Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Hey, Hilde, I thought you would like to know that our chimney-sweep is a very nice, young blonde. Yes, a she. But I don't have the phone-number for her bath.
That interview started things running about in my head - and the image of the game as narrative environment unfolded before my eyes. The characters would dropped into an environment imagined as a rhizome rather than in the hierarcic structure of plot and underplot, and the tension or exitment of the game is created more through potential than through dramatic structure. "What if" is the important strategy of holding the gamers, playing with curiosity rather than logic or causality.
By way of Lisbeth, the very interesting Small World Project: Smallworld Front Page.
Just typed out a little pearl in one of the interviews:

RM: yes, that's the other way I think you'd do it; where you'd have initial conditions and then drop the characters in there, and if you created the characters well then the characters would have natural tendencies to do certain things or in a certain manner. So in that process the plot would be almost self-creating, or created through the various discourses.

Why am I so happy about this? Because this is the link between writing for games and writing for books: the plot becomes secondary and there's no longer one discourse, but several discourses as the game evolves.
First: some bad news: Norway's the worst country in Scandiavia when it comes to producing doctors (As in Ph. D.s), and there are less women finishing now than three years ago.

Then the good news from the same article: The Norwegian doctorates have a high quality compared with the rest of Scandinavia and also on a wider international scale. Also: I am still below the average age of a finished Ph.D. in Humaniora in Norway.

Monday, April 29, 2002

Ponto media - weblog
According to google, this blog links to mine. Wish I understood a little bit more, and not just tantalising fragments!
warning: Rant
The last two days my mother and her sister have been busy calling me in order to get me to fix my mother's phone. As if I have a magic hotline to the phone-company, or extra-sensory technology repair-powers! (If I did, you bet I wouldn't be an underpaid scholar.)

This is why I am going as far away as possible now that I am starting to really feel the pressure of writing. There's always some similar emergency which I should fix.
Going Postal
Do you remember the Post office killings? Going Postal has become a word for violently expressing frustration. This resulted in among other things, computer games such as Postal and Postal 2. (Voodoo Extreme on Postal 2.)

They call it Spree killings, and it wasn't invented with computer games, although computer games use them. Perhaps these horrors are so frustrating, so alien, so taboo, that we can't discuss and process them in any medium but that of games? They let us handle the blood and gore once removed through labeling it make-belief, and so we can play with it, work through it in a repeated release - almost cathartic in nature? Banning games won't make war, murder and irresponsible car-driving go away. I wish it was that easy.
Damaged game-scholars dinner
Anja; did I mention that I for years lived imaginary lives as first an assassin with poisons as a speciality, and then a courtier whose adversaries tended to go queasy and avoid eating just knowing he might be annoyed with them? And nope, it wasn't caused by his perfume (which was also quite dizzying).

How about dinner sometime?

Anja writes of the other version of death by computer game: when the games make people kill others, not themselves.

The problem is that games more often mimic life, than life mimic games. Shootings in schools is not new - it's not even exclusively an American phenomenon, something we Europeans can feel superior about and claim has to do with the deterioration of European culture by dirty US influence.

We have made schools extremely important institutions in the socialisation of children and youths, and they take over more and more of the responsibilities of families. When we know that statistically most violent crimes are kept in the family, we should not be surprised that the agression also turns against the extended family: the school.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Just spent an hour and a half with a nice journalist from forskning.no. She was nice and very interested, but slightly pessimistic about how much space she might be permitted to use. After all I have no conclusions along the lines of: Games lead to overdeveloped thumbs. That would have been a nice headline. What can I say? "It might lead to a different way of reading." "Perhaps these media can change the way we understand causality." "No, I haven't looked at whether it's dangerous - it's fun and can be good for you." Not exactly fancy headlines.

