Finn Arne Jørgensen Historian of technology and environment Thu, 23 Feb 2017 21:00:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 21499435 Update: Merited Teacher Sat, 02 Jul 2016 16:02:08 +0000 In April 2016, Umeå University named me a Merited Teacher – I was one out of two teachers in this category from the Faculty of Arts in this round (the other was my good colleague Jenny Eklöf). Umeå University has now had three rounds in their new pedagogical qualification system, which recognized skilled and experienced teachers in two tiers – merited and excellent teacher. Candidates submit their pedagogical portfolio for a thorough evaluation by two outside expert reviewers. In practice, it doesn’t mean all that much, even though it is nice to be recognized. We also get a small raise in salary, and the department also gets a small one-time bonus that should ideally be used for pedagogical development.

I have been invited to organize some kind of pedagogical event or initiative with the 25,000 SEK that came with the merited teacher status, and plan to do something in the late fall.

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Update: Digital Content Editor for Environmental History Fri, 27 Sep 2013 04:31:07 +0000 A short news update: I am joining the editorial team of Environmental History as Digital Content Editor. I will write more about what our plans for the digital version of the journal are (and also to ask for feedback and ideas) later, but I’m too busy finishing my tenure and promotion file right now. Instead, here’s the official announcement from Lisa Brady, the journals editor in chief:

Environmental History welcomes Finn Arne Jørgensen of Umeå University, Sweden, as Digital Content Editor. Finn Arne brings extensive experience in the digital humanities through his work on, among many other projects. In his new role Finn Arne will develop innovative projects and features to enhance the journal’s online presence. You can follow Finn Arne on Twitter (@finnarne) and at We look forward to working with him on and on expanding the journal’s digital horizons!

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New article in Contemporary European History Tue, 02 Jul 2013 04:45:39 +0000 I have a new article out in Contemporary European History – this is a theme issue on “Recycling and Reuse in the Twentieth Century” edited by Heike Weber and Ruth Oldenziel. My article has the rather long title “Green Citizenship at the Recycling Junction: Consumers and Infrastructures for the Recycling of Packaging in Twentieth-Century Norway.”

Here’s the abstract in English, French, and German!

This article investigates the making of the Norwegian recycling consumer-citizen by discussing recycling as both a cultural activity – an expression of environmentalist sentiment, an everyday habit and a social expectation – and a technological infrastructure consisting of disposal stations, legal frameworks, transportation systems and the recycling technologies themselves. Using a concept of ‘recycling junctions’ as a means of understanding historical recycling processes, the article focuses on beverage packaging to argue that effective recycling in the modern green state depends on a combination of technologically mediated convenience and green consumer-citizenship, involving a wide range of actors.

Citoyenneté verte et ‘jonction de recyclage’: Consommateurs et infrastructures de recyclage des emballages en Norvège au 20e siècle
Cet article étudie la genèse du citoyen-consommateur recycleur norvégien en abordant le recyclage en tant qu’activité culturelle – expression d’un sentiment environnementaliste, habitude quotidienne et attente sociale – et en tant qu’infrastructure technologique, constituée de stations de traitement, de cadres juridiques, de systèmes de transport et enfin des technologies de recyclage. À l’aide du concept de ‘jonctions de recyclage’ pour comprendre les processus historiques de recyclage, cet article s’intéresse particulièrement aux emballages de boissons pour arguer que dans un État vert moderne, un recyclage efficace doit allier une practicalité soutenue par la technologique et une citoyenneté de consommation verte, faisant appel à des acteurs très divers.

Umweltbewusstsein an der Recycling-Schnittstelle: Norwegische Verbraucher und Recycling-Infrastrukturen für Verpackungen im 20. Jahrhundert
Der vorliegende Beitrag untersucht die Entwicklung des Umweltbewusstseins und der Praxis des Recyclings bei norwegischen Verbrauchern. Er beleuchtet Recycling sowohl als kulturelle Aktivität – d.h. als Ausdruck eines wachsenden Umweltbewusstseins, als tägliche Gewohnheit und soziale Erwartung – und als technologische Infrastruktur aus Entsorgungsstationen, rechtlichen Rahmenbedingungen, Transportsystemen und den eigentlichen Wiederverwertungstechnologien. Der Autor verwendet das Konzept von ‘Recycling-Schnittstellen’ als Mittel zum Verständnis historischer Wiederverwertungsprozesse. Am Beispiel von Getränkeverpackungen argumentiert er, dass wirksames Recycling im modernen umweltbewussten Staat von einer Kombination aus technologisch ermöglichter Verbraucherfreundlichkeit und Umweltbewusstsein der Bevölkerung abhängig ist und eine Vielzahl von Akteuren involviert.


