Sunday, March 31, 2002

Playing around with Opera: I really like it, for everything but blogging. The blog-editing window becomes tiny.
By way of Gonzalo: Technology Review - Cyberspace and Race by Henry Jenkins.
Jenkins argues that we are carrying our prejudices into CyberSpace, the colour of your skin matters no matter how your avatar is. I would like to point out that you carry your entire culture into CyberSpace. To be Norwegian in all-American chat-rooms can be a very alienating experience, and I am certain being american in a all-Norwegian chat-room would feel like having landed on the moon...

Race and class are, as is gender, a naturalised distinction, but still one trained into us since childhood, and Jenkins is right, we don't drop it as we log on.

There are however online games where exactly race and class are part of what they play with: particularly race. Aarinfel and Azhad both have restrictions on what characters it's advisable to create. On Aarinfel having blue eyes and pale skin meant that you were cursed by the deity of death, and people with this combination were shunned. Blue-skinned orcs were no problem though.

On Azhad, the connection race and class has been turned upside down. The aristocratic pure-bloods are all black; dark hair, skin and eyes. Paler skin or eyes is a sign of "pollution", and the whites are outsiders, scum and often slaves.

The regulars hardly think about this, but for newbies it's always a surprise. The skim the race-descriptions, and pick a race close to something they are used to thinking of as high status in Western Europe and North America, and end up being treated like lepers. Always a hard way to start a game where you had planned to become a high-status aristocrat...
OW. this isn't too good. I just changed browsers - netscape is not any good, internet explorer keeps closing down this computer - but Opera is not good with blogger. I have a TINY editing window. There has to be a way to change this.

Saturday, March 30, 2002

I am looking at my wish-list at I use it to remember books I want, but can't afford at the moment, and it's loooong. Jill wonders if she would have presents sent to her from her wish-list if she showed her tits on her blog. There have been times when I have been considering prostitution for books, but at those times I have been lacking most other things in life as well, so the books would still have come after food and clothes for the kids. Not that I think anybody would send me books if I exposed any more than what I have already shown. I might have heaps of cultural capital, but physical capital is a little inflated at the moment.
And more things you really neded to know, in the middle of these serious academic topics: How to swear in norwegian

This is a list of other essential Norwegian lines and words. But no, the pick-up lines don't sound any better in Norwegian
I never knew this existed, but it will make my life easier: The Norwegian Council for Technical Terminology - Abbreviations
While searching for something not at all to do with what I found: The meaning of birds in Landscape Painting

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Hmmm. I am supposed to be editing the chapters, not adding to them. The file has grown 8 pages by now. Alarming.
The Naked Novel, the online writing project initiated by Peter at Naked Blog has started. Reading it makes my fingers itch, and I would still have loved to participate, but that's yet an other thing for life after I am done with the dissertation.
By way of Lisbeth, Research Management Summary

How not to get a PhD
There are 7 common ways of not getting a PhD:

not wanting one;
overestimating what is required;
underestimating what is required;
having a supervisor who does not know what is required;
losing contact with your supervisor;
not having a 'thesis' (ie. position, argument) to maintain; and
taking a new job before completing.

Make sure that the implications of these traps are fully understood.
Re-establish your determination regularly when blandishments to stray from your programme of work occur.

Why does this sound so frighteningly familiar?
So what's for lunch? Since it's Easter, it has to be egg, right? I never realised how important eggs were to bloggers until I started writing this post. And there are inedible meanings of the word as well, although that might not diminish the sustaining value. Can you tell my brain is scrambled? Time for food.
A Vannevar moment
Drifting in that space between awake and asleep, I had a vision this morning. I saw the tool I needed to be able to keep track of the chapters I am editing. I saw exactly how each fragment I am moving should be linked to the different positions in the text: where it should go, where it was originally, where it might fit. This way I could easily, from the same document, produce a wide variety of versions of my thesis, and I could pick the one I liked the best. Or the assessors could pick the ones they liked.

As I woke up, I realised I was not the first scholar to think of something like this. I had had a Vannevar moment.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

In one of the chat-rooms I habitually roam through, there are several different boards. On one of them, which has been blessedly free of trolls and flames, there was a likely troll-post today. It was kind of lame, posted by an unregistered chatter, and it didn't stir the people regularly posting to the board into much action.