I think that's why I am here, and not in some newspaper, chasing stories and headlines. I tend to ask: So what - and then try to find out.
I never remembered to ask Jill if the method to avoid jet-lag worked...
Yesterday we bought a saxophone for Erla. It's not new - it's used, a Selmer from 1977, with a rich, full tone, a tall, elegant neck and slender bell - it's lovely. But it needs to be adjusted a little - the A and G don't close properly. For things like this I love living in a small town. Erla's a good musician, and very versatile, playing the clarinet, bass clarinet and tenor saxophone, and so the people who want to maintain bands and ensembles in the area are doing everything to help her develop. The man we asked about the sax not only checked it for us, he also promised to bring it to the best man for adjusting it in Norway, who happens to live in Hamar, six hours driving away - if the weather is good. It's a pretty elaborate set-up in order to get it there and back, and his entire family will be involved - but that's no problem if he can get one more decent musician for his band.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Defining Ludology… Gonzalo asks for definitions, and Jill ponders the term. As I see it (and this is not an authorized definition), ludology has become a label convenient to use when

* There’s a need to point out that games are not narratives/stock-trading/performances
* Somebody needs to distinguish the study of computer games from other computer media
* Apply for money/reject applications for money

Espen is great on claiming that concepts have been take over by other meaning (ex: interaction), but in the case of ludology I don’t think it ever had any specific meaning other than a way to establish “otherness” within certain related disciplines. I think this has to do with the rigidity of for instance literature theory. Media studies have long been picking up the renegades from literature studies, and now ludology is the new refuge for those who find that {add theoretical approach of your choice} doesn’t cover all aspects of written cultural expressions.

Personally I study games, but I am not a ludologist. I am a media scholar, and computer games are yet another medium for me to study. So games and the knowledge of gametheory is important in order to understand this medium, but media science is a hybrid science, a street-mix of the most barbarian kind, which is why I love it. And when I am done with this dissertation I can spend a couple of months reading newspapers and comics, watching television, listen to the radio and going through trashy romances – not to speak of indulging in leafing through advertisements in one glossy magazine after the other – and it’s work. I need to update myself. All that and games too. Yes!
Do you understand Norwegian and care about media ownership? Read this interview Dagbladet has with a colleague and friend of mine, Johann Roppen.
Scott Adams: Storytelling in Computer Games -- Past, Present, and Future
Videogames in Education - neat-looking site!

found here - an interesting list of links apparently collected by a group of people in order to share among themselves.
An other case of game causes death, in this case it's EverQuest which is blamed for the suicide of a young man.

On Thanksgiving morning last year, Shawn Woolley shot himself to death at his apartment in Hudson. His mother blames the game for her son's suicide. She is angry that Sony Online Entertainment, which owns EverQuest, won't give her the answers she desires. She has hired an attorney who plans to sue the company in an effort to get warning labels put on the games.

Shawn Woolley obviously had more problems than those he might have encountered in the game:

Woolley knows her son had problems beyond EverQuest, and she tried to get him help by contacting a mental health program and trying to get him to live in a group home. A psychologist diagnosed him with depression and schizoid personality disorder, symptoms of which include a lack of desire for social relationships, little or no sex drive and a limited range of emotions in social settings.

This is a case of mistaking the cause and the effect. Yes, games are very attractive to people with these kinds of disorders:

Jay Parker, a chemical dependency counselor and co-founder of Internet/Computer Addiction Services in Redmond, Wash., said Woolley's mental health problems put him in a category of people more likely to be at risk of getting addicted to online games.

Parker said people who are isolated, prone to boredom, lonely or sexually anorexic are much more susceptible to becoming addicted to online games. Having low self-esteem or poor body image are also important factors, he said.

I would like to point out that computer games might be viewed in a very different light. While games can become a substitute for a flesh world social life, for people who play obsessively it's normally not a matter of substituting a functioning social life with a game social life. It's more a matter of finding an arena where it's possible to interact with other human beings. I agree that it would have been better for Shawn Woolley to go out and meet people. But his mental disorder killed him. He happened to play a game when it happened.

His mother though... she should have been protected against herself when facing the papers. Her reaction is classic: Psychotic with grief she has to blame somebody, and she chooses to blame Sony Online. I am very pleased with their reaction to her attempt at trying to learn the identity of the people he played with online:

Woolley has tried tracing her son's EverQuest identity to discover what might have pushed him over the edge. Sony Online cites its privacy policy in refusing to unlock the secrets held in her son's account.

She has a list of names her son scrawled while playing the game: "Phargun." "Occuler." "Cybernine." But Woolley is not sure if they are names of online friends, places he explored in the game or treasures his character may have captured in quests.

