Thursday, December 30, 2004

Arms length distance

I was just looking through old yearbooks. Not from when I was in school, but pictures of the students who used to be here.

I think I have a reputation among students for being distant and uncaring. There are good characterisations in the reviews, like fair and very good at what I claim to know something about, but it's the uncaring part that always gets to me when it shows up. Leafing through the books, I realised that they are probably right - not that I don't care, but that I appear not to care.

You see - I care too much. Looking at the pictures of the students from 10 years ago brought them back, their voices, their problems, their grief and joy. I could hear their questions and see their frowns of concentration. I remember exams where their hands were shaking too much to hold a glass of water, and the wild joy of a good grade or the pleasure of solving a problem. They are so alive to me, individual, unique, precious.

And then they go. I spill my knowledge before them to pick and choose and take what they like - and that is what they do. They take what they want and leave me, and I am alone to face 25 new faces with new thoughts, ideas and questions, year after year.

I need to keep some pieces of me for myself. So I won't ever be the most popular teacher, the one who parties and is a pal, or spends hours chatting over coffee in a circle of students. I will just teach them what I can, and love them, carefully, at arms length distance.

Whose Lives Count?

Made painfully relevant, this article from Journal of Communication 1986 may be interesting reading.

Link from Erling

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Did you think

I would be writing all the time? Well, I thought I'd have lots of time to do all that work I have been putting off. But somebody gave me Civilization III; Deluxe edition, Grand Theft Auto 3 and Max Payne and Mac Payne 2 for Christmas. My computer is busy! And yes, I know they are old, but I haven't played them yet, so I am playing the "classics."

Monday, December 27, 2004

The Christmas tree

Each tree has its own story. Some are short and boring, some are long and poetic. Do you want to peek at the stories on my tree?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Warmth in the darkest days

The first night after the sun turned was one of nightmares. Ghoulish howls of wind about the corners of the house kept us awake in the dark hours and we were up well before dawn to check on windows and the roof. The storm is named "Finn", and it's scouring the coast of Norway, testing the tethers of christmas decorations and challenging the daring of pilots. From my window you can't see how fierce it is, but it eats the light, darkens the sky and blurs the outlines of the mountains.

The only sensible thing to do on a day like this, is to herd energy and cherish the light and warmth sheltered indoors. And the traditional way to do that is to bake. I have made five of the required seven types, but I don't think I will be able to make all seven this year. You see, I can't bake quicker than certain people eat, so the first cookies - the healthy spelt, oatmeal and fructose experiment - are already gone.

This means I am left with four types - almond and chocolate macaroons, chocolate chips cookies, lemon sticks and eggyolk meringue.

I made an honest attempt, so I hope the powers of Christmas will read the intent and not let us all starve in "vårknipa" - the lean times of spring. Which, in our modern times, strikes in January when we have to pay the student loan and a whole stack of other bills, conveniently postponed till just after christmas...

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Journalism and blogging

And while we are talking about beating dead horses: the journalists are still obsessed with blogs. Today it's Steve Outing at Poynter Online who writes about What journalists can learn from bloggers.

It's really not a bad article. There are a few more things I could add, such as making your sources and your citations more explicit, and let people know where you got your story. But all in all, yes, calm, clear discussion of what journalists can learn from bloggers, and he has discovered that not all bloggers try to be journalists - which is something that comes slowly to some of the others.

And that is my favourite hobby horse. Journalism isn't the be-all of publishing. A person who spreads a piece of news or passes on a piece of information isn't immediately attempting to be a journalist. That person is communicating something of interest to other people.

Journalism today is defined be institutions, and has a certain function, most prominent, sadly, the function of making money for other people. The editorial constraint on reporting due to the financial needs of the institution is significant and severe. I think this is the main reason why blogging appears to be such a threath - it sems to do for free what the journalists get paid for.

Only - it doesn't, and people know that. Rather than stealing audience, bloggers share audience. Before my readers have come to the bottom of this post, several of them will have left, following the link to poynter online and the article I am writing about. They may return here to see what I say, but they may also lose themselves in the options of the page I am linking to.

Oh yes, bloggers do all the rest too, so you had better strive to be clear, interesting, honest, open and straight forwards. But I thought that was what journalism was all about?

And as a PS - no, elections are supposed to be secret, and everybody can vote what they like. I don't think newspapers should say who votes what in their staff. It is supposed to be a free country, right?