But I am a little fascinated with posts like that. I think trolls are interesting. I find myself spending more time trying to understand the game of trolling than considering the actual post. There are some boards I read only for the flaming and the trolls - because of the way troll-posts are playing with the conventions of the boards, searching for the weak point of the chatters.

The conclusion I have come to on troll-posts, is that they rely on people getting upset, shocked or very exited about a topic: preferably the post should be designed to split the audience in two camps: those who are angry and those who are happy. If you take a troll-post seriously, adressing the topic rather than the emotion, they can lead to good discussion. Now a good troll would make certain the topic is controversial. But on boards with a fixed topic and a moderator, that's complicated, because either it's a good question which deserves debate - or it's far out and will be deleted.

So at which point does a post become a troll? When it's posted, when it's discussed, when the people discussing start flaming each others?

Monday, March 25, 2002

Done editing one more chapter. Tomorrow I fear there will be blood seeping from the computer, as I hack my way through the next (and so far my favourite) chapter.
I am trying to decide what to do about a little quote-error from Baudrillard. No, not my error - his. He quotes Philip K. Dick, a book he calls The Schizo's Ball, and the quote is so beautiful and fits so well into his argument, it just flows along. However, Dick never wrote a book with that name, it's the direct translation from the French title of the book We Can Build You, and the quote is a translation back to English from the french translation, distorting the quote until it's hardly to be recognised.

So far I have used the quote from the English translation of Seduction, and added a footnote where I say which book this is and what the original text of the quote is. I might have to just delete it all, but I love the lines too much: "Take me to my room and fuck me. There's something indefinable in your language, something left to be desired."

Unfortunately Dick's characters said: "'Take me into your motel room,' Pris said, 'and screw me.'
'There is, somehow, in your language, something, which I can't put my finger on, that somehow leaves something to be desired.'"
Simulation: Introduction
While this simulation of an Islam Shariat divorce did not impress me by its advanced simulation of society, the discussion on Computer-based Simulation Modelling for Anthropologists is rather interesting.
Department of Anthropology
A definition of anthropology. It's lovely, and open enough to embrace everything which has to do with us - human beings. Doesn't that make it a little less useful than a definition should be?
Jills is discussing Costranova's paper on economy on EverQuest, touching on scarcity and games.

Our culture is rife with stories of the futility of unlimited wealth, the main theme being how everything becomes boring, how the diversity created by lack, restrictions and the need for an effort makes life more enjoyable. Modern myths center on the unhappiness of the rich and beautiful, and are full of tragic deaths caused by having too much.

To match this myth, poverty is supposed to lead to a more profound happiness than wealth. At the moment the Norwegian aid organisation Kirkens Nødhjelp is showing a series of little advertisements on television, asking people to contribute to building wells in Africa. The films are doing its best to promote the myth of the happy pauper, the pictures showing pretty, smiling, water-drinking children and their mothers, slender and elegant as they balance 20 liters of water easily on their heads, and as much swaddled like a baby on their backs.

It's interesting to see that this isn't just a myth, but has been adopted as a rule of the games simulating life. Scarcity, struggle and reward is what gives a sense of progress and of self-fulfilment. All the MUDs I have played have tried to balance this: find the balance between the challenge and the reward, and when simulating some type of society controlling currency is the most recognizable way to do just that. Wealth is a measure of success, and as such, it's desirable. Just having it given to you might be comfortable, but no fun.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

I am trying to trace a comment from DAC 2000, in a presentation where I just got the tail-end of it - about katarsis and games, and how games did not have the structure of buildup and release of a traditional narrative curve like for instance a film. Who was talking about this? Susana? Lisbeth, Jill, Elin?
We are a sorry lot. Jill, Hilde, Lisbeth and me are all struggling to finish our Ph. Ds. A recent soul-sister in the struggle is Tinka, so eloquently expressing the angst we all feel.

I think Hilde is holding up the best. She's the sensible, healthy kind of girl, works steadily and well, exercises and has her notes in a good system. We all love her for her quiet humour and her self-discipline. Hilde is reliable and sane compared to the mess the rest are making of this final phase of writing.

Jill is talented. Brilliant ideas leap from her keyboard out into the academic community. A center of energy for us to tap into, throw ideas against, test theses on. And Lisbeth is just plain good - a thorough, classic danish humanist, well-read, imaginative and with a quick analytic mind. But they both have their bodies warning them, telling them that the strain is taking more out of them that it should: the pressure of writing is not just a mental barrier, but also a physical one.

