Monday, April 30, 2001

Once upon a time, I met a young man who made me laugh and feel safe and happy. This young man became my lover and later husband. Wonderful as he was, he had an other asset - he had a father who came to mean a lot to me. Where my parents told me to put down the books and do some real work, meaning doing dishes, cleaning the house, working in the garden, helping with carpentry, fishing etc., the man to become my father-in-law received me with warmth and curiosity, treating me with icecream and blueberries, talking about books, about my studies, about life. He understood about academic ambition, he supported my yearning to travel, he cared about my struggles with research. This man, who came closer to me than most, died Sunday 22nd of April. Nobody knew until the 24th, because nobody worried about what might have happened to him when he didn't answer the phone. He was too active, too ready to explore the world to be missed when he didn't stay home for a couple of days. Tuesday his son missed him, after having missed an appointment.

The funeral will be May 2nd - and I will not be back at work until May 6th. This week is busy, but his life will be remembered. He understood that to some people, reading books can be real work. I am a very lucky woman for having known him.

Friday, April 20, 2001

I have been reading a book by Stanislaw Lem, a collection of short stories called The Star Diaries. In the story called "Twentieth Voyage", Ijon Tichy, the hero of the stories, has been called into the future to help fix history. Well, we all know history must have been meddled with the way parts of it is screwed up, but he gave out some really interesting information about the 20th century, which I thought some media scholars out there would like to know about...: "Fortunately General Angus Kahn, the new chief of MOIRA after Napoleon, employed the so-called Babel tactic. This is how it worked. Once, sixteen tempo engineers, summarily banished to Asia Minor, decided to build a time main to escape, under the guise of constructing some sort of tower or dome; the name given to it was the cryptonym-password of their plot (Banished Asian Builder's Escape League). MOIRA, having detected their operation in a fairly advanced stage, dispatched its own specialists to the spot as 'new exiles,' and these intentionally introduced such errors into the blueprint, that the mechanism flew apart at the very first trial run. Kahn repeated this maneuver of 'communication confusion,' sending diversionary units into the 20th century; they completely discredited those who were trying to set themselves up as prophets - by turning out all sorts of rubbish (called 'Science Fiction') and placing in the ranks of futurologists our secret agent, one McLuhan.
I must confess that when I read through the malarkey that MOIRA has prepared, and which McLuhan was to disseminate as his 'prognoses,' I threw up my hands in despair, for it didn't seem possible to me that anyone with half a brain would take seriously, even for a minute, all that crap of the global village towards which the world was supposed to be heading, not to mention the other inanities contained in that hash. And yet, as it turned out, McLuhan was a much greater success than all the people who were betraying the simple truth: he aquired such fame he actually ended up believing - so it seems - the drivel we had ordered him to advocate."

With this in mind I read Baudrillard's words on p 30 in Simulacra and Simulation: "The medium itself is no longer identifiable as such, and the confusion of the medium and the message (McLuhan) is the first great formula of this new era. There is no longer a medium in the literal sense: it is now intangible, diffused, and diffracted in the real, and one can no longer say that the medium is altered by it."

Just thought I'd let you know... it does light up my days of reading and taking these sometimes slightly far-fetched looking theories seriously, when I come over such wonderful explanations as to why I just can't seem to make sense of them..

Wednesday, April 18, 2001

It's odd how literature and life tends to twist in little loops about each others. Yesterday I went to visit a part of the Smithsonian collections, the museum of Native Americans or American Indians at Bowler's Green on Manhattan. The ride in to Manhattan is about an hour from this corner of Brooklyn where I stay, and I picked up a book to read on the ride. The book was Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation. This is what I read (p. 11) "And just as with ethnology, which plays at extricating itself from its object to better secure itself in its pure form, demuseumification is nothing but an other spiral in artificiality." And from reading that line, I walked into the museum and heard sincere voices speak of how they would want to see their people wear the ancient patterned hats with the same ease and pride as they were originally worn. They would show how their families consciously recreated customs from museum pieces or how they recorded the knowledge of their own relatives, to make it part of the exhibitions at the museums, so they could be "saved" and part of a way to regain a proud past.

