Maria Hellström Reimer, Erin Cory, and Per Möller: Translocality and translocal subjectivities. A research overview across the fields of migration-, culture- and urban studies

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Maria Hellström Reimer, Professor in Design, Erin Cory, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication Studies, and Per Möller, Lecturer in Media and Communication Studies, all K3.

The title of the talk is:

Translocality and translocal subjectivities. A research overview across the fields of migration-, culture- and urban studies

It will take place on Wednesday, October 16 at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara.

Below you will find an abstract for the talk. The report, which the talk is based on, will be made available at the latest on Monday October 14. To obtain it, send a mail to maria.hellstrom.reimer@mau.se.

The seminar takes as its point of departure the ongoing work with a Mistra Urban Futures Research Report concerning the role and understanding of urban culture, cultural practices and cultural movement in the midst of ongoing migration. While the notion of culture is again central to political debates, it is often confined within a territorial, ethnic or identitarian framework. The aim of the report is to trouble this tendency by drawing attention to relevant interdisciplinary studies of culture and cultural practice, with special consideration given to issues of mobility and migration.

Increasing spatio-temporal ambiguity has not only prompted a wide array of emergent cultural practices, but has also given rise to new challenges in the study of cultures and cultural movement(s). Following Williams’ (1981) critique of strictly observational and classificatory cultural research, the report acknowledges the political, historical, and disciplinary complications associated with the study of evolving, cross-boundary cultural formations ‘in-the-making.’ Thus, the question becomes not only how new conceptual frameworks may contribute to intensified critical reflection and deepened understanding, but also if and how cultural research may affect cultural policy and everyday urban social sustainability efforts.

Anne-Marie Hansen: Designing for relations between people beyond technology supported interaction

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Anne-Marie Hansen, senior lecturer in Interaction Design. 

The title of the talk is:

Designing for relations between people beyond technology supported interaction

It will take place on Wednesday, October 2 at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara.

Below you will find an abstract for the talk.

Anne-Marie S. Hansen presents a critical perspective on the technology fascination that lead to the production of different kinds of connectivity through social media, welfare technologies, sharing economies and internet of things. She introduces an exploratory approach to the field of interaction design where design for relations beyond technology-supported interactions is in focus. By drawing upon experiences from Hilary Cottam’s studies of the British welfare system, as well as a selection of studies in spirituality, we will look into potential aesthetics (and ethics) of interaction that can serve as inspiration for designing connections between people, building community infrastructures and resilience in situations of climate emergency and scarcity of resources.

Veera Virmasalo: Practices of framing middle class civic ideals in Namibia. How to be a good privileged citizen in a deeply unequal society

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Veera Virmasalo, PhD student in Media and Communication Studies. 

The title of the talk is:

Practices of framing middle class civic ideals in Namibia. How to be a good privileged citizen in a deeply unequal society

It will take place on Wednesday, September 25 at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara.

This will be Veera’s 50 percent PhD seminar. Florencia Enghel, Senior Researcher in Communication for Development, K3, will function as discussant.

Below you will find an abstract for the talk. If you would like the complete text, please mail Veera (veera.virmasalo@mau.se).

This is the 50% seminar for my PhD research in Media and Communication Studies. The research is situated in Namibia, a deeply unequal southern African post-apartheid society, which has been my home for much of the time since 2007. My discussant in the seminar is Florencia Enghel, senior lecturer in Communication for Development. With her help, I will try to understand what – out of all the things described in the long abstract below – might reasonably fit in one PhD thesis and what else might have to be included. 

The research aims to add to the understanding of cross-class societal solidarity as an area of interest in the fields of media and communication studies and development communication. Solidarity across class lines within a society has for long been a largely neglected topic in media and communication studies, as in many other academic disciplines.

In particular, I am interested in how middle classes see their roles vis-à-vis socioeconomic inequalities, how communication work done by a variety of societal actors interacts with their understandings, what else influences that communication work, and how the communication work perhaps influences the middle class understandings and potentials for the kind of societal solidarity that could contribute to equitable social change.

