Tuesday, July 31, 2001

So it's tuesday, and where have I been for several days?
yes, you are right. I have been doing serious work. I have been on a barbeque (saturday) with Adrian Miles, Jill Walker, Jan Rune Holmevik and Hilde Corneliussen. Sunday I spent with a friend who isn't connected to the department of humanistic informatics at all, but Monday I was back among them. It's 1.37 am Tuesday, I have discussed the future of the DAC conferences, I have discussed seduction, power and computers and games, I have learned and shared some amazingly juicy gossip which I am keeping to myself, thank you, and I have remembered, in between all of this, why I enjoy doing research, and why I actually think I can finish the project I started.

It might look like playing, chatting or fooling around... but when you hit the wall and can't do anything through all the normal rituals of discipline, the carnevalesque way of not taking your work seriously and making fun of everything is sometimes the best way to break the dry spell. And tonight was not a dry night. I am already looking forwards to writing again. Thanks, folks!

Thursday, July 26, 2001

Did you ever yell at your computer? Curse it for being stubborn, stupid and trying to trick you? Well, you're not the only one to treat your computer as if it has feeling and intent. Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass did a study on how people treat computers like real people. They let a group of people be tutored by a computer which thought itself to be a very good tutor. Afterwards some of the people evaluated the performance of the computer on the same machine which had tutored them, while others evaluated the performance on an other machine, or with pen and paper. The people evaluating the machine they were still on were significantly nicer in their evaluation. they were POLITE to the machine.

I think this is fascinating. Reeves and Nass explain this with the human brain being "old", and since it has no concept of anything but humans displaying certain signs of humanity, it will treat everything which behaves like a human in come communication aspects as if it IS human.

I wonder if there's more research out there about what people treat as if it's human? We display loyalty to brands, as we do to teams of athletes, for instance. But we also become territorial, and defend and protect territories - can the computer have become a territory we need to protect and where we wish to find positive features which makes it worth protecting? I know that I get fiercely territorial about objects, not the least of those computers, and mac-users are like a clan ready to battle under the sign of the holy apple. I never before considered apple in the context of the snow-white story before, by the way. I'll have to think a bit more about what that might mean.

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Psst: Jill: your blog used to be called jill/weblog

And I loved your thoughts on exhibitionism. What's wrong with enjoying to be seen, noticed, admired? It's how women are supposed to behave after all: be perfect dolls to be admired. Perhaps what's different with your kind of exhibitionism is that this doll talks! You are doing what men hate, displaying not your tits, but your ideas.
I just got a book from Amazon.co.uk: The Cybercultures Reader, edited by Barbara M. Kennedy and David Bell. I was very curious about this book - I constantly have this fear that there are a lot of essential articles out there which everybody know about while I have no idea, so I buy readers...

Sometimes I am lucky with them, and they contain all those articles which I have been trying to collect in different filing-systems, bad copies with imprecise information on publications and perhaps lacking a page where it's been copied twice. Sometimes, like today, I sit staring at the list of articles and writers and wonder what planet they are at... or I am at... since we don't overlap at all. It was comforting to see that at least Mike Featherstone and Donna Haraway were represented. We might be on the same planet after all.
NETTAVISEN INNENRIKS: Bryllupsmiddag uten Behn
The Norwegian crown prince, a very handsome young man, is getting married to this single mother of no particularly aristocratic background, Mette-Marit. I think that's nice, but the weddig-perparations are getting a little overgrown. There's a long list of artists, politicians and sportsmen who are invited to the wedding dinner... and then there's this young woman who has a picture on the net, her name on the list and is treated like the writers and musicians she's put on the same list as. What has she accomplished? She's Mette-Marit's "best man".

She should of course be on the list of guests for the wedding. But is she nothing but a friend of Mette-Marit? Being her "best man" takes about 30 minutes - OK, perhaps an hour and a half for a long ceremony like this. She has to have something else to do with her life. Perhaps she works in a kindergarten, perhaps she has a PhD in mathematics, perhaps she is a student, perhaps a carpenter or a hairdresser. Why can't she be allowed to be presented as a person with her own interests and accomplishments?

Of course, she is Mette-Marit's best man. But she is her own person as well. Come on, journalists, figure it out: people have lives which are not related to your most immediate news even if they are not famous!

