Ian Watson's Web Site

Greetings from Reykjavík!

I am an associate professor in the social science department at Bifröst University, in the countryside outside Reykjavík. I have also been part of the Reykjavík Academy, an independent association of Icelandic scholars, since 2001, and have taught regularly in the bachelor's program in graphic design at Iceland's art university.

My publications list shows all of my scholarly publications, selected unpublished papers, travel writing, and journalism, most of which is available on-line. The sidebar at right has the latest links.

My academic training is in linguistics (B.A.) and in the study of standardization and convention (Ph.D.) — see my CV. Feel free to download my Ph.D. dissertation, called Cognitive Design, which focuses on the standardization of things that are organized into sets. Or you can read a summary of the dissertation.

I am the chair of the advisory board for Bókasafn Dagsbrúnar (the Dagsbrún Library), which was originally a library for Iceland's trade union members and has been housed at the Reykjavík Academy since 2003. Through both my library and editing work I have gotten involved in promoting open access to scholarly publications in Iceland along with a small group of other academics and librarians. My current initiative, funded by the Efling labor union and the Reykjavík Academy, involves assisting Icelandic authors of in-copyright books who wish to open access to them, usually under a Creative Commons license.

Since 1989 I have worked almost every summer in the travel industry as a travel guidebook author, tour manager and guide, tour planner, cruise lecturer, and in a travel bookstore. (Check out my list of all the projects I've worked on.) Since 1993 I have worked regularly for Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door of Edmonds, Washington. It's been great to help promote Rick's travel philosophy. I've also worked for Let's Go, Frommer's, Holland America Lines, Heimsferðir, and with Elderhostel tours of Iceland.

I do a limited amount of Icelandic-to-English translation and proofreading work on a freelance basis. In 2014 I passed the demanding state-administered test to be licensed as an official Icelandic-English translator. Previous clients have included Bjartur-Veröld, Sögur útgáfa, the University Centre of the West Fjords, Bifröst University, the Art University of Iceland, the Reykjavík Planning and Building Department, the Reykjavík mayor's office, Snjáfjallasetur, Sögumiðlun, Félag íslenskra teiknara, Sel-Hótel Mývatn, Landsbanki Íslands, and various individual scholars. Please call or e-mail me if you are interested.

For a number of years I was active in consumer affairs in Iceland. I was on the board of directors of the Consumers Association of Iceland from 2008 to 2014, and from 2010 to 2013 I was in charge of product review articles in their magazine Neytendablaðið. I also worked on a number of projects for Iceland's now-defunct Consumer Spokesman, including the Leiðakerfi neytenda (a website offering Icelandic consumers advice on dispute resolution) and a report (in English) on the problem of small claims resolution in Iceland. Together with both the Consumer Spokesman and the Consumers' Association I have been involved in lobbying for modernization of the legislation surrounding mail-order purchases in Iceland. In 2013 I served on a committee established by a parliamentary resolution whose report recommended a number of changes to the relevant legislation.

I've been involved in genealogy for three decades both semi-professionally and as a hobbyist. My genealogy downloads page makes available some of the work (some for hire, some grant-supported, some for fun) that I did in the 1980s on the Pasco family and the Catawba Indians. My personal genealogy page has a few things about my own family on it and in early 2011 I finally got around to putting my own database of ancestors and cousins up on the net (as HTML generated by the webtrees program). However, most of my activity these days is on the Mormons' collaborative website familysearch.org. You can also read a newspaper article based on some of the work I've done tracing the American relatives of Icelanders whose fathers were members of the U.S. military forces stationed here.

I'm a past board member, vice chair and chair of the Icelandic-American Business Forum. There I spent much time lobbying for negotiations towards a social security totalization agreement between Iceland and the U.S. I'm happy to report that these got underway in September 2011.

Here are some links to resources from the time I spent in eastern Europe between 1992 and 1994.

If you are looking for baby pictures, please e-mail me for the website address.

Recent Publications

"Small claims resolution in Iceland: status and prospects." A preliminary report written for Iceland’s Consumer Spokesman, December 2013.

"Gæðakönnun á barnabílstólum." (Buying advice for children's car seats.) Neytendablaðið, 59,4 (December 2013), pp. 8-9.

Ian Watson and Guðmundur Árni Þórisson, "The Icelandic Open Access Barometer 2013," Samtíð 1 (2013), 6.