Knowing the patterns of grief, if she found his fellow players she would most likely take her pain out on them, placing the blame of her son's death everywhere but at his combination of epiletics, depression and schizophrenia... since these problems implie that she might have done more, made sure he got help, made sure he got treatment. But the article doesn't tell us anything about other factors that could have put Shawn on the spot which made him kill himself.

by way of Warwolf.com

Other links concerning this:
Ms Wooley keeps telephoning his internet friends, who hang up on her
Suicide Mom Sue Sony

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

I went back to the ocean today - a post at a blog perhaps named OnePotMeal. It was such a lovely post - and then I discovered that it was about Long Island! In just little more than a week I can start bothering my NYC-connection to take me to see his home ground. It's May, I am staying for a full month... no excuses this time, matthew!
From the Institute of Applied Theatre Studies, Giessen University, a really long list of online resources on everything to do with performance, roleplay and the net or just on the net.
I know, I know, it's bad form, but I still have a few interviews from 1999 which I haven't typed. I had a period when they bored me to death, but now as I am to summarise them, it's actually a lot more interesting to work with them. Today I am listening to one of the women I have been playing RP-games with for years, in the background there's the cultured tinkling of teacups, and we converse over fruit and bagels. It's almost enough to make me miss Portland, Oregon.
And looking for links for that last post, I met a name from way back in the eighties, when I went to an alternative school to practice and study photography and journalism. One of the fellow students that year was Signy Fardal, today the editor of the Norwegian version of Elle. I can't help smiling every time I see her talking about women's rights, trying to defend her change in attitude from the early eighties until today. I still remember her as an angry, loud but amazingly colourful and attractive girl with a wonderful voice and dialect. She stood up for her rights and those of everybody else, wearing her hand-woven Sigrun Berg shawl like a badge of honour. Always fashion-concious, oh yes, and the radical fashion of the time was flat shoes, cotton shirts and dongery jeans.

Now when I hear her on the radio her strong dialect is gone and she is always defensive, trying to explain herself. But she's still a woman who dares to change and be honest about it.
In the interest of getting to the bottom of the women's rooms topic, I called Golden Tulip Rainbow Hotel Arena, which has 24 women's rooms. And if I ever stay there, I am going to ask for a woman's room, because this is what they say is supposed to be in these rooms and not the others:

dressing-gown, a magazine (Henne or Elle or something similar), flowers, an iron and not just a trousers-press (that has annoyed me I don't know how many times), more items in the bathroom and a special mirror so that you can admire your hair from more angles. And it's not supposed to be more expensive than the other rooms. They said nothing about a more feminine colour-scheme, for which I am grateful, I am no fan of pink.

Afterwards I called the hotel Hilde had stayed on and yes, she was right: SAS Radisson Hotels define women's rooms as having more feminine colours, and nailfiles and tampons in the bathroom, none of the rest.

I have carried my load of groceries through life, I don't need to prove anything any more - and I travel often enough on those flights where the only other woman in the cabin is the flight-attendant. I would love not to have to search through the whole building for an iron, after all it gets boring to constantly wear t-shirts.
I was looking for the lyrics of one particular song by Hartvig Kiran; "Aldri Meire". It's about a girl waiting under a bridge for her lover, and she's cold, tired and angry. She tells him exactly how angry she is, and swears this is the last time he'll ever find her waiting for him.

For some reason this song was stuck in my mind this morning, and I discovered that I remembered a lot of it. The words of that song roll off my tongue with such ease, and her mixture of longing and despair expressed as anger and defiance fits so well with the mood of the girls from Ålesund, hometown of Hartvig Kiran as well as me, that the song was through the years of coming to age a very common refrain among us girls.

"Aldri meire skal du sjå meg stå ved nattestid og vente på din veg, aldri meire skal du få å seie på meg, at eg gjeng omkring og vaktar dine steg. Reis i frå meg - den som vil kan gjerne få deg, den som gir seg blanke søtten det er eg...." "Never again will you see me waiting for you at night on your way home, never again can you hold it against me that I am watching your every step. Leave me - who ever wants you can have you, I don't care..."

I didn't find any homepages of Hartvig Kiran though, but I did find an other lyric he has written, about hering - this is one of the things I love about him, he writes about commonplace things, like one of the most important sources of wealth in Ålesund after the war and into the sixties: the hering. In this song he describes the hering logic of migrating towards the coast in large schools for protection - and how that is their undoing. Quite neatly done.

