Lars blogs

Migration to WordPress.

Sun, 24 Jan 2010

Since I got the job to set up a blog for someone, and since it was decided that the blog should be done with WordPress, I started to play around with this blogging package a few days ago. To learn how to set things up and make modifications, I tried to replicate the style of my own blog, which is based on the very simple, perl-based blosxom. One thing came to another and finally I tried to import all of my blosxom blog entries into the new WordPress database – and here we are! I decided to switch to WordPress because:

  • it is maintained much more regularly
  • it is much more comfortable to use
  • it offers more and more useful plugins
  • I hope it will make it easier to keep off spam
  • it finally allowed me to make a tag cloud

I changed the setup of my blosxom based blog so that it won’t be possible to enter any new comments and so that visitors will eventually be redirected to the new, WordPress based blog. (I decided against keeping the content in the same address location because of the cgi blabla that I did not keep out of the old blog’s address because I did not know how at the time I set up my first blog.) Please update your bookmarks and feed readers to go to the new address: http://userpage.fu- Thank you for sharing the blosxom-ness for several years!

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Call for Papers: Absence. Materiality, embodiment, resistance.

Thu, 17 Dec 2009

I am happy to announce that I will be co-organizing a session at next year’s RGS-IBG conference in London (September 1-3). Here is the text of the call for papers:

Convenors: Lars Frers (University of Oslo); Lars Meier (Institute for Employment Research, Nürnberg); Erika Sigvardsdotter (Uppsala University)

What is missing, for whom and why? How does that, which is absent, relate to the things and people that are present? In this session we wish to engage with the intersections of the material and emotional qualities of absence, focussing on the fact that absence is all but a void, manifesting itself in concrete places, people and things; that it is embodied and enacted.
To feel something’s absence, it needs to be part of a temporal pattern, it has to be a part of what is expected; something that used to be present. A factory is shut down, workers gone, and with them the sounds and smells of work. Yet all of these sensual experiences may be evoked by a whiff of a machine’s scent, by a familiar chink or a rusty tool laying around. Exploring the materiality of absence, we want to improve the understanding of how remembrances of things past and people gone are realized in things and people present. Establishing absence may also be part or result of power-related negotiations. As legal residuals of border regulation, irregular migrants are absent in a jurisdiction; off the grid, uncountable and unable to complain if abused or exploited. Yet, their presence is unquestionable. Although being able to exercise that presence may be a long term goal, absence – from conspicuous places, from view and immigration officer’s radars, can be a situational tactic necessary for their survival. However, managing absence, controlling the traces and the materialities that might make the absent present can also be a long-term strategy. Research into climate change can be understood as work trying to overcome the resistance of the material by digging up traces that show that something is there even it may usually be absent.
The absence–presence ambivalence can be worked in various ways; a presence suggesting the absent, the seemingly absent becoming present in flesh and blood, or as a merely suggested, ghostlike presence.

Possible session topics:

  • Remembrances: Emotions, memory and the materiality of absence.
  • Contestations of what and who is absent/present.
  • Practices and the managing of absence.

In the session, we want to discuss different characteristics of absence and their interrelations. To achieve this we will focus on concrete experiences and examples of absence and we welcome presentations that display the sensual and material qualities of absence.

Please submit a 300 word abstract for a 20 minute presentation (including title, presenter’s name and affiliation) before 31st January 2010 to:

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More privacy for you.