"An unusually open identification number system: The Icelandic kennitala." Pages 132-144 in Gayle Lonergan, Ilsen About, and James Brown (eds.), Identification and Registration Practices in Transnational Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

"Gæðakönnun á þvottavélum." (Buying advice for washing machines.) Neytendablaðið, 59,1 (March 2013), pp. 10-12.

"Spjaldtölvur verða sífellt betri." (Buying advice for tablet computers.) Neytendablaðið, 58,4 (November 2012), pp. 20-21.

"Gæðakönnun á sparperum: ekki samhengi á milli verðs og gæða." (Buying advice for light bulbs.) Neytendablaðið, 58,3 (September 2012), pp. 16-19.

"Gæðakönnun á þvottavélum." (Buying advice for washing machines.) Neytendablaðið, 58,2 (June 2012), pp. 14-16.

My translation of Draumaland by Arna Skúladóttir, under the name Sweet Dreams (Carroll & Brown, 2012).

"Er gamla dýnan orðin þreytt?" (Buying advice for mattresses.) Neytendablaðið, 58,1 (March 2012), pp. 9-11.

"Open Minds: An interview with Ian Watson, Bifröst University in Iceland", by Sólveig Þorsteinsdóttir in ScieCom Info 7, 3 (2011).

"Sjónvörp – flókin tækni og ör þróun." (Buying advice for televisions.) Neytendablaðið, 57,3 (September 2011), pp. 6-8.

"Myndavélar – fjölhæfar með hárri upplausn." (Buying advice for compact digital cameras.) Neytendablaðið, 57,3 (September 2011), pp. 19-21.

"Netvæðing íslenska fornbókamarkaðsins." (The Icelandic used book market goes online.) Neytendablaðið, 57,2 (June 2011), p. 12.

"Gæðakönnun á púlsmælum." (Buying advice for pulse meters.) Neytendablaðið, 57,2 (June 2011), pp. 6-7.

"Þvottavélar: Fylgni milli verðs og gæða – með undantekningum þó." (Buying advice for washing machines.) Neytendablaðið, 57,1 (March 2011), pp. 14-15.

"Tími netsímans runninn upp." (Buying advice for mobile phones.) Neytendablaðið, 56,4 (December 2010), pp. 14-17.

"Gæðakönnun á lestölvum: fyrir alvöru lestrarhesta." (Buying advice for e-readers.) Neytendablaðið, 56,4 (December 2010), pp. 4-6.

"A short history of national identification numbering in Iceland." Bifröst Journal of Social Science 4 (2010): 51-89.

Review of Wasteland with words: a social history of Iceland by Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon. Reykjavík Grapevine, 8 October 2010, p. 26.

"Gæðakönnun á ryksugum: mikill gæðamunur." (Buying advice for vacuum cleaners.) Neytendablaðið, 56,3 (September 2010), pp. 6-7.

Review of Vikings in America by Graeme Davis. Reykjavík Grapevine, 30 July 2010, p. 34.

Review of Living Inside the Meltdown by Alda Sigmundsdóttir. Reykjavík Grapevine, 2 July 2010, p. 38.

"Sparperur eiga langi í land: Gæðakönnun ICRT gefur sparperum slaka einkunn." (Buying advice for compact fluorescent light bulbs.) Neytendablaðið, 56,2 (June 2010), pp. 14-15.

"Á ferð og flugi." (Travel news.) Neytendablaðið, 56,1 (March 2010), p. 19.

"Gæðakönnun á Blu-ray spilurum." (Buying advice on Blu-ray players.) Neytendablaðið, 56,1 (March 2010), pp. 10-12.

Review of The Real Iceland by Páll Ásgeir Ásgeirsson and Top 10 Reykjavík and Iceland by Dr. Gunni. Reykjavík Grapevine, 4 December 2009, p. 30.

"Starting an open access journal in Iceland." ScieCom Info 5,3 (2009).

"Sparaðu í kreppunni." (Savings tips for Icelandic consumers.) Neytendablaðið, 55,3 (October 2009), p. 11.

"Neytendafrömuður nemur land." (Interview with me on consumer issues.) Neytendablaðið, 55,3 (October 2009), p. 10.

Review of The Far Traveler by Nancy Marie Brown. Reykjavík Grapevine, 25 September 2009, p. 26.

Review of Children's Reykjavík. Reykjavík Grapevine, 28 August 2009, p. 34.

Review of The travels of Reverend Ólafur Egilsson, translated by Karl Smári Hreinsson and Adam Nichols. Reykjavík Grapevine, 14 August 2009, p. 30.