In societies throughout the world, there exists a range of societal actors who try to speak about socioeconomic inequalities to the middle classes. They preach different civic ideals, urging the middle classes to engage in a variety of very different activities in the name of equality, solidarity, social justice, poverty reduction or charity. For example, the middle classes are encouraged to protest, vote, donate, volunteer or consume in particular ways. In the recent years, the activities towards the end of the list –  such as donating money and volunteering – have probably become more pronounced than earlier as various social projects, faced by cuts to the role of the state, now need to attract private funding and other private resources for their operations. The research is interested in the contradiction inherent in this arrangement: On the one hand, the support is sorely needed. On the other hand, the communication work that aims to attract support may enforce stereotypes and practices, which in fact obstruct the kind of societal solidarity that could contribute to equitable social change.

Theoretically, the research looks at communication work and the ‘doing of middle class societal solidarity’ by individuals as a set of social practices, which lead to particular framings of issues and solutions with classed underpinnings. In line with practice theory, the research suggests that civic ideals are fluid and constantly emerging, their framings depending on what is available in terms of material, what people consider important to do in their sociocultural context, what they know, and what they can do.

To explore how societal solidarity is understood and communicated in Namibia, I have conducted a year of practice-based research in and around a technology innovation hub project in the Namibian capital of Windhoek. My role in the tech innovation hub is to help the hub in the communication work they do to attract the local private sector and middle class individuals to support inclusive innovation – a variety of technology innovation processes, which are aimed at empowering people from marginalised backgrounds through techno-entrepreneurialism. Part of this work is formed by rather mundane communication work of organising events, writing press releases and posting on social media. Another part is a more unusual undertaking, which uses a series of co-design activities and exhibitions to try understand what the powerful think, what the relatively powerless want to say to them and how to communicate this. These workshops have resulted in an installation, which is a room built of two walls and uses augmented reality technology to communicate things that cannot be seen in the physical room itself.

Parallel with my communication practice in the tech innovation hub, I have conducted interviews and observations of other societal actors who communicate towards the same target audiences, also seeking for their support in various social issues. This work suggests that the middle class civic ideals the tech hub is appealing to are not that different from those referred to by organisations that are seemingly very different from the hub. All construct their ideals from a mix of ‘African’ and ‘foreign’ elements, in a way that in many respects resembles the appropriation of feminist ideas and politics for neoliberal purposes.

I also keep an autoethnographic journal to reflect on personal experiences that are relevant for societal solidarity in the context of communication work, and especially in the context of development communication.

Firstly, my experiences shed light on the role of outside people and ideas in development communication. Development communication often is, in a variety of ways, connected to the international development industry. Its policies and funding decisions are regularly made by people who come from settings that are very different from the settings where they are implemented. The implementers, too, are often foreigners to the local setting where they work. I am an example of such an implementer. I live and work between Nordic societies (Sweden and my native Finland, where I grew up in the heyday of the Finnish welfare state) and Namibia (and before Namibia, Zambia). Even after all these years, I cannot but look at Namibia with my Nordic glasses and with my Nordic expectations of what societal solidarity should look like. Dynamics like this are an important factor in the practice of development communication.

Secondly, my experiences shed light on different traditions within the field of development communication.  In the past twenty years, I have worked a variety of jobs that could all be described as development communication. This is the first time that I am involved in something that focuses on entrepreneurialism, private sector, and technology – all the latest buzzwords in international development policy. Does this work differ – and how – from working in contexts that have been journalistic or where the main goal has been to get the government(s), international organisations, or civil society organisations to do something or to ensure public support for their work? 

Thirdly, my experiences also shed some light – although distorted by my being outsider – on what it is like to be a middle class Namibian. In many ways, I am a Namibian middle class person in-the-making, and even more so is the Namibian–Finnish daughter I am raising. 

Roel Roscam Abbing: Social Media Platforms. Hugo Boothby: The Politics of Listening

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Roel Roscam Abbing and Hugo Boothby, new PhD students at K3, Roel Roscam Abbing in Interaction Design and Hugo Boothby in Media and Communication Studies. At the seminar, they will talk about work done before starting the PhD education and about their forthcoming theses.

The title of the talks are:

Welcome to The Federation (Roel Roscam Abbing)

Listen up! (Hugo Boothby)

They will take place on Wednesday, September 18 at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara.

Below you will find abstracts for the talks.

Welcome to The Federation (Roel Ascam Abbing)

 Abstract:

In this seminar I will introduce my previous work as an artistic researcher on the crossroads of networked computation, infrastructures, self-organization and DIY approaches. This previous work included a project Welcome To The Federation, which set the stage for my current PhD research direction at K3.