BlogTalk Downunder

If you want to go to a blogtalk conference in 2005, there will not be any in Vienna, but you can go to Sydney! BlogTalk Downunder, 20-21st of May, is planned to be a refereed conference covering a wide range of topics.

Sydney in May? I wish.

Really. I have this little dream, ever since I first visited Australia in 1996, that some day I'll be able to spend a year there. Perhaps as a visiting scholar, faculty or just a fabulously rich lady of leisure. Does anybody have a position for a media scholar for a year, somewhere not too far from the beach?

Romantic Terrain

When people ask me about Volda, I tell them what a beautiful place it is. I show them some pictures, and they go totally nuts. THEN I try to tell them about the rough climate, the hardships of living in such rough terrain, and the dark, long winters, and they think I am trying to make it appear more romantic and dramatic than it really is. But I am not the only computerstudying, blogging academic woman to live on this coast; have a look at the road leading to where Hilde lives, and talk about romantic drama...

Blogs at Amazon

Want to know the traffic rank and what other blogs your readers read? gives you a hint! It looks like Amazon is taking blogs somewhat seriously, presenting them like other literature. Another fun way to see what happens to your blog, and thanks lis, for leaving that information in the comments.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Beating. Dead. Horse.

Or is it an ignored issue which should be addressed? I have to admit though, that the whole "Where are the female academic bloggers" issue makes me want to ask "What net do you guys read, is there another one over there?"

Geekymom with annoying red and green graphics (the green print becomes a shiny blur against the red background), blogs the lively discussion at Crooked Thimber.

Don't just eat - play!

Danish lecturer Ning de Coninck-Smith speaks out against the self-centered indulgence of Christmas, and suggest that parents use the holiday for something other than eating - like playing computer games with their children (In Danish).

Public, private and mainstream

Chuck Tryon of the Chutry experiment blogs an article in the Sunday New York Times, where Jeffrey Rosen discusses how weblogs redefine the border between public and private.

What can I say but: Jeffrey Rosen, if you want to write a scholarly article about this, I'd like to point to the articles "Blogging Thoughts" with Jill Walker, "Personal Publication and Public Attention", and the keynote to blogtalk 2.0, which although slightly less directly relevant deals with the liminal nature of blogging, "Dialogue in Slow Motion".

And that's just my stuff. Into the Blogosphere holds more, and the dialogue/conversation analysis which both Stephanie and Lilia engage in is directly relevant if you approach the public sphere with a Habermasian understanding of rational dialogue.

Of course, newspapers don't like articles loaded down with references and citations. Isn't that odd, considering the importance of doing "research" and quoting "sources"?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Report from the soapbox

Or perhaps "the soapy frontier"? Slowly order emerges and spreads. My back is killing me, I have had problems since Copenhagen and dragging my stuff to four different hotels in 10 days, so I can't attack as forcefully as I am used to. I have to work over small, contained areas, and focus on the tasks I can't order the troops to cover, as they demand finesse rather than muscle power.

Throwing away paper is one of those things. Who'd believe the mounts of paper one small family of readers manage to accumulate in - in - in - eeeehhhhhh, I guess I haven't been doing this in months. Not since before the Serious Games Summit. My husband is a sweet and wonderful man, but despite what some think, I didn't marry him for his housekeeping skills, and our offspring (they aren't children any more - I have problems finding a good word now) shows no raw talent or mutant housekeeping genes.

So it's chaos. But chaos is receding, and from where I sit and watch stacks of CDs and heaps of old papers, I can smell the soap. Once I have tamed this mess, it is time for the fun stuff: BAKING! YAY! The gingerbread people are still homeless this year. Actually, they haven't even been born.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


One of the most stressful things in this job, and I assume, in every job, is when you can't rely on the people around you to do their job. That, luckily, is not a problem this semester.

There is now a group working together who understand the importance of sharing, doing their job, and being flexible about covering for each other. This means that not only is the day-to-day work easier on all, it also means that we can plan in certain luxuries, such as a three-week protected period for each of us, when we don't have any teaching or administrative duties towards the study. Time for research, writing, updating - anything we feel we need to do of those things which we feel can't be done while we are running back and forth between teaching, supervising and administrating.

We can do this and trust the rest of the staff to cover for us without trying to make us feel guilty afterwards. Of course, there may be other things intruding, but it is my responsibility to say: "no, I can't be at that board meeting, it's my protected period" when that becomes an issue.