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Transitions Online
Europe's Spin on Web Reporting
The "European spin" is interesting, but not really a solution for the larger newspapers which have put a lot of resources into developing for the web.
Who, What, Where, Why and Web
Some interesting comments on online journalism. This is what we have tried to avoid in Volda, and there are other ways of doing it. After all, journalists aren't coders or designers, and why should they be? They weren't typographers either, before Murdock used computers to change the industry.
Did you notice? No more ads on my blogspot!
OK, so that means I paid for the priviledge, and blogspot isn't really free - still, if it helps blogger, I am the kind of person who pays for shareware I like as well, instead of finding an old, freeware version, or hacking the new ones.

Monday, July 23, 2001

Ph.D.-students are such masochists. We spend the days locked up in little rooms, comparing ourselves to the writers of the most interesting and brilliant works which become the base for our own work and the measuring stick for quality. Of course most of us have to fail in our own minds. Our topics become familiar and trivial... and doubt eats at what little confidence we might have left. I wonder how come we endure. Sometimes I think it's just that we are too stupid to realise that what we are trying to do is impossible. Luckily, we are skilled at hiding truths like that from ourselves. Or at least I am. I don't know about the rest of the world, really, I am just generalising from a very small universe. That's qualitative methods, right?
I will just get a much better view of this:
one more thing to be happy about:
where I am moving, I will no longer see this from my livingroom:
Some days are worse than others. Some days should just be skipped. But occasionally, bad days can be turned around to much better days. Here I was, all alone at the office, with most of my colleagues gone on vacation. I was indulging in feeling sorry for myself, thinking about how much I miss having my friends around me, and I was doing a really good job at it.

That's when I started to get little pings from a friend and colleague in Bergen, demanding to know exactly when I am coming down there. When she was satisfied, I opened the email to find a story from a friend, who has a lot more reason to be down than I do... but her problems are just so uncommon, they made me laugh and feel a lot better. So I managed to go fetch a cup of coffee. On the way back I met an other colleague, one of the few not in Spain, Greece or somewhere else sunny and warm, who had a hug and an offer for help with moving (yes, we'll be moving in August). I had to leave him because my phone was ringing, and it was an other friend who just wanted to say hello because he likes hearing my voice, and as I was talking to him, I opened the mailbox again, and there was a gushing eulogy to friendship, where I was included in a group hug with some of the people I really admire, as the kind of friends the sender was ecstatically happy about having.

So I am not complaining about being alone and forgotten in this deep, dark fjord on the west-coast of Norway any more. The fjord is still dark and it's still a long way from where I want to be... but I am starting to think my friends are all psychic, and that defies distance.

Saturday, July 21, 2001

For a week my main concerns have been to dress warmly enough, to plan dinners for 10-13 people including a baby and four sisters with widely different tastes in food, not to mention my own two teen-agers, to manage to sleep in a bed which makes my back ache worse with every night, to choose the right spinner for the tiny trout in the little lake which we have to walk past several very cuddly cows (that's a challenge, have you tried to get past a 500 kg cow while it's insisting on being petted and talked to?) to reach and to make the appropriate sounds when I was asked how I liked the paint/food/children/wine/ideas of my wide and assorted family. This is complicated. I found myself longing for the simplicity of the research and the comfort before the computer screen more than once. But not as many as three times...

Friday, July 13, 2001

OK, now I know why it was impossible to finish that chapter. It was two chapters. This feels so much better, I sent off one and can go on working on the next without feeling trapped by the size of a chapter. This is good. I hope.

Next week I'll be visiting my mother's summer house, together with at least two of my elder sisters, and their husbands and dogs. I am already exhausted, and it's raining. I just hope the rain lets up, so that I can get to go for a lot of very long and exhausting walks. That always makes it easier to be without access for as long as a week.
NETTAVISEN KULT og KULTUR: Nett-anarki trues med søksmål
Hvordan kommer anarchy online til å utvikle seg? Rent bortsett fra at det er norsk, er tanken på et så stort, kommersiellt flerbrukerspill veldig interessant. Jeg må bare bli ferdig med denne avhandlingen....
more on wap games
wap games
the cellphone as the new tool for playing? Well, my daugher plays what I remember as early arcade games on her cell-phone, there are stories written explicitely for sms, and there are adventure- and puzzle- games which use sms and cell-phones as part of the way to communicate with the play-central. Of course it will develop, a game-boy which is also a phone, a diary, an email-box and a hand-held computer? YAY!
The Art of Computer Game Design - Chapter 1
I just found this, by following a link from a discussion-group: usablegames@smartgroups.com . Interesting, but I am not sure it's as simple as just going by this book - while it does discuss games, online multi-player games are their own breed, just chess as and football are diffent games, as well.
Articles: Anarchy Online - The Perils Of Pushing Products
werdna at slashdot claim that anarchy online has bit off more than it can chew. Now that is precise critizism...