Mon, 16 Nov 2009

For more than seven years I have used Sitemeter to see and analyze the traffic to my website. The service was originally recommended to me by Jörg Kantel, but in recent years I grew more and more disenchanted by Sitemeter – they teamed up with different advertising partners, made their JavaScript more complex, and there is also the ongoing privacy related discussion. In addition, because it could only count those visits that actually accessed the JavaScript code that is embedded into a HTML page, Sitemeter did not count those who would not activate the script. So the count missed out on those who block JavaScript and it also never counted access to the PDF, audio and video files that I host here.
In spite of all of these disadvantages, there was no real alternative for me, since Google Analytics is even worse when it comes to data collection, and since I did not have access to the webserver logs. All of this changed a few months ago when zedat, FU’s IT unit made it possible to access the weblogs for the userpage that they host. Since that change, I have now and then experimented with this feature, and with the help of the nice staff at zedat, I was able to set up a working solution using cron jobs and Visitors. Although Visitors is somewhat dated and not as feature-rich as I would like, it is good enough to finally get rid of Sitemeter. (And installing/using it does not require a lot of technical skills.)
So beginning today, accessing my website will: 1. better preserve your privacy and 2. be faster, since my pages are now completely JavaScript free and since your browser won’t have to access several different domains to load a single page. Win-win situation for you and me!
Sitemeter’s final count for this site was: 128,247 Visits and 193,571 Page Views.

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The route, the body & the view. Investigations into agency and perception along the Norwegian Tourist Route.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009

This is the title of the presentation that I gave last week. I was very kindly invited to present my work on the Norwegian Tourist Route in the research seminar of Uppsala University’s Department of Social and Economic Geography. As usual, I recorded the presentation on my laptop and I have now uploaded it. If you have a modern web browser like Firefox (3.5 and up), Safari (3.1 and up) or Chrome, you can watch the video right here.

The whole presentation took about an hour – it was very nice for me to be able to talk about my work with enough time to allow for the inclusion of a substantial amount of what some people call data (there are five video clips and a lot of photographs included in the presentation). The discussion after the talk and later in the evening was really productive and the whole atmosphere of the visit was very welcoming and nice. I extend my heartfelt thanks to the great folks in Uppsala!

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Spam conferences.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009

Today I got an e-mail from Prof. Nikos E. Mastorakis <> with the loong subject line:

Dear Professor Frers, As invited author, you are entitled publication of your paper in the ISI Proceedings, Books and Journals of the WSEAS [my e-mail address] ( reply only to )

How nice!, I thought, Somebody recognized my academic brilliance and is inviting me to a conference!. More flattery follows and then come several lists and promises of how many books I will get for free if I attend the conference, that they will publish my paper in some kind of journal which will be cited and listed in a gazillion of indices etc. By then, I was already pretty suspicious and the effect of the flattery sadly had to subside. There was just too much information about how academically excellent this conference would be, how much I personally would benefit from it, and there were some other, more interesting suggestions: The location they gave for the conference is Penang, Malaysia and guess what the picture on the conference website shows? Yup. A beach lined with palm trees…
When I then went on to search the internet for terms like wseas strange, wseas spam or wseas scam, I had to dig through many, many pages that all were somehow linked to the organization that hosts the conference itself. They are very clever in linking to papers that have the words spam or scam in them, so that you will somehow land in one of their domains when you actually are looking for sources not connected to them. They even have pseudo blogs of their own. With a bit of effort you will find the few places that are independent and they certainly don’t have a lot of good things to say about the scheme. (The best that you will find are the CVs and publication lists of people who seem to have attended one of the many conferences hosted by the WSEAS.) The registration fee is between 500 and 550 Euros. On the page where they give information about the conference fee, you see two women in bikinis lounging beside a crystal blue swimming pool… Got the idea?
So you have a strange mix of appealing on the one hand to a huge career benefit in terms of publishing in well-indexed journals and on the other hand of hanging out at a beach, probably mixed with an exciting erotic adventure. Who wouldn’t submit a paper? Well, I haven’t found a report of anyone who actually participated in one of these conferences, but I am quite sure it would be an interesting read. But I guess the incentives for disclosing this kind of information are not very … existent. Good subject for a field study, of course. Other than that, I would be glad if my e-mail inbox could be kept free of this kind of pseudo-academic money making scheme that eats away my time and attention.

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Upperdog – Being away and being bent back.

