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Prestigious research funds to Halmstad University

A Halmstad University research project about how people perceive their bodies has been granted financing of 5.7 million Swedish crowns from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences. The project is called ”Feel, form, share: to measure and present the body in a mediatized world”, and starts in January 2015.

– It’s huge for both our research group and for Halmstad University, says project leader Vaike Fors, Assistant Professor in pedagogy.

– Firstly, it is a clear confirmation of the quality of our work, as only 7 percent of all applications are given funds. Secondly, it is important that researchers even at a smaller university like ours actually can obtain funds like these. The project is the result of an intensive and long-term research collaboration, and that we have now been awarded funds is really meriting for the whole group.

In the project, Vaike Fors will be working with Martin Berg, lecturer and research leader at the Centre for Social Analysis, as well as with Professor Tom O’Dell and Professor Sarah Pink. The project will span over three years and it will start in January 2015, focusing on developing new knowledge on how people’s perception of their bodies changes when they use different apps to measure and document bodily functions in everyday life, for example the Apple Watch.

– A project like this one is very right in time, Martin Berg points out.

– In the last year, there’s been an explosive development in the field that using a dramatic term could be called ”monitoring technology”, and we are expected to be able to measure and monitor just about every aspect of our bodies and lives.

The body as a measurable object

The research project will focus on how a type of technologies that measure and give information on everything from how fast a person runs to the quality of his or her sleep. Vaike Fors suggests that we need an understanding of how the body has come to be perceived as a measurable object:

– It’s a fascinating thought, but also a complex one. The development of digital body monitoring technologies has been very fast, but has at the same time had historical counterparts. We’re interested in understanding what importance this development has had on our ways of understanding the body and how people’s perceptions of their future lives and bodies are changed by such technologies. It’s a question of a weaving together body and technology that’s fascinating from a learning perspective.

Multidisciplinary project

The project is multidisciplinary and tied to the strategic endeavour SCACA (Swedish Centre for Applied Cultural Analysis), where it will be a part of a bigger programme focusing on how social and societal processes in different aspects are automated with the help of new technology. It will reside at Halmstad University’s new school, where the areas of learning, culture and society will be the focus of research and education. With the research funds, Professor Tom O’Dell and Professor Sarah Pink will be employed part-time at the new school for the duration of the project.

– It seems as though we live in an age where we no longer just use technology for a specific purpose, but where we also have a number of technologies that measure and monitor us without us having to ask or tell them to do so, says Martin Berg. Today, there’s everything from cameras that work as an extra memory and an always watchful eye when we ourselves aren’t alert to cars that help keep us on the right track when we’re tired or distracted.

– These technologies are just about everywhere: near our bodies, on our bodies, underneath our bodies… It’s as if on one side they fade into the background of our lives, while they on the other side function as friends in everyday life. It’s a titillating thought that we hand over parts of our lives to technology without really knowing what it does to us, says Martin Berg.

Vaike Fors. Photo: Christel Lind.

Martin Berg. Photo: Ida Lövstål.

Updated 2014-11-12