And among the 117 hits google gave me on Hartvig Kiran was a site with norwegian and english traditional music, with translations from norwegian to english. Enjoy: Greensleeves: Tradisjon

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

I keep being forced to think beyond the thesis. A request from the Norwegian Media Researchers' group to speak at their anniversary conference in Oslo in September made me review again what I am doing. The topic is Text and Audience, and the other speakers will be discussing things like film criticism and the image of audiences in the production of texts. I had to sit down and think for a moment: what should I speak of? They wanted me to discuss games, but while the mechanics and the power-structures are the same with blogs and games, blogs are not as easy to shrug off. A game - no matter how important I think it is, is often received with the comment: "But it's just a game, it doesn't belong in reality." A blog on the other hand, is somewhere ambigously between reality and imagination. One can be shrugged off but not blogs as a phenomenon, because they are channels, not content. And a channel is what you make of it, but it always have potential for change, for allegiances to shift and for authorities to be confirmed - or attacked.

I might go with the blogs. Somehow I'll manage to sneak games and game-theory into it anyway.
I just finished an article for publishing in Game Studies - hopefully I'll be able to link to it soon, as well as talk about the other articles in the upcoming issue. Publishing is always a drag - when I am ready to submit something I am done with it, mentally it's a closed topic, and then I move on. But to the editors, that's when the process starts. This invariably leads to smaller or larger conflicts, and when I am involved in the journal as I am with Game Studies (although my involvement is very low-key at the moment and has nothing to do with editing), these conflicts easily go beyond the comfort sones of all involved.

Not that this became a big issue - I have just had quite a bit of resistance to preparing this paper for publishing, and I have been made to feel guilty for it. Now I only have one very short article, luckily in Norwegian, to prepare for publishing, and I'll be done with other academic writing than the dissertation for quite a while. At least a month. Then I have to look seriously at the science-theory essay.
Second, their site and a subsequent email from Anja made me think about my working title again - which I had almost forgotten while trying to finish all the little bits and pieces.

The digital juggler is an image for how people use the net, particularly players, that it's not an aimless and uncontrolled skipping where ever the net takes you, but that the players and the people who know how to use the internet go with the flow but retain their equilibrium - the way a juggler does, holding all those tasks going, catching and sending them off again, chatting here, playing there, surfing or writing in two more windows. I still like it, even if I am writing more about the game and less about player behaviour than I expected. Returning to think about why I chose that title, I think I have come back to where I started. The process of understanding something I suspected has come a full circle, and the jugger is still back there somewhere behind the notes and chapters and definitions and methodology and references.

First, a correction: Anja Rau works for mediaman, not on them. Even better, given their cool design and business statement!

Monday, April 22, 2002

By way of Lionel Mandrake, a really hilarious (and I agree with him, unsettling) link. Warning, if you feel that animals should be permitted to preserve their dignity: Don't look!
    .    Bird's Mood    .    Out of Nowhere    .    
Very pretty - hard on the Netscape users though, and the writing is nice but personal - almost private.

But still - something about this design touched me.
thinking about poetry

Friday, April 19, 2002

mediaman | Intro
Hey, look at that! Anja Rau is working on Media man, which looks like an interesting new company, but most important for me their logo is a juggler. Why am I exited about that? Because the working title of my PhD thesis is: The Digital Juggler. And there he is - from theoretical concept to business idea in just four years...

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Jill, Adrian and particularly RMIT have Mark Amerika as their guest in Melbourne these days. According to Jill Adrian has convinced Mark to make a blog while in Australia, and with some searching the ozblog was revealed. (note 23.04.2002: this has been changed since I wrote this post, there's now a directory at the end of that link.)

Now Mark Amerika is an interesting character. He is an active internet artist who also gives lectures and exhibitions. He travels all over the world, and at one point he was in Bergen during DAC 2000, as one of the keynote speakers. He didn't impress me much at that time, but being a simple girl with barbaric tastes and uneducated parents, I assumed it was just too sophisticated for little me.

His blog on the other hand... I think I a know a thing or two about blogs, and was very interested in seeing what a creative artist could get out of this form which I so much enjoy. But according to Mark Amerika, what I found wasn't a blog - at least not a true one. He has written a de-construction of blogs, rather than constructing one.

A blog should not be defined. Defining a blog would be like defining what a novel is or what a film is or what an experimental art installation is.

Perhaps it would be better to de-define a blog. A blog is not a diary, it is not dated, it is not autobiography, it is not a dreambook.

Or: it can be any or all of those things but probably should not be any or all of them.