Mon, 12 Oct 2009

The title pun of Upperdog is not the most witty thing that I have ever encountered in cinema. It does its job though, since it hints at some of the drama that guides the plot of this movie. Should I face my past even if it is so much worse than the present and does not seem to have anything to do with the now? Should I face the underdog side of me, now that I am part of the upper class? In this film, a passionate affair of the upperdog with a real underdog, a migrant who works as a housemaid for the Upperdog’s parents, is needed to get things into motion.
For me, some parts movie were a bit like the title: a bit too close to the cliché to be really convincing. Maid = passionate affair. Adopting parents = cluelessness about their kid’s real emotions. But luckily, things are a bit more complicated, since there is another plot of almost equal importance, one that involves a Norwegian soldier returning from Afghanistan, where he killed an innocent. He is haunted by nightmares and the anti-war campaign in his home country and he too needs a woman to face his past and take his destiny into his own hands. Writer and Director Sara Johnsen is presenting two male characters that are completely different – on first sight. But a closer look reveals that they are both caught in different kinds of machismo traps, one as a successful and ruthless alpha male, the other as one who wanted to serve the good by taking up arms.
It is difficult for me to say why this movie did not really convince me – the leads are doing very decent or even good jobs and the two plot lines do not seem to be overly dramatic. But somehow there was no spark for me. Well, maybe that is not true – the scenes between the alpha male and the housemaid provoced some reactions in me (I was affected by their exploitative nature). It is difficult for me to make up my mind about this movie – and I guess that is why I would still recommend watching this movie. It raises some interesting issues – but not because of the bland conflict lines, which we all know too well, but because some of the characters are not very easy to place and it is not clear who could be a good guy here and why…
IMDb entry | Trailer

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Herausfordernde Materialitäten : Gegenstände, Methoden, Konzepte.

Tue, 06 Oct 2009

Gestern habe ich in meinem Postfach hier in Oslo die neueste Ausgabe der Berichte zur deutschen Landeskunde gefunden. Das mag merkwürdig erscheinen, war aber schon heiß ersehnt, denn es handelt sich um das Themenheft Materielle Welt in der Humangeographie, für das ich einen Beitrag eingereicht habe. Den musste ich nach dem Peer Review noch einmal überarbeiten, aber nun erblickt er das Licht der Welt. Sollte man ein sozialwissenschaftliches Interesse am Themenfeld Materialität haben, dann lohnt es sich sicher, einmal eine Blick in das Themenheft zu werfen – die Berichte sind in den meisten deutschen Universitätsbibliotheken verfügbar.

In this article I engage with the challenges posed by studying materialities on several levels. Firstly, I delineate the potential problems that can arise when one is using a category like materiality which has the potential of becoming a deterministic factor in the analysis. While often being naturalized instead of being politicized, it has to be understood as being integral to social practices. Secondly, using video-analysis, I demonstrate the methodological challenges of working with materialities. Thirdly, I emphasize the importance of temporality. Materialities unfold their specific qualities only in temporal processes that encompass actors, things and others. Fourthly, I present the phenomenologically anchored concepts envelopment and Wahrnehmungshandeln (perception-action), showing how materialities participate in perception-actions. Finally, I investigate how an open approach to the challenges of materiality prioritizes ambivalences instead of dichotomies in the analysis

Die vollständige bibliografische Angabe lautet:
Frers, Lars (2009), Herausfordernde Materialitäten : Gegenstände, Methoden, Konzepte, Berichte zur deutschen Landeskunde, 83(2), S. 177-191.

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Upgrading video on website to HTML 5.

Sun, 04 Oct 2009

In the course of the last month I have recoded all of my pages with video content to conform to the current working draft of HTML 5. The nice thing is that there already is a code validator for HTML 5, so that I found some things that have changed from HTML 4 to 5 that I would have overlooked. (For example the fact that the <acronym> tag isn’t part of the standard anymore and that <abbr> should be used instead.)
The main reason for me to switch to HTML 5 was the new <video> element. Until now, I have used different hacks to embed video into the website without breaking standard conformance or having to use Flash. Or I have used the official standard implementation, which left users of Internet Explorer in the cold anyway. So I was never really content with the way that I offer video because it would either be really hackish code, or it would not validate, or it would break in one or another browser. (Opera for example did not allow some of the officially validating hacks to work…) So now I am using clear and clean HTML 5 code. The only obstacle that I had to overcome was to get Firefox to display the video. I thought this wouldn’t be a problem since Firefox officially supports the video tag beginning with version 3.5. The first code that I had looked something like this:

