Saturday, December 24, 2005

Xmas Eve

We're in the UK with Sarah's family in London. It's a beautiful day - about 8 degrees and feels like summer. We just walked down to Broadway markets after breakfast. Lots of people were out buying fresh food for their Christmas feasts. Sarah's mum is wrapping presents and I'm being handed slices of Christmas Cake.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


We caught the overnight train from Krakow. We had heard of various dangers associated with train travel from Poland. According to our guide book, some passengers had claimed of being gassed while sleeping and then having all their baggage stolen. The sleeper itself was very dusty and pretty dirty. We strengthened the lock on the cabin door with Sarahs belt but still didnt sleep much. We were woken twice in the night to have our passports stamped. It felt like more times than that though since we had to be stamped for exiting Poland, entering Slovakia, exiting Slovakia and entering Hungary. The passport control guards just kept on coming. It was an enormous relief to finally arrive in Budapest. We are staying in a comfortable and well equipped apartment in the centre of Pest, near the river bank. The city is very vibrant and my initial impression is of a city on the crossroads between East and West but more oriented towards Europe. Today we are going to check out Pest and its sights. Its pretty rainy and cold out.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Snowing in Krakow

Big, white, light flakes snowing down on rooftops, cars and squares. Krakow is beautiful in the snow. We are rugged up like michelin ladies, wobbling through the narrow cobblestone streets, slippery from the slush.

Today we will visit Wawel Castle. Yesterday we went to Auschwitz-Birkenau. A very moving experience. Birkenau was a city, designed for people to exist on the edge of life only long enough to extract some labour before being killed. I am so moved by the fact that people survived. I would like to read more survivor narratives now.

Tomorrow we catch the train to Budapest over night. We have a sleeper.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Prague to Krakow

Tomorrow we're catching the train to Krakow. Eight and half hours. We didn't think we'd get there for various reasons but mainly because we stayed in Berlin for a few days longer than expected. We'll hang out in Krakow for a few days and visit Birkenau and Auschwitz then take the long train journey to Budapest. Ten and a half hours.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sarah at Checkpoint Charlie

Check Point Charlie
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
This could be our only day of good weather but boy was it fantastic! We made the most of it by walking to the Jüdisches Museum close by to Checkpoint Charlie you can see in this photo.

Sarah in Miniloft

Sarah in Miniloft
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Sarah experiencing a bit of jetlag after 26 hours in the air. Gee it's hard recovering in an architecturally designed loft in Berlin...

Designer Miniloft

Designer Miniloft
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
We are staying in this amazing flat in what was East Berlin, and is now known as North Mitta. Its near the Natural History Museum and Zinnovitzer Underground Station

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Jüdisches Museum

Yesterday Sarah and I emerged from our miniloft architecturally designed heaven to peruse a bit of Berlin. It was a beautiful day! Yes, Bono pun intended but it was - crisp, clear and sunny. Unfortunately, as soon as Sarah arrived in Berlin my nasty cold relapsed and I had to lie low for a day after a failed attempt to get to Brandenburg Gate. Yesterday I was feeling a bit better so we spent the afternoon in the Jüdisches museum. It is a great museum and full of interesting stuff. Sarah and I do museums at quite different speeds but even Sarah, who moves through very fast, didn't get to see every room. I saw the first two floors and most of the third. The museuem was organised with the early history of German Jewry dating back to the Medieval period on the top floor, moving through to the last few centuries on the next floor down and the one below that was on World War II. The museum raised many questions about German-Jewish history and Sarah and I spent some time discussing our perspectives last night. Well worth the visit.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Just arrived in Berlin

I´m in Berlin and arrived at the Zoologischer Garten station. It is quite apt to call this the Zoo station. It seems very chaotic. I have taken refuge in an Internet cafe for a few moments to check my email. I am experiencing some culture shock being out of Scandinavia where everything appears to be quite organised and just about everybody speaks English. I can tell I am going to have to brush up on my high school Deutche. What´s more, I have to adjust to a new keyboard. I was just getting used to the Danish one. The Y is in the bottom left hand corner, and the Z is in the usual location for the Y. I´m guessing this is to accomodate all those extra vowels - ü,ö,ä.

OK, now I am going to launch myself into the Underground and try to make my way to this hotel I´ve booked and know nothing about, but it is close to the apartment where I´m to meet Sarah tomorrow. Here I go...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Berlin by train

I have a 7:50am train to Berlin to catch tomorrow morning from Copenhagen Central Station. I haven't actually booked a hotel room in Berlin for Saturday night. I should probably do this this evening. Sunday I will meet my girlfriend in the apartment we have booked for the week. Yes, I'm getting pretty excited. Two months!

Two of Helene's friends I got to know in Stockholm are in Copenhagen. They texted me yesterday and have invited me for a drink this evening. Excellent, I'm really looking forward to seeing them again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


I'm in Denmark now in a cute library in the narrow back streets of the old part of the city. It's very pretty here and the cafe culture is something to behold. Even the public libraries have great cafes inside them. I found a hotel not far from here and will be here until Saturday when I catch the train to Berlin to meet my girlfriend. I haven't seen her for almost two months so it's going to be a real blast!!! I am also craving to have a proper conversation with her. I now feel quite used to travelling by myself and keeping my own company. It actually does take a little while to adjust to that but realise how much I enjoy conversing, chatting, just plain gossiping to friends and colleagues.

I'm working on a book review today and then I think I'll take the afternoon off and go and see another Copenhagen sight. Yesterday I went to the National Museum and spent a good part of the morning in just one room of the museum. There is a special exhibition on about Denmark during WWII with a focus on the resistance movement. It was an excellent exhibition. Extremely interesting and well presented. Well my one hour of free internet access is up so I think I may be forced to go have a coffee before starting some real work...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Snowing in Malmö

I arrived in Malmö yesterday and parked myself in a hotel in the Old Town. It's very pretty here and since I hadn't heard much about Malmö I was pleasantly surprised how much I like it. It's quite small but very charming with lots of cobblestone streets and squares (Torget). Copenhagen is about 10 minutes away by train over an 18 Km bridge. I will be going there tomorrow morning some time. Today I conducted an interview with a staff member of the Ericsson Enterprise-Consumer Lab. It went very well with the one exception that I recorded the interview on a digital recorder and I think I pointed it away from M. when I interviewed him and consequently can hardly hear his voice. I'm hoping I can boost the volume once I transfer it to my computer. After the interview I went back to the hotel and it started to snow. I think that is quite unusual for Malmö which is pretty far south in Sweden. It was biting cold too and the wind gushed through the holes in my beanie and froze my scalp. It snowed all afternoon but melted as it hit the ground. For dinner I just spent my last Swedish Krona on a really nice meal of Gorgonzola pasta, a glass of white wine, chocolate cake and coffee. One of the best meals I've had since in Sweden. Yum...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Paper to Högskolan Trollhättan-Uddevalla

I gave a lunch time seminar on my research for my PhD on Tuesday. The presentation went well. There were about 10 people present so it was quite a small but comfortable gathering. Helene gave me some very valuable feedback on the paper the other day and I think the presentation was a lot better as a consequence of the adjustments I made on the train on the way down to Göteburg. I've been staying at M's flat in Gbg. since arriving and have had a very enjoyable time here. I can take it a bit slowly this morning because my train to Malmö doesn't leave until 12:40pm. I feel like a real traveller now because I have to find a hotel on arriving in Malmö and don't know any one in the city. I'll be staying there overnight and will conduct an interview with some Ericsson staff tomorrow. After that I'm officially on holidays and will head for Copenhagen.

