Category Archives: Netherlands


I am way behind on posting because in late summer I started a new job and moved myself and the family to a new city.  The job is interesting, challenging, and pays well, but it is 9-5ish and I am busy the whole time. Not much time for blogging.

But, now I have more incentive to resume because I’ve been accepted to a conference for next March and need to get my paper written by mid January.  🙂  And I’ve just seen a call for an online conference at which I could make a presentation on the same topic, only multimedia instead of just text.  So, yay.  🙂

The conference is Practicing Theory: Imagining, Resisting, Remembering; the annual conference of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA).

I submitted the following abstract:

Finding Balance Through Doubled Resistance: Piloting a Collaborative Ethnograpic Approach to Game Studies in the Clan Lord MMO

The tension between theory and practice is long-standing, but in recent years it has been brought into sharper relief by the work of scholars such as Henry Jenkins, who argue for study of popular culture from stance of engagement rather than distance. Jenkins resists the dismissive stance toward popular culture and fan communities that long held sway in academia and coined the term “aca-fan” to describe one working from such a position.  He has further argued for the recognition that fans themselves bring a critical eye to pop cultural texts that deserves recognition as having some scholarly value.

Jenkins has recently called for the development of “another set of critical practices which reflected different emotional and social relations to popular culture” than those of the scholar looking from a distance or an aca-fan looking only from inside. This brings us back to the question of resistance.  A scholar who is also a fan may try to study the cultural product of which she is a fan, resisting on the one hand theorizing from a distance, and on the other a perhaps over-enthusiastic engagement. Is an uneasy balance between the two the best we can hope for?  Or can these stances be in some way integrated into a more productive whole?

This case-study aims for just such a synthesis, using the community around a smaller Multi-Massive Online Game (MMO) in which the author participates to pilot a collaborative ethnographic approach.  While the author takes a traditional ethnographic approach, members of the MMO’s community are invited to add their voices, as are game theorists who stand entirely outside the MMO. The resulting poly-vocal work offers a possible model from which to develop a more balanced and integrated approach to pop cultural products and fan communities.

The MMO in question is Clan Lord, and so now I need to figure out the best way of inviting involvement of other players, GMs, etc.

Nancy Mauro-Flude Youthful Veteran of Dutch New Media

Nancy Mauro-Flude
Originally uploaded by cuuixsilver

As mentioned earlier, I spoke with Nancy and Audrey together and this is Nancy’s half of that conversation, plus info from a few, brief, subsequent chats.

I had been thinking of Nancy as part of the new generation in the Dutch new media art scene, but in fact she’s been involved for 15 years though she only finished her MA at Piet Zwart in Spring 2007. Now on the one hand, maybe I am just ignorant, but also wonder why have I not heard of her before? I’m tempted to think this supports my contention that’s women’s participation is just not being documented. But in fact the scene is not very well documented overall. I will need to look at many examples before I can say for sure that one group of participants has been differently reported than another.

Anyway, Nancy has been on the scene for quite some time but in this conversation we mostly talked about the Genderchangers and differences between that environment and her experiences learning about tech in other venues. Nancy didn’t seem to feel she had encountered as much impatience over her lack of tech experience in academic programs, but she took it for granted that she’d had to prove herself to “the boys” in other tech groups, or just generally techie guys.

I find very surprising how little attention she seems to have garnered, because she has been doing interesting, technically ambitious work for quite some time, yet doesn’t seem to get what I would consider the attention she deserves. Particularly interesting to me are the projects that combine a performance, which is ephemeral, with creation of an artistic tool which may have many future uses. For example, one of her most recent projects is Bag Lady. Follow this link to a description/review by Mirko Schaefer.

I need to talk more with Nancy, and get the story of those 15 years.

Bath Toy for Worm

Bath Toy for Worm
Originally uploaded by cuuixsilver

Interrupting my conference coverage to try catching up some of the other stuff I’ve been doing. This piece of art by Florentijn Hofman is out in front of Worm (about which I’ve written quite a lot already). I love the duck, but also I was interested to hear from Hajo that because Worm had some connection to the artist, they were able to have the piece anchored there for a few weeks at a much lower cost than was usually charged.

There are so many ways that social networks impact these scenes!

Back in the Netherlands

So now I am again visiting the Netherlands for the research and talks I mentioned earlier. I have been at the University of Twente visiting the Information Systems and Change Management (IS & CM) department, which is where I gave my talk, yesterday. It is quite interesting because when Elfi invited me I at first wasn’t sure how my research on Facebook would be relevant to the work she and her colleagues are doing, but actually, there is a surprising amount of overlap in the questions we are investigating. So the talk went well and also helped me to further refine my thinking about how participation in Facebook is affecting professional, in this case specifically scholarly communities.