As for me - I struggle. I am old and slow compared to the brilliant spark of the others, and my body is screaming for attention. But I am stubborn. The doctor gave me medicines to help me relax the muscles of my back, in the hope of stopping and perhaps turning the escalating spiral of pain, ease the inflammation and help me to breath easier, sleep better, walk stairs without pain and stand up without crying out because it hurts. But he had the common sense to believe me when he threatened to force a sick-leave on me. I told him that not working would not make me relax right now. He agreed, wrote out medicines and treatment, and gave me a lecture on exercising - once I have finished.

He claims my body reacts the opposite way of how it should because of the stress. If I try to work out while I am this stressed, I'll just end up worse off than I was at the beginning. I have noticed that before, but it's the first time a doctor has actually said it. Trying to release the mental tension through physical exhaustion won't always work. It's not really such a great revelation, but in a way it's liberating. I have been struggling to stay in shape in order to carry on. Seems like I can laze around with a clear conscience when I am not working. And that's an other thing - he told me to drop all the work which is not related to finishing. That means drop feeling responsible for the family, the house, my mother, all the other stuff. Preferably I should go away.

I already feel better. Not least because he freed my conscience. I can be ruthless - as a matter of fact I need to be ruthless and care about nobody but myself, and I don't need to feel that guilt, the eternal guilt of the bad mother, the bad daughter, the bad spouse... Just writing those words makes my muscles relax and the back feel better. I think I am not alone to carry this guilt with me - after all, we are girls, taught to care for others, accomodate others and be open and vulnerable to them. But right now, struggling to finish, it's good to stop being nice.

Friday, March 22, 2002

Painkillers that work. Heaven.
Just one thing, Mark: Your writer's Ph.D. student might obsess over the serial killer because she doesn't want to think about finishing. That happens. One woman I know drove all her friends crazy looking for the right kind of support for her breasts to wear with the dress she had planned to wear for the party after the defense. She had people scouring every lingerie shop in Bergen, Oslo and Trondheim, as well as a few "adult" stores. When it was all over she didn't need it, and she would have learned that if she had tried her dress a few months back. Minds do odd things to us, and we can create silly obsessions in order to avoid thinking about the magnitude of the real problem.
Lisbeth writes about the life of a Danish Ph. D. student. I don't have much to add - her situation is pretty much what we are all in, only that I am priviledged: I have a job and even one with 50% research as part of my job requirements. But I'd like to add that in the Norwegian system, a marriage which survives a Doctorate is rare. The pressure is simply too large on the relationship: the demands of children and spouses too much for everybody included. As Mark writes:

She's also worried about a serial killer working in the region. I find this unrealistic: graduate students I've known, facing this kind of research pressure, would dismiss rumors of wandering murderers out of hand, just as they dismiss sleep, friends, family, toxins, illness. If she doesn't find those rocks, it's over anyway.

And this is what kills the relationships: "You're annoyed that I don't notice you? But if I don't fix that referance, it won't matter what you feel anyway." Even the request that you pause a moment to let your loved one spoil you is a demand to turn the attention away from your work, and when you're pushing to finish that is more than it's possible to tolerate. It's not nice, but you can't be nice in order to finish any large creative work. And that is what a Ph. D. is. It's academic art, and it's a race for aknowledgement.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Back to basic questions. What is a text?
OK, chapter one rewritten - this is the version I'll submit to proof-reading. Scary, hmm?

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Dambàgin, the fantasy world of one of my colleagues, Torbjørn Lien.
It's snowing.
Two people were killed this week-end in an accident involving a bus, a road along a fjord, a mountainside and an avalance of snow in Hardanger, closer to Bergen. Did I mention that we have been isolated from the rest of the world once this winter, due to avalances and snow? This climate is why I feel that humanity should never have climbed out of the trees and migrated north. And we wouldn't have had to worry about our Ph.D.'s either.
Intelligent games and simulation, a conference and call for paper for the third international conference at the University of Westminster, London. They have also opened a new academic journal on Intelligent Games and Simulation.
Michael Jansen has some computer generated pictures I really like. This is for instance the background on my computer at the moment.