At sunset

Originally uploaded by Juzza.
This is me outside Sofia. It's about 3:00pm and the sun is about to set. We wandered down the hill soon after and stopped at a little cafe where I had the best apple crumble I think I've ever tasted.


Originally uploaded by Juzza.
The next day we walked to a part of the city in Sodermalm that I had not seen. These old wooden houses are in Nytorget Street just at the base of a small hill on the top of which sits Sofia Church.


Originally uploaded by Juzza.
We had a lot of fun in the robotics room pushing large amounts of buttons with the other six year olds. All the other exhibits seemed a bit stale and motionless after this room.


Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Priscilla is apparently one of the first robots of The Humanoid Project here in Sweden. She was the star of the robotics exhibit at the Techniska Museet. When you stood in the centre of her gaze, she said something indecipherable and then giggled in a high pitch.


Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Last few days in Stockholm and Helene was back in town. I felt much better and although my cold was gripping on, I was ready to try to pack in a few more sights before leaving Stockholm for Göteborg where I was to give a presentation on my work. We did a lot together and had an unforgettable time. This is Helene on the way to the Techniska Museet.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A litre of cough medicine

Well I was a little premature thinking that I was on the mend. After a very rough couple of nights having trouble breathing, I decided (with a bit of prodding by Johan) to go to a local doctor.

The main hitch, after obtaining the number of the local medical vård, was that the messages upon connecting greeted me in Swedish. Seems like Sweden, like Australia, has enthusiastically embraced the automated voice system that shunts people off into various task centric paths, which would all be very useful and effective if:

1/the caller speaks the language
2/you could be bothered to listen to a vast stream of boring possibilities delivered in a slow monotone
3/you knew what you actually wanted
4/you remembered what the options were by the time you finished listening to them all and by some miracle found yourself still awake.

I texted a number of friends I've made in Sweden to see if they could help me translate the message but received no replies. On that note, why is it that mobile phones never seem to be close to hand (yes Heidegger, I'm asking you) when there is an emergency, and yet can always be relied on during times of complete inconsequence?

Then Johan called back. He has been very sweet and concerned about my deteriorating health and rang various numbers and then gave me the details of a central clinic that was open on Saturdays until 2pm. Since it was past 1pm I thanked Johan, got off the phone and jumped on a train from Asspudden to T-centralen, changed to the green line and one stop later, got off at Hötorget.

I found the building, rather shabby and in disrepair, off one of the very smart outdoor malls in Slöjdgotan. There was a lift the size of a vertical coffin in a corner that had a sign on it warning "three people maximum." There were two people in it when I arrived and I couldn't possibly imagine how they had managed to squeeze in there. They gave me one of those, "please don't try" looks and I waved and said "I'll take the stairs". I didn't realise the clinic was on the top floor. It was one of those circular staircases with a continuous winding rail. I hung on for dear life and wheezed and panted up the stairs. I had about two breaks and finally reached the top. I arrived just as the two people who had taken the lift were clambering out of the coffin, seeming to expand in volume as they exited.

There was an extremely long queue and I was by this stage feeling a bit dizzy. Fortunately, it turned out that they were all waiting for a free influenza vaccination and I could see a doctor shortly. I handed over my visa card with a moment of terror wondering if I actually had enough credit on it, fortunately I did. The doctor called my name and I went in. The doctor was jurassic with a wiry beard that must of been growing for a lifetime and hid most of his face. He had white hair, distressed but not intentionally so, glasses perched on the end of his nose and fortunately, a bright twinkle in his eyes. He seemed pretty on the ball, despite appearances. He asked me which was my preferred language. If only I could have rattled off a list of options. So after a brief examination, turns out I have bronchitis. I wasn't hugely surprised and glad it wasn't anything worse. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics and cough syrup and sent me on my merry way (in Sweden one has to get a prescription for cough syrup).

Last night, after a draining afternoon of schlepping around doctors and apotekets, I had a moment of brilliance. I choofed off to the local video/dvd store in Asspuden (just around the corner) and asked if I could hire a DVD. Fortunately, they were quite accomodating about it and looked up Helene on the database to see if she had borrowed there previously. Turned out she had, so I returned home with "The Stepford Wives" (not the '75 classic but the remake).

Helene doesn't have a VCR or DVD player, so I lay back on her Ikea banana chair with my apple powerbook and headphones and watched the movie. I had also discovered that someone in the block had a wireless router and hadn't changed their default settings so I could surf the Net at the same time. I felt a little guilty about this though so refrained from doing it but I did feel like the Mistress of my own domain, Queen of tech - my technical prowess had come through in a moment of feeling a bit sad and sickly - and I felt smuggly savvy. So when I saw the Stepford Wives I felt kind of disappointed that the only way the movie seemed to be able to reconcile the apparent challenges of two generations of feminism (represented by Bette Midler and Nicole Kidman), was to create a monstruous feminism even more hideous and insane represented as the female neuroscientist, artificial intelligence specialist character played by Glen Close. Revealed as the ultimate (post)modern prometheus, she of course has to meet her very public and tragic end through the destruction of her creations and her own death. Rather disappointing. Still, it was a good idea and my little Ikea banana/apple powerbook/wireless internet (that I didn't use) cocoon worked just fine.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Wee bit better

Well I'm emerging from my inhuman state to something akin to humanoid today. Feeling slightly energetic, I vacuumed Helene's apartment and sucked up all the hair balls. There were quite a few. Also managed to get out for about two hours for a bit of a walk in the lowering sun. That was nice. Checked out where I can get my hair cut. I've been here for almost five weeks now and I'm a bit hairy. Found a place in Södermalm and went in there (mainly because they had a resident black labrador) and booked a cut for next week.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Scandinavian cold

Still feeling rotten. I think Scandinavian colds might be more potent than Australian ones...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Meet up at Linköpings universitet

Met up with the HCI crowd at the Dept of Computer Science and Informatics. I went with an open mind because I was a bit unsure about whether we would find any commonalities across disciplines. I needn't have worried, I found the meet up incredibly stimulating and received very positive feedback from Stefan, who invited me over to talk about my research.

