The panel “Academic Intersections and Computational Text Analysis” gathers researcher with experiences from collaborating in interdisciplinary projects focusing on computational text analysis. After individual presentations, panel participants will engage in a jointly discussion on current and future challenges and opportunities to work in projects that mixes academic traditions.
DAVID MIMNO, Associate Professor in the Department of Information Science, Cornell University.
Shopping for station wagons at the Indy 500: Rhetoric, incentives, and values at the intersection of humanities and machine learning”
Machine learning and natural language processing have provided many valuable tools for the study of culture. But the process of adapting ML methods for humanities and social science uses is often difficult and frustrating. I argue that one reason why crossing over is so challenging is that the incentive structures in ML research are not aligned with the incentives in ML applications, and can even be contradictory. At the extreme, this dynamic suggests that the results most valued in ML conferences are likely to be the most resource-consuming and least useful for humanists. By recognizing this gap and its consequences, humanists can take a properly skeptical view of ML literature. But they can also help shift the culture of ML towards a broader, more use-oriented value structure that could reduce the impact of hype cycles and improve the value of ML in the long term.
JULIANNE NYHAN, Associative Professor of Digital Information Studies, University College London
Academic intersections and computational text analysis: a perspective from one context of the Digital Humanities
This paper will reflect on the opportunities and challenges that I have encountered when working at this intersection in recent years in the context of projects that I have been involved in like Oceanic Exchanges: Tracing Global Information Networks In Historical Newspaper Repositories, 1840-1914, funded by the Transatlantic Partnership for Social Sciences and Humanities 2016 Digging Into Data Challenge. Attention will be drawn to working groups and recent reports that address issues relevant to the panel, for example, "The challenges and prospects of the intersection of humanities and data science: A white paper from The Alan Turing Institute (https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.12732164)
TED UNDERWOOD, Professor in the School of Information Science, University of Illinois
Deep learning versus distant reading
In the last few years, it sometimes appeared that controversies about data in the humanities were headed for a grand compromise. Perhaps we could agree that statistics are useful for large-scale analysis, as long as we also stressed that numbers will never usurp a human interpreter’s right to be the sole arbiter of meaning when it comes to individual works. It was a promising peace initiative. But just when humanists seemed ready to sign a truce with traditional statistics, models like CLIP and GPT-3 have emerged to further complicate the story. If we look at how these models are used, it is far from clear that they preserve any boundary between large-scale analysis and the creative reinterpretation of individual works. So the next decade is likely to be chaotic and exciting. I will quickly sketch some new directions of inquiry that might emerge when sober quantitative history meets creative remixing culture.
FREDRIK NORÉN, Senior Research Assistant at Humlab, Umeå University
The panel “Breathing Bodies and Artificial minds: Human-AI Interactions in Everyday Life” brings together leading AI scholars for a discussion on the increased use and presence of artificial intelligence in our lives and society. What does it mean to be living with and in relation to AI, and to become more and more dependent of AI in everyday life? What are the possibilities and challenges we need to address in current and future research on AI?
After individual presentations the panelists will participate in a jointly discussion starting with commentaries from the panels discutant Charles Ess.
VIRGINIA DIGNUM, Professor at the Department of Computer Science, Umeå University, Wallenberg Chair on Responsible Artificial Intelligence, Scientific Director of WASP-HS (Humanities and Society)
Responsible AI: from principles to practice
Ensuring the responsible development and use of AI is becoming a main direction in AI research and practice. Governments, corporations and international organisations alike are coming forward with proposals and declarations of their commitment to an accountable, responsible, transparent approach to AI, where human values and ethical principles are leading. Many of the AI risks, including bias, discrimination and lack of transparency can be linked to the characteristics of the data-driven techniques that are currently driving AI development, which are stochastic in nature and rely on the increasing size of datasets and computations. Such approaches perform well in accuracy but much worse in transparency and explanation. Rather than focus on the limitation of risks and safeguard of ethical and societal principles, AI governance should be designed as a stepping-stone for sustainable AI innovation. More than limiting options, governance can be used to extend and improve current approaches towards a next generation of AI: truly human-centred AI. This capacity must be nurtured and supported with strong support for research and innovation in alternative AI methods, that can combine accuracy with transparency and privacy, as well and multi-disciplinary efforts to develop and evaluate the societal and ethical impact of AI. Responsible AI is fundamentally about human responsibility for the development of intelligent systems along fundamental human principles and values, to ensure human flourishing and well-being in a sustainable world.