Or as Baudrillard says: "In the same way, Americans flatter themselves for having brought the population of Indians back to pre-Conquest levels. One effaces everything and starts over. They even flatter themselves for doing better, for exceeding the original number. This is presented as proof of the superiority of civilization: it will produce more Indians than they themselves were able to do."

While I do not entirely see the logic behind Baudrillard's claim that reality is no longer real, but hyper-real, I did see how the museum while preserving knowledge and history from a culture which was about to be absorbed, did the same thing as the Norwegian Husfliden did to the Norwegian national costume, the "bunad". In establishing the myth of Norwegian-ness in opposition to being Danish or Swedish, local or tribal particularities were emphasised, explored and "certified" as real Norwegian style and patterns. This was then spread as the Norwegian original costume. Colourful. Beautiful. Rich. I just gave mine to my daughter, because I just can't afford buying her one, and all girls where we live get one for their confirmation - about 2000-2500$ worth of embroidered wool and linen, handmade silver brooches and buttons… But is it real?

There is no reality behind it but the desire for identification. But that desire is real, and it makes even very young girls wear dresses of a style long gone by, wear them in public and with pride, flowing veils, heavy skirts, impossible head-dresses worn with the pride of a national identity which we claim reclaimed. Still. Norway is a very young nation. We only fake a national history going back to the viking ages. And in the same manner the Native American Museum fake a historical structure comprehensive to the present-day historians and ethnologist.

I have to think a while before I know at which level there might be reality. I have a few more subway rides to make, and I want to visit the cloisters as well, to find out if the chapel Baudrillard writes of in 1981 was actually returned to France.

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Any Norwegians who want to read a little article about Ted Nelson and the Xanadu-project? I don't personally have any opinions about it, just the last line of the article caught my eye. The writer made the claim of writing in Ted Nelson's spirit, by leaving all the images in their original location, thereby ensuring that the traffic to the image or text can be measured for "transcopyright". I might be wrong, but looking about the net, a lot of people who make designs for use on the web specifically ask that people don't do that. The reason why they don't want you to leave the images on their original positions is simple... it adds traffic to their sites, and clogs up the servers to much-used sites.

Is this technical problem actually an ideological problem, or is the transcopyright an ideal which is still technically impossible?
One of the habits I don't like is when people keep including me in mass-emails of jokes. Well, I like the occasional joke shared with somebody I stay in touch with anyway, but to be on someone's list for emails with jokes when I haven't talked to them for years feels impersonal and... spammy.

For those who still would like to enjoy sharing the jokes without intruding on other peoples' mailboxes, Missy has the solution!
Sometimes I have this need for academic closure. For the last three years there are certain topics which are unrelated - or just distantly related - to my research which has bugged me to the point that I have at times been badly side-tracked. It turns out that if one book had come to my attention when it was new, and not years later, I could have been sidetracked by a whole different set of topics. The book I should have known about years ago is Network & Netplay, Virtual Groups on the Internet, a collection of articles on interaction on the internet both as reports of quantitative research and close and critical discussions of some popular myths and topics.

In 30 minutes of reading I learned that while women online tend to use emoticons and other "Graphic Accents" more then men, they also flame more and harsher than men, I found a model of Computer Mediated Communication which explains a lot of common mistakes in the approach to the study of MUDs, there was an exellent little model and discussion of the distinction between reactive and interactive media, and best of all, Richard C. MacKinnon had written a very good dicussion of the value of using the term "rape" about violations of personae in online social environments.

Dibble's presentation and interpretation of the affair of mr Bungle has bothered me for a long time. While it is a point in favour of Dibble's definition that rape is a demonstration of power rather than an act of sensuality or sexuality, I agree with Stone as MacKinnon quotes her: "Even in the age of the technosubject, life is lived through bodies."