It was the first time I've presented the direction of my research to anyone outside of my own research centre. I really appreciated how Stefan engaged with the material and gave me plenty of leads to follow up.

Started feeling like I was coming down with something some time during the day and am now feeling quite sick. I think I overdid it on the weekend and have contracted some nasty cold. Feeling achey, sore throat, stiff, headache and chesty. Hope the Panadol kicks in soon...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Museum, Opera and Requiem

This weekend turned out to be filled with 'cultural activities'. I didn't expect it to be quite so eventful. I had booked to see Romeo and Juliet at the Folkoperan in Stockholm but hadn't made any other arrangements. On Saturday A. sent me an SMS. She asked if I wanted to go to the Modern Museum. We went there together and bumped into Johan and his partner in the dark room of the "invisible cities" exhibtion. We had coffee together and then I left to go to the opera. On Sunday, I was invited by I. and J. (two of Helene's friends) to a Verdi Requiem at the Engelbrektskyrkan. It was absolutely amazing and really blew me away. There were three choirs massed and four soloists. One of who sings in the Royal opera but the others were professional opera singers as well. The Church itself was very impressive and the music was incredibly moving. Arrived home late and got up early this morning to catch the X2000 to ACSIS. Very tired now. Today I worked on my presentation for tomorrow to the Department of Computer Science and Informatics.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Yoga day

I've been working on my paper today from home, that's Helene's apartment until her return at the end of November. Since the clocks went back an hour last weekend winter feels as though it is upon us, despite the weather actually being quite mild. I've only experienced a couple of very chilly days since arriving. But the dark - the days seem to be almost gone by the time they've just started. At least that's my perception. Darkness creeps up at about 3:00 pm and the feeling that one should be hurrying along to get home and warm is present in the strides and expressions of all the Stockholmers.

It's also been washing day. I've done three loads and emptied the garbage. At about 5pm I will start making my way to Yoga and may walk from Hornstull to get a bit of exercise (even if it will be quite dark by then!)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Working on paper

At the ACSIS seminar, I met an academic who is teaching at a University in the south of Sweden called Högskolan Trollhättan-Uddevalla. We chatted over lunch when she was in town and were in contact via email afterwards. She has invited me to give a paper about my research.

Today I have been working on an outline of the paper. I'm really nervous about the prospect of presenting my work in public. I can't gauge at all whether it's even in a coherent enough state to be presented. Really very nervous...

Still, I have a bit more time to work on it. I might even prepare an abstract and post it up on my blog for comments. I know people who have done that and it seems very brave. Well I'll consider it.

Meanwhile, if you'd thought I'd forgotten about Part 2 of reflecting on cultural studies then you'd be so wrong but I'm guessing this may only be of interest to a very select few. I have actually been giving this a bit of thought and time and have had some very fruitful discussions with Johan, the Director of ACSIS. He helped to situate Scandinavian cultural studies in the world picture. It has been very helpful for me to reflect on this, since I am in a cultural studies research centre. The truth is I am producing my place in cultural studies, and my works relevance to some of the concerns of cultural studies are partly present but largely emerging in process. Since this PhD heralds my return to academia after a long 10 year sabbatical, I have come to 'cultural studies' with a vague sense of its scope and breadth, feeling comfy with only a few patches of the quilt, so to speak, but now am starting to move on to neighbouring patches.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The first edition of the Ericsson Catalague 1886

Cover of Katalog
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Yesterday I went to the Föreningan Stockholms Företagsminnen (Centre for Business History in Stockholm) - a very interesting place. They have collections from some of Swedens largest companies including an archive they call the "The Ericsson Files". I went through Ericsson's very first catalogues from 1886 through to 1925, the early days of the telephone when its form was still being conceived and imagined. I felt like a cross between an industrial spy, researcher, detective and maybe ecclesiastical monk as I sat in this completely sealed basement with these very ancient "manuscripts" and gingerly turned their pages which revealed beautiful hand illustrated expressions of what a telephone could be - they were extraordinarily elegant creatures - but also a little monstruous.

Telephone Apparatus

Originally uploaded by Juzza.
What is a phone? Was it a piece of furniture, pipe organ, treasure chest, church altar? And where did this hybrid creature live? On a wall, on a desk, on the floor, inside a cabinet? What parts of its workings should be hidden and what should be revealed? It was all up for grabs as this entity came into being, not quite something old or something new...I made lots of photocopies and am going back next Thursday to do more research.


large switch
Originally uploaded by Juzza.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Literary Meme

Feeling a little wobbly after a big day yesterday and night out afterwards. The post doc scholars and myself have been very looked after by ACSIS. We were taken out for dinner after the seminar and then met some other PhD students at "The World Bar" around the corner from the University. Great night!!!

On a slightly different matter, I have been invited to participate in a meme by Mac over at Stone in the Field, she keeps a great blog and one that I visit regularly.

A meme, for those who haven't heard of one before, is a replicating "form". It is like a memory trace in evolutionary terms and has been developed by various people like Stephen Dawkins to try to connect evolutionary theory with cultural and behavioural patterning. Memes, like this one, constitute a series of rules and some applied content. They spread like viruses but in fact are not necessarily self-replicating and can require human involvement/agency for the meme to spread. For this meme, I brought limited fiction books over to Sweden with me so I am putting this meme together with the non-fiction books that I'm currently reading for my PhD.

The meme rules are:

1. Take first five novels from your bookshelf.
2. Book 1 -- first sentence
3. Book 2 -- last sentence on page 50
4. Book 3 -- second sentence on page 100
5. Book 4 -- next to the last sentence on page 150
6. Book 5 -- final sentence of the book
7. Make the five sentences into a paragraph.
8. Feel free to "cheat" to make it a better paragraph.
9. Name your sources
10.Post to your blog.

Here's the result:

A philosopher to another philosopher observed, "There is a mystery. You are very well known and yet very unknown. Your fellow philosophers scarely read you."

The philosopher replied; "It is a matter of moving toward the world, making it mobile, bringing it to the site of controversy, keeping it engaged, and making it available for arguments.
Only then, I think, can we learn to appreciate that the respect for me as an individual need not run counter to respect for others (in general), but that each is a condition of the other. On the other hand there are still those that are primarily interested in the social influence of the media, mainly the news."