PER SUNDSTRÖM, Professor at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Umeå University
Is general artificial superintelligence an “ethics hoax”?
Can we create something “artificial” that is both generally intelligent – not just good at chess, or go, but that is well-rounded in the way we are – and in addition superintelligent – much more intelligent than we are in some or many respects? If we can, how should we think about and prepare for this possibility? Some say these are urgent questions (Bostrom 2014; Chalmers 2010; Tegmark 2017). Others say they are not. For example, in an article entitled “The AI ethics hoax” (2021), the philosopher Tim Crane claims that questions like these are of “no relevance to the real ethical questions” and a “distraction from real AI ethics”. Similar views are expressed by Floridi (2016) and Dignum (2019). I will try to sort out the main arguments of this debate. Unless I revise my beliefs between the writing of this abstract and this session, I will conclude that general artificial superintelligence is not an “ethics hoax” but a possibility that deserves our serious consideration.
AMANDA LAGERKVIST, Professor at the Department of Informatics and Media, Uppsala University
Media of Limits: Rethinking Automation as Existential Media – the Case of the AI Dead
Our moment in history is in the terminology of the German philosopher Karl Jaspers, a newaxial age, or more precisely: a digital limit situation, in which there are entrenched ethical, political and existential stakes of new technologies. This talk will address the philosophical implications of focalizing AI as an embedded part of the human lifeworld, and as co-conditioning in existentialist terms, what it means to be human in mortal embodiment and profound accountability for the situation at hand. Using the case of the AI dead, that is thegriefbot, it will stress that what is seldom analyzed in debates on technology today, is the fact that media are media of limits: limited themselves (they break and fail) they appear at the limit (in the limit situation of death, crisis, conflict) and as limits (as our infrastructures of being). Showing that media are both the building blocks and brinks of being, the talk will ultimately underline that gaps and punctures are not glitches in a perfect system: they are part of existence. The presentation will thus highlight the need for an existential analysis of the technological development that recognizes limit, and will suggest ways of conceptualizing digital media, AI and biometrics as existential media.
CHARLES ESS, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo
PER HOLM, Project Coordinator, Humlab, Umeå University
The interdisciplinary panel “Digital Transformations and Environmental Challenges” gathers researcher from different fields of expertise that all have in common experiences and research interests for studying the environment and in relation to digital technology. The panelists will address questions such as environmental communication, music in the context of natural and human resources and exploitation, e-waste and the use of digital tools and technologies to study environmental changes. After individual presentations, the panel participants will engage in a jointly Q&A.
TOBY MILLER, Professor of Culture Studies, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana
‘Drawing on Blow Up the Humanities (Temple UP, 2012) and work on the environmental impact of media use (Greening the Media, Oxford, 2012 and a monthly column in Psychology Today) I’ll argue for a critique of the media’s labor processes and climate-change culpability as core elements of the currently-fashionable rhetoric of digital humanities’
ANNIKA EGAN SJÖLANDER, Associate Professor at the Department of Culture and Media Studies, Umeå University
Communication for sustainable societies in the Anthropocene
The title of this talk is also the name of the research program that I have worked with during many years. Being a media and communication scholar interested in how our societies deal with challenges of the commons has led me to analyse different kinds of environmental and technological problems, understood as fundamentally social, for the last 28 years. It started with long-lived nuclear waste, one of the unintended side-effects of our electricity and welfare production that stretches all (democratic) decision-making bodies to the maximum. The spread and use of chemicals and the introduction of biofuels from forest products are other examples of problem areas that I have studied. Today I and colleagues analyse water scarcity which is a global growing concern, and the unpresidented climate crisis that puts us all to the test big and small. In all of these projects I wonder what democratic role(s) communication play(s) in the complex decision-making processes that we are face with managing these challenges of the commons? That we need communication is obvious, but in what respect and for whom? Journalists’ and communication officers’ work have always been of great interest since they both try to target “the public” (as do politicians, experts and business leaders in their search for legitimacy). The digital transformation of the media landscape in recent history has also had a great impact on these processes even if not always in obvious or intended ways. What the digital has meant for us environmental communication scholars will be highlighted and discussed in this presentation with recent examples picked from the field of climate communication research.