And now, I am going to trust my colleagues even more. I am going to go home and stay home for two days. I will clean, bake, decorate and bake some more. When I come back I expect that the only thing I need to do is to proof-read the four (4) course plans I am ultimately responsible for this spring. Two hours ago I thought I was going to faint from stress. 30 minutes with the group I am working with, and the stress level is WAY down. Hopefully justified.

So that's the message of the day: you need to trust somebody. Lucky you if people you can trust also happens to be people you work with.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Holiday cheer

Just because it's silly, and with the hurricanes and constant rain I'll accept anything to bring some colour and light into this December! Merry Christmas to you all!

Tablet PCs

My dear readers, all 5 of you (OK, I think it's more like 20, but let's not get pretentious here), I need a little piece of advice.

This September, in London and Brighton, I saw something which caught my interest. For the first time, I saw a tablet PC. Oh, I have known about and probably seen the tablets, but I have never before seen one that was both a lap-top and a tablet, depending on what you did with it.

One of the things I have always wanted to do, was have the opportunity to write or draw on the monitor while I am projecting the image to a screen. The main reason why I want this is so that I can have the flexibility of a blackboard while the presentation stays connected to the internet and while I can show pictures, play soundfiles and show movie clips. Today, teaching is a busy running back and forth to turn light on, turn off projector, pull screen up, write, draw, turn projector on, pull screen down, turn light off... you get the drift. Now this DOES wake up any students who might have fallen asleep while the lights were down, but it steals valuable time and focus from what I want to be an integrated, seamless, lecturing experience.

But while I have been able to dig up good reviews of the machines, particularly the Toshiba I am looking lustily at these days, I have not been able to figure out if there is software that will let me perform the tasks I desire. Does the software for integrated show-and-write exist, like for instance "powerpoint blackboard?" Not being such a very accomplished manipulator of software, fancy, complicated combinations are not an option, and programming is totally out of the question. I need a fairly simple interface which will let me change the image while I am in the middle of a presentation - draw on the slide I am showing, push the slide up into the corner and draw out a modell which relates to the bulletpoints I just presented, put in a whole new page to illustrate a question.

I am aware that an option is to have two programs running, and go out of the presentation when I want to use the other program. But here is the smooth and fluid thing again. Leaving the presentation is so inelegant, and as youthfullness and freshness dwindles, elegance is my best bet ;-)

So, dear readers, you software savvy and tech-accomplished - is it worth it to use my goodwill with the department to get a tablet PC in order to do what I am looking for, or will that be a waste of money for a half-assed lap-top which is too flimsy for the kind of hard use I expect from computers and still does not perform as I want it?

Monday, December 13, 2004

For Jill

And others who haven't found my feeds.

This is supposed to be the atom feed the way you get it from blogger.

This is a xml feed generated by feedburner.

The links are in the sidebar, just over the "people online" part.

I don't know how they work, I enjoy the freedom of reading the blogs when I like, not at a set time or when somebody have published or updated, and I enjoy seeing the site, the design and any additional fun at the page.

Stretch text

Anders wants to write a paper in Stretch text, and I am totally envious. It is a form of text I have wanted to play around with for a long time, but I have just put it away - like I have done with wanting to write an article as a hypertext, or just finishing the collection of poems I almost published way back when before I ever thought I would be in academia.

But Anders' wish made me remember and wonder about a woman whose ambition it was to write her doctoral thesis in stretch text. Anne Mangen, a postmodernism scholar and a colleague of mine, kind of, was at Xerox Parc as part of her Doctorate. During her stay there she got in touch with fluid documents, she presented a paper on this in 2001, and participated in publishing an article on the topic in 2002.

When Anne told me about wanting to write her thesis in fluid, I advised against it though. Why? A thesis for a doctorate is a certain genre, and it is hard enough to deal with as it is as a simple, flat linear text, fixed on paper, if she shouldn't make the dissertation itself a part of the research. I don't know what Anne chose - she's a brilliant woman, I am confident she made the right choice for her. But I know that I have let go of so many dreams for the sake of common sense and time restraints, I have become a quite boring and conventional middle-aged lady.

So, back to stretch text.