The first philosopher comments, "Another area in which such bonds are evident is in wartime and postwar commemoration.

The books in order are:

1. Michel Serres with Bruno Latour: Conversations on Science, Culture and Time translated by Roxanne Lapidus
2. Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies by Bruno Latour
3. British Cultural Studies: An Introduction by Graeme Turner
4. Moves in Modernity edited by Johan Fornäs and Göran Bolin
5. Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Seminar day

ACSIS is holding a number of seminars today by the visiting post doc students. I'm looking forward to hearing more about their work. I'm attending the seminar day and have been invited to join them afterwards for dinner. I'm crashing on A.'s floor in Norköpping since it's such a long trip back to Stockholm. Better dash...gotta catch the X2000 this morning.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Halloween on Drottningatan

Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Can you see the ghost? Maybe Halloween is celebrated in Sweden. Attempts to import this North American holiday into Australia haven't been very successful but there is a lot more "Halloween presence" in Stockholm. Maybe I'll get a door knock - must remember to buy some lollies except they probably won't last until Oct 31st.

Boots, boots and more boots

Boots and boots
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
It's the time of year to buy boots in Sweden. There's plenty to choose from but these fluffy, white ones looked particularly warm and comfy. I've been tempted too but I can't imagine they'll get much wear in Sydney.

Autumn fashion in Stockholm

Autumn fashion in Stockholm
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Notice the mits on the model on the left. I'm glad her hands will be warm but what about the legs of the model on the right? I haven't seen anyone wearing skirts in Stockholm recently. I'm shivering at the thought. The model centre stage, on the other hand, does seem to have a look that I've spotted among the younger set - the close fitting jeans and long boots. An alternative to purchasing new jeans to keep up with this trend is to put rubber bands around your ankles thus achieving the same narrow jeans look. I kid you not. I discovered it observing fashionable travellers on the T-bana and then tried it out on a drafty train trip. In addition to it being trendy, it keeps the warm air around your legs. Tricky.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Now, my dog is called Qwerty and my cat Pixel, so my appreciation of the world of computing is well signposted but a Swedish couple have gone much further and called their newborn child "Google". As you may read there is a very tenuous link to "Google" actually meaning something. A Googol means 1 followed by 100 zeros but you can imagine the company is pleased as punch. They are reported to have announced that they are "delighted at the news of the first Google baby."

“We wish him long life and good health, and hope his schoolmates aren't too hard on him,” writes the company’s in-house blogger.

Cafe Copacabana

Met one of Helene's friends and a friend of hers for afternoon tea/coffee in Hornstull. Quite a trendy innercity area of Stockholm. The cafe Cafe Copacabana is on Hornstullsstrand 3, Stockholm and is situated on the waterfront. It was a rainy and grey day but we had a wonderful time chatting and wiling the afternoon away. We strolled about Hornstull afterwards and I bought a cinammon pastry from an Italian cafe (to eat later - hah! It smelt so good I ended up eating on the train platform) and then caught the T-bana back to Asspuden. Now I have made home made pizza for dinner and it's in the oven.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Steaming fruit

Steaming fruit
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
In the deli section of the Söder shopping market in Medborgarplatsen. The fruit and vegies are steamed to keep the air moist since it is usually very dry.

Living on the water

Living on the water
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Walking towards Södermalm along the waters edge, I passed a number of marine residences.

A place to sit and be still

A nice place to sit
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
I happened upon this quiet spot walking in the forest park of Långholmen. I like the painted blue seat and flower planter box, it looked like someone's special place, cared for and loved.

Autumn cover

Autumn cover
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Walking the forest trails of Långholmen, an island in Lake Mälaren, adjutting Södermalm. The island, like Pinchgut in Sydney Harbour, used to house a prison called Kronohäktet. The autumn cover of leaves is thick and extensive, the ground not even peaking through...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Research inroads

Yesterday and today I focused on the field work aspect of my exchange to Sweden. For my research project I proposed interviewing staff at Ericsson or Sony Ericsson about the companys role in envisaging future work practices, particularly in relation to the office. These acts of imagining the future are a significant dimension of "high tech" companies. They contribute to the shaping of particular technologies as they emerge as material entities. This does not mean they are closed off at this point. Their "nature" is not sealed into a cultural and material form by these ideational exercises but they do nevertheless contribute to their becoming - what a technology might be or not be, who will use it or not use it etc. This speculative conceptualisation is a process that probably intersects with many staff, departments and practices of the company (or companies as they case may be). I am interested in crossing some of these paths as a researcher/student, to discover more about these practices of speculation and how staff reflect on them.

From Australia, I contacted the staff listed on the Swedish version of Ericssons web site. Not surprisingly the staff listed work in Corporate Communications. While their initial response appeared to be quite positive and suggested they were sending my email on to suitable staff, unfortunately I have not heard from them since despite my follow up emails. However, on my first day at ACSIS I was introduced to a senior researcher in the Department of Computer Science and Informatics at Linköping University. I found out he used to work for Ericsson and he was very encouraging of my research. He emailed me with a number of Ericsson and Sony Ericsson contacts yesterday and this morning I contacted them by email.

Research has much in common with travel I think, probably highlighted by the merging of the two in this exchange experience. The places or objects of study are vague, amorphous entities with little form but act as a kind of screen for the projection of ideas, feelings and expectations. Ericsson is such a place or site. As I encounter Ericsson, it is not, as you might imagine, a confrontation or meeting, a sort of front on collision between subject and object. There is no clear line that is traversed, that separates the place where I was with the place where I want to be but instead a process of encountering this place or thing called Ericsson from many partial connections and perspectives. The research object starts to come into view through these partial connections and perspectives that take place over time. And not just into view, since this privileges the visual encounter as the primary and single mode of knowledge. The 'site' gains definition through all my proprioceptive capacities mediated by the technologies through which I encounter it.
Ericsson does not become immediately present to me but becomes a place or a site as a series of names, a person I meet, a phone call, an email address...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Boarding the X2000 to Stockholm

Boarding the X2000 to Stockholm
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
I caught the X2000 from Norrköping back to Stockholm this afternoon. It takes just over an hour. I did some readings on the train journey but felt a little queazy when the train tilted into the corners.

A. and myself!

A and me!
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
A. is on a Post doc here at ASCIS for 8 weeks and is from Belgium. At lunch time we talked about the representation of female subjectivity in films.

E. and myself!

E and me!
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
It's grand to be at ACSIS with E. and A. while they are here on Post doc grants. E. is also here on a Post doc from Essex in the UK. She showed me some of the sites of Norrköping when I first arrived.

