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Launching Ant, Spider, Bee

Together with two colleagues at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, I have started a website dedicated to exploring the digital environmental humanities, Ant, Spider, Bee.

Here is our text welcoming new readers to the website:

Welcome to this new website dedicated to exploring the digital environmental humanities! Digital access to sources, new research techniques, innovative approaches to spatial, temporal and textual analyses, and digital publishing formats are changing the way the humanities are practiced. We believe that the environmental humanities stand to benefit greatly from these new ways of connecting contemporary issues and historical analyses, researchers and the public, potentially increasing the visibility of research and enhancing its impact.

With this blog, we aim to create a discussion platform about how digital technologies may enhance research, teaching, and outreach in the environmental humanities while maintaining (or working to transform) academic standards and expectations. Further questions we want to answer in the long-term include: How can digital projects represent environmental stories and engage broader publics in their interpretation? How can digital tools and projects strengthen collaborative networks among not only practitioners of the environmental humanities, but also involving public and private institutions such as libraries, broadcasters, publishers, and the media? What structural, methodological, and representational challenges and opportunities do digital tools and projects present?

At the same time our aim is to create a space for outreach, in which innovative uses of digital tools and practices in the environmental humanities may be showcased and discussed, as to inform practitioners in the humanities at large about new ways to narrate and possibly inspire a constant flow and reuse of ideas and best practices, within and between disciplines. Among the kind of content we plan to feature there are profiles of relevant projects and tools, guest comments on particular issues, curated lists of resources in the field, and overviews of general trends in the digital environmental humanities.

We have chosen to do a soft launch of the website during ASEH 2012 in Madison, Wisconsin, where there will actually be several panels dedicated to digital environmental history. As you can see, we don’t have too many posts yet, but this will change. Our goal is to have a new commissioned article posted every two weeks, plus more frequent updates from “The Spider”, which posts links to interesting texts, tools, websites, and discussions elsewhere on the web. This will of course be difficult without contributions from all the people doing interesting work out there, so please get in touch with us if you want to participate in this ongoing discussion on digital environmental humanities!

A few words about the website’s name, “Ant, Spider, Bee” – we were inspired by Francis Bacon’s words that “the men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own.” The Ant, the Spider, and the Bee represent different ways of engaging in the production of knowledge, and we believe that there’s need for all modes in the exploration of what the digital environmental humanities can do for us.

Finally, we encourage all our readers to follow @antspiderbee on Twitter and to subscribe to our Facebook page.

On cabin porn

I published an article on cabin porn and the Norwegian leisure cabin in The Atlantic! Using the Cabin Porn website as a springboard, I discussed where the dream of a simple life in nature came from, how it has frequently become channeled through cabins, and what has happened in those places where this dream has come true – such as in Norway.

Read the full article at http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/03/what-it-means-that-urban-hipsters-like-staring-at-pictures-of-cabins/254495/.

Modernizing Rural Landscapes in Pori and Reposaari, Finland

I was invited to teach at a PhD workshop on “Modernization of Rural Landscapes” and to give a keynote at a public seminar titled “Maaseutumaisema modernisaation kourissa” in Pori, Finland in December. The workshop took place in a small research station on the island of Reposaari just outside of Pori. Pori seems to me like the Detroit of Finland, a heavily industrialized place that was hit hard by the recession that hit Finland in the 1990s. This was also visible in the island of Reposaari, where many workers used to live. Some still lived here, but the average age was getting rather high. Some new leisure cabins had been built, but the island was pretty dead in the winter (see the pictures below).

My keynote was titled “The Norwegian Leisure Cabin and the Infrastructure of Nature,” discussing how Norwegian nature was discovered and make accessible through the development of particular kinds of leisure infrastructure.

Map of the region


Leisure cabins and shipyards

Not a whole lot of traffic

Critically Making the Internet of Things

I was one of the speakers at the Critically Making the Internet of Things conference in HUMlab in December 2011. Just like at the Media Places conference in 2010, Patrik Svensson had succeeded in putting together a wonderful group of people, “researchers, entrepreneurs, artists and others to examine critically and engage creatively the idea of a world where everything is assumed to be connected, where objects such as cars and roads communicate and where the digital has moved outside of the computer.”

Patrik Svensson talking to Matt Ratto over Skype

Bruce Sterling was certainly the most famous of the participants.

Annotated Landscapes – my own talk

I moderated a session over at the new art campus