Anders links to his own earlier post, about using a graphic tablet - something I also envy him badly, got to see what I can find for a PC - and his sketched outlines resonate with the way I have to mix mediums and hypertextualise arguments in order to understand both what I am writing and what I am reading when it reaches a certain point of complexity. I have been known to cut texts into little pieces, physically, in order to understand them.

I want to try this. And then, perhaps, I will find a way to do it. Oh, the seductive mystery hidden just below the textual surface!

Sunday, December 12, 2004


Despite my preoccupation with work rather than household tasks lately, the house smells sweetly and warmly of christmas preparations. The kids, no longer small, have been making caramel for the first time, preparing, kind of, for christmas. I don't know what I adore more, the scents and spirit of preparing for the midwinter feast, or the fact that my almost adult teens can contribute on their own and unsupervised, without turning the kitchen into a dangerous disaster area.

The Hedonist

Susana Tosca smiled evilly, and declared: "I will introduce you not as a narratologist nor a ludologist, but a hedonist." I agreed, naively. And then I found myself there under the hopeful eye of so many game researchers, hoping for a new paradigm. Luckily, they were quite willing to be seduced.

The article from hell

I hope it doesn't read as pure pain, but I have rarely suffered this much for an article. I am spoiled in many way by being able to write easily and to even enjoy the process. This time around I have however felt like I have been writing uphill all the way.

I know it has to do with having too many different tasks at the same time. Administration and academic writing are mutually exclusive - no, more than that, when you try to write and manage at the same time you create a black hole of guilt which sucks up all available time and energy and only grows stronger and more powerful with every sentence you slave over or every task you attempt to finish. After a short while you start doing both things badly, and as your confidence crumbles you feel the black hole start draining away all creative juices and all constructive energy.

But now the article is done. I will proofread it tomorrow and then send it off and have it out of my mind until it returns from the editors. Respite, finally.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Exhausted. Straight to meeting lasting all afternoon. Impressions supressed. May be back with comments on cool conference tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Learning Lab Denmark

They have a research group devoted to educational computer games! How civilised is that? And if I am to judge by the presentation with Rikke Magnusson, they have a fairly realistic, updated view on this as well.

The presentation still, however, suffers from the serious games bug: an eagerness to exploit the myth of what a powerful medium games are. Can teaching games really be created? IF students can learn maths, I guess they should be able to learn how to kill old ladies too. Dilemma that, hmm?

At Stake

Elena Bertozzi of Indiana University, already blogged by Kym at Chrome Chalk Monster, but not registered in my flawed flesh brain until now, has written her Ph D thesis on Play, Pleasure and Power in Cyberspace. A must-read, at least for me. What it's like? I'll be back on that one.

Danish mornings

[Insert whining over allergies and hotels with wall-to-wall carpeting here]

The trip to the IT University starts slowly, a mental as much as a physical process. I need to track down something I can eat, and I watch the quiet street I live in through breakfast. It's daylight, and the streets are dry. I am obviously in a foreign country. Then down to the metro, the bright, clean metro, and of course there's no such thing in Volda - but it's different from New York, Washington, London and Vienna too: the four subways/metro's I have been riding this year. Most importantly: it managed to brake down gently. I sit until it's stopped, being used to the sudden bumps of the NYC subways, the clunky, noisy inferno of the R-line. But here I could easily stand up, the train docks with a polite stop, and it's time to be out of here.

The University is not at the stop called "Universitet", but at Islands Brygge. It's the logic of a small country: Everybody know about the sensitive issue of which buildings were built where, so why bother to change the names of the stops? So I head up one stop before one should think, and walk through the wind towards the brand new building in the middle of the active construction site which is ITU.

What else do I love? I love the open, free and generous WLAN, I love the airy, clean foyer, the Christmas tree and the electronic design elements. I also love the over-efficient coffee machine at the Game center - I don't really like coffee much, but when I need it, I'd prefer it to come from such a shiny, black machine that starts with grinding the beans and works from there.

But it's all flat. I feel naked and exposed, no mountains holding the sky up, and the wind throws my hair in my face.

LAN parties over the world

The big one in Norway is The Gathering, held at easter time in "The viking ship" at Hamar, the elegant, huge speed skating arena built for the olympics at Lillehammer in 1994.

Melanie Swalwell is writing about LAN parties, a nice report of her experiences. There has been work like this done on The Gathering, but it's in Norwegian, so for her to know about it is pretty unlikely. I am happy to see the physical, off-line aspect of computer culture explored and inquired into in a serious manner, not just a sensasationalist way (look at all those crazy nerds all gathering in one place sleeping on the floor and eating junk food for a week!). I am particularly happy to see that these reports make their way into the game studies and are publishes internationally.

