for learning about Shakespeare. NAVFs edb-senter for humanistisk forskning was a national institution (with a still-existant sister: NSD) but became part of the University of Bergen in 1992, as Humanistisk datasenter, with a lot of external funding and some base funding from the Faculty of Humanities. Then in 2001, the Faculty of Humanities cut the funding, and Humanistisk datasenter was renamed Aksis and had to rely entirely on external funding. The remnants are now Uni Digital, though I don’t think there’s a lot of continuity there. Perhaps the multi-disciplinarity of humanities computing was what led to its lack of visibility. Or perhaps its project-based nature, and the fact that the many excellent projects were never closely integrated into a single department or curriculum – it remained outside of the university proper, as it were.

My talk was about the work we’re doing with the ELMCIP Knowledge Base and was largely based on the visualizations Scott has been doing this spring, although I also talked about the project we did in Amsterdam in January graphing the books people buy about the digital humanities on various Amazons in order to get a picture of the field. Here are the slides, which are a very lightly edited version of the slides as Scott made for the HASTAC conference in April.

The ELMCIP Electronic Literature Knowledge Base: Documentation, Connections and Visualizations from Jill Walker Rettberg

Tomorrow the group here will be discussing how to move forwards with the digital humanities in Norway. Should it even be called the digital humanities? In Germany the chosen term is e-humanities instead, apparently pretty much as a token of opposition to the Anglo-American provenance of “digital humanities”. I think we should be pragmatic about it: digital humanities is a term that works right now. Another term will work in ten years time. But in any case, humanities projects that use digital methods need to become more visible in Norway – simply having a website with a list of examples would be a huge advance. Perhaps a Norwegian or Nordic chapter of the European Association for Digital Humanities would be good. Hearing the history of how the digital humanities (or humanities computing) were strong and then pretty much disappeared in Norway I think getting more digital humanities into undergraduate curricula in various disciplines is important. We have one digital humanities course at the University of Bergen, but we should aim to develop a series of web-based tools that make it easy to integrate digital methods into humanities courses.


14. June 2013 by Jill
Categories: Digital Humanities | 1 comment

A wishlist for our library from Routledge’s 2013 catalogue

Leafing through Routledge’s catalogue for Media and Communication I ended up with a long list of books I’d be interested in. I must say though, almost all these books cost at least £80 each, which seems exorbitant. I won’t be buying them myself, and although Routledge is a respected publisher, I’ll be submitting my next book proposal to publishers that sell books at prices people are actually likely to pay. I’m sure Routledge will cry themselves to sleep over this rejection ;)

I did send the list to our librarian, though, and I’m sure the UiB university library will buy many and maybe all of them. I suppose Routledge prices for libraries, not individuals.

Göran Bolin:  Cultural Technologies: The Shaping of Culture in Media and Society

We discuss these issues in several of our courses, so a chapter may well be useful on a reading list. And I heard Göran Bolin give an interesting talk at MiT8 earlier this month, so I’d like to learn more about his work.

Mark Andrejevic: Infoglut: How Too Much Information Is Changing the Way We Think and Know

I really enjoyed Andrejevic’s discussion of how we can become estranged from our own use of social media, which I both blogged about and taught last year, and look forwards to reading more of his work.

Applen, JD – Writing for the Web

This might be useful for our web design students. I like how it appears to integrate technical skills like XHTML and CSS with rhetorical communication on the web and how to organise information.

Heidi Campbell – Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds

This doesn’t relate to my own work, but is certainly related to digital culture.

Steven E. Jones – The Emergence of the Digital Humanities

Another useful-looking discussion of the digital humanities. There are a number of these, now, and I’ve no idea if this one is better or worse than the others – the description is quite sparse. But we’re doing digital humanities here and so I’d like to know what’s being written about the field.

The rest of my list won’t be published until after the summer, but lots of the books look interesting:



24. May 2013 by Jill
Categories: Uncategorized | 3 comments

Autotune remix interview as a way of politicizing an issue

You probably saw it already, but I wanted to make a note of the autotune of Charles Ramsey, the neighbour who rescued three women who were kidnapped ten years ago and had been kept captive in a suburban house. He heard one of the women screaming for help and let her out – and has become famous for the colourful interview he gave afterwards.

The autotune remix highlights the racial bias that Ramsey himself highlighted in the interview, at which point the interviewer rapidly and sort of embarrassedly cuts off the interview:

I knew something was wrong, when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. (..) That’s the only reason she’d run into a black man’s arms: either she’s homeless, or she’s got problems!