But now, this book of compact, no-fuzz articles has affirmed a lot of the unease I have had about several subjects, and given me useful hard data on topics for which I have mainly built on my personal experience. It's good for two reasons: My personal experiences were fairly accurate compared to their data - and what bothered me has bothered others too - and they were able to spend the time and energy to figure it out.

Friday, April 13, 2001

Relax, relax, I am safe, I am in New York, and have had breakfast.

Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Not thinking with fingers nor any other body-part for a while.... All of me is busy with packing, writing lists of stuff to forget, and being a family person. I am off to New York thursday, to spend a while there before going to Providence and DAC 2001. I love travelling. I guess the sensation "almost like freedom" of being in a non-place is enough to please me.

Sunday, April 08, 2001

It's a small world... I have had a character at linguaMOO for years... and then, three days after I have read of Rochelle's ideas on how to use blogger in education... there she was, logged on at lingua! It was funny, but I shouldn't be surprised, her ideas of MOOs as educational tools sounded familiar.

Friday, April 06, 2001

Roleplaying gets to you sometimes. Aarinfel is great - but once in a while some features just bug me too much.

My elfboy Eigar has connections, rank, etc - but I haven't been able to build his statistics. One reason is that I prefer roleplay, which is badly rewarded, over running about searching for quests which aren't compatible with my brain. So after two years he's still level 9. He's also horribly outrageous - effete, manipulating, slick - a joke of a character - actually, a joke on the all people I watch, stunned, as they manage to worm their way into power well beyond their level of incompetence. And people take this caricature of a personality seriously, give him power and listen to his opinions. I am shocked - and at times, depressed. That's when I am happy that MUDs can actually lead to friendships. This is what one of my long-time friends had to say on the subject matter:

Delineation says 'See, Eigar in the end is a joke about the nature of AA(And most muds I'ld hazard), no? Its an easy extension to consider the opinions as part of what the joke is on, particularly if they don't realize the comedy of extremes. It likely means they come to expect such behavior, and may well wish to carry it further, so they continue the joke unwittingly.'

Misps laughs at that.

You say 'Oh, thank you. Mind of I quote you on my weblog?'

Delineation says 'Sure, though disclaim that somewhere down the line I turned into an evil bastard who's observation has no basis in fact.'

You say 'of course!'

Today's frontpage of Blogger has a link to a comment about blogs as an educational tool.

I have been thinking of that, and although I am not certain if it would live up to the lofty ideals of Rochelle, I think it can be a good way for teachers to post assignments and suggested readings, as well as links with information, for students to post suggestions and answers - which would make it a good way to learn how to lead a public exchange of opinions. All the way down to lower grades I can see its use... particularly as a message and update tool directed at the parents (that note the kids never remember to deliver about the big trip? Check it out on blogger!).

Thursday, April 05, 2001

This article in Propaganda is about ethics and responsibility in the media. Norway has rules of conduct for the media, and PFU - Pressens Faglige Utvalg - "the board of press professionals"(?) is the unit both writing them and enforcing them. This enforcement is a matter of the media taking their own law into the ir own hands, to prevent the threat of external institutions questioning the ethics of the press. So far that has functioned very well. It will be interesting to see what happens when they are planning to expand their recomandations for the Internet in their rules, and for instance treat chat-rooms like direct news-casts, which is a suggestion for the revised poster of conduct, according to Propaganda.
This shows one more picture of Patricia Schwartz, the photographer of "women of Substance" and the lady outside my door: Museet for Fotokunst - Travelling Exhibitions
Outside my office door, there's a poster, it shows a naked woman, she's fat, but the photograph of her is sensual and seductive. She's been there for more than a year, and before she was in this corridor, she was in one less trafficked. For some reason, she has always provoked loud responses, and today she provoked somebody into posting a note on her: "Type II diabetes - sensual, but infertile."