Post Doc Students at ACSIS

Post Doc Students at ACSIS
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
A very Bridget Jones moment!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Arbetet Museum

Arbetet Museum
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
The Museum of Work where ACSIS is located is surrounded by water. I am on the fourth floor on the right hand side.

Narrow lane

Narrow lane
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Yesterday I strolled through Gamla Stan, the Old City of Stockholm. I happened upon this very narrow lane off a side alley.

Looking west

Looking west
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
A cold day out in Gamla Stan.

Clock in Gamla Stan

Clock in Gamla Stan
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Here is another clock or two to add to my Stockholm Clock Collection. This one is in a little side street in the Old City.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

More Stockholm wonders

Today I woke pretty late, about 11am. One of Helene's friends I met at the French restaurant my second night in Sweden invited me for a drink last night. We met at Slussen on Göttgaten and then walked down the hill and stopped at a small boutique bar. It was a mixed gay and lesbian bar with a very relaxed and cosy atmosphere. The room was tiny and in space-smart Swedish style, a piano had been perched on top of a loft leaving space for the bar beneath. The room comfortably fit about six or seven people and by the end of the night there were about 30 in the bar, most standing. Somehow the night just flew by, as time seems to have done since arriving in Sweden. One minute we were getting our first drink and settling in for a chat and next minute we were all being booted out of the bar at 2am. Our conversation meandered over such topics as Swedish politics, our research projects, the gay and lesbian scenes in France, Sweden and Australia and identity politics. When we emerged from the bar in the early hours of the morning, the temperature had dropped greatly. It was really cold and we shivered our way back up the hill to Slussen station to part.

Today after a lazy breakfast and warming phone call from my girl friend in Australia I went into town and booked a Canal Tour on the waters around Stockholm. A perspective of Stockholm from the water was a good way to get a sense of the topology of the city, although still far from complete. It's a stunning city and the weather today, despite being very chilly, was again clear and crisp. I put the headphones on during the canal tour and flicked through the guided recordings in other languages before settling on English. The narration was light with long gaps filled with Nordic music - some classical songs and a number of well known Abba tracks. The description swung between in depth statistical figures of such things as population and number of bridges and islands in the Stockholm area and brief snippets about the history and sites of the harbour. The tour ended with a story of the capsizing of the ship "Wasser" only twenty minutes after it was launched. It is now housed inside Wasser museum - the entire ship - and the building is literally moulded around the ship with the masts popping through the ceiling towards the sky.

I received an SMS on the canal tour from one of the Post Doc students at ACSIS. I will call her A because unlike Helene, I have not asked her permission to use her name in my blog. A is from Belgium and speaks an impressive number of languages fluently including Swedish. I feel a bit envious of the ease with which she communicates here in Sweden.
She invited me to join her to see an exhibtion at Liljevachs Konsthall which is showing a retrospective of Helen Chadwick's work. I didn't know anything about Helen Chadwick but thought it would be enjoyable to join her. We met and walked up to the gallery. The leaves were golden and dropping and swirling about in the wind. Kids walked past and kicked up the piles of leaves in the gutters and they fell lightly to the ground again. It was so beautiful.

The exhibition reallly blew me away. I hadn't heard of Helen Chadwick but she is a British artist (now passed away). She was a feminist artist and explored interesting juxtapositions of different materials and technologies, including her own body. There was one exhibition of a large pool of bubbling chocolate with a phallic font in the centre spitting out chocolate. It reminded me of one of the sulphur pools in Rotorua in New Zealand except the whole room smelt like rich, dark chocolate. It was delicious but also repulsive and looked like faeces and when you went up close you could see the bacteria in the brown, bubbling and boiling pool. I felt a twinning of emotion; repulsion and temptation in equal doses, neither overcoming the other but sharing an uncomfortable balance. I am very thankful to A. for inviting me along - a very special experience. Thankful seems to be a permanent state for me recently. I feel brimming with it, a light bubbly feeling that just gets richer and stronger every day.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Hornsgaten in Mariatorget

Hornsgaten in Maria Torget
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
A typical street scene on Hornsgaten, literally Horns Street. I've started a collection of "clock shots". I have never seen such an array of public clocks in a city before. One never need to keep one's own time in Stockholm. The time is always on display...


Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Wandering the streets of Mariaberget in Södermalm.

Södermalm at night

Södermalm at night
Originally uploaded by Juzza.
On my second night in Stockholm, Helene and I walked around Södermalm on the way to a French restaurant to meet some of her friends and have dinner. The restaurant was a creperie called Fyra Knop which means Four Knots, and the crepes were divine.


Originally uploaded by Juzza.
Apparently this is one of the world's first neon signs dating back to the 1890's. Helene pointed it out to me. It's just next to the Södra Teatern.

Day out and about in Södermalm

Today was my first day relaxing and settling in since arriving in Sweden. I've had an amazing few days since arriving in Stockholm but what a whirlwind of activity! Today I took it easy and did a bit of settling in. I mastered the washing room arrangements in the basement of the apartment block. In Stockholm, the apartments have a shared washing room with free washing machines, dryers and a drying room for all the residents. There is a booking system whick took me a little while to decipher. The set up seems so much more sensible that the individualistic approach in Australia: each apartment with their own washing machines and dryer, costing plenty, taking up room and just sitting there, probably only being used once or twice a week at the most. What a waste! It took me a while to work out the buttons on the washing machine. The instructions were only in Swedish and the icons were unfamiliar to me. After making the machine beep at me a few times, I eventually got it to start. I learnt a bit more Swedish this morning while waiting for my washing to run its cycle.

I went out this afternoon armed with my brand new phrases semi-stored in memory and headed off to Södermalm. Södermalm is a big island in the waters that wind in and around Stockholm and is also the highest point of the city. It is also one of the oldest parts of town and very groovy. Lots of little cobblestone lanes with elegant street facing buildings and cute boutiques, cafes and bars. I made a number of transactions; asking for a tea in Tully's Cafe and an English-Swedish dictionary at a book store. Both times I completed the entire transaction in Swedish. The other transactions I stumbled over my broken Swedish and was rescued by the shop owners, all of who speak very reasonable English. Everyone I have come across here is very friendly and helpful. Most are pleasantly amused to interact with a tourist/overseas visitor attempting to speak Swedish when they speak perfectly good English but are encouraging nevertheless. The weather is still beautiful, mild and clear at about 14 degrees during the day. It gets cold in the shade though and as the sun goes down. I've started carrying around my scarf and hat in case I get caught after dark. The sun is setting at about 5:30pm or maybe even 6pm but will soon be setting earlier as Winter approaches.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

view from office

Originally uploaded by Juzza.

my office

Originally uploaded by Juzza.
This is my office at ACSIS in Norrköping. I can't believe I have my own office - very cool!