A couple of points on that:

  • Communication on Facebook leads to a greater feeling of co-presence (basically the feeling of being with someone) and it assuges the discomfort of asence (the feeling that we exist only in the process of communication, so we are always flickering in and out of existance). So, when academics get to know each other via Facebook, they may connect more quickly and more solidly–though this of course depends on how they use it, which leads to the next point.
  • This increased connection seems linked to a more playful use of Facebook in which people allow the border between the personal/casual and the professional/formal to blur. Of course that makes sense; if we think someone is being more casual and personal, we feel we are seeing a more authentic self, that we know them better. In fact, slightly inappropriate behavior adds to this because we assume it is less calculated. I mean, who would behave in a way that was professionally inappropriate on purpose? (Of course this could be equally calculated, but I think most people don’t imagine others treat every online action as if it were a move in a game of chess).
  • But even if someone is not deliberately offering an image that is somehow distorted, distortion is inevitable because no one can put every detail that might be observed by somone physically proximal into a facebook page (or into a blog, or homepage, or what have you). So people always must choose what to include.
  • Possibly Facebook feel more authentic though (and maybe it actually is) because when someone is addressing several different audiences–close friends, family, colleagues, other communities to which she belongs, she cannot address all of them at once. So some actions or posts or status updates are aimed more at one group or another, but everyone may see them. So it may be that Facebook does offer a more rounded or more integrated picture. But as privacy controls improve and as more people use them to filter the content the present to each group, this complete picture maybe be fragmented–hard to predict.

So those are some of the ideas I am thinking about, and now the question is how to gather data on them, since most facebook profiles are closed to non-friends, but I can hardly make any claims based only on what I see my own friends doing.

So, back to the visit; I had two very nice dinners, first at De Kater, where I had some amazing salmon stuffed with shrimp, and the next night at Sam Sam, where I had duck breast that was quite good too. While at Sam Sam I also tried a drink that combined beer and Sprite, and that was a little weird, but ok.

Silly to mention the food in the middle, but it was very good…. Anyway, I met a lot of nice people in the IS & CM department who are all working on interesting stuff. I won’t put all the individual links in with the names; they can be found through the department page linked above. But I enjoyed speaking at length with Bjorn Kijl, Michel Ehrenhard, Romana Aziz, Roland Muller, and of course Elfi. Also I had a very interesting talk with the head of the department, Jos van Hillegersberg, and I spoke a lot with Celeste Wilderom who was also hosting me at her house. Everyone has statements about their research on their homepages, though I’m not sure it’s all up to date, but anyway, some of them are looking at social networks in ways that relate to my work with Facebook, and some lokk at organizational change and communication, among other things. That actually has some connections to my other project on the institutionalization of new media in the Netherlands. I am looking at new media groups rather than business, but many of the issues are similar, particularly because now ICTs have such a strong effect on everything.

Staying with Celeste was a treat–she has a very nice house! But also, it was my first time to stay in in a family house and so I went with her to drop off her daughters at school and got to see a bit of Dutch family life. This post has grown quite long now, so I will end it here. I about an hour I go to the train station to make my journey back to Rotterdam. Hopefully when I return I can get my stupid chipcard sorted out (I managed to foul it up again) and I will have a chance to upload some pictures. –So the posts here will get a bit out of sequence as I back up to add those.

Talk at University of Twente

Now it’s official; I will give a talk at University of Twente on June 25th. Here’s the blurb:

A preliminary report on how scholars perceive their social network/audience on Facebook, and what effect the risk of and real border-crossing or transgressive behavior has for them personally and professionally with their colleagues. –So in other words shifting the focus the what students are doing or how they perceive us to what we scholars are doing and how we perceive each other. I make a rhetorical analysis of gestures that are exchanged between users, and in particular discuss how these gestures may help create a feeling of presence.

My own experience suggests that while perhaps there is some risk to the behavior encouraged by Facebook, there is also considerable personal and professional benefit to engaging in the prescribed playful actions of Facebook applications. They seem to encourage connections that are emotionally more intimate and stronger, which offers both personal and professional advantages. People with whom we have multi-valent relationships online may also become people with whom we might collaborate on research, or organize conference panels, or at least go to for advice when visiting their home countries/cities.