This research is particularly focused on the Fediverse, a loose network of inter-operating social media platforms that has rapidly gained momentum in the wake of ongoing privacy violations and abuses on mainstream social media. The Fediverse itself is not a new phenomenon, since alternative social media implementations have existed for almost a decade. However, the novelty of the current Fediverse is the influx of new social conceptions into the ecosystem. This seems partly to be the case because Mastodon (https://joinmastodon.org), one of the newer implementations that through a focus on design and user experience became the most popular, had an early heavy presence of contributors from various minority backgrounds. These LGBTI and PoC developers brought with them new concerns, discourses and techniques in to this part of Free/Libre and Open Source culture. Considering that many of the innovations that have made Mastodon popular have been social rather than technical in nature, the Fediverse has become a laboratory in which questions of social organization and governance can no longer be artificially decoupled from the underlying software. As a case study for reflecting on how to design resilient community infrastructures and possible alternative trajectories to the Silicon Valley model of technical development, the Fediverse presents a compelling case for engagement from the discipline of interaction design.

Listen up! (Hugo Boothby)

Abstract:

This seminar is a presentation of the PhD research project that I started in September 2019. The research is placed within Media and Communication Studies with a specialisation in Sound Studies. My thesis will address the politics of listening. The particular focus is technologies of listening and the listening experiences they afford. I seek to explore how mediated sites of listening create opportunities, but also engender limitations, for political engagement. In this presentation I hope to provide a brief overview of my field of study, and define the frame within which I propose to address a politics of listening. At present my work is primarily concerned with technologies of listening at their granular level. My present site of research being algorithmic selection within digital audio processes. My initial case study explores the affordances and materialities of the MP3 data compression format and iPod digital media player. The research method that I propose for this work is a practice-based or artistic research approach. Taking as a point of departure my sound installation/composition ‘Music for Universities’ (Boothby 2019a and 2019b). This is work that uses the transversal media tool of “eventualisation” (Gansing 2013). Eventualisation understood here as a process of appropriation and recontextualisation that works to problematise technologies of listening and the sites of mediated listening they enact. I will use the seminar to propose a theoretical framework that draws on theories of affordance (Gibson 1977), media ecology (Fuller 2005) and affect (Gilbert 2004). For this work I take my definition of politics and conceptualisations of space from the philosopher Jacques Rancière (2001; 2011).

References:

Boothby, Hugo (January 2019a) Transversal Media Practice as Tool for Radio Research.

Paper presentation at Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) Conference, University of Stirling.

Boothby, Hugo (April 2019b) Music for Universities. Paper presentation at Algorithmic Music: Value, Creativity and Artificial Intelligence, one-day symposium. King’s College, London.

Gansing, Kristoffer (2013) Transversal Media Practices: Media Archaeology, Art and Technological Development. Malmö: Malmö University. Doctoral dissertation

Gibson, James (1977) The Theory of Affordance, in R. Shaw and J. Bransford (eds). Perceiving, Acting and Knowing: Toward and Ecological Psychology, (pp. 62-82) Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Gilbert, Jeremy (2004) Signifying Nothing: ‘Culture,’ ‘Discourse’ and the Sociality of Affect. Culture Machine, Vol 6

Rancière, Jacques (2001). Ten Theses on Politics. Theory & Event 5(3), Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved September 4, 2019, from Project MUSE database.

Rancière, Jacques (2011) The Thinking of Dissensus: Politics and Aesthetics. In Bowman and Stamp (eds.) Reading Rancière. London: Continuum.

Joshka Wessels: Why we need more empathy. Syrian video activism, immersive cinematic VR and emotional intelligence.

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Joshka Wessels, Senior Lecturer in Communication for Development, K3.

The title of the talk is:

Why we need more empathy. Syrian video activism, immersive cinematic VR and emotional intelligence.

It will take place on Wednesday, September 11 at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara.

Below you will find an abstract for the talk.