But his pictures are not the kind of pictures I'd want to print out and have on the wall. I like them on the computer, not on paper- and I think the reason for that is games. His topics and his styles are very game-inspired, the realism that's more than realism: all details in place but not smooth and fluid, rounded as in a drawing. They are obviously built trough squares and with pixels, kind of like the statues in Legoland, Denmark. This is also, I assume, why his pictures of objects floating in water or flying seem to work better than of objects and particularly people standing. The effects of gravity is subtle, expressed in the way bodies distribute weight: complicated to achieve while drawing free hand, even worse when the image is built or contructed rather than drawn. When floating or flying gravity is already defied, and the slightly unreal weightlessness of the figure enhances that sensation and brings the images over to the fantastic.

I think this is also a reason why the games I have seen with really good animation are not of humans or even the earth. There was one really gorgeously animated game which never became a great hit - with clay figures... When I come home, I'll check the name, unless it suddenly pops up in my mind. The game was a bit too much of an enigmatic world of riddles, which tended to rely on association rather than connotations for clues - but it was absolutely geougeously animated, and I loved the music. Anyway - the figures have weight, which is a goal for the serious animator - weight and mass - and it's a lot easier to give non-familiar objects that illusion, than familiar ones. We know what gravity and speed do to humans, but not to Erochnaqs from Eritrpathyx.

Monday, March 18, 2002

Lisbeth and Elin both object to my sense of humour about procrastinating, both feeling that I carelessly disregard the feelings of those who are losing loved ones. I am sorry that this hurts you both. I am not laughing at your pain, but at my own. For me, laughter works.
[update: Lisbeth has removed the post I refer to.]
No, I didn't find this link while procrastinating. Honest. Actually, it was my NYC connection who knew I needed a distraction. And YES it worked. Check out the gallery!
Anders at Surftrail delivers a thorough description of where he has erred when introducing us to Espen Aarseth and Mark Bernstein's views on hypertext. That was a very interesting post, Anders, err again, will you please?

As for scientists who write about hypertext in hypertext, I am very curious about my colleague Anne Mangen's work in and with Xerox Park's hypertext - or is that elastic text - FluidReader. This fall she expressed a desire to write her thesis in Fluid.

I think Fluid is quite a bit better suited to this than the MUDs I fantasised about using for my writing, some time back in 1998... Writing a Ph.D. as a game would have been fun though!
Procrastination, advanced level
So you have cleaned the house floor to ceiling, you have rebuilt the garage and you have had all the diseases you can imagine and your doctor is sick of telling you that "no, there's nothing wrong with those tests and I am not taking new ones." The deadline is coming closer, and you are actually almost finished. All you need to do is that final editing. This is the moment when a true procrastinator has to become wily.

The computer is one wonderful tool. I am not talking about amateur procrastination, like surfing, blogging or playing games rather than writing. You know you are wasting your time, and you know you can't do that and you are able to stop (because, to be honest, it gets old). No, this is the time when you have to procrastinate without knowing about it. This is when you decide that your computer is too slow, and you need a) to have the current one de-bugged and set up with a new operating system, b) a new computer.

Both solutions have the advantage that you need the assistance of somebody else. IT-departments are experts in this. They are a blessing for the busy and stressed procrastinator. The moment they get their hands on a computer, it's gone for days and days: days when you can read a little in between whining about how you can't write, because the IT-department aren't done with your computer. And if the reading gets too efficient, you can bug them to make them work faster. Keep checking on them. Keep calling them every time they might have had a chance to actually get some work done. As long as you keep nagging, nobody can blame you for procrastinating, because you are TRYING to get your computer back.

As for the new-computer-ploy, that's even better. First, you have to research the possibilities for a new computer, which means hours of effective work you really have to do. Then you have to start the paperwork in the shape of getting money. This will let you have endless meetings with your superiors or much moaning while looking at your bank-account. Once this is done, there's the ordering-process. And again: IT-departments or stores come to your aid. They don't stock the advanced, specialised and very particular equipment you want, so they have to order it, set it up and then finally remember to tell you. You are safe for weeks. No work needs to be done and your conscience is clear.

And I haven't even touched on the potential of leaving your notes in a public place where an expensive-looking bag will be nicked, going away to write somewhere where you will get stuck with the car in the snow and have to survive for a week on the (luckily generous) supplies you brought, but without a net-connection and the vital books you need - or the really long-term advanced stuff, like falling in love or having babies, or having close relatives die and leave you traumatised.

