settling in Umeå/ at the HUMlab

Astrid Mager is rebooting her life: new office, new flat, new fb friends.. That’s my facebook status right now. And it feels like this indeed. Provided with a lot of useful things a postdoc fellow needs in northern Sweden..

..I took the flight to Umeå, the town I’ll be living for the next year. Settling in here is comparatively easy as my HUMlab colleagues and the other postdocs are really really helpful (see also Jenna’s wonderful blog “Surviving Your First Two Weeks As A HUMlab Postdoc”). The most important thing to get here is the person number. Without a person number you won’t get internet access at your apartment, a bank account and your salary consequently. So without a person number you’re quasi non-existent.. with a person number, however, you’re treated like a Swede, which sounds fine to me. Although I’m not capable of speaking any Swedish apart from hej, hejda and tack så mycket (hope I pronounced it right!). The second important thing to get here is a bike, which I luckily got today. Living in Ålidhem, like everyone else related to the University, it just takes me like 5 min. to get to my office. Not bad, ha?

Speaking of my office, the facilities are great! HUMlab appears to be a very high tech, digital place with huuge computer screens. Coming from the University of Vienna, the equipment is simply impressive. I’m not sure whether I’ve seen such a big touch screen ever in my life. Apart from looking good, however, there’s a reason for these big screens. Quite some people are interested in virtual worlds, second life and the like here. They don’t only explore and analyze these virtual spaces, but also design and program stuff, which i find pretty cool actually. For more infos got to the very informative and up-to-date HUMlab blog. They’ve also introduced a HUMlab artist-in-residency programme in second life.

I’ve to check that out – it’s time to get a second life log in after all. So the lab seems to be a good place to study new media, digital technologies and socio-cultural implications – but it has traditional roots as well 😉

Altogether the lab has a really good atmosphere and its scholars are a colourful combination of people working at the intersection of digital media, art, aesthetics and literature. Well, it’s part of the humanities faculty. Surprisingly there’s also some kind of Science and Technology Studies (STS) department here. This is really nice as HUMlab postdocs are supposed to have a second affiliation with a University department. They’re working on environmental and sustainability issues as it seems. I may take a controversy from this thematic field as a case study for my search engine research project. To see how an issue such as global warming is negotiated in search engine results, as compared to other web spheres such as link networks or the blog sphere. I think that may be a neat project to do.. especially in a place like Umeå, where the winter is supposed to be dark and cold 😉 Well, I’ll figure that out as soon as I’ve settled research-wise. For now it’s good to know that my work at the intersection of search engine research, information visualization and STS is fitting in. So, I’m sure I’ll have an exciting upcoming year and learn a lot. Apart from my search engine research I may well be able to tie in with some second life project here, together with Michael maybe.. let’s see.

So altogether I think I gonna like working at the HUMlab and living in Sweden :) Next time I’ll show you the wonderful surroundings of Umeå and maybe some pics of my flat.. as soon as I’ve settled properly. And then there’s of course more to say about my research, but one step at a time.. guess that’s the Swedish mentality, which I highly appreciate! stay tuned!

9 thoughts on “settling in Umeå/ at the HUMlab

    • thx – i’ll do that! i’m hosted by a friend, not by wordpress.. but i’ve no idea whether that’s the best way to do it.. just figuring everything out by doing it 😉 greetings to vienna!

    • Hi!

      The main difference between self-hosting and hosting at is the power you have over your blog’s appearance and over the plugins you want. I have used the hosted wordpress for students for a couple of years, and inevitably there are maybe a third of students who are unhappy with the limitations of the hosted platform. WordPress is my blogging platform of choice and the self hosted version, while having a slight learning curve, is imo the best long-term solution.

  1. Hi Astrid, welcome to Umeå! Patrik mentioned you and encouraged us to get together for a coffee some day to discuss the STS link. It’s somewhat of an exaggeration to say that there is an STS department here, but there are at least scholars with an STS background here (I’m a historian of technology and environment trained in an STS department). In any case, I’d love to discuss search engines and black boxes and algorithms some day! Sounds very exciting!

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