In this seminar, I will analyse the relationship between experiences of war, emotions, 360-degree YouTube videos and cinematic VR. In 2014, I interviewed a range of video activists from Aleppo for my postdoctoral research project on the role of YouTube in the Syrian uprisings. In order for them to tell the world their story, the Syrian video activists used their mobile phones to the maximum and experimented with all kinds of digital audiovisual technology such as drone technology and 360-degree video cameras. The first 360-video from a war zone was filmed by Syrian video activists in Aleppo. In 2014, British filmmaker Christian Stephen of RYOT, connected with video activists from Aleppo Media Centre (AMC) inside Syria to record 360-degree video. It consisted of a rig with 6 GoPro cameras who recorded 360-degree video in realtime, which could them be experienced and watched by a user using a head mounted set, like the Oculus Rift headset. In 2015, Youtube enabled uploads of 360-degree videos and this led to the first ever 360-degree video footage from a warzone, from Aleppo, entitled ‘Welcome to Aleppo’.

Syrian filmmaker and video activist Abdallah Hakawati recorded a video clip in the district of Bustan al Qasr in Aleppo during daily bombings, which later became known as the ‘Freedom Song Girl’. In the clip, which was recorded on 16 November 2012, a young girl sings a famous revolutionary song about freedom, during a protest in Aleppo. She is repeatedly singing her hope for freedom when she is suddenly interrupted by a deadly bomb blast that erupts behind her (Al Arabiya, 2013). This video clip went viral, up to a point that Abdallah Hakawati lost total control over where the clip was being distributed. When the Freedom Song Girl YouTube video went viral, it was picked up by many different international news agencies. Eventually the clip caught the attention of Nonny de la Peña, a pioneer media artist from California. De la Peña is from the University of Southern California (USC) and has been at the forefront of the use of Virtual Reality technology in documentary and journalism. She has developed so-called Immersive Journalism, which is a form of media production that allows first person experience of the events or situations described in news reports and documentary film (de la Peña et al., 2010). de la Peña shares the concern that the overload of audiovisual information available today, desensitizes audiences who then become indifferent to the suffering of others and predicts that the role of Immersive Journalism could reinstitute the audience’s emotional involvement in current events (Ibid. p.298). The first person experience is generated by the use of a head-mounted display, which places the user in a virtual 3D environment that will give an embodied experience (Ibid. p.292).

In 2016, the premiere of the Boost Hbg, Film-i-Skåne and Malmö Stad supported cinematic VR film “Flykten från Sverige” took place at the library of the city of Malmö. The experience, which was directed by me, went on tour through Skåne and other places in Sweden and eventually won a prize for best VR in 2018 at Skåne’s Pixel filmfestival due to the emotional impact of the installation. “Flykten från Sverige” is a fiction cinematic VR installation, viewed on a VR headset and tells the story of a flight from Malmö under bombardment, from the point of view of an eight-year old child. The installation is interactive and users can experience three different scenarios of fleeing from Malmö under war. Spatial sound recording was used to enhance the feeling of presence in VR. The production team used so-called emotional mapping to design how the single-user should feel at the end of each scenario; despair, frustration and relief. The emotional impact of the piece was considerable, with users sometimes crying after both the despair or frustration scenarios.

The use of immersive cinematic VR has been coined as an ultimate medium to enhance empathy and bring more understanding for the point of view of others. Through the use Virtual Reality Perspective Taking (VRPT) (van Loon et al., 2018) the user is placed in a situation where he/she rarely or never will be and looks at the world through the eyes of someone else. van Loon (2018) claims that VRPT increases cognitive empathy for specific others. Comparing the use of 360-degree video to report from the Syrian War with the development of immersive journalism and cinematic VR for fictive interactive scenarios of refugee experiences, I am critically discussing the assumption whether VRPT is necessarily a ‘force for good’.

References:

Al Arabiya, ‘Song Sung Blue: footage of singing Syrian hit by blast goes viral’, 6 February 2013,  https://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2013/02/06/264782.html.

van Loon, A., Bailenson, J., Zaki, J., Bostick, J. and Willer, R. (2018) Virtual reality perspective-taking increases cognitive empathy for specific others. PLOS ONE 13(8): e0202442.

de la Peña, Nonny, Peggy Weil, Joan Llobera Elias Giannopoulos Ausiàs Pomés, Bernhard Spanlang, ‘Immersive Journalism: Immersive Virtual Reality for the First-Person Experience of News’,  Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 19/4 (2010), pp. 291-301. 

Michael Degerald: Heritage, archives, and state power. Digital traces of Iraq’s cultural and political history in state media and publications.