Will Stabley has an interesting analysis of this, although I’m not sure I agree that the autotune treatment in itself is racial.

The fact that the autotune highlights the uncomfortable description of racial almost-segregation is an interesting example of how remixes can politicize existing comments simply by changing the order, repeating – and autotuning. The blander part of the interview in this autotune remix is not autotuned, and that, and the repetition of the black man/white girl statement certainly serves to emphasise it.

Update: also, see The Guardian on the race issues here, and then another story reports that maybe Ramsey wasn’t the main hero, but a Hispanic neighbor who had too poor English for the news reporters to bother to interview him. There are certainly many levels to this story.

08. May 2013 by Jill
Categories: Uncategorized | 1 comment

Monica Mæland facts – more political sarcasm in social media

National elections in Norway are this September, and clearly there’s going to be more playful use of social media this time around. The latest I’ve seen is a Twitter account spitting out “facts” about Monica Mæland, a conservative politician who is the Chief Commissioner (byrådsleder) in Bergen.


Probably these are not exactly new jokes either:
- “Once Monica Mæland made a Happy Meal cry”
- “Every time Monica Mæland doesn’t get her way, a unicorn is born.”
- “If you Google “Chuck Norris” it says “did you mean Monica Mæland?”

While slightly amusing, I doubt this is going to win any elections. A bunch of (lets admit it) mean jokes with no actual political content – other than to claim that Monica Mæland is scary and gets whatever she wants – aren’t going to convince anyone to change their vote. At most, they might make people who are already committed to a political view laugh or be annoyed and perhaps share them with friends. I suppose conceivably it might get more people to actually vote and be involved in the elections. Perhaps you would laugh at is and en decide to go and find out what Monica Mæland actually stands for and has done. I’m looking forwards to seeing more political content in these ads, though. The Hey Girl Audun Lysbakken have more of that, although they’ve sort of declined after the first couple of days.

07. May 2013 by Jill
Categories: Networked Politics | Leave a comment

At MiT8

I’m at MiT8: Private Media, Public Media at MIT and am lapping it all up after too few conferences over the last few years. Missing a lot due to juggling kids, but there’s lots to enjoy anyway! Right now I’m in a session on algorithms – this is Stephan Helmreich starting his talk “Go and stop them, but don’t tell anyone that an algorithm said you: Monitoring Public Life in Germany”. The Twitter backchannel is lively, and especially useful in a conference with so many parallel sessions that all sound tempting.


04. May 2013 by Jill
Categories: social media | Tags: | Leave a comment

Meeting the US students for our joint course

Scott and I are visiting the three US universities that we’re doing a joint course with in August, and are having a fabulous time meeting all the students we’ll be working with in a few months! Scott cooked this whole thing up: we’re doing a week long joint course on Collaborative Creativity in New Media where students work together in US-Norwegian teams to create creative digital projects in Bergen. We’re collaborating with Rod Coover here at Temple University in Philadelphia, Sandy Baldwin at West Virginia University and then next week, we’re going to the University of Minnesota at Duluth to meet Rob Wittig and Joellyn Rock and their students.

Here are the students from WVU and Temple – all very excited to be coming to Bergen and full of interesting skills, ideas and backgrounds. And you can spot Rod and Scott in the second photo as well.



We’re also meeting with deans and coordinators and international relations people about setting up longer term exchanges, and there’s a lot of interest here. One point I find interesting is that in Norway (and Europe) we’re largely set up for semester long exchanges, whereas here there are a lot of shorter exchanges, 2-4 weeks seems fairly common. It might be interesting to set up a course at UiB that has an intensive two week session at start of semester that’s open to short term international students, and that continues at a less intensive pace for the rest of the semester for our local students. Many possibilities.

04. May 2013 by Jill
Categories: Teaching | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

We lost the elections, but I am so glad to have experienced the campaign!

As you may remember, this semester I ran for election as vice-rector in Kuvvet Atakan’s team. Today the results were announced. We won 41% of the votes, which wasn’t enough to win, but certainly shows that a great many people at the University of Bergen supported us. Being part of a university election campaign was an amazing educational experience and I have learnt so much about the university and about university politics. And it was fun, too! Continue Reading →

24. April 2013 by Jill
Categories: Running for Vice-Rector | Leave a comment

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