Monday, November 16, 2009

Research, HUMlab and the Community of Scholars

HUMlab in Second Life

I began working in HUMlab, a digital humanities lab and studio at Umeå University, in the Spring of 2003 as a third term English Literature student. I immediately knew it was different. What struck me about 'the lab'included:

* Learning across the spectrum
Digital tools provide entry points to a variety of learning situations. My first project in HUMlab was the Virtual Weddings Project. Since then I have been involved in projects with other virtual worlds (Adobe Atmosphere, Second Life), mobile blogging (working with informatics scholars), digital literature research work (my thesis area in Language Studies), seminar and workshop presentations (art and technology, programming, narrative studies), teaching at undergrad course level (museum studies, culture studies), course planning (Media and Culture), web design and authoring (I am blogging on several sites), design and conference planning.

* Media as Frame
Digital media can be used to frame research across subjects. In my own area two examples are The William Blake Archive and The Virtual Macbeth project. The Blake Archive is an example of what could be termed tool-based humanities computing. Virtual Macbeth is an example of more process and critically-based digital literary studies. Each exhibits potentials to increase the dimensions of scholarship in English Literature, without discarding that which has been achieved in the past centuries. Other examples of digital media setting new frames in research, but from the activities in HUMlab, includes:

- The Creative
The creative energy in HUMlab is apparent. I have been involved in art, music, performance, and poetry since working in the lab. More 'pure research' use of creative digital applications include in Mapping and Visualization and Archeology with the Environmental Archeology Laboratory (use of GIS technology has broad implications and applications). Many examples can be called upon from what has been achieved in HUMlab over the past decade. Visualization ranges from 2 and 3 dimensional media applications as well as text, graphic, and dynamic animations.

- The social:
As an approach to research the social is present in HUMlab from retro computer game to online communities. Domestic violence to the use of YouTube in youth cultures. Language studies are of course present in social media. A recently defended thesis that was based in HUMlab, Making Sense Digitally: Conversational Coherence in Online and Mixed-Mode Contexts, can be included. As well as the social in the research, one is rarely along in working in HUMlab. There is a constant focus on networks and team work in the lab. Projects are launched in fika chats, through coincidental meetings and from seminar encounters.

- The Relevant
Working in HUMlab has for me brought a stong degree of cutting edge relevance to my work. I am trained in generic skills that can be used across academic callings. I have learned programming, composition, planning, and much more. A particular interest of mine is copyright and Intellectual Property
(IP), which has never been a hotter topic than it is now. While we have had not had a single large project on copyright and IP in HUMlab, it is a constant element in the working of the lab. One example of this is a blog post by American scholar and HUMlab friend Bryan Alexander.

- Collaboration
Access to international researchers, artists and figures in the field is a central element in HUMLab. Visits and often extended stays in the lab have included such figures as Howard Rheingold, Katherine Hayles, Henry Jenkins, Charles Ess, Bruce Damer, Ana Váldes, Tallan Memmott, Ian Bogost and many more. Over one hundred seminars from guests teachers, researchers and artists are available online on the HUMlab wesbite as streamed video. As a doctoral student I have worked in teams that included techniicans and other researchers, artists and undergrad students.

A Slightly out'of-date presentation of the history and ideas behind the name HUMlab

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