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New book – New Natures Sun, 23 Jun 2013 08:00:50 +0000 I have a new book out, edited together with Dolly Jørgensen (Umeå University) and Sara B. Pritchard (Cornell University) –  New Natures: Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies, published with University of Pittsburgh PressNew Natures broadens the dialogue between the disciplines of science and technology studies (STS) and environmental history in hopes of deepening and even transforming understandings of human-nature interactions. The volume presents historical studies that engage with key STS theories, offering models for how these theories can help crystallize central lessons from empirical histories, facilitate comparative analysis, and provide a language for complicated historical phenomena. Overall, the collection exemplifies the fruitfulness of cross-disciplinary thinking.

new natures cover

Table of contents


Sara B. Pritchard – “Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies: Promises, Challenges, and Contributions”

Part I. Ways of Knowing
Anya Zilberstein – “The Natural History of Early Northeastern America: An Inexact Science”

Frank Uekotter – “Farming and Not Knowing: Agnotology Meets Environmental History”

Dolly Jørgensen – “Environmentalists on Both Sides: Enactments in the California Rigs-to-Reefs Debate”

Finn Arne Jørgensen – “The Backbone of Everyday Environmentalism: Cultural Scripting and Technological Systems”

Part II. Constructions of Environmental Expertise
Kevin C. Armitage – “The Soil Doctor: Hugh Hammond Bennett, Soil Conservation, and the Search for a Democratic Science”

Michael Egan – “Communicating Knowledge: The Swedish Mercury Group and Vernacular Science, 1965–1972”

Eunice Blavascunas – “Signals in the Forest: Cultural Boundaries of Science in Białowieża, Poland”

Part III. Networks, mobilities, and Boundaries
Tiago Saraiva – “The Production and Circulation of Standardized Karakul Sheep and Frontier Settlement in the Empires of Hitler, Mussolini, and Salazar”

Thomas D. Finger – “Trading Spaces: Transferring Energy and Organizing Power in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Grain Trade”

Stephen Bocking – “Situated yet Mobile: Examining the Environmental History of Arctic Ecological Science”

David Tomblin – “White Mountain Apache Boundary-Work as an Instrument of Ecopolitical Liberation and Landscape Change”

Valerie A. Olson – “NEOecology: The Solar System’s Emerging Environmental History and Politics”

Sverker Sörlin – “Epilogue: Preservation in the Age of Entanglement: STS and the History of Future Urban Nature”

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New publication: Entangled Environments Tue, 26 Mar 2013 19:09:08 +0000 I’m pleased to announce the publication of a new article called “Entangled Environments: Historians and Nature in the Nordic Countries.” The text was co-authored by Finn Arne Jørgensen, Unnur Birna Karlsdóttir, Erland Mårald, Bo Poulsen, and Tuomas Räsänen, and was published in Historisk Tidsskrift (Norway) no 1, 2013.

If you have access to the journal, you can download the article directly from Historisk Tidsskrift.

If you don’t have access, you can instead read the Nordic Environmental History Network parallel published version here.

This article is one of the deliverables of the NEHN network, which was generously funded by Nordforsk, 2009-2012. The other major result of this network is an edited volume, Northscapes: History, Technology, and the Making of Northern Environments, edited by Dolly Jørgensen and Sverker Sörlin, which will be published by University of British Columbia Press later this year.

This article discusses recent developments in Nordic environmental history scholarship in light of the concept of the Anthropocene. Taking concepts of nature and culture as entangled with each other, the article explores questions of definition, disciplinary knowledge and the need for interdisciplinarity, and the problem of national, spatial, and temporal boundaries in environmental history. Both natural spaces and the scientific knowledge we have about nature need to be historicized. The article concludes with a look to the future of Nordic environmental history.

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Umeå University Research Blogger Mon, 25 Mar 2013 15:27:12 +0000 Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 16.25.58

I am blogging at Umeå University’s official Researcher Blog this and next week. The university has been running this blog as an experiment the last half year, and will evaluate the experiment soon. Every other week, a new blogger takes over, rotating between the four Faculties at the university. Most of the bloggers have posted three times a week, giving readers a glimpse into their everyday work and the fields they work within.

I have decided to focus on exploring the idea of the Anthropocene in my posts, seen mostly from the perspective of the environmental humanities. Here are links to my post (will be updated):

25.03.13: The Anthropocene by candlelight.
27.03.13: “Try this, it’s natural”: On eating in the Anthropocene.
31.03.13: The new natures of the Anthropocene.
03.04.13: The digital natures of the Anthropocene.
05.04.13: Neanderthal nostalgia.

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A new The Atlantic piece! Fri, 01 Mar 2013 13:22:25 +0000 Atlantic

I wrote another article for The Atlantic this week, on the historical background of the New York bottle deposit, and of course based on my book. I used the Academy Award nominated documentary short Redemption as my starting point here – see the trailer below. It didn’t take long to get the article published this time – I discovered the documentary on Saturday, wrote up the text in the mornings in San Francisco and at Stanford (while still sick), and sent it in.



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Suddenly, reviews! Mon, 25 Feb 2013 21:57:17 +0000 My book, Making a Green Machine: The Infrastructure of Beverage Container Recycling, came out in June 2011. Upon publication, Rutgers University Press, sent out review copies to all the main academic journals in history of technology, business, and environment. It took more than a year and a half before anything more happened – after all, academic publication moves at glacial speed, and so do reviews. But suddenly, a whole lot of book reviews showed up.