What I like about the picture is that it provokes people in this manner. It evokes disgust and embarrassed laughter… at one point it was attacked by kids writing graffiti all over her - I wasn't here at the time and nobody will repeat what it said, but the janitors cleaned her carefully and put her back up. I am not obese like her, but in a way, her relaxed acceptance of her nudity, and the beauty of her naked among the green leaves makes things easier for me, reminding me of the right of every woman to be as she is, not like some outside agent would try to make us. She lies naked in the grass. I say what I think in lecture-halls and in discussions. It's our right.
Congratulations, Jesper, with the English version of your Masters Thesis: A clash between game and narrative
There. That broke my focus. Moralism. Supposedly a strong enough word to silence a journalist and professor in a debate concerning his own field of expertise. I guess the next hours will be spent wondering how come that word made his response into a personal counterattack, when I used it about his presentation of journalist ethics. Here I go, off to search for dictionaries...
No, I am not turning soft. There is still something about Bolter and Grusin's Remediation which makes me want to find the error, the point where I can deny their streamlined logic. I think perhaps that is the problem right there. "Remediation" is such a convenient word, but does it mean anything other than the fact that everything has to be translated in order to be communicated, no matter through which medium? Everything which is to be perceived, is somehow mediated, no matter if it's through the medium of light and soundwaves or chemicals in the air interpreted by us as scent, or through a highly mechanised process containing a high level of artifice like the net. Thus the idea that the new media causes a remediation becomes redundant. Of course it does. And yeah, it's remediated in some of the ways they describe. And?

But... the book is proving to be useful. Not wasted at all. It presents a systematic discussion of how everything is remediated. While it puts a bit too much emphasis on the singularity of the net and the new media, insisting a bit too much on the newness of their concept at times, it is a useful book. 'Good boys' - while I might not be entirely converted, I can appreciate its usefullness.
Jill posted a link to an interview with her about blogs: IT: Give us this day our daily blog. I agree with her, the interview was badly written, consisting of quotes and with little ability to communicate Jill's enthusiasm on this topic. But she does that remarkably well for herself, look for yourselves: jill/weblog(g?)

Wednesday, April 04, 2001

I am picking a random who list:
[ Hum Mal ] Anthony Flaxfire Goldspring, High Guardian Mage of [ARCANA]
[ Mer Mal ] Aphronais [PRIVATEER]
[ Ser Fem ] Arreis the White
[ Dwa Mal ] (Outlaw) Borum Stronghold, Dark Sword of [INQUISITOR]
[ Pix Fem ] Cassia, Songstress and Justice of [FEAR]
[ Ser Fem ] Daisha Yrss, Miles Csaroke [NOVA MORTAVIA]
[ Pix Mal ] Draxin the friendly pixie [HAVEN]
[ Ser Mal ] Fusama, outcast among untouchables
[ Orc Mal ] (Outlaw) Gamadon Pursuer of the Balance, [INQUISITOR]
[ Ser Mal ] Gneiss Saklathis, Count Csaroke:of the Rose Order [NOBLE]
[ Orc Mal ] Graelt [INQUISITOR]
[ Mar Mal ] Harmony Drk'Blayde.
[ Dro Fem ] Jandril Initiate Mage of [ARCANA]
[ Elf Fem ] Linn
[ Elf Mal ] Lyle Shaner, Sword of Balpherus - [DRAGONLORD]
[ Hum Mal ] Reun, Swordsman
[ Tro Fem ] Scrag, GUARDIAN trollop of [ARCANA]
[ Hel Mal ] Sorac Starshadow The Seeker, Primus Pilus of [NOVA MORTAVIA]
[ Mer Mal ] Sulis, -JUSTICE- of [PRIVATEER]
[ Elf Mal ] Sylinis Nautil, the Dreamweaver [INQUISITOR]
[ Hum Mal ] Timothy, Duke Sharbell [PRIVATEER]
[ Hum Mal ] Tiotin Gallandro [HAVEN]
[ Hor Mal ] Wyar [HAVEN]

I really miss those players at Dragon Realms, and the play. I hope they are all happily engaged in other games.
For Darion, because you asked: : "The place held in common by the ethnologist and those he talks about is simply a place: the one occupied by the indigenous inhabitants who live in it, cultivate it, defend it, mark its strong points and keeps its frontiers under surveillance." (Auge 1995:42).
For those who'd like to hear the original play from BBC radio: The hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy MP3
Where to start - or rather, stop. I am surfing along the information highway, and it's becoming increasingly clear to me that the antropological definition of a place hardly applies... Then again, doesn't it?