I am still tempted to say: I told you so. But I didn't tell them, so I'll shut up about that.

However, I don't totally agree with werdna either, because there are graphic multi-player worlds out there which are functioning, and Anarchy Online is still young, it might still establish its own culture and community. It's worth watching.

Thursday, July 12, 2001

xrefer - aesthetics, problems of
OK: So upon what grounds do the players make the judgement: this is a good game? That's the question I have to stick to. And I think I have. Now just to write the next 2 pages...
xrefer - aesthetic judgement
Hmmm... OK, so I am not as far off the track as I thought... This is what I have been doing and discussing...
xrefer - value, aesthetic
And so what's the aesthetic value of the games? I am getting closer...
Philosophical Dictionary: Aesthetics-Altruism
What IS this I am trying to do? The net has answers for everything.
OK, so I changed something in the settings and the archives disappeared. It's scary, and I am quietly praying that Evan will get this fixed, but I have faith in the skill which will make them reappear.
Activity as a quality with a work of art, as an aspect bringing pleasure, and pleasure as a way of enhancing activity, isn't new. In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle writes:

This may be seen, too, from the fact that each of the pleasures is bound up with the activity it completes. For an activity is intensified by its proper pleasure, since each class of things is better judged of and brought to precision by those who engage in the activity with pleasure; e.g. it is those who enjoy geometrical thinking that become geometers and grasp the various propositions better, and, similarly, those who are fond of music or of building, and so on, make progress in their proper function by enjoying it; so the pleasures intensify the activities, and what intensifies a thing is proper to it, but things different in kind have properties different in kind.

So what are the proper properties of games?

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

I am in shock. Trying to resolve the writing block by shopping - and I spend more than a million Nkr on one item! OK, so that one item was a house, and a lovely one at that, but still... If this doesn't do it... my credit can't endure more shopping for a while.

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

I have started an other blog with some of my colleagues at Volda College - so far as an experiment. It's called infobloggen and discusses - in Norwegian - subjects relevant for the Public Information Education at Volda College, where all the participants work. Not too many have participated yet, but I expect it might pick up come fall and the end of vacations.
Digital Kringkasting
The Department of Media Studies at Volda College is arranging a little conference on Digital Broadcasting. It's in Norwegian, so for those reading Norwegian out there with an interest in this topic - which I think will become quite important in the close future - keep October 25th - 26th 2001 open. No fee for participating, you have to pay for the trip and housing.

Friday, July 06, 2001

I am not writing much here these days. I am not writing much anywhere, these days.
Tired.. so tired... and my office is too warm. So I brought Beardsley, on Aesthetics, out of the office and into a room not as strategically placed in the sunlight. My mind is slowly, with the speed of melting ice-cream, wrapping itself around the images of an aesthetics of playing. What I have to write about isn't just what a good game is, but also what is good playing. Because playing in itself is an aesthetic act, and so there is a certain beauty to experiencing a game as well as to creating it.

Like going to the opening of an art exhibition. Of course, you can just trudge through wearing the same as always. But if you dress up, and everybody else dress up, you will all make the pleasure of being there more pronounced, and add to the experience. And in my opinion the people who think it's really important to be invited to the opening of exhibitions are playing a role-play game with as much intensity as any computer geek.

Tuesday, July 03, 2001

Game studies. Issue 1, 2001.
It's here, the first journal on the Studies of Games.
I hope it will go well, it's the brain-child of people I know, people I love and people I admire, and I want to see it grow and flourish.

Monday, July 02, 2001

here's a link to a Norwegian-language article by me on net aesthetics - if there is such a thing. I claim there is, but that it's the aesthetics of self-expression and user-control. Disagree? The editors have given everybody exellent opportunity to protest!