<video controls src="passage.mp4"><a href="passage.mp4" title="right click to download the file">video file (24 MB)</a></video>

This worked perfectly fine in Safari (version 4), but in Firefox I would only get a grey field with an X where the video should be. I did not mind at first, since I was happy to get things running, my code was validating and it was built on an example that I found on the pages of the W3C itself. After a few days, I was bothered by this solution, since about half of the visitors of my website use Firefox and I certainly did not want them to be left in the cold. So I searched a bit and finally found the corresponding bugs on Mozilla’s website (435298 for the Mac and 435339 for Windows) and a general discussion of the issue. In all of these places, the Firefox developers clearly state that they won’t be supporting MPEG codecs and also won’t hook the video element up with the plugin architecture of the respective OSs. Instead, Firefox is implementing the open source Ogg Theora video codec that is not plagued by licensing issues in the way the MPEG-4 codecs are. (There is a pretty thorough discussion about this on Ars Technica.) Well, I never used Ogg stuff for anything so far, but I read that the quality of their video compression improved greatly over the course of the last year. It is open source, which I like, and Mozilla decided to try to push it, so I finally decided to give it a shot. Of course, offering embedded video support to all my visitors using Firefox was a pretty big incentive too… After a lot of experimenting, fiddling around with different encoder settings and comparing encoding results with QuickTime X’s h264 encoded files, it became clear, that the quality of Theora is indeed worse than what h264/mp4 offers, but that it is still certainly good enough for presenting video on my website – only very few people will notice the difference between the two formats (but they will notice that the .ogg files are bigger).

I had to change the code a bit to offer both video formats. I chose to use Ogg Theora as the fallback format because of the better quality (smaller size at same quality) of the h264 encoding. My current implementation looks like this:

<video controls><source src="passage.mp4" type="video/mp4"><source src="passage.ogg" type="video/ogg">Video file: <a href="passage.mp4" title="right click to download the file">MP4/.264 (24 MB)</a> | <a href="passage.ogg" title="right click to download the file">Ogg Theora (47 MB)</a></video>

This way, Firefox 3.5 and Safari 4 show the embedded video with controls, while all other browsers (I tested Camino 1.6, Opera 9 and 10, and Internet Explorer 7 and 8) fall back to displaying the direct links to the video files. After doing some more testing, I must say that I prefer Firefox’s implementation of the video element to Safari’s, because Firefox will only download the video file when it is actually activated by the user, whereas Safari will start the download of all embedded video files immediately, thus clogging my internet connection as soon as I open the website.

If you want to check out how I implemented things, you can visit this page, where I also used HTML 5’s new <audio> element: Pacification by Design.

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stralau wrote (2009/10/6 23:27):

There was a longer discussion of the WHATWG on this, see Hixie's email on this.

ozean wrote (2009/10/9 11:05):

Thanks for the link!

ozean wrote (2009/10/15 20:55):

more about video encoding Today, I stumbled over a very nice series of articles that explain some of the problems and pitfalls of video encoding. A gentle introduction to video encoding. Highly recommended!

Much better spelling support in Snow Leopard.

Tue, 01 Sep 2009

screen shot of the new spelling options in the text part of System PreferencesWhen I wrote an e-mail in Norwegian today, I again had to realize how bad I am with my spelling. Since I just installed Apple’s new operating system Snow Leopard I went to check if it happens to support Norwegian spelling correction. It did not. But when I checked out the new spelling options in the Text tab of System Prefences’ Language & Text panel, I saw the picture that you can see here too. This means that OS X 10.6 supports spelling dictionaries such as those used by OpenOffice. Yay! That means that we now have a ton of other spelling options without having to resort to services like CocoASpell, which never really worked too well for me.
So now getting support for other languages is as easy as visiting an OpenOffice dictionary server to download the dictionary you need, unzipping the dictionary and dropping the .dic and the .aff file into the Spelling folder inside the Library folder. (Either in your home directory, or, if you want to install the dictionary for all users of your machine, into the root level Library’s Spelling folder.) The great thing is that we now have full spelling support for many, many languages in all applications that support Apple’s spelling services, e.g. in TextEdit, Pages, Nisus, Mellel,… What a wonderful day!