In Environmental History, J. F. M. Clark from University of St. Andrews called my book “an engaging business history”, but argues that I do not engage with the history of environmentalism and make no effort to “assess the broader environmental economics behind glass, aluminum, and plastic.”

In Technology and Culture, Stephen Sambrook at the Centre for Business History at the University of Glasgow characterized my book as a “blending of technological and cultural history with a leavening of business history, … providing insight into the complex relationships between the evolution of national environmental policies and the nexus of business interests, technological development, and everyday environmentalism.”

Most interesting, however, were the four reviews in the H-Environment Roundtable organized by Jake Hamblin. Tim Cooper, Peter Thorsheim, Heike Weber, Carl Zimring provided respectively one scathingly negative and three generally positive reviews. The roundtable format allowed me to write a response to the reviews, which is what generally makes the roundtables so interesting to read. If you want to find out why the one review was so negative, you should read the review – and my response! I can highly recommend not just the review of my book, but also all the other ones (there’s thirteen so far).


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A tour of UCLA’s digital humanities spaces Wed, 20 Feb 2013 12:24:31 +0000 The UCLA Campus has a surprising amount of large trees

The UCLA Campus has a surprising amount of large trees

I’m visiting UCLA this week, meeting with people and discussing projects as part of my global digital environmental humanities tour (which started at University of Virginia in September last year). I arrived late Sunday night after 21 hours of traveling and was very happy to crawl into bed at the UCLA Guest House Hotel, on the north-east side of campus. It turns out that the university was closed on Monday since it was President’s Day, a holiday I had never heard about before. This made for a great opportunity to do some sightseeing (after waking up at 3am and spending some hours finishing and submitting a revised article). I took the bus through Beverly Hills and down to the Miracle Mile district to visit the fantastic Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the La Brea Tar Pits. The museum had a great special exhibit on Stanley Kubrick that was well worth the trip. The tar pits were also fascinating, and the adjoining Page Museum is small, but good. After a short nap I headed over to Ursula Heise and Jon Christensen‘s house in Venice for dinner with some of their colleagues. Wonderful people and nice conversation, though I had reached a jetlag-induced zombie-like state and wasn’t exactly talkative…

Spaceship from 2001 at the LACMA Stanley Kubrick exhibit

Spaceship from 2001 at the LACMA Stanley Kubrick exhibit

La Brea Tar Pits. I love the smell of tar!

La Brea Tar Pits. I love the smell of tar!

On Tuesday I got the chance to explore campus some more. I had lunch in the Faculty Club, with Todd Presner, Annelie Rugg, Willeke Wendrich, and Dave Shepard, who are all affiliated with the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities. Annelie was nice enough to gave me a tour of all the different digital humanities-related spaces and labs on campus, including the Library Research Commons, the Laboratory for Digital Cultural Heritage, the UCLA Game Lab, the newly redone Visualization Portal (which doesn’t really have a current webpage), the Sandbox, and the new CDH Learning Lab. I find it fascinating to see the many different versions and interpretations of technology-enabled labs and spaces, especially in light of the recent discussions at Umeå University about what the planned interactive learning environments in the Humanities building can and should be.

UCLA Library Research Commons

UCLA Library Research Commons

UCLA Laboratory for Digital Cultural Heritage

UCLA Laboratory for Digital Cultural Heritage

UCLA Game Lab - a very nice studio space

UCLA Game Lab – a very nice studio space

I still have more meetings and events this week before heading up to San Francisco for the weekend and then to Palo Alto and Stanford University all next week. Expect more posts!

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Assignments and activities in online courses? Thu, 22 Nov 2012 10:29:09 +0000 I’m working on another syllabus at the moment, this time for an introductory course on the history of technology for undergraduate students. I’m not so concerned about the course literature this time, but since the course will be taught online, I’m wondering what experiences people have with designing such courses centered on student activities and active learning processes. I know that I do not want to simply record lectures and put them online. I plan to do short (10-minute) video introductions to each week’s theme The course will have about 30 students and will run over 9 weeks at “half speed” (it will be half the total course load for the students for these weeks). By default we have access to the university’s customized Sakai LMS installation – it’s quite minimalistic, and I’m not particularly impressed by it. I can ask for my own Moodle installation, which I’m tempted to try out, but the university does not offer support here, so I’d have to do all that myself.

The big challenge, as I see it, will be to design a set of activities that:

a) require and encourage the students to explore and learn the course literature
b) foster collaboration, interaction, and creativity in ways that I as instructor can observe and evaluate on an individual level
c) make sense to the students.

I would also like the activities to feel integrated – in other words, I do not want to randomly jump from one type of assignments to another without any idea of how they fit together. My current plan is to have the students work in groups to create a website based on a combination of a tiny bit of primary research (online sources) and secondary literature discussions. I’d need to break this down into smaller assignments, of course, but the goal would be for all the assignments to support this final project, as well as integrate the project with the course literature.

So – what are good examples of activities and assignments that works in an online course setting?

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