Ian Watson's Web Site
I am an an associate professor in the department of design at NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and teach in the media and interaction design programs at NTNU's Gjøvik campus. Before coming to NTNU, I worked for ten years at Bifröst University, in the countryside outside Reykjavík, Iceland. I was also part of the Reykjavík Academy, an independent association of Icelandic scholars, and I 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My publications list shows all of my scholarly publications, selected unpublished papers, travel writing, and journalism, most of which is available on-line.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.). Here's an abbreviated 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 work as a freelance genealogist and take on research and writing projects for a variety of mostly institutional clients. I've been involved in genealogy for three decades both professionally and as a hobbyist. My genealogy page makes available some of the material (some for hire, some grant-supported, some for fun) that I have created over the years, including my writing on the Pasco family and the Catawba Indians. Most of my personal genealogy activity these days is on the collaborative website familysearch.org, where I've uploaded several hundred family photographs and documents, and made thousands of links between person records and source documents. You can also look at 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 in Iceland.
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. Please call or e-mail me if you are interested in hiring me to translate. Previous clients have included publishers, universities, local and national government offices, graphic designers, hotels, banks, museums, and individuals all over Iceland.
While in Iceland I played several roles at 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 became involved in promoting open access to scholarly publications in Iceland along with a small group of other academics and librarians. One highlight was running a program that assisted Icelandic authors of in-copyright books who wished to open access to them, usually under a Creative Commons license, and linked publicly accessible scans of out-of-copyright works to the Icelandic library catalogue. These projects were funded by the Efling labor union and the Reykjavík Academy.
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, which unfortunately haven't been implemented.
I'm a past board member, vice chair and chair of the now-defunct 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 -- but sorry to say that they haven't concluded yet.
Here are some links to resources from the time I spent in eastern Europe between 1992 and 1994.
Latest travel guidebooks: Rick Steves' Rome 2017 (I updated the whole book) and Rick Steves' Italy 2017 (I updated the Rome and Campania sections).
"Assisting living authors in opening access to their in-copyright works: a report from Iceland." Forthcoming in Bókasafnið, the journal of the Icelandic librarians' association.
"Contrast set labelling in information design: Theoretical essentials and suggestions for good practice." Pages 417-423 in Alison Black, Paul Luna, Ole Lund, and Sue Walker (eds.), Information Design: Research and Practice (Routledge, 2017).
"Citing web addresses that last: How to recognize and use persistent identifiers." Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly 31, no. 4 (December 2016): 169-173.
"The parentage of Abel Pasko, Sarah Ferguson, and Ichabod Smith of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York." Connecticut Nutmegger 47 (2015): 194-206.
"Small claims resolution in Iceland: status and prospects." A preliminary report written for Iceland’s Consumer Spokesman, December 2013.
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.
My translation of Draumaland by Arna Skúladóttir, under the name Sweet Dreams (Carroll & Brown, 2012).
"Open Minds: An interview with Ian Watson, Bifröst University in Iceland", by Sólveig Þorsteinsdóttir in ScieCom Info 7, 3 (2011).
"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.
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.