PHILIP BUCKLAND, Associate Professor at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Umeå University, Director of The Environmental Archaeology Lab and the Strategic Environmental Archaeology Database (SEAD)
Much of our understanding of large scale changes in climate and environmental is based on the integration of data from 1000’s of small scale studies combined with computational models. Data on how people, landscapes and organisms have interacted over long (millennial) timescales is an essential component in this. The science of palaeoecology and environmental archaeology has been an early adopter of databases and digital methods, and is now looking to integrate the data its practitioners use even more; both in more detail, integrating more archaeological and environmental data, but also more broadly, linking to other fields. I will show some examples of these past digital transformations and try to give some pointers for what is to come.
KYLE DEVINE, Associative Professor at the Department of Musicology, University of Oslo
Digital Transformations and Environmental Challenges in Music
Digital transformations are sometimes presented as solutions to environmental challenges. This has certainly been the case in music recording, the history of which is commonly told as an evolution from physical discs to invisible digits—as a story of dematerialization and, thus, an ecofriendly development. While recorded music has always exploited natural and human resources, its reliance on those resources is probably most damaging in the current digital moment. This presentation is therefore not about how digitalization solves the environmental challenges of contemporary musical production and consumption. The goal is rather to reflect on how we define an environmental challenge in the first place, because defining a challenge determines the scope of its possible solutions. Given the prominence of sustainability discourse, in particular, in relation to solving environmental challenges, I’ll draw on music’s digitalization to address the question that goes unasked in much of this work: What exactly are we trying to sustain?
MARIA ERIKSSON, Postdoctoral Fellow at Humlab, Umeå University
Influencers have become important public figures on social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok or Instagram. The session “Power, Influence(rs) and Politics: New Forms of Visual Cultures" gathers researchers with extensive research experience into the platform logics, algorithmic processes, political implications and power positions of influencers. The invited speakers will talk about their research from a myriad of perspectives. The Q&A will allow for an open discussion on current and future challenges in researching influencer cultures.
KATRIN TIIDENBERG, Professor of Participatory Culture at the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication Institute, Tallinn University
Negotiating (in)visibility and power on social media
Questions of power are commonly invoked when discussing visual (re)presentations on social media. Who can be seen? In what capacity? Who is protected and who is made vulnerable by visibility? Who gets to look and who gets to show? What is unshowable, unphotographable, unsharebale? What kinds of visual practices trouble dominant norms? This talk draws on a decade of empirical research with people and communities partaking in visual social media practices to make sense of socially mediated visuality. In particular, I will focus on how platform governance and social media’s affordances for visibility and invisibility shape people’s experiences with the power of dominant visual discourses.
SOPHIE BISHOP, Lecturer in Digital Marketing and Communications, Kings College London
Influencer management tools: Algorithmic cultures, brand safety, and bias
This presentation will explore algorithmic influencer management tools, which are software designed to support marketers in selecting influencers for advertising campaigns. Tools algorithmically approximate categorizations such as brand suitability, “brand friendliness,” and “brand risk.” In this paper, I argue that by diagnosing and categorising these values, tools reify existing social inequalities in influencer industries, particularly along the lines of sexuality, class, and race. They also deepen surveillance of influencer content by brand stakeholders, who are concerned that influencers will err and be “cancelled” (risking their investments in content). My critical framework synthesizes feminist critiques of ostensibly participatory influencer industries with close attention to critical algorithmic studies. Through a “walk through” of one popular tool, underpinned by a wider industry ethnography, I demonstrate how value-laded algorithmic judgments map onto well-worn hierarchies of desirability and employability that originate from systemic bias along the lines of class, race, and gender.
MARI LEHTO, Doctoral Candidate of Media studies, University of Turku
Ambivalent Influencers - Affective practices of anxiety in social media influencer work
A growing number of influencers are using their social media platforms to discuss social issues such as environmental matters, feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, cultural and size exclusivity, etc. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government of Finland recruited influencers to mediate health information on their digital estates and influencers have become a powerful asset for political campaigns and special interest groups as well. While influencers have long been criticized for focusing on frivolous, trivial topics, the shift to social and political activism is no safer route. Followers are quick to call them out for appropriating social causes for attention or commercial gain and social justice content is sometimes experienced as “exhausting” and “preachy”. Building on interviews with social media influencers and consultancy firm representatives, and extended online observation, this talk discusses the types of social and political content Finnish influencers share, the types of reactions they encounter, and how they cope with the pressures and conflicting expectations of precarious social media work.