As for me - I have tried them all. I have no other option but work..... yeah right....
Dunk, dunk, dunk
Og det er lyden av en ambisiøs og dyktig kvinne som stanger hodet i glasstaket.
Chop, chop, chop
do you hear that sound? That's the first chapter I wrote being chopped up and spread all over...

Saturday, March 16, 2002

I am in bed, my back killing me, but not with the same urgency as in the beginning of the week. We have a wireless system in the house now, and I am carefully negotiating the effects of the chimney, to be able to half lie in bed and still be online - through my son's lap-top. My own is too old for easy installment of the wireless link - and I have started talking to the department about a new one - lap-top that is. I am drooling over the Pentium IVs, suggesting both a Dell and a Toshiba to the department. I need something buff enough to play games and movies and to support the increasing graphic work I know I'll have to take on, since the department is less than subtly reminding me that my other main subject is art history, and I should be well suited to teaching visual communication. I already have a Dell which has followed me faithfully and with remarkably few problems all over for three years. It's a robust, serviceable computer, and I like the no-nonsense design. But it's also WAY more expensive than other, comarable computers. I haven't tried Toshiba, but this machine is highly recommended in the computer magasines, and they are good at making light-weight, smooth computers. Weight is important for me, the way my back is these days.

I know, I know, there's a whole lot of people out there shouting "If you are to spend that much money: GET A MAC". And I would, if there was an apple distributor within 40 miles from the College. No such thing, I am afraid, and I am not adventourous enough to want to learn how to use a new system right now. In 2-3 years, when I start thinking of updating this lap-top, we'll talk!

But in between having these sticky fantasies over technological items, I have re-structured the first five chapters completely. Chapter 2 has been butchered brutally, and put into the other chapters, and chapter 5 has been split into two chapters. I might do the same to chapter 3. So by now chapter 3 is chapter 2, chapter 4 is chapter 3 (a and b) and chapter 5 is chapter 4 & 5. Confused yet? Just wait until I mix chapters 6 - 12 into this.

"I don't think your 'the Prince will be here any minute'-tactics is the answer to all your problems."
Tinka has started a new blog

Friday, March 15, 2002

Ides of March
By the end of March I am supposed to have edited the chapters and a paper for Gamestudies. I need to be made aware that we are now at the ides of March. And yes, there is definitely a gloomy sound to it in my ears.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

A reply to Tinka, who discusses language in the humanities. A rather well-known sociologist named Pierre Bourdieu looked at this 30 something years ago. I quote from Academic Discourse:

But the teachers' self-assured use of professorial language is no more fortuitous than the student's tolerance of semantic fog. Quite apart from the fact that individual words, little known or unknown, always appear in a context which imparts a sense of familiarity to them or at least the feeling that they have already been heard fefore, the whole corpus of professorial language is employed in an environment dominated by the teaching situation with its distinctive space, its ritual and its temporal field.

While I won't go so far as to say it's all a conspiracy to keep those less socialised than us out, the language of academia is part of a system which Bourdieu describes as ritualistic as religion. "As one student put it, 'Lecturers have a way of asking, 'is that clear?', which actually rules out any question that it might not be clear.' Destined above all to play the part of the faithful at a church service, students must answer with ritual responses." It depends on understanding as a sign of being worthy: "By definition, the professor teaches as he ought to teach, and the meagre results with which he is rewarded can only reinforce his certainty that the great majority of his students are unworthy of the efforts he bestows upon them."

Yes, I agree with Tinka, as I pointed out in an earlier comment to her earlier post, we need precise language to speak of our research and to be able to communicate with others in the same field efficiently and easily. At the same time we tend to use those terms for a lot more than just efficient communication. We signal our arcane knowledge, our exclusive membership of a small, priviledged group, in short: we flash our cultural capital.