Ludic # Playful

I won't, for obvious reasons, liveblog my own presentation (yes, I know, some day I will find a way...), but here's a very flattering reading of my paper (you didn't think I'd pick a bad one, hmm?) by a scholar I admire: Anne Galloway read the paper and loved it, and she is, in her usual clear and intelligent way, saying why. It feels good. I'll just read her blogpost, I think, rather than try to get that presentation to work.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

MMOG, products and services

Peter Zackariasson from Umeå is asking the question: are MMOGs places or services? and comes down on the service side. This is an interesting, radical statement, as it puts the MMOGs once and for all within commercial and consumer space, but at the same time is quite obvious. A game is not a "place" where things happen and things change if no human being visits it. Unless it is used, like a service, it has no value. Game real estate is not an investment for the future, but an offer for today.

Obvious, really. And still... do I wish to let go of the geography metaphor this quickly?

The Moderately multiplayer other players game

The moderately multiplayer other players game designed by Jesper and Eric took off today, and will be finished this afternoon. I am a socializer, and managed to hook up with others of my team today. They already had a stack of cards and were well on the way to create a sentence. Susana and I added our cards to the stack, and it got better. Over lunch we hashed out strategy, and gained what was needed for the sentence and some protection (not aggression, we are the nice guys, right?).

So now my game avatar has a cute little dragon on it. Eric claimed it’s a pokemon, but I perceive it as a dragon, so that is its social reality. My frivolous use of a card was voted on and granted by the group, as we had a card to spare. I think it was the “than” card.

The ingame store, manned by Jesper and Eric today, offered candy and stickers, like the dragon used for enhancing my avatar. It also changed four similar cards into booster packs of five cards, and three similar cards into steal cards: for both aggressive and protective use.

Part of the strategy is to steal other people’s cards. But to steal you need to SEE the card. This means that the planning phase is the most vulnerable phase – as all cards are there on the table. Which, of course, explains the reaction when I inched innocently closer to the explorers with my little digital camera. Not that I would ever want to try to take pictures of the other group’s cards in order to share the information with my teammates…

At five o’clock we’ll all vote on the different sentences, and also count the points of the different decks. There may still be interesting little surprises waiting.

Cheating, cheaters and cheats

Julian Kuecklich is one of the gameboys, as he admitted with a happy grin yesterday, and one who looks at a fascinating phenomenon: cheating. Cheating is one of the less explored but quite important parts of games. Rules, social regulations and norms are all means by which cheating is avoided, which means that cheating rather than breaking the game defines it. Julian asks exactly this question, as he asks if cheats are a practice that defines the game rather than go against it.

Computer games no longer make cheats a moral question for a group, playing against the computer cheating is just part of understanding the code and thus the game. Playing against other players the classic moral questions come up though. We have interesting parallels for instance in sports. When Boklöv, the Swedish ski-jumper changed the style from parallel skis to V-shaped position of the skis, he made it possible to jump much longer, but he also broke with the classic aesthetics of ski jumping (link in Norwegian). This was at the time treated as a cheat, but was then adopted as a safer and more stable way of jumping, based on a better understanding of the dynamics of flying through the air on skis.

Cheats, if we treat them as ways for more players to participate at their own desired level, does not ruin the computer game, but become part of the game culture. In the same way as having an expert on ski preparation only available for a team makes it possible for them to gain the edge necessary to win, "cheats allow a shortcut between certain instances in game space."

Monday, December 06, 2004

Impressions from academic realities

We have four departments and one institute. One of those is as large as the three others. The smallest one is the best known one, the largest one is the oldest and historically most significant both for the community and at the national level, being grounded in the old teacher's college in Volda. This is a skewed organisation where some of the apparent flaws are our strengths - and vice versa.

It's my job to participate in finding a way to reorganise this mess in a way that lets us keep the good parts and lose the bad parts... but who knows which is which?

To find out what other people have done, we went travelling.

Agder College has reorganised according to subject areas or disciplines. They have collected all those teaching Norwegian in one department, all sociologists in another, or natural scientists in yet an other, and then they have put the teacher's study aside in it's own office. The dean of the teacher's study schedules lectures with people in all the other departments, filling an administrative position basically. This makes the disciplines richer and the discipline based research stronger, but it leaves the students at the teacher's study in the hands of people with little identification with the whole study, only with certain parts of it.