JOHANNA ARNESSON, Postdoctoral Researcher in Media and Communication Studies, Umeå University
Parasocial Politics: Influencers, politics and accountability in social media
I will present preliminary results from my postdoc project Parasocial Politics: Influencers, politics and accountability in social media, which focuses on the intersection of promotion and politics in influencer culture. In this project, I examine three different but intertwined dimensions of influencer politics; the political influencer, the influential politician, and the politicised collaboration. Drawing on empirical material from Swedish influencers in the fashion and lifestyle genre, as well as representatives of political parties, the project aims to highlight broader social, cultural and political aspects of the influencer industry and culture; both how influencers can act as a form of political opinion-leaders, and how influencer’s promotional practices are adopted and adapted by other political actors. In addition, I am specifically interested in how influencers who do not position themselves as ‘political’ still are attributed political power, or promote a lifestyle that often has ideological or political undertones or prerequisites.
MOA ERIKSSON KRUTRÖK, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Sociology, Umeå University
This panel provides insights into the complex and multiple ways through which we make use of the digital as practices of acceptance and resistance. Acceptance can be illustrated by how citizens embrace digital possibilities, tools, media and their logics. But the digital can also be used as means to challenge and resist (for instance norms, power structures etc), as well as itself can be a target for resistance.
After the individual presentations, panel participants will engage in a jointly Q&A.
ESPERANZA MIYAKE, Strathclyde Chancellor’s Fellow at the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Strathclyde
ADI KUNTSMAN, Reader in Digital Politics, Manchester Metropolitan University
Ahead of its pending publication, our presentation will draw from our recent book, 'Paradoxes of Digital Disengagement: In Search of the Opt Out Button' to explore the politics of digital disconnection across various areas in everyday life: health, citizenship, education, consumer culture, labour and the environment
LARS SAMUELSSON, Associate Professor at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Umeå University
Two gaps in the privacy paradox discussion
Rather extensive recent research has revealed a discrepancy between people’s online behaviour and their attitudes to privacy. While people in general report strong concerns for their privacy, they behave online as if their privacy were not very important to them at all. This has become known as the “privacy paradox”. This talk highlights two considerations that I believe have not got the attention they deserve in the discussions about this paradox. The first concerns ethical, political, or ideological reasons to oppose privacy intrusions. People may object to online surveillance on other grounds than a concern for their own self-interest. The second consideration concerns the distinction between two main kinds of cases of privacy intrusion, one in which one’s own integrity and/or wellbeing is directly threatened, and one in which it is merely indirectly threatened. Bringing these two considerations to the fore in the discussion about the privacy paradox and what explains it may help to further our understanding of people’s privacy worries and online behaviour
LISEN SELANDER, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Applied IT, Division of Informatics, Gothenburg University
Digital technologies are a vital component of mobilizing contemporary social movements. It’s inclusive and fluid character enables messages to dramatically scale and make visible sentiments and emotions at the individual level to emerge into transnational social movements. But how can we understand why some movements prosper and others don’t? In my talk I will point at the importance of contextual understandings and grievance formation. Grievances constitute the central claims of any movement, imbued by cultural understandings and requiring individual and collective meaning making. I intend to raise questions of digital technologies, and social media in particular, capacity in facilitating meaning making beyond those sharing a common cultural context.
COPPÉLIE COCQ, Professor in Sámi Studies and Digital Humanities, Umeå University. Deputy director at Humlab.
This panel gathers leading scholars in the field for a discussion on the role of religion and faith in our digital era, and how different forms of worship relate to the use of digital technology in our contemporary society. The panelist will discuss such subjects as the digitalization of churches, especially during the corona-crisis, the relationship between mainstream and religious culture, as well as how digital media portrays churches today.
After individual presentations, the panel participants will engage in a jointly discussion starting with commentaries from the panels discutant Tim Hutchings.
STEFAN GELFGREN, Associate Professor at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Umeå University
The field of “Digital religion” – in practice and theory – has been around for about three decades now. Over the years digital media has been implemented in different settings and with different aims. We have seen both institutional and individual initiatives, and everything in between. Simultaneously, research on the matter has developed. Research is thus centered around the early adopters, and thus with and underlying current claims that more digitalization is better in an almost evolutionary sense. In recent years research has however expanded to involve more research/-ers, contexts, more perspectives, thus opening up for new interpretive possibilities.