Do I think it's tacky when I get on the plane with businessmen all signaling their success aggressively through clothes, equipment and expensive habits? Yes. Why should I be annoyed that others think it's tacky when I signal my success through language?
Min kollega Erling Sivertsen er ansvarlig for å holde nettsidene til Avdeling for Mediefag oppdaterte. Han har utviklet dem til å bli klare, tydlige, informasjonsrike og en god presentasjon av hva som foregår på avdelingen både av faglig debatt og studentarbeider.
different models for structuring the thesis - first 5 chapters (of 12)

1: introduction
2: positioning in the field of research
3: methodology
4: theories, relevant, writing, reading etc
5: describing the object
1: introduction
2: methodology
3: positioning in the field
4 - 5 as over
1: introduction
2: positioning in the field
3: theories, relevant - writing, reading etc
4: Methodology
5: describing the object
(6: the interview as method)(7: Online worlds and online places: discussion) (8: games, game-theory and roleplaying) (9: Good games, built on the interviews) (10: Online role-playing and the aesthetics in action) (11: A possible aesthetics of games) (12: conclusion)

I am trying to bring all of this to some kind of order. At the moment I am playing around with colours. The first five chapters are gold, pink, green, blue and silver. Drafted on black paper. When I am not drawing I am walking.
Weblog Entry - 02/19/2002: "interest-group despotism"
By way of Jill at our blogonblog

At one point communication philosophers were all sharing Marshall McLuhan's vision of the Global Village, and thought the net would be the answer to that.

A village is distinguished by the fact that everybody know everybody, you are included in the community, and you're important to the function and dynamics of the community. This was the vision of how modern media would change the way we all thought about the world: It would bring us all closer, make us feel more related to and therefor care more about our distant neighbours. The planet would become a village.

There is not much village-like on the net - if there is, the village is Jante: highly exclusive, ruthless aginst those who think differently, ready to criticise and quick to reject. But a more realistic and positive image of the net is perhaps The Global City. I know I have seen this mentioned before, but I can't pin down who said it first.

If we think of the WWW like a city and not a village, the groupings and the special interest communities are not only understandable, but to be expected. In a city, there are different cultures and different attitudes, different social strata and even different nationalities clashing. We worry about ghettoes, but they are still unavoidable: people like to live among who they see as their peers. Some might be striving to become somebody elses' peers in a better neighbourhood: we call that ambition. Some might not care, and just drift around until they settle out of need or because they somehow feel comfortable there: we call that dropping out.

Online, you can find your comfort-zone, your neighbourhood. Sometimes this is the source of anger and hatred, just as in a real city. Sometimes this is a place to become comfortable, feel secure, feel that you are "home", and give you a place to start when you want to explore - just as with all those yong rebels streaming out of the too-safe suburbs looking for adventure.

I think that's just human - and I am grateful of it. If we didn't have this need for mingling with our peers as well as the will to explore, we'd still be disorganised individuals killing each others off with clubs.

Some might think that would be a good idea. Me, I like being a 21st century human being.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

OK, I thought this would pass, and you, all the people out there, would think I was just a little lazy. But already Monday Jill asked me: "Torill, is anything wrong? You haven't blogged lately." I made an effort yesterday, but today I just have to give up.

My back is hurting. It's not the "oh it's so good to rest" kind of pain. It's the type of pain that drives me crazy, has me moving all the time searching for a position which hurts less, has me waking up at the middle of the night in order to turn around carefully, has me yelling at the kids for putting down the tea-cup just out of my reach forcing me slightly out of balance while I stretch, has me startling students with outbursts of pain when I stand up, has my colleagues jumping to attention moving chairs and tables when I sit down/get up - the kind of pain that would have made the doctor give me some of those really strong painkillers if I went to see him. But I don't. I am a stubborn idiot, and painkillers make me throw up - I am a little allergic to most sedatives, and get a buzz from the slightest touch of morphin. I could stay home, but I would work anyway, at least at work I have good chairs, good computers and corridors to roam when I can't sit still.

But it makes me angry, bitter and prone to whine, and it also breaks my concentration, so I don't even whine with style and a sense of humour. Therefore - I may blog - or I may not. If you don't hear from me, don't worry, I have not been abducted by aliens (I'd actually prefer that right now) or taken away by the men in white coats while wearing a straightjacket. I am just walking through a darkened corridor, muttering mild curses, scaring students with guilty consciences.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Just had an interesting discussion with a student who's writing a paper on the Norwegian documentary Alias Slayer, about a Norwegian buy who won a world tournament in - I think it was Half-life...

Anyway, her theory was that the boy was like a game-character, because game-characters don't express emotions when they win, and neither did he.

I told her that I have seen too many victory dances among game characters to think that her assumption about games was correct. Now I am in doubt though, because I can't remember any. Anybody else remember an example?