Welcome to a K3 seminar with  Michael Degerald, Visiting Researcher, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University

The title of the talk is:

Heritage, archives, and state power: Digital traces of Iraq’s cultural and political history in state media and publications.

It will take place on Wednesday, September 4 at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara.

Below you will find an abstract for the talk.

During the course of my dissertation research, I made pdf copies of dozens of Arabic magazines, books, and journals published by the Iraqi state. With the help of a grant from the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington, I constructed a digital archive to make these texts available to others to facilitate research. These sources have value for modern Iraqi history, but yet more lurks under the surface. These publications speak to a variety of topics and were part of a large scale, ‘pre-digital’ attempt to shift Iraqi and international public opinion. While they are clearly part of Iraqi cultural heritage, they can be quite racist and toxic in their rhetoric and represent the work of a government many Iraqis would understandably like to forget.

In addition to the discourses they contain, the texts themselves have stamps and markings that represent complex geographies of power traversed by the books from their publication to their various locations in collections outside of Iraq. The USA acquired many such publications for its research libraries, but Iraq also sponsored their dissemination, with many bearing stamps that say they were gifts from the Iraqi government. Digging into the US acquisitions finds some of them related to international wheat sales and book acquisitions under PL-480, shedding light on far more than seemingly obscure books. The answer of just how those books came to the USA speaks to trends shaping Middle Eastern studies, postcolonial development, and our ability to study media history and the history of the modern Middle East most broadly. What does it mean to work with texts that were manipulated by multiple states for their own ends? And where do I fit, as an outsider studying Iraq?

Maja Fagerberg Ranten: Designing for Bodies with Bodies. Designing artistic interactive systems from a phenomenological perspective.

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Maja Fagerberg Ranten, Interaction Designer and PhD student in Computer Science, Roskilde University

The title of her talk is:

Designing for Bodies with Bodies. Designing artistic interactive systems from a phenomenological perspective.

The talk will take place on Wednesday, May 29, at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara.

Below you will find an abstract for the talk, as well as a bio.

Designing for Bodies with Bodies is a bodily interaction design program that investigates the designers’ bodily interaction with materials when designing artistic interactive systems. To locate phenomenology within research through design requires new attention to the role of the designer in her processes; a focus on sensory perceptive presence, memories and the active participation of the lived body. The initial framing of the project is based on an annotated portfolio of previous interactive installations. These are all large-scale interactive installations that elicit embodied behaviour executed in social settings at events and festivals. The program will unfold through practice-based research where exploratory prototypes will be done as experiments investigating a designers framework of both physical material, computational material, and the body as material.

Maja Fagerberg Ranten is an Interaction Designer and PhD Fellow at Computer Science, Roskilde University, Denmark. She is part of the Copenhagen art and technology scene and has a big repertoire of interactive art installations from the design collaboration UNMAKE and as a member of the art collective illutron. At Roskilde University, she is a co-founder of the research collective Exocollective where the research focus is on digital material exploration in interactive design, art, and technology.

The talk will be a presentation of the PhD project framing and the work so far. It will be structured as an informal 50% seminar with the Somatics reading group: Susan Kozel, Marika Hedemyr and Sarah Homewood as unofficial respondents.

Åsa Harvard Maare and Charlotte Asbjørn Sörensen: Experiential, embodied and practice-oriented learning. Perspectives on teaching and learning at K3

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Åsa Harvard Maare, Senior Lecturer in Visual Communication, K3 and Charlotte Asbjørn Sörensen, Lecturer in Product Design, K3.

The title of their talk is:

Experiential, embodied and practice-oriented learning: perspectives on teaching and learning at K3.

The talk will take place on Wednesday, May 22, at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara.

Below you will find an abstract for the talk:

We will approach the pedagogy of K3 from our different pedagogical perspectives, with the aim to visualize the pedagogical landscapes at K3 and establish a joint language. Central concepts are practice-based research, experiential learning, peer learning, production-oriented learning, skilled learners, embodiment and collaboration.

Åsa Harvard Maare: Conceptualizing students’ contributions to the learning process (20 min presentation)

Charlotte Asbjørn Sörensen: Applying theoretical perspectives in a design process: pedagogical challenges (20 min presentation)

All: Discussion. How can we facilitate exchange between programs, teachers and students at K3? Are there research opportunities that could strengthen and develop the multi-faceted pedagogies used at K3?