Roskilde University Center has as their slogan: "In silence, death, in movement, life." Their organising ideal is not the matrix, as in Agder, but the project. The students create their own study as part of their own projects, and the teachers work together cross disciplinary in order to teach and supervise - particularly supervise - these students. A strong central leadership puts together the groups to work together across disciplins, and each "house" of students have one set of teachers they relate to, teachers whose responsibility it is to see that the students are supervised and assisted in the project of questioning the world.

Malmö College is all new and shiny bright, and we were the fifth Norwegian college to visit them to study their organising paradigm. It was rather traditional, really, with a strong emphasis on a fairly traditional educational study. What was interesting was their integration of the practical work in their teaching. They did also expand the definition of what was the responsibility of the college, by working with immigrant students both at high-school level and at a more job-directed level, normally the responsibility of the office of employment.

Now my job is to extract the useful parts from these structures and use them to evaluate and perhaps suggest a way to re-organise Volda College. I should have been writing my presentation for tomorrow, but my head is filled with this rather daunting task. But tomorrow, I am sure, I promise, most certainly...

I am the last speaker Wednesday. I will have time.

Me, machine

So we are machines, Mark? Machines that are supposed to work in the way that satisfies you?

Perhaps we used to offer the best way for Mark Bernstein to keep updated in new media, but to us, it was and is a work in progress, the work of our academic life. And when we no longer offer what he liked about our blogs, the flaw is not in our lives, but in the expectations.

We share freely of what we have and what we do. We don't ask anything but the occasional interesting link or discussion in return. But our lives have changed from the focus they had when Mark Bernstein was interested, and so has probably his. The world of blogging and the general resources available online certainly have.

So yes Mark, the network is still here and still working, and it is still shaped by the individuals more or less loosely connected to it. That our interests have diversified isn't really a problem or a great loss to the world.

I, a socializer

In the Moderately Multiplayer Other Players Game, I am a socialiser. I haven't been allowed to define myself into that position through my playing stayle though: I have been assigned the position from the Administrators, Jesper and Eric.

Problem is - nobody knows how to play the game and the rules are hard to get hold of - literally, as there are only a few sheets of paper circulating. So since we are all gamers and have played other games, as pr the Bartle thesis we all want to introduce the features we are used to, and like. At the moment I am hoping to be able to convert some of the competing card-holders. What to buy them with? The cards given out by the administrators are a too valuable commodity for simple bribes, so I have to come up with some alternative bribe.

Other Players Proceedings

I will be blogging a lot about different presentations and papers on this conference, so rather than pointing to the proceedings in every post, I will just point towards them from here.

Story Construction

Mirjam Eladhari and Craig Lindley are on a quest for the holy grail. Through the Virtual Game Worlds they seek for a theory which describes the construction of story, nothing less.

One point sounds familiar: how the creaters of games, the designers, are creators not of stories, but of narrative potential. I know I worded this argument years ago, but was that in one of the many sessions of discussion - argument - supervision with Espen, or did it actually make its way into the thesis? It does not really matter now, all it does is create a flashback to the past: the point when I tried to understand the mass of material I had gathered, and then position it.

A central idea of the presentation which I am delighted to see is how Eladhari underlines the creative process of playing: how a virtual world depends on the activities of the participants in order to unfold into many-faceted narrative environments in the same way as reality holds an endless amount of stories.

Most of all this session underlines my own creeping sensation of ageing: not only are the lights less bright, the print smaller and the stairs steeper than 10 years ago - I also no longer know what I read and wrote where or when. Disgusting feeling... but also reassuring. I have been able to let go of more than I thought.

[The updates here will be selfcentered - as my mind insists on tracking down where, when, what did I write about this. First link back into my own mind: narrative environment - a thought after typing out an interview with a player.

Yes, I do write about narrative environment in my thesis (large pdf), but the concept comes there from Janet Murray:

When the things we do bring tangible results, we experience the second characteristic delight of electronic environments - the sense of agency. Agency is the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices. We expect to feel agency on the computer when we double-click on a file and see it open before us or when we enter numbers in a spreadsheet and see the totals readjust. However, we do not usually expect to experience agency within a narrative environment. (Murray 1997:126)

I do however expand on it and discuss the difference between narrative environments and stories on page 20 and out from there. OK, that felt good. I did write about it, and my brain is not as petrified as I feared.]