And I'll do something I am not too happy about for this - unlike tinka, who checks the number of readers for her site and gets spooked, I just assume that everybody reading this already have my email address, which limits the number to a manageable size. But in case you don't, and you want to tell me about a game and what kind of message/response you get at the victory in that game, write to tm at hivolda dot no
the art of serving chocolate
Among the books from my father-in-law's place, I keep finding treasures. The latest I gave to him myself, for Christmas 2000. I ordered it from amazon while I was still in NYC, and never saw the book until I found it while we were opening crates. There it was, black, cheap, and well-read. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem is a very different detective story. The hero has Tourette's Syndrome, and soon everything of importance in the book is related to this syndrome. The investigation he performs, to learn about his dead friend and crooked boss, becomes a labyrinth of compulsive actions and repated as well as developing tics. I finished the book this week-end, and because my back hurts and I can't do much, I finished to more books this week-end - but Motherless Brooklyn is the one I remember.
At least this bean-bag is produced by Ekornes, one of the most successful factories in this area.

There's a lot of jokes about people from Southern Møre - Sunnmøre - where I live, and 99% of them are about furniture factories and gaining wealth where nobody else would think it was possible to survive.

The last 1% is about swimming.

Ugly, noisy and something the kids will argue over, but if my back doesn't get better, I am getting a bean-bag.
Mileage Giveaway
Remember the mileage giveaway with Justin Hall? I submitted my dream of where I want to go, but I totally understand that I was way down on a list which was topped by the European Capital Sewer Tour!

Monday, March 11, 2002

I have decided not to charge the battery on the lap-top until it's completely empty. So here I am, hungry for lunch, but wanting to keep the computer active until the last % of power run out. Isn't it amazing how long a battery can last when you want it to be empty?
Eliminating the dangers of playing in the street, children use videogames in isolation.

City Play looks like a very interesting book on other types of games than videogames, still relevant to digital game studies through the influence society, centralised living patterns, traffic and crime influence play-patterns and pave the way for the indoor, solitary game, ultimately the video- or computer game.
This webcam from Volda - apart from being fuzzy - has an other flaw. It doesn't show you the sleet-mixed rain pounding against the windows, the slushy mixture of snow, ice and water in the road, or the wind that helps that freezing rain find its way down beyond your collar.
Some really odd things are happening here. I hope it's due to the changes in blogger, and that it will return to normal soon.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

By way of Jill, my real life Ad&D stats

Thursday, March 07, 2002

The norwegian Princess, Märtha, isn't really royal any more. She has given up the right to be titulated "Her Royal Highness", she has resigned from her duties as a member of the royal family, and she has given up the payments due to royalty. She has her own firm, and her future husband will never be prince Ari Behn. But they'll get married, and have chosen a design for the wedding (which will be a large one) to stun anyone with the slightest touch of taste left...
The Darker side of games, is mentioned in Brian Sutton-Smith's Ambiguity of play:

"I think women's tennis is a ballet type of game. It's got beautiful movements and I think there is nothing else that combines that beauty of momvement with the tremendously graceful pirit. But in reality it's also an assassin's game: if one person has won, the other one is dead. There is no compromise. I become quite aggressive on court. I get a thrill out of hitting a winner." In the same vein, an American football professional says, "Football is not fun and games. It's an expression of the darker side of the individual. It's not 'let's go out and have a good time.' It's, 'let's go out and beat the other team, let's pound them into submission, let's intimidate them and show them that we are better than they are.'... As it get down to game time, the personality changes, the darker side, this different person, comes out." (page 88)

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

Research ethics
Triggered by a question of Svein Brurås to all his colleagues today, I started thinking about the ethics of my work. My initial response to his crass challenge, where he claimed that journalists are constantly involved in an open discussion of their ethics, while media scholars never discuss this, was to refer to my chapter on reflexivity in research. This chapter is mainly concerned with what results does the different theories and methods I use give, how does it skew the results, how do I influence the objects of my study and what does this imply as to the level of precision and openess of my study. Do I manipulate the results? Do I manipulate the people I use as sources? Am I too critical or too accepting of certain topics or questions?

As far as I am concerned, these questions are central to the ethics of a media scholar in the humanistic sciences. If I was a sociologist basing my work on statistics, I'd have to consider what parts of the material I made available to the public, what kind of information should or should not be possible to cross-check. If I was a clinical psychologist searching for the reactions of the body to certain stimuli, I'd have to consider what stimuli are acceptable and whether I really need electrodes connected to the eyeballs of my subjects... In all cases, protecting the source is weighed against learning as much as possible, and the political implications of the research.