First day at ACSIS

This is my first morning at ACSIS in Norrköping and I am sitting in my allocated office which looks out to the old industrial buildings that have been restored and the Norkköping river which surrounds the centre. I caught the X2000 (extremely fast) train from Stockholm and sat next to Johan, the Director of the centre, on the train. He drew me a very detailed organisational map of the university and its various departments and academics and their interrelations with ACSIS on a piece of paper while we sped through the misty landscape at about 200Km an hour. Yesterday was my first day in Sweden and Helene showed me around Stockholm. She has been exceptionally generous and kind to me and I met some of her friends (all PhD students) last night. One of them is doing her research on mailing lists and gender on the Internet.

For someone who is interested in systems, Sweden is a very interesting place to visit. I have been fascinated by all the systems they have here - for managing people and everyday life - in the train station
and in the apartment buildings, tourist bureau and offices. There are also a lot of clocks in Stockholm too. I have never seen so many clocks, on buildings and walls around town. I was also delightfully surprised on my first day here to see many dogs with their owners catching trains on the Underground (Tunnelbana). Like France, pets are allowed on public transport and in apartment buildings.

Tomorrow I will be giving a brief presentation during the monthly secret event. I have brought with me all the bits and pieces (caps, pens and publications) to hand out and will say a little bit about myself and CCR.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

In the air in a few hours

Four hours to go before I head off to the airport. I just went for a walk to stretch my legs and grabbed some fresh juice. It's super windy today. Last bit of packing to do and then to Sweden I head...Mix of sadness and excitement at the thought of leaving.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Part 1: cultural studies in my home town

The student exchange I'm about to embark on is a joint program organised by the Centre for Cultural Research (CCR) at UWS where I'm studying and the Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden (ACSIS). Professor Johan Fornäs, Director of ACSIS, has invited myself and some Post doc students who are visiting ACSIS to participate in an exercise of reflecting on the state of interdisciplinary and critical cultural research in the context of our home countries with particular attention to the following:

- Current developments in the field, concerning research policy, resources and/or intellectual trends
- Most pressing threats and dangers to the field
- Best arguments for cultural studies and cultural research

He has suggested that we write this in two parts - a short essay at the beginning of the visit and a final essay towards the end which would build in any insights from the period of stay in Sweden.

This exercise is a very timely one for me for a number of reasons. Starting my Phd at the beginning of this year has also meant a return and re-engagement with 'cultural studies' after many years away from University. Over the last six months I have actively (and sometimes passively) been making connections and building bridges between my past and current experiences to understand what cultural studies is now, how it has changed and what it means in relation to my own project.

So, with some trepidation and a bout of nerves, I am tackling this exercise in my blog. Why blog it? Well, partly because this journey to Sweden (and the various exercises, meetings, expeditions, contacts and nights out that it may comprise) is a pivotal dimension of my PhD experience and the original raison d'etre of this blog. I have a practical motive too. A blog entry is an effective marker representing the starting point for my reflections on this topic and a point to return to later when I write up the second essay. There is another reason why I'm blogging this exercise and that's because I would love to hear from other bloggers, be they students or not, in Australia or elsewhere, with their views on these questions about 'cultural studies'...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Reflections on a trip to Sweden

Just read Glen's recently updated post written back in October of last year on his experiences while in Norrköping, Sweden. I'm heading off in 10 days and his post suddenly made me feel how real it is - that place over there where I'll be so soon. Cool. And cool it will be too... I have started scrounging around for warm things and dug out the old skiing and bushwalking box to try and get together some garments to withstand the plummeting temparatures of late autumn. You know I had a secret plan (not so secret anymore) that I'd go to IKEA while I'm there.

Sociotechnical capital

Eva Cox sent me a copy of the paper she gave the other day called Reclaiming Social Capital: an exploration of new standpoints and complexities. I found the paper pretty useful and challenging.

I have been thinking how a theory of sociotechnical capital might be relevant for exploring some of the more mysterious aspects of people-technology relations within organisations. I discovered upon googling that a guy called Paul Resnick has adapted the notion of social capital to the sociotechnical domain and is considered to be one of the pioneers in the development of recommender and reputation systems. Not sure if you know about recommender systems. Amazon is a good example of one -
you know how when you search for books you get a whole host of ways of mapping the found book/object in relation to what other books customers have bought who have also bought this book, customer reviews and customer book lists (listmania). Very interesting indeed, not least because it represents an attempt to capture social capital as a reusable resource. I was interested in Eva's use of it as a kind of lens for identifying the presence (or absence) of some qualities at the level of the group that could then be analysed using a range of analytical tools.

I found her piece interesting and was drawn to the concept of social capital because it helps to articulate how a group produces social contexts and relations through its interactions, and identifies the role of this dimension as constitutive of the operations of the group and individuals within it. Where I think it has room for expansion and/or adjustment is in the clear separation of the social from the material. For example, bonding can take place between people and objects, as can bridging and linking. In some cases the relation is with the object itself and in others the object plays a mediational role shaping the experience of the connection with others. Trust and distrust play out on these different levels too - think of how you feel when you are having a conversation with someone that you trust over the phone but their phone keeps getting cut off whenever you talk to them. This may not lead you to distrust the person, but it may make you feel less trustful about sharing your thoughts over the phone, which may in some strange way have the same effect, particularly if your primary contact with them is over the phone.

So some of the questions that came up for me included how social capital relates to material capital. Another example, my experience working with many community organisations that were under sustained funding pressure/cuts was that I observed a slow degradation of social capital within the organisation. Yet in some organisations this did not happen and would paradoxically lead to higher social capital. So while they do seem interconnected and the structural elements are important, neither of these things in themselves explain everything.

Other question I had was how S.C. relates to concepts like 'diversity' and this lead me to wondering how compatible it would be with an ecosystem perspective - to help explain and/or identify that there are certain qualities of local ecologies that are a product of the relations that constitute them that contribute to their survival as healthy and robust local systems within a larger heterogenous ecosystem.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Email list conventions

I know it shouldn't surprise me but it does. The way some people think email can be used really makes me realise how conventions associated with communication technologies are always being negotiated and what I think is bleeding obvious is clearly not for all.