Thus I ultimately argue that along with the playful air pervading Facebook, there can also be a feeling of risk, and that users sharing experiences that give rise to this tension actually strengthen their social and professional bonds. In academic circles there aren’t many venues where play and risk are valued or even possible, which may explain why Facebook has been so attractive to many of us who by rights (as trained critical thinkers) ought to be the most resistant to its charms.

So basically people get a sneak preview of the talk I will give the following week in Germany at IFIP WG 9.5 and preliminary thoughts on the paper I’m preparing for IR 9.0

Fun with NEH online submission forms

Submission is the right word for it, that’s for sure! You must fill in these pdfs exactly the right way, with attachments in exactly the right order, without going over the unspecified-but-definitely-there character count in the text boxes, you must get lucky while uploading to, and of course you must save everything every 2 minutes because Adobe will crash over and over and lose the unsaved form contents.

But in the end I got it in…would you believe the total time estimate for preparing the application was 15 hours? Who are they kidding.

Anyway, this is most of the narrative:

Institutionalization of New Media: Analysis of the Dutch Context

Research and Contribution

With the introduction of the Internet and WWW in the 1990s, scholars, artists and activists began a critical engagement with technology. These early adopters were a loose collection of individuals that came out of more traditional fields including philosophy, literature, film studies, sociology, computer science. Some also came from outside of the academy; journalists, politicians, artists, activists and business people and have participated in the evolving discourse community as well. This diverse group was united by their shared observation of and concern with the effects of technology on their respective fields and their work has shaped the field we now know as new media. Now what began as a very open area of study is becoming institutionalized; a canon of critical theory is being established, and gate-keeping mechanisms are beginning to appear, along with the other apparatus typical of an academic discipline such as journals, conferences, degree programs and so on. Increasingly, questions are being raised about this institutionalization process and how it will affect our understanding of new media and its impact on our culture (Lovink, Rossiter, Zielinski).

While early scholarship on new media came from the aforementioned traditional disciplines, recently institutionalization has been driven by former members of the early adopter networks entering academia. This is to say that rather than only following a traditional scholarly route through the academy before becoming professors themselves, many people who first work and create with new media are now entering the academy, with or without formal credentials, and are shaping the discourse about the cultural effects of new media. What began as almost a folk practice now has been recognized by the academy. The line between creator and scholar/critic has been in some ways blurred and in others sharpened, but the process of these changes remains unexamined.

Through this project I expect to answer the following questions: 1) What is the relation between institutionalization and the people, physical things, and symbols in the networks that gave rise to new media? 2) How are institutions constructed that critically reflect on emerging technologies? 3) How are the social networks of participants reflected in and shaping institutional networks? 4) How is the fluid knowledge shared between participants becoming crystallized, being canonized, such that some groups are included or excluded? 5) And finally, what do we gain and lose in knowledge production through this process? I propose exploring the human archive embodied in the actor-network of individuals and groups currently working on new media.

The Netherlands is the best starting point as it is where some of the first university programs in new media began, and thanks to early and extensive government funding, a wide array of other cultural institutions have developed simultaneously. The Dutch context was originally characterized by heterogonous networks of people, things and symbols that were ad hoc and informal, but now all of these disparate elements contribute to the establishment of formal knowledge, specialization, and the construction of a canon. These activities are a clear sign of institutionalization, which also inevitably involves the development of gate-keeping processes. However, while institutionalization is taking place, the Dutch cooperative polder model still shapes socio-economic relations and allows for the continued emergence of new voices and new groups. Thus the whole spectrum of development is available for study.

Preliminary insight into the institutionalization of new media have been studied in isolation by pioneers such as Geert Lovink (Dark Fiber, Zero Comments), but no comprehensive studies have yet appeared. I intend a rhetorical analysis of the cultural discourse on new media in Europe which I will approach as a dispositif. While Foucault applied this concept to historical archives, I will engage with current participants through interviews and observations.
Methods and Work Plan

I am requesting support to complete the necessary observations and interviews which I aim to carry out during 2009-2010, making visits each year during the summer and winter. During a sabbatical I expect to begin in 2011, I will complete the compilation, authoring a book and website.