Only, the history of the net can't make a "place" for me on the net. I have to find that place, settle into it and experience it. Dragon Realms was that type of a place. I suspect that is why learning that it would be dis-continued was such a shock to everybody. What if you learn that tomorrow your home - or the world will be demolished? Douglas Adams writes of that in "A Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy", and his character is stunned. Arthur Dent lies down in front of the buldozer, trying to save his little house, feeling as if his world will end with the demolition of his home. That is until he learns that something far worse is happening, and that not only his home, but the home of the terrans will be demolished, to make space for a highway...

And Dragon Realms was - if not demolished, then made unaccessible to us all. I think that is the angle which has been aching in the back of My head... Thank you, Douglas Adams, for again supplying sufficient distration to find focus.

Tuesday, April 03, 2001

History and culture along the information highway
that will have to be tomorrow's topic. This is where I arrived today, and I need to sit down with a new stack of books to fill the next 3-4 pages. Can it be done? Is it done? Or is the fact that everything has to be created with signs and words stronger than a sensation of recognition and belonging? Perhaps I'll need to read of and check out The Well.
I learned a couple of new words recently - immediacy, hypermediacy and remediation. Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin wrote Remediation : Understanding New Media, a book I have resisted reading for quite a while. Now I am looking at it, trying to repress the feeling of obstinacy which could make me turn away and claim I can do without reading it. The words are melting into my vocabulary. I still haven't accepted their significance.
the non-places still haunt me. Perhaps because they always have. At this point any english readers out there can relax, you are not missing out on great poetry or thoughts here... the norwegians will have to excuse me for shamelessly exposing 17 year old reflections:

Vende hjem/reise bort

hvitt skum langs kjølvannet
et tvillingspor
for mine drømmer
oljeblankt hav
og en dobbel lengsel
til barndommen fører
en velkjent sti
foran en baug
en vei hjem.

I kjølvannets doble linje
ligger vissheten om ny
og en annen lek.

Hvitt skum langs kjølvannet
oljeblankt hav
en vektstang er båten
mellom to liv.

(hurtigruta mai-84)
technology or the use of...?
Technology opens new worlds of communication for people all over the world. There are many excellent reasons for people to own and use cellphones. The dangers of technology are often over-rated and emphasised... At the same time, while the technology itself might not be dangerous, the uses to which it is put are. Reading about how a depressed youth was receiving messages prophecying his own death makes me wonder if I am arguing for the Bomb - nuclear power can save lives... and kill.

Anonymousity coupled with easy access and the sensation of real-time communication makes sms-terror as serious as telephone-terror. But we have laws to punish threatening letters and telephone-stalkers. The same laws should apply to these messages, and we should be aware that the humans using technology won't change with the technology. Communication systems have always been used for harassment of others. SMS messages spelling "This year you will die" fit neatly into the pattern.

Monday, April 02, 2001

One of those days when it doesn't matter that it's raining.
This day just worked out well enough that it's worth mention.
Is this a genuine report of an April 1st joke, or it is the joke itself? Supposedly yesterday several companies had their start-pages altered by hackers too polite to alter anything but the first page. Some of the pages they left behind are really funny. Hacking is a game it would be really interesting to explore - but on the observing side, not the victim-side! Don't get me wrong, hackers!
This is an important link for all those who loved the Pippi Longstockings-books, or those who read Astrid Lindgrens many other books, all of them wonderful, all of them food for thought and wine to the imagination. Or should that be soda? That's what my imagination dran back then...

you can't read the norwegian text?

just fill in the form with your name, address, country and email, write why you love Astrid Lindgren's books, and hit the button - and hopefully a well-loved and well-known author will be considered for the Nobel-prize.
living in a non-place
I just watched a documentary about a man called Alfred. He had lived on Charled De Gaulle Airport since 1988, making it 11 years when he was granted refuge status by the Belgian Government. In clippings from september 1999 he claims to have decided to stay at the airport, despite having been given french residency. According to the writings about him and his own words in the documentary, he originally wanted to go to Great Britain, claiming he was british. During the documentary he changed his mind several times, wanting to go to Germany, Belgium and the United States of America. At one point in the film he also claimed that he had so many options - he was unable to choose.