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stralau wrote (2009/9/2 06:22):

Finally! Alte Rechtschreibung!

ozean wrote (2009/9/2 13:46):

Stimmt, gar nicht drauf geachtet! Die alte Rechtschreibung gibt’s im Paket zusammen mit der neuen. Dazu muss die Datei vom oben verlinkten Server heruntergeladen werden.

ozean wrote (2009/9/9 00:51):

apple visits us (using a pre-release build of 10.6.1) screen shot of the Apple employee visit
Neat! When I checked my vistor log today, I stumbled upon two visits from the domain. Both were googling for spelling snow leopard. That alone would be fun enough, but one of the two seemed to be using an in-house pre-release build of the next version of Snow Leopard (which has already been talked about in the rumor mill) – nice to see that it will include an updated webkit engine! (Even if I browse with Camino, not Apple’s Safari.)

Route interruptus. A Study of Fatigue, Erosion and other material agencies at rest stops of the Norwegian Tourist Route.

Sun, 30 Aug 2009

first slide of the presentationThis week, I found myself in Manchester once more. I was called to port by the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG), which might just be my favorite disciplanary organisation conference. Small enough to allow one to meet people frequently, diverse enough to collect many different approaches, and – in the fields of interest for me – open for risky submissions, non-standard formats and innovative presentations. In addition, you will usually find a session or two where people speak very openly about the difficulties of their field work – both on an intellectual but, even more important, also on an emotional level. I guess most of these kinds of sessions are convened and chaired by female researchers that are still in the first decade of their careers… hopefully this is not only an age-related thing but a generational change that continues even when people advance further in their academic standing.
This is what I talked about:

Things, people, and information do not flow without resistances. In this presentation, I will delve into the bodily and material aspects of mobility, displaying how bodily fatigue and the erosion of matter intersect at rest stops along the Norwegian Tourist Route. On this route, the impressive fjord landscape is framed and presented to the travelers at several rest stops that have been artistically designed. Combining video analysis and photography with ethnographic fieldwork, the study focuses on the mundane everyday life, on the resistances as well as the attractions that guide the perception and action of those who spend some time at these places. Particular attention will also be paid to the ways in which the practices that happen at this place change the place itself – situationally but also in a slower, long-term process that will be explored by quasi-archeological investigations into the traces and the detritus that gather at these places. Thus it will be shown how material and bodily processes challenge and undermine the framed presentation of landscape – but it will also be shown that these processes bear a potential of delightful pleasures, unintended uses, and subtle reconfigurations of the socio-spatial order of these places.

As usual, I have recorded the presentation so that you can download and watch it yourself (16 minutes):
Ogg Theora movie (35.5 MB, play with VLC) | QuickTime movie (29.3 MB, play with QuickTime).

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A change of air. Once more.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009

I like all seasons in their own peculiar ways. During the last years, summer has been Berlin–Germany–home in-between time. Work obligations and monetary restrictions did not allow for real holidays, so that July and August became a mix. A mingling of places: refreshing apartments so that they can be sublet once more without a bad conscience; reading and writing and applying for jobs and wrangling with deadlines; hanging out on balconies; visiting family and seeing friends and trying not to get caught up in obligations too much to not enjoy seeing all of these; enjoying Berlin nights; saying goodbye again to the place that you miss but do not want to miss, because this only makes things harder; riding the bicycle through warm summer fields; trying to keep an eye on expenses; looking out for good deals on necessary and not so necessary stuff; loving to be where you are right now, while trying to be looking forward to where you will be tomorrow, and not being too sad about where you left the day before… Tomorrow, I will let the wind will carry me back to Oslo.