Methods and Work Plan

For this study I have already begun observing a variety of groups and interviewing their staff, including:

De Waag Society for Old and New Media
V2_Institute for the Unstable Media
Worm Rotterdam
De Geuzen Foundation for Multi-visual Research
The Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/Time Based Arts

Further visits to these institutions have been arranged for the award period, along with observations I have arranged at other cultural institutions and at numerous Dutch MA and PhD programs in New Media. Based on a survey of which programs have been actively publishing, seeking PhD candidates, participating in and holding conferences, I have established a list of schools hosting well-regarded programs studying and educating about new media, including:

Delft University of Technology Eindhoven University of Technology
Leiden University Piet Zwart Institute Radboud University Nijmegen
University of Amsterdam University of Maastricht
University of Twente University of Utrecht

This project will combine analysis of institutional documents with interviews and observations. At cultural institutions I will interview curators, project managers, directors and when possible artists/authors. At academic institutions I will interview faculty, administrators, and students. In particular, I will examine the basic degree structures, course content, reading lists, and assignments. When possible, sample student work will be studied as well. These interviews and observations will reveal informants’ history in the field and the interconnections between various factors such as experience, age, gender, ethnicity, location, education and so forth. At both cultural and academic institutions, I will observe events organized around new media which often reveal places where institutional and social networks are parallel and where they are unaligned.

That is all–at least all the plugged in activities. Except finishing a Sequential Tart interview with Paweł and the teaching assignments for next Fall and Spring. And just about finishing an article. I have one more to write by the end of June!

MLA is a go

So I will be speaking at MLA. I’m not even sure what to think of that; I’m so used to thinking of the MLA convention as just a necessary evil for job-seekers and search committees, it seems weird to think of it as an actual academic meeting. But I’m really looking forward to it, –it’s not till late next December, so it’s silly to even think too much about it now since I have two other conferences and three papers to prepare between now and then. Here’s the abstract and as usual, thanks to the usual suspects for feedback and editing help.

And what I really have to figure out are my travel plans for the summer; flights are horribly expensive. The dollar’s turning almost into play-money doesn’t help either, but if it’s still in the tank by late June I’ll just have to sponge of my friends in the Netherlands. –If any of you are reading, start saving up now to feed the starving American. 😉

Research news, conferences, etc.

So let’s see; I just got accepted to IFIP WG 9.5 International Working Conference on Virtuality and Society: Massive Virtual Communities, which is the 1st and 2nd of July, 2008 at Leuphana University Lueneburg, Germany. I’m glad of that; I hear the group and the people involved are well regarded and there is a book planned, so that may guarantee me another chapter by the time my tenure review rolls around. I guess the nearest big city is Hamburg–I’ve never been anywhere in Germany yet, so actually anywhere will be interesting! I think it’s within reach, by train, of Rotterdam, so I can fit it into my other research pretty easily.

This summer I plan to interview Florian, Mirko, Brenno; some museum folk, and see if I can volunteer at Worm, make a site visit to U. Utrecht, U. Twente, and follow up on the email interviews I’m conducting already. –Of course I talk about new media and tech stuff with Florian, Mirko and Brenno anyway, but I need to do formal interviews to make sure that I get some comparable answers among all of them. Oh yeah, I also want to talk to the women at Gender Changers.

And, if my panel proposals get since at least one panel proposal has been accepted to IR 9.0, I need to work on that some. And there’s the SFRA Europe plan…..oy veh. Overbooked again.

Research Update

Let’s see…first the bad news: didn’t get the Franklin Grant. It’s really competitive and I know I did the best proposal I could, so while I wish I’d gotten it, I don’t feel so bad. I talked with some colleagues and the consensus seems to be that getting grants is really almost impossible until after you’ve published a book. I wonder if that’s really true.

Of course the grant was intended to support a book project, so now the question is how to publish a book faster without having to to travel as much. I actually have good ideas about that. One is that I am already collecting a lot of great interviews via email with some of the women I’ve met in the Netherlands, and I’m getting so much that I think I could do a book just about their experiences, which would be cool. The other, easiest (I hope) approach is an edited volume. I’m proposing two panels for the next meeting of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR), which is Internet Research 9.0: Rethinking Community, Rethinking Place. That conference will be held in Copenhagen next fall. So I already have 6 proposals that look really strong and I know of at least a few other people who might be interested in submitting papers/chapters. So I hope I can interest a publisher in that idea in the next few months.

If I can get one of these accepted, I could get one or both finished by next August and then have a much better shot at grants. Plus, I could then come up for promotion to full professor early. Maybe in just 3 or 4 years, instead of the usual five. And of course I’d still be working on my original book idea, which I could probably complete in about 2-3 years, depending on when I can get time and funding for the longer trips to the NL.

Pimping Sequential Tart

Over at Sequential Tart, for which I write monthly articles, I’ve got a piece up on my trip to the Netherlands. It’s the first of three and is focused on more touristic aspects of my visit, which I haven’t really mentioned here. So if you have been wishing to read more about that, read my Tarticle.