In this talk I want to emphasis the need of a contextual understanding of the digitalization process within churches. More is not necessarily merrier or even the goal. Digitalization depends upon purposes, i.e. based on internal factors, such as self-understanding and theology; and prerequisites, i.e. based upon external factors, such as internet-connectivity and the role of religion in which religious actors act. The talk will discuss such a model.
JOHANNA SUMIALA, Associate Professor at the Department of Media and Communication Studies, University of Helsinki
Digital Death – But Who Wants to Live Forever?
In this talk, I am interested in the kind of digital death that addresses public attention in hybrid media, whether through online news stories by journalists or posts uploaded on social networks, such as YouTube, by ordinary people. Hannah Arendt (1990 ) argues that the public is the essence of the social. Today, not only journalists but also ordinary people using diverse digital media platforms have the means to establish and participate in public communication between life and death and, therefore, shape social reality as it pertains to the loss of life and how it impacts the living. In this talk I explore the ways in which the idea of exceptional and public death is currently negotiated and ritualized in contemporary society immersed in digital communication. I conclude by discussing the ultimate quest for immortality, considering what it means for the living to be capable of digitally expanding the boundary between life and death and asking what it means to live forever in a ‘post-mortal society’.
MIKHAIL SUSLOV, Associate Professor at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen
The paper discusses the reaction of the Russian Orthodox Church on the pandemic of COVID-19. This research identifies and analyzes major ideological cleavages on this issue, such as the possibility of transmitting viruses via the Eucharist, the religious meaning of the pandemic, and possibilities of digitalizing the rituals. The paper pays special attention to the camp of Orthodox fundamentalists, whose reaction to the corona-crisis partially follows the international model of “COVID-dissidence” and partially taps into the domestic Russian sources, such as the mainstream ideology of geopolitical Messianism, entertained by the authoritarian regime. The author argues that the Orthodox take on COVID-19 magnifies major problems of the post-Soviet Church, including the excessive reliance on the state, “magical-fundamentalist” inclinations of the religious believers, and fears of digitalization.
TIM HUTCHINGS, Assistant Professor of Religious Ethics, Faculty of Arts, University of Nottingham
CARL-ERIK ENGQVIST, Artistic Director at Humlab, Umeå University
In this discussion-based session the panel presenters will give a short introduction to experiences of online teaching in higher education pre- and during the Covid-19 pandemic and for the post-pandemic future to come. After their individual short presentations, the panel participants will engage in a joint discussion, also including questions from the audience.
JENNY EKLÖF, Associate Professor, Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Umeå University
Dr. Jenny Eklöf is senior lecturer in History of Science and Ideas at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Umeå university. She has taught fully online classes for over a decade, experimenting with asynchronous tools for communication and participation in particular. In her ongoing historical research she looks at how the emergence of the internet in the 1990s moved distance education from the margins to the centre of national educational policy discussions in Sweden, and how different arguments have been put forward, both for and against, the extensive use of digital technologies in higher education.
ANNA-LILL DRUGGE, Associate Professor, Department of Language Studies
HANNA-MÁRET OUTAKOSKI, Associative Professor, Department of Language Studies, Umeå University
Dr. Hanna-Máret Outakoski is senior lecturer in North Sámi at the Department of Language Studies at Umeå University, Sweden, at Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, and at the Sámi University of Applied Sciences in Norway. Her latest research projects investigate teaching of heritage language writing in Sámi educational contexts and the use of virtual worlds and role play in online teaching in language revitalization contexts. One of the aims of the current collaborative research is to strengthen the position of Sámi language use among Sámi youth, and to find new models for teachers to widen the discourses of language instruction in Sámi education.
SATISH STRÖMBERG, Ed Tech and Lecturer, Humlab
Satish Strömberg is the ICT coach at the Faculty of Humanities at Umeå University. His mandate is to guide and consult with teaching, research and administrative staff in order to help them use and embrace digital technology for their professional day to day needs. His daily responsibilities include pedagogical support & guidance for users of the university learning platform, online eMeetings, video lecture system, and digital storage systems. He has more than 15 years of experience in the area of instructional design for eLearning. He has taught English at various levels - from beginner to advanced - in universities and institutions in Spain, Czechoslovakia, England and in Sweden. Between 2000-2012, as a junior lecturer at Linneas University, he taught undergraduate courses, both on campus and online in the field of English linguistics.