Why bad design flourishes

Read Richard Bartle's paper in the proceedings, but when reading it you need to know a few things. First: what is instancing. It is a way of making part of a game private or only accessible to a group of people. Second: According to Bartle, the first virtual world a player encounters becomes formative of the expectations of a player, no matter how bad it is: basically because of the magic feeling of freedom in playing online. This creates the conservativism in players that recreates the old errors.

Asynchronous multiplay

Ian Bogost is talking at Other Players, and I am just relieved to be back in the familiar world of a conference room: this one with wifi. Oh, the delights of continuous connection.

While listening to Ian, the post by Mark Bernstein is still spinning in my head: what happened to the Scandinavian weblog cluster? Jill replies to his question, mentioning it probably is a slight misconception that we ever were that tightly knit. I am not sure about that, but I am also not sure we are less tightly knit today. We are just moving away from that part of our academic game which was about bonding, and on our way into the part where we spread out.

To return to Ian Bogost, right now he speaks about games with a delay between reactions, where the players don't play the same game at the same time, but in a slow action/response dynamics which are related to the slow dialogue I spoke about in Vienna. As in the blogs, the asyncronous games depend on the breaks in the game flow: high scores only have a value as part of a multiplayer aspect if you take breaks and let somebody else have a chance to play and beat your high score. A blog only works as part of a conversation and a cluster if there is a response to other people's posts.

So, back to our cluster. What Mark speaks of as "social" comments are really just a part of the development of our academic lives. Lisbeth's meeting with Prince Joachim was not just a curiosity, but also a point in the game of Academia: she represented a growing department where she plays a vital role, and the symbolic value of this meeting was one of acceptance and confirmation of her position, rather than just a fun, social event. Yes, we joked about it, but at the same time we were immensely proud, because one of our cluster reached an important new level.

So, not all breaktroughs as an academic are made pondering over texts and squabbling over details in reviews. But another, technical change, has also changed the structure of the blogs. We have comments now. We no longer make a link on our own blogs pointing out things on the other blogs. We tuck it into the comments.

And one more point: we can "comment" very differently now. We are in positions where we don't have to talk through the blogs. We can invite each others for lectures and speeches, and then we can do the commenting face to face. The game goes into new and different media (oh, and sms, mms, flickr, aim is also in play, making the game of connectiveness more synchronous and more graphic).

But what we do can be summed up like Ian Bogost describes the time use in the asynchronous multiplayer games:

Reduced investment of time
More freedom to choose when to play
More fluid integration into daily life
Constraints on playtime - incentives to stop
Broader forms of implementation
Varied play from player to player
Greater interconnectedness between the game and the world.

The Scandinavian cluster still plays the game. We just play it differently, and with more players.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Kinder egg wall

kinderkunst2, originally uploaded by Rotill.

More of the wall at Agder College, and this is just a fragment. And I did not find two figures that were the same. But I didn't look to closely.


kinderkunst, originally uploaded by Rotill.

Just above the bench the students at Agder College had improvised their own art work. In each little niche is a figure from a kinder egg. It started as a project for one group of students, and it's just growing, a viral student artwork.

Sitting on the words

benk2, originally uploaded by Rotill.

Quite literally, at Agder College, Norway.

Not distributed narrative

benk, originally uploaded by Rotill.

This is not exactly a work of art to put in your bag and bring on the plane.

Copenhagen fog and smoke

I have been working intensively for three days. Visiting and listening to descriptions of three Colleges/Universities in three different countries in three days is exhausting. The visits are research for the suggestion to a reorganising of Volda College which has to be submitted by September 2005.

Today I am in Copenhagen, my brunch appointment was cancelled last minute last night, and I spend the morning online, reading email and trying to get updated to all the things I haven't been able to keep up with. Not much, really, just a couple of pages of emails from people who remind me of things I could have done better. The sun is almost out, I smell of the smoke which is still permitted in public places in Denmark, and I ache, ankles, knees, hips, back. I will be back up to my tiny room to grab the camera and my all-but-empty wallet before I am out of here to walk slowly, lazily about the busy streets of one of my favourite cities.

Pictures, game-related blogging and hopefully some good stuff to be found here next week.