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Geld für Worte.

Tue, 11 Aug 2009

Es hat mich immer interessiert, wie das mit der VG Wort eigentlich funktioniert und vor allem natürlich, wieviel Geld man denn nun eigentlich für Bücher und Artikel bekommt. Da dieses Geld durch Zahlungen von der (bundesdeutschen) Allgemeinheit zusammenkommt – zum Beispiel als Aufpreis beim Kauf von Druckern, Scannern und Kopierern – will ich hier Rechenschaft darüber ablegen, wieviel von dem Geld wofür auf meinem Konto gelandet ist.
Ich habe beim letzten Kalenderjahrwechsel zum ersten Mal fristgerecht einen Antrag bei der VG Wort eingereicht (man muss der VG Wort zur Erstanmeldung ein Formular per Post schicken, deshalb hat es im Jahr davor nicht geklappt - weshalb mir ein Buchbeitrag von 2006 durch die Lappen gegangen ist). Hier die Liste der Ausschüttung mit den unterschiedlichen Posten:

  1. 2006 Fachbücher: 27,50 € (Mitherausgeber)
  2. 2007 Buchbeiträge: 37,51 € (Kapitel in einem deutschen und einem britischen Sammelband, zusammen 39 Seiten)
  3. 2007 Fachbücher: 490,00 € (Buch ~89000 Worte, Mitherausgeber)
  4. 2008 Buchbeiträge: 3,00 € (Enzyklopädiebeitrag, 2 Seiten)
  5. 2008 Zeitschriftenbeiträge: 28,50 € (Buchbesprechung in einer englischsprachigen Fachzeitschreift, 19 Seiten)
  6. Summe: 586,51 €

Ich fand es wirklich spannend, diese Liste zu sehen und habe mich natürlich auch über das Geld gefreut, das ich zur Zeit sehr gut gebrauchen kann. Allerdings muss man einschränkend sagen, dass die Veröffentlichung meines Buches beim transcript Verlag mich über 2400 Euro gekostet hat (von denen das Graduiertenkolleg immerhin 1333 Euro als Druckkostenzuschuss getragen hat).
Wer wissen möchte, welche Titel hinter den Beiträgen stehen, kann diese Liste mit der Liste meiner Veröffentlichungen abgleichen.

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Video research in the open. Encounters involving the researcher-camera.

Tue, 04 Aug 2009

cover of the book 'Video Interaction AnalysisA few months ago, the book Video Interaction Analysis – Methods and Methodology, edited by Ulrike Tikvah Kissmann has been published. Since this is my first purely methodological publication, I am really looking forward to see how it is received. The opening paragraph of my chapter reads like this:

Filming is an encounter. The person wielding the camera, the camera itself, and the people and things around them enter a dynamic relationship. This relationship unfolds itself according to the rules set by the social, spatial, and material features and practices that constitute it. These features and practices constitute it, but they do not determine it in a linear way – too many contingencies enter the interaction process, disrupting, changing, or reorienting it. […] In this essay, I will focus on the surprising, unplanned side of doing video research, pointing out both the risks and the opportunities that are part and parcel of filming non-staged everyday life in public settings.

After discussing how I am located in the social field as a researcher – in connection to Bourdieu’s discussion of the social field – I switch dimensions and start to discuss my position in the material field:

But what about the position in the material field? Is that not the same thing as the geographical location? In the way that materiality is conceptualized for this essay, there is more to this position than physical location. Drawing both on Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the body (Merleau-Ponty, 1962; Merleau-Ponty and Lefort, 1968) and on works published in the wide field of science and technology studies (Garfinkel et al., 1981; Latour, 1987; Pickering, 1995), I want to propose that the position I take as a bodily actor in the material field at least temporarily becomes that of a hybrid of man and machine: a camera-researcher. The way I position myself is guided by the way I observe with and as the camera, by the way the camera observes with and as me.