This is however such an ingrained part of methodology, that it has become invisible. Perhaps what we need is, like the journalists, to make our questions more publicly visible? Some of the methodology debates at the Department of Media Science in Bergen in the late eighties early nineties were certainly heated enough for good entertainment value.

Monday, March 04, 2002

A shroud of dust.
The bookshelves were utilitarian - simple but sturdy. They had been moved quite a few times, but this last move was the longest and perhaps their last. Soon the wall in the downstairs hallway was lined with them. Then came the crates of books, closed little treasure-boxes for avid readers like me and my husband. We opened the first impatiently, ignoring the hunger after an afternoon of putting up shelves.

The first books were put in place with delight, a feeling of adventure: "look, this boks contains the complete history by Grimberg, look here, I had forgotten about this book, I read it when I was in junior high, that's something we should recommend for the kids!" Then slowly we touched on different kinds of books. A crate of travel guides to places he had never been able to go. Books connected to research he had planned to indulge in after he retired from administrating his department and became an emeritus. Books we had as well, that we remembered buying for him, or having as presents from him, sharing the pleasure of reading.

Soon we were putting the books in place in silence. To me, the dust of the books was a shroud containing the loss of the only father-figure who had understood what I was doing. For my husband, this was more intense. He became lost in the process of putting up the books. His elegant hands caressed each book before he put it in place. Some of them he paused to read, murmuring about when and why this book was bought and kept. When I wanted to put in a couple of crates of comics we needed to store somewhere available, he had to turn his back, the desecration of those shelves more than he could watch. As hunger finally drove us away from the books he was quiet. The next morning he had to go back and continue as soon as he could.

This almost became an obsession with my gentle, easygoing husband. After we had cleared enough room in the basement that we could get on with the work we had planned doing, he was still carrying crates and sorting through the books. The shelves are full now. They are stuffed with prayer-books from 1798, outdated and heavily slanted nationalistic historic works from 1920, instructions in the use of punchcards in quantitative research from 1960, cook-books from 1940, and novels from all genres and periods from around 1915, when his grandfather had built the house his father had been born in, and up until today.

The books smell of dust, and the hallway is narrow and dark where they loom well above our heads, but to my husband they are his past, containing all the best memories of a man who's lost to us. Sooner or later we will have to move some of the books, split them up and mix them with our own, not just with the glaringly misplaced comics. I suspect it will be later. Perhaps I'll put in a reading lamp in the hallway, and a chair. There are a lot of memories never written down, but still stored with the dust between those pages.

Friday, March 01, 2002

Hmm, Jill, what exactly did your friend claim that Sigurd Allern, Sigurd Høst and the institute of journalism say about journalists and citing sources? I'd very much like to hear that, because citing sources (particularly when cutting from other newspapers or using press-releases from information centers or PR-offices) is one of the things our students find that journalists are chronically bad at. If Sigurd and Sigurd have made any reports contradicting this I would very much like to know.

As for the research of Sigurd Allern, he's mostly concerned with the manipulative powers of the sources, not the lack of precision in journalism, Nils Øy is concerned with the publicity principle in Norwegian legislation and how it's influencing the working conditions of journalists, while Sigurd Høst, the one who might have worked at a level of detail required to be able to check something like this, is more concerned with how people use the media, and statistics of the development of norwegian newspapers.

The one woman who keeps appearing on the list of publications from the Institute of Journalism, Henny Wale, I don't know. Now that's something to consider. The three men are the ones who get invited to lecture in Volda, where only men teach journalism (I teach Media Theory and Public Relations). But that's a topic for Hilde, I think.

The researcher who might do work on this is Svein Brurås, who's working on a Ph.D. on journalism and ethics, a colleague of mine. But he hasn't, as far as I know, published anything showing whether journalists are notoriusly bad at citing sources or not. His work is more normative, discussing what ethical journalism should be.
Ultra short stories for the WAP and Web
the phone book has existed for one year. I like it, and I use it when I am lecturing in narratology - this is story telling as an extreme sport (couldn't keep clear of Jenkins-references today either...), story telling under very rough conditions, and people still manage to do it!