Hello to everyone reading,
My name is Olle Sköld and I’m Dydimus Zengenene’s second supervisor at Uppsala University. Dydimus and I are both based at Department of ALM, Uppsala University, Sweden. My professional positions reflect at least to some extent the breadth of my research interests: I’m a senior lecturer in information studies but I also regularly teach and supervise students in archival studies, museum and cultural heritage studies, and the digital humanities (DH). Outside of this I’ve also headed Uppsala University’s DH master’s programme from its inception in spring 2018 to start of the programme in 2019 and beyond into the present day. I’m happy to be able to stay in touch with the many exciting developments in POEM via Dydimus’ work, and I’m looking forward to the many great dissertations that will come out of the project.
So, I’ve been asked to write a bit about my research interests. The first question that arose after sitting down at the word processor was of course how to find a narrative or some other type of processual frame that could make comprehensible the array different empirical foci, perspectives, and (to different degrees realized) interests that characterize my years of conducting research at university. The answer that emerged was unescapable: it’s better and likely more naturalistic to eschew the narrative angle for a more fragmented—and I wouldn’t dare write aphoristic—one using some examples of using past-present-future as some kind of rough means of disposition. That said, let’s get cracking.
After completing my M.A. I started working in Avoimet Verkostot Oppimiseen (Eng. Open Networks for Learning; headed by Isto Huvila and Kim Holmberg), a project funded by the European Social Fund and located at Åbo Academy University in Finland. There I began developing an interest in online virtual environments and the people, ongoings, and various ventures that can be found there. This resulted in, among other things, a paper where I sought to understand how the different constitutions of virtual spaces affect their potential to be used to host learning activities (Sköld, 2012). Although I haven’t explored learning and pedagogics in my research since, this first foray into inquiring into online spaces came to in many ways influence the next big scholarly task I undertook, and that was to write a PhD dissertation. This pursuit eventually resulted in the dissertation Documenting Videogame Communities (Sköld, 2018a) where I put into focus the knotty and complex problem of how to preserve videogames—that is, making sure that videogames remain accessible for research and leisure purposes also beyond the bounds of the present day. Informed by the fundamental archival notion that a thorough understanding of the phenomena to-be-archived is a critical building block in any successful preservation strategy, I directed attention towards one of the lesser-known facets of videogames and videogame playing: the three-part intersection of the virtual spaces of the videogames themselves, the communities of videogame players, and the ecosystems of social media used by these communities to communicate, organize, document, and more. The principal building blocks of Documenting Videogame Communities was some theoretical work drawing on document theory, videogame studies, and social-media research (Sköld, 2013), fieldwork seeking to understand documentation and knowledge-production in online videogame communities (Sköld, 2015; 2017), and investigations into the videogame-archiving literature (Sköld, 2018b).
The PhD defence marked somewhat of a change in course research-wise for me, although I’ve since returned to (and hope to continue to do so more in the future) the topic of videogames and videogame cultures from the perspective of curation and preservation (Prax et al., 2019). One of the things that I’ve begun to research outside of the (i.e., my) beaten path is digitization and digitization work (Sköld et al., 2019). Digitization and the many prioritizations and choices, professional knowledge and know-how, applications of machinery that make up this phenomena are at the time of writing somewhat of a black box that—if unpacked a bit—could offer exciting insights into the provenance of the vast resources of heritage information that have been put online in Europe and worldwide during the last three decades or so (see e.g., Europeana). Another subject that I have approached is the current widespread discourse on source criticism and the skills required to critically evaluate digital information (Tallerås and Sköld, 2020). The objective of the study that I’m referring to here was to better understand—on the basis of a case study of Swedish and Norwegian daily press—what topics that are discussed in conjunction with mentions of source criticism, who is ascribed authority in the techniques of critical evaluation of information, and which professional and academic backgrounds that are ascribed value in this context.