These are the two main conceptual vectors which propel the discussion forward: a focus on the open-ended encounters that constitute the field work itself, and an STS focus that helps the analysis to not take the camera itself for granted, making it disappear behind the hand and the eye of the researcher. Equipped with this two vectors, I try to thrust into some problematic aspects of ethnographic research in general and of video-based research in particular.

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Bye bye, Internet Explorer 6.

Sun, 02 Aug 2009

Well, it is more than five years ago that I blogged about the fading away of people using Netscape Navigator 4.x versions to visit my website, a year later about the reduction in people browsing my site with Internet Explorer 5.x and about the first sightings of Internet Explorer 7.
Today things are different, and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6.x is the beast that keeps me from implementing cleaner HTML code for this website. But there are good news: In the last months, the number of people visiting this site with Internet Explorer 6.x has more and more often been smaller than the number of users browsing the web with the current 8.x incarnation of the beast. This is good news, because the new version 8.x is much more standards compliant and it finally, finally supports the use of the quote tag <q>. That means that more people will acutally see the quotation marks around the quotes (“” for English, „“ for German) that I coded into this blog and the other pages offered here.
When the amount of IE 6.x users consistently remains below three percent, I will kick out the hacks that I put into the code to work around IE 6.x’s annoyances. Maybe that will also be the day when I will introduce the first pages that are coded in HTML 5, something that I am really looking forward to because the new <video> element will make embedding video in a standards conformant way much easier.

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Living the beach. Eyes, Feet and, of course, Hearts.

Sat, 01 Aug 2009

picture of the first slide of my presentation, showing a stormy beachAfter leaving the conference on creative destruction in Leipzig, I had to take a night train to get to the next academic event, the conference ‘Twixt Land and Sea: The Beach in Literature, Film and Cultural Theory, which was hosted by the University of Berne in Switzerland. I was really saddened that I missed the first two days of the conference, but somehow my e-mail address got off the list for the beaches conferences so that I assumed that it would not take place at all and submitted an abstract for the overlapping conference in Leipzig. The confusion created a Lars that felt a bit ruffled when he arrived in Berne the next morning, having only an hour to get himself straightened up – which succeeded only partially, so that the talk that I gave there was really, really flooded with ehms and, even worse, more than a hundred (no joke!) kind ofs. However, since I otherwise think that the content is worth the while, I got myself reacquainted with my video editing software (Final Cut Express) and edited out most of these annoying fillers. I really hope that the audience did not think I am totally stupid/deviant during the presentation… Whatever. Here is the abstract of the presentation.

The encounter with the beach opens up a new, wide horizon. The eyes can roam over dunes, the shore line, the waves and the many or few bodies of others. Should the temperature allow for it, shoes will be tossed and toes can dig into the grainy sand. The physicality of the beach merges with the corporality of the body. Looking and walking around people perceive themselves in concert with their surroundings. This act of perceiving is not a passive observation, to the contrary, it is a sensual and emotional involvement; it is acting towards yourself, towards material things, social ideals and corporeal others.
In this presentation I will use video and audio recordings to analyze and display how the beach is constituted in human interactions. Usually, "living the beach" is cast as holiday experience. However, in times of climate change another layer of complexity is added to the multi-dimensional experience of the beach. The heart is not only moved by sunsets and flirtations, or the scare of drowning in the ocean, it is also faced with the possible submersion of the landscape in which it thrives. If perceiving the changes created by global warming in everyday life is connected with the experience of your own corporeal self, then it is interesting to examine how climate change enters the sensual relation to the world around you – instead of existing only in the media, on maps and scientific reports. I will try to get a grip on this relationship between the bodily self, climate change and everyday experience to open up a new perspective on the effects of global warming and rising sea levels.

You can also check out the conference program (PDF). As usual, I have recorded the presentation so that you can download and watch it yourself (29 minutes):
Ogg Theora movie (46.3 MB, play with VLC) | QuickTime movie (38.9 MB, play with QuickTime).

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