Today I received an email from a guy inviting me to a movie this Saturday night. Now firstly,
I should say I identified the name of the sender immediately and recognised it wasn't spam. I also noted that it didn't appear to be a personal invitation. It had that impersonal, directed at the world in general tone. He asked, "Does anyone want to go to the movies with me?" This made me very curious. Clearly I was on some kind of a list and one of a number of people invited on this...was it a date? It wasn't clear whether it was a date or not. I expanded the header of the email because my mail program is set to suppress this level of detail. And yes, it seemed my initial thought had been correct. I was among 11 others invited to go see a film with this guy. Was it a group date? All the names on the list were familiar and they seemed to be all the female members of a singing group that I usually attend. It all started to click into place. I handed out my email address to be contacted for events associated with this singing group and this group list is now being used by one member for personal reasons in order to invite 'someone'/'anyone' to go see a movie on Saturday night. The group maillist, normally associated with a very particular activity and purpose is being used by this person as his own personal network.

Now, I don't think this act rates as abusive (at least not in my reckoning). It was obviously not designed to be malicious and doesn't come across as intentional mis-use of a list. What does surprise me though, is that he obviously thinks this is perfectly OK use of a group list. But I don't feel comfortable about that and it occurred to me that I assume that most of the women on the list would feel the same way. What do you think?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Eva Cox and Social Capital

I attended a seminar yesterday on 'Reclaiming Social Capital' at the CCR with Eva Cox. Eva is one of Australia's well known feminist and political scholars. I really enjoyed her presentation and sent her a follow up email to ask if I could obtain a copy of her paper to read more closely. I became interested in her ideas about social capital in relation to technology as I listened to her talk. My PhD is concerned with the relationships people form with their personal technologies in the workplace; how people respond to problems, the role of the "personal workspace" (including technological spaces) in workplace culture particularly in relation to the office environment, and shifts that come about with technologies that support more mobile modes of work.

I think the analytical space of social capital could be
extended to include how humans relate to technology and how the organisation of technologies implicates humans. Technologies and their organisation are involved in the states of trust and belonging that work to bind and support the group as an organisation. One of my observations working in IT was how perplexing it was that organisations that had 'low' social capital expressed this, in often unexpeced ways, through their IT system. For example, the lower the state of trust within the organisation, the tighter the security and the less control individuals had of their IT. I haven't seen the concept of social capital extended to the socio-technical domain. I wonder if it has been. Oh where are you my google...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Carmel made it in seat of Marrickville

Well the local by-election is over and Carmel won with a small swing against her that went to the Greens. I haven't had a chance to post this but a few days after I sent my carefully drafted email to her I actually received a reply. A letter arrived in the post signed by Carmel which attempted to respond to my points, although I must say, rather disappointingly.

She claimed that she was "grossly misrepresented" on the issue of banning the gay and lesbian resource as Minister for Education but doesn't offer an explanation of what really happened. At any rate, whether grossly misrepresented or not, she did ban the resource so it comes across that she is more concerned with the issue of her representation by the media than the actual issue of withdrawing the resource and what message that sends to the general public about homophobia.

I grant her maybe '1 brownie point' for responding to my letter personally and so swiftly but she wanted my vote so that's not very surprising. One interesting aside, because she has to vacate her seat in the Upper House to now sit in the Lower, the politician that has been appointed in her place is a lesbian parent. This is the first for Australian politics and I do wonder whether Carmel had anything to do with it and whether it is a sort of compensatory gesture (not to me personally - but to the large gay and lesbian contingent in her ward.) Politics...

On the Sweden preparations, I've made contact with Corporate Communications at Ericsson in Sweden to try to arrange an interview with staff in the R&D and product development departments. I've received a reply that they are processing my enquiry so that's a start at any rate.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Back to the phd

I suddenly realised it's almost half way through September and I'd like to submit my Ethics Application before I go to Sweden. The next date for submission to the Ethics Committee is the end of September. Today I started to review the draft application I had written about a month ago and updated it with some new material following my Confirmation of Candidature and a phone conference with my supervisor. Barring two last tricky little questions, one about demonstrating beneficence, I'll have it completed.

I've also been busy reading and trying desperately to be a good girl and take notes. I really am dreadful at notetaking but recognise it's necessity. Without notes I will never recall in two years time what the hell I was reading back in the first half of 2005. Plus I like to read a few books at a time so it's good for remembering who said what. I'm currently reading "Beethoven's Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture" by William Benzon. Benzon is a cognitive scientist who has drawn on fairly recent findings in neuroscience that refute the mind/body and emotion/reason split to argue that the mind evolved through music because music is an activity that facilitates self and interactional synchrony. It is this capacity for synchrony (which precedes language) that is at the core of what makes humans social. I'm also reading "Context and Consciousness" edited by Bonni Nardi which is an introduction of activity theory to the discipline of Human Computer Interaction.

Monday, September 12, 2005

"George Bush Don't Like Black People"

I came across The Legendary K.O. hip/hop mix today while blogastinating. I have to agree with the blogger on whose site I discovered this (as well as adding Danah's blog to my roll). When I heard Kanye West reported as saying "George Bush doesn't care about black people," I was moved and shocked. It went straight to the core of it. No mucking around. I recommend checking it out.

Letter to Carmel

Carmel Tebbutt, the Labor Candidate for Marrickville, left us a card under our door yesterday when she came around to talk to residents about this Saturday's By-election. Unfortunately my girlfriend and I missed our opportunity to let Carmel know our opinions so I wrote her a letter. I should note that referring to "home ownership", "local business involvement" and "community participation" is strategic to add political weight to the letter and does not reflect a notion of citizenship that I hold and judge others by.

Dear Carmel,

As I missed your visit to my house yesterday, I would like to give you
some feedback about my vote this Saturday. I have been living in the
inner west for over 10 years. As a long term resident and now
homeowner of this area, I am committed to maintaining and developing
this diverse and vibrant community. In addition to having been
involved in a range of community activities, I started and ran my own
IT business in the innerwest which employed over a dozen people. I now
own my own house in Newtown with my partner and we are active members
of the community and know many local residents.

I will not be voting for you Carmel and I would like you know my
reasons. Furthermore, I have urged all voters in the Marrickville
electorate that I know to consider your poor record on being "Caring
and Committed" before giving their vote to you.

The main reason I will not be voting for you is because you let all
Australian gays and lesbians down when, as current Minister of
Education and Training Minister, you banned an education resource as
part of a sex education program that promoted tolerance to gays and
lesbians after "The Daily Telegraph" published a story of one parent
complaining to the school about the program. Your reaction was to ban
the material and claimed "it was inappropriate."

You have made it clear by your actions that your policies, ostensibly
promoting a government that is "Caring & Committed", does not extend
to promoting social tolerance and understanding to gays and lesbians.
Far from reducing the level of homophobia in our society, your actions
have reinforced it. The Inner west deserves to be represented by a
leader who is prepared to stand up and be proud of the contributions
of its gay and lesbian constituents.