Outside of these smaller-scale efforts I’m also very excited to work as a researcher in CAPTURE, a project funded by the European Research Council and led by Isto Huvila (ERC 818210). CAPTURE concerns itself principally with the wicked problem of how to ensure sustainable reusability of the contents offered by research data infrastructures. Efficient and purposeful data re-use brings many opportunities and promises but is also hindered by the lack of holistic and research based knowledge on how collections’ and datasets’ context of creation (e.g., ‘paradata’) should be documented and kept in research data repositories. This is one of the things that Isto, myself, and our colleagues are trying to figure out by enacting a multi-method and multi-year research agenda. Take a look at CAPTURE’s website (https://www.abm.uu.se/research/Ongoing+Research+Projects/capture) for project news and more if the project piques your interest.
Several exciting research projects and initiatives are in the works and may or may not come to fruition in the times ahead. Topics include online-community memory-making in the fault line between participation and institutional practices in the cultural-heritage sector (together with Ina-Maria Jansson); participatory play in public heritage spaces (PLATYPUS, together with Lina Eklund, Patrick Prax, Jon Back, and Anna Foka); a project-under-review that will focus on digitization of the archives emanating from the Swedish labour movement and other one that engage with the technical and epistemic offerings that AI might bring to the area of image-indexing and search.
That’s it, thanks for reading! In closing, a word to the POEM PhD candidates out there: if you find that you a few years after graduation have a research trajectory that isn’t quite as schizophrenic as mine then you should probably give yourself a hand for being able to maintain focus and logical progression. If the situation turns out to be the opposite, well, give yourself a clap on the shoulder anyway—things will work out just fine.
List of references
If you are interested in reading more about my work and taking a look at the publications mentioned above and others, please take a look at https://katalog.uu.se/profile/?id=N12-1373.
Prax, P., Eklund, L., Sjöblom, B., Nylund, N. and Sköld, O. (2019). Drawing Things Together: Understanding the Challenges and Opportunities of a Cross-LAM Approach to Digital Game Preservation. Nordic Journal of Cultural Policy, 22(2), pp. 332–354.
Sköld, O. (2012). The Effects of Virtual Space on Learning: A Literature Review. First Monday, 17(1). [online] Available at: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3496/3133.
Sköld, O. (2013). Tracing Traces: A Document-Centred Approach to the Preservation of Virtual World Communities. Information Research, 18(3). [online] Available at: http://www.informationr.net/ir/18-3/colis/paperC09.html.
Sköld, O. (2015). Documenting Virtual World Cultures: Memory-Making and Documentary Practices in the City of Heroes Community. Journal of Documentation, 71(2), pp.294–316. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-11-2013-0146.
Sköld, O. (2017). Getting-to-Know: Inquiries, Sources, Methods, and the Production of Knowledge on a Videogame Wiki. Journal of Documentation, 73(6), pp.1299– 1321. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-11-2016-0145.
Sköld, O. (2018a). Documenting Videogame Communities: A Study of Community Production of Information in Social-Media Environments and its Implications for Videogame Preservation. Doctoral compilation thesis in Library and Information Studies. Uppsala: Skrifter utgivna av Inst. för ABM vid Uppsala universitet. Available at: http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-336748.
Sköld, O. (2018b). Understanding the “Expanded Notion” of Videogames as Archival Objects: A Review of Priorities, Methods, and Conceptions. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 69(1), pp.134–145. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.23875.
Sköld, O., Kjellman, U., Orrghen, A. and Beckman, J. (2019). Moving Forward with Digital Scientific Images: A Study of Infrastructure, Digitization Work, and Digital Research Practices. Proceedings from the Digitial Humanities in the Nordic Countries (DHN) Conference 2019. Copenhagen, Denmark, 6–8 March 2019, pp. 415–425.
Tallerås, K. and Sköld, O. (2020). What They Talk About When They Talk About the Need for Critical Evaluation of Information Sources: An Analysis of Norwegian and Swedish News Articles Mentioning ‘Source Criticism’. In: Sundqvist A., Berget G., Nolin J., Skjerdingstad K. (eds) Sustainable Digital Communities: Proceedings from iConference 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 12051. Springer, Cham, pp. 380–388.