I have tried to track him down on the net, but "Charles de gaulle airport alfred" gave me nothing after 1999. Did he meet the millenuim in an airport, endlessly waiting? A search on his real name, Merhan Karimi Nasseri, yielded little more. He seems to have disappeared from the news when he was no longer forced to stay at the airport, but chose to.

It's a fascinating situation. Marc Augé (No, I am not able to put his book non-places from my mind yet) writes of non-places and identity: "Checks on the contract and the user's identity, a priori or a posteriori, stamp the space of contemporary consumption with the sign of non-place: it can be entered only by the innocent. Here words hardly count any longer. There will be no individualization (no right to anonymity) without identity checks."

This is what trapped "Sir Alfred", or Nasseri, on the airport. Robbed of all his papers, he could no longer prove his innocence - but with the same papers gone, the police could not prove his guilt. He could not "retrieve his identity ... at Customs, at the tollbooth, at the check-out counter" (p 103). And after 11 years of this, he refused to leave this life where he had become no longer a stranger, but a celebrity. In the documentaries, those were the words with which he refused having his picture taken by tourists passing by: "I am a celebrity".

The land in which he was familiar was the non-place of transit, with the large brand shops of Charles De Gaulle, and what should have been familiar after 11 years in France was foreign. He was locked in the paradox of the traveller: "A paradox of non-place: a foreigner lost in a country he does not know (a 'passing stranger') can feel at home there only in the anonymity of motorways, service stations, big stores or hotel chains. For him, an oil company logo is a reassuring landmark; among the supermarket shelves he falls with relief on sanitary, household or food products validated by multinational brand names." (p. 106)
One day I will change this blog. I want to figure out how to put up a neat list of links to my friends, as well as links to my own articles for those who might want to peek. And a link to the games I play would be neat, so people can learn about them and I can have more people to play with, and....

Well, if I can't convince one of my html-savvy friends to design an elegant page for me, I'll just have to wait until I have time to fumble it into shape - which means I have to learn html. And I have to bother to set up a small claim on the college server, which means I have to learn how to use ftp. OK, I know it sounds easy for all of you. It's just one more of those "to do" things which feels like they are way beyond me right now.

Sunday, April 01, 2001

Aarinfel is about to become the scene of a planned suicidal attempt at revolution. Well, I guess it's the arena of many such attempts, nipped early by the immortals obliging the players by letting their characters suicide, or the death goddess claiming their lives early. The plan this time will lead to a significant change in the structure of the Empire. The immortals - which means the administrators - might In Character not mind seeing the Empire changed. Out Of Character however, we do not expect to win through with roleplay which isn't planned by the admin. We will lose, most likely horribly. We still do it because: "Play is battle and battle is play" (Huizinga 1955:41). And even if Et'Thalior is a court of elves in fancy outfits with slippery tongues and one goal: personal supremacy, the battle will be played out with barbed comments and stunning displays - because we want the play rather than the peace of quiet, friendly virtual co-existance.

Does it make sense? I read through it, and try to see how it would looks for a reader who doesn't enjoy the pretense of the play, or the competition of the pretense.
I am looking at the title I stared at Thursday. It's too big. It's a book. Somehow, every chapter I try to write these days threatens to become a book. I will just have to file this for later, and try making for a chapter. I need a tiny little title for it. Less should not be more.
This is my first test of blogging since the updates. The wait for Blogger to get back online after some changes being implemented was long and painful... but made more bearable by the fact that the log for what went on was constantly updated. Reading the updates was funny and satisfying in its own twisted little way. Now... to see how publishing works!