I have been a long term supporter of Labor in the local area but for
this reason I will not be giving Labor my vote in the upcoming

Saturday, September 10, 2005

When is a document a document?

I read a story that delightfully illustrates how 'contingent', or perhaps more accurately, how 'convenient' the meaning of technology is. In Japan parties have started campaigning for the upcoming national election. There is a law that limits the overall number and distribution of election material such as posters and flyers during the campaigning period. A recent move by officials to apply this law to Internet campaigning has involved a rather unique interpretation of the definition of a "document". According to the interpretation, a "document" can include a single web page or email and each "download" of a "document" is seen to be equivalent to a single physical exchange of a file, such as handing someone a brochure. The article describes how those who defy the law and who go ahead and update their home pages or disseminate emails risk being stripped of the votes cast in Sunday's pol and jailed for two years or fined up to 500,000 yen ($6000). (SMH 9/9/05)

Campaigners immediately responded to this by putting a quarantine on their web sites. The article goes on to explain that, "The threat has caused the home pages of the main parties, usually dynamic, to be frozen in time, appearing the same as they were on August 30, the first official day of campaigning...While party platforms can be downloaded, there are no updates, interviews or transcripts, and no way for voters with questions to get a reply." (SMH 9/9/05)

There are a number of questions about the
technical understandings that must come into play to equate a web page with a document and a download with handing someone a brochure. I will return to this point about the properties of technology later. What initially impressed me about this story is how it illustrates that the definition of a technology, in this case a "document", is directly connected to an interpretative operation. This operation defines not just what we understand the technology to be, but also what it does. Woolgar offers us the anti-essentialist perspective;

"The objective effects of technology are anything but self-evident. In each case the effect of technology necessitates some form of human interpretation; even if debate about such effects may be brought to (temporary) closure, and a consensus constructed around the alleged effects, this consensus is socially constituted, not the result of an autonomously and exogenously imposed truth." (p138)

The interpretative operation can also be seen to follow the stages of translation in actor-network theory as described by Woolgar in "The Machine at Work".

1. The nature of technology is problematised (what is the definition of a document?)
2. The meaning of a technology is translated to mean something else (a web page and an email are documents.)
3. The meaning is stabilised (in law and by the policies of authorities) and fourthly,
4. The new meaning is mobilised (through the threat of action by authorities and the response of campaigners to this threat).

So this case demonstrates that any understanding of technology, what it is and what it does, must be viewed firstly, as an interpretative operation that endows it with meaning and secondly, that the operation is a translation, or a strategic set of moves that involves a transfer of meaning (and power).

Although this account is pretty comprehensive, I am left feeling uneasy. It is not just the meaning of the object - the document - that is problematised and then re-interpreted but also the act of exchange itself - the download. Here we are to understand that downloading can be equated with handing someone a brochure. My initial reaction to this was that it was clearly the work of a bunch of lawyers who no nothing about IT. In both cases we are required to suspend certain technical properties that make the equivalence extremely difficult to maintain and to enforce. An anti-essentialist perspective would argue that the inherent technical properties are not inherent to the technology but have come to be known through a social consensus involving technicians and programmers etc.

But to my mind, downloading is really nothing like handing someone a brochure. Perhaps my IT background is clouding my reading but surely there has to be some acknowledgement of attributes that belong to the object at the time of the interpretative operation. Surely this bears greatly on the conditions of the interpretation and its success.

When I open my browser and visit a home page, I am downloading, or more accurately, my browser is loading the data that constitutes the web page through a series of requests and replies to the server hosting that page. The download is more correctly understood as a stream of queries and replies. It is not a single transaction of a single contained piece of information. Secondly, given this definition, each time I point my browser to that web page, another download occurs. And yet, this is not equivalent to me returning to the campaigner standing at a street corner and being handed another brochure because, unlike this scenario, re-loading a web page is not cumulative. I am left with no more data 'in my hand' so to speak after re-loading the page.

In the story about Japan, the interpretation seems to have accounted for this cumulative property by equating it with changes to the web page. And yet there still seems to be a mis-match of equivalence. What I can do with a bunch of brochures in my hand is completely different to what I can do with a re-loaded web page on my browser even with updated information.
In this case, the mis-alignment of equivalence has resulted in a kind of slippage of meaning, rather than a complete substitution. While the ANT approach might read this as an effect of the incomplete enrolment of actors in the network, I am left unconvinced.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Social researchers respond to Katrina

While information that we receive from the media is invaluable during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, and often the only source of news and information, it is at best anecdotal and fragmented. Some experiences gain enormous exposure, while others fade into the background or are not related to the public at all. Social researchers have an important role to play to gather information that the media can't or won't because of it's primary concern with 'breaking news'. Some researchers have responded by initiating research with small groups of Katrina survivors to understand the impact of the disaster and the issues that face many people, and to clarify some of the worst excesses of the media's accounts i.e. the prevalence of crime...

From: Wesley Shrum <>
Date: September 6, 2005 12:52:05 PM EDT
Subject: Katrina -- one week after

On Sept 5, one week after Katrina, a team of ten people conducted qualitative interviews in the parking lot with approximately 50 displaced persons at a central Baton Rouge location. Afterwards, we met for a couple of hours, to abstract a consensus view of what we had learned. It is important to keep in mind that we spoke with individuals with some mobility (own car, other’s car, bus) that had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina and we have not yet interviewed those living in collective shelters.

The vast majority are from the New Orleans metropolitan area (including Kenner, Metairie, Chalmette, but not the New Orleans North Shore or Plaquemines). The vast majority of displaced persons are staying
in private homes.

The further one goes away from hurricane areas, the more, the
better, and the quicker is the assistance (people came back to Baton Rouge because they want to be closer to home, even in spite of reduced assistance).

Crime and fear of crime was universally unobserved or insignificant, both for early and late evacuees.

Blacks are more committed to returning home to New Orleans than whites, who express more reservations about returning (note, this does not take into account social class).

Displaced people have received assistance from (in order of importance), family, friends, and strangers. Churches have helped. Public (government) assistance was not just negligible—no member of the team recalled any instance of government assistance reported by this group of individuals (in the rare cases where help was requested, it was not provided).

Most people consider themselves to be very lucky, doing well, or doing reasonably well given the circumstances. They are not requesting assistance (beyond that they are receiving, and some of the most fortunate have their own means). But the minority of persons who are not doing well DESPERATELY NEED HELP.

The main concerns are financial, for a place to stay, and education for their children.

Put simply, depending on how long before they move back (if they do), people are worried that they will wear out their residential welcome.

Summarized by W. Shrum, 5 September 2005 World Summit event in Tunisia Science & Development Project site Society for Social Studies of Science