Yes, the blog is the medium: just like television isn't each program you can view through it, the blog isn't each style in which you can write. (At this point I felt very friendly towards Mark Amerika, and thought he might have a message for the simple girls of this world after all.)

Blogs could be pseudo-autobiographical works-in-progress, where the artist who creates one surfs the electrosphere for useful data, samples it, manipulates it, and then exhibits it in an online environment that makes it feel like something more than just a diary website.

This will probably have to be done in the translinguistic act of writing itself. The writing I speak of is more than just a diary entry with links to things found on the net and is more than just text. It is designwriting, video ecriture, mixillogical sound art, a color field of graphic disturbance.

Human portals are fine, they are even dandy -- in fact, they may even end up being a kind of virtual dandyism strutting their stuff in net space -- but they are not true blog.

True blog is not true at all. It is pseudo.

1) true blog. this indicates that Mark Amerika has found out what a true blog is.
2) pseudo: this indicates that a blog isn't really a blog, it just pretends to be a blog - which again assumes that there is a kind of "blog-an-sich" out there.

And then I look at the words being used here - human portals - strutting their stuff - What's wrong with strutting our stuff in virtual space? Isn't that what Mark Amerika makes a living from? Should the bloggers of the world abandon their happy strutting, humbly putting their inner flaneur away and leave the virtual streets to the persons who have found and realised the "true blog"? (At this point the simple girl in me smiled happily - strutting my stuff is no bad thing, particularly when I am confident that I have stuff well worth strutting.)

After having declared blogs pseudo, there's a short interlude where Mark Amerika uses blogs in retrospective: talking about how Anaïs Nin would not be bloggered - or the bloggish nature of Henry Miller. I am always fascinated with this rhetoric twist, how realisations due to new technology tends to be used in retrospective, to describe something belonging to a totally different context. What does that have to do with anything? Both these authors played with the tools of their preference, and from their writing they had some fun and did some strutting of their own. But while some of the styles which blogs might resemble harks back to the journal, the diary, the autobiography, Mark Amerika himself already said that blogs are not these things, blogs can contain them, can resemble them, but go beyond this point.

Finally, the definition of the true blog. Keeping your dictionaries at hand won't help you:

True blog, then, is not blog as we know it, but as we un-know it. It incites creation - more invention - so that you yourself have to get down and dirty into the developmental process activating the network with your own mixillogical discourse. This is blog as inventive remix machine placing value on what it sees, what it links to, how it appropriates the Other and strips it of its isolation.

I think mixillogical means: mix-il-logical - a blend which isn't logical. Then it actually makes a kind of sense. I guess the rambling in order to get to this point is the blog-part. We use blogs as a place to ramble, it's a place to strut our stuff, to juggle with words, to play around with thoughts and to make our own priorities visible - which is what Mark Amerika does as well. So, not de-defined after all, but the same ramble, the same pseudo-blog - which as far as I can see is the real thing. Very postmodern.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

by way of Jill: E Y E B E A M | atelier, the social network soiree. I'll be in New York at the time! I love that thought.
A list of links to philosophy glossaries.
Bradley Dilger: The Ideology of Ease, a very interesting piece on why software often seems to be structured so stupidly.
I am going to spend a month away from the family, writing the final two chapters. It's a combination of doctor's orders, an attempt to take some pressure off my extremely patient family, and fleeing any further attempts at involving me in what other people think of as "life", such as teaching, planning, caring for members of the family or worrying about the house, not to mention staying home faced with the fact that I have let my social life fade into nothingness over the last four years.

To prepare I keep ordering books to wait for me in New York, rather than having them delivered here and then schlepping them there and back. Now I only have to worry about the back part of the carrying. Here's a little list:

Diane Ackerman and Peter Sis: Deep Play
Victor Turner: From Ritual to Theatre
Annette Markham: Life Online: Researching Real Experience in Virtual Space
Sherry Turkle: The Second Self (Yes, I have already read and used that one, but the library insisted I give it back - they got quite strict after a while...)
William Betcher: Intimate Play (I am not sure if this one is appropriate, but Brian Sutton-Smith quotes it)

I'll also drag along The Ambiguity of Play, Man, Play and Games and Homo Ludens.

I had a revelation saturday, while cleaning the house. Some people go for a hike, some people have a cigarette, some people watch movies and eat junk-food: I clean the house, and my mind starts working, as if making those floors gleam and tidy up all the stuff around me is a process if internal cleaning as well. And this particular saturday, I saw the finished thesis for my inner eye. I know what it will look like now. I know the reason for every chapter. I know that there will be twelve chapters, and the two last will be - yes, the conclusion, but before that a chapter discussing games as such. It's the only logic way to lead this work to an ending. I have read, used and qouted game-theory before in the thesis, but at this point I have to sum it all up, show how all threads lead here both from the theoretical discussions, from the results of my interviews and the playing, and even the choice of methodology.

It's such an odd sensation: There will be an end to this, and it is close.
Everything I have seen, heard and experienced has brought me to this point, and I understand nothing but in relationship to me at this point. That sentence is why I keep a journal; it keeps me from walking in circles. Every time I reach some place that appears to be the same, I reach it as a new me and can often then take a new road. This requires a frequent review of the paths chosen and the reasoning behind the choices.

Steve Jones (ed): Doing Internet Research, Critical issues and methods for examining the net., page xxi

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Overwhelmed by exhaustion, Friday was pretty bleak. My back hurt, I couldn’t work up the energy to start editing the next 5 chapters (one of which was missing) and life in general was a gloomy contrast to the lovely April sunshine. Worst of all: I felt like there was nothing left that I wanted to do. Since this is a bad sign of depression and burn-out, I took it seriously, and started making a list to see if that was true. Here it is, a list of “stuff to do once life isn’t dominated by the thesis”.

  • Learn more about making web-pages, and set up my own.
  • Badger or bribe somebody into making a Mondrian-inspired skin for my blog. (I have made a sketch and it will look great.).
  • Write more articles on blogs, preferably cooperating with Jill. We should be located in Athens, Melbourne, New York or – well, why not – Bali.
  • Take riding lessons, perhaps in Melbourne or Bali.
  • Work on the asthma information project the department is undertaking, the game-part of it.
  • Make an easy system for PR and information about Game Studies, and write a suggested structure for a discussion-group adjunct to the journal.
  • Buy a big, popular, silly computer-game and play it for hours and hours.
  • Write an iconology of said game: using Panofsky. The title should be: Games, Cathedrals of the Third Millennium.
  • Start painting again.
  • Search old floppy-disks and see if I can find the file with the children’s book the kids and I almost finished writing 7 years ago.
  • Edit my poems.
  • Get back to cooking, not just reading recipes.
  • Start reading up on subcultures. Remember to discuss methodology with Jan Fredrik.
  • Plan a Lom-School Seminar: User-oriented online research, expressions of gender, power, pleasure and the dark side. This would go well with my plans for more adventurous cooking.
  • Paint the kitchen.

Looks like I’ll be busy. At least this indicates that there can be life on the other side of the dissertation.

Friday, April 12, 2002

The reality is elsewhere
Mark Bernstein sits with a feeling that "the real meeting was elsewhere" after the Oslo conference which Jill, Anders, Hilde and I blogged.

This is an interesting statement, as it echoes the comments of Ragnhild Trondstad, who's an other of the Ph. D. Students on our program, also studying games, and a wonderful person to know. Ragnhild doesn't have and doesn't want a blog, but she misses an online voice in order to be able to take part in the discourse.

Somehow, our blogs make exhibitionists like Jill and me seem more important than we consider ourselves. Not that I don't have respect for Jill and loads of self-respect, but we and all of the bloggers we refer to are just people who happen to like writing and sharing. There's no secret agenda of exclusion, and from my side, hardly even an attempt to promote myself online. Jill, Hilde, Lisbeth, Gonzalo, Mark are all better at that than I am; Jill, Mark and Gonzalo in particular, with their links to their writings and works, their finished articles, Jill's reference list and the links all maintain to other similar sites, making their sites good portals and excellent resources.

On the other hand... Perhaps the real conference WAS in Oslo - Norwegians are pretty advanced when it comes to researching ICT!
An interesting concept for a Ph.D., although it seems to have a very wide scope, lack some conceptual rigor and originality when discussing "new media" and "multi media", and a very challenging empiric base for discussing globalisation. But then again, perhaps Australia is diverse enough that all you need to talk of globalisation is to take a walk to the closest milkbar and observe...

And I found it through Craig Bellamy's comment on blogonblog.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Places to Go, People to Be
This might have been blogged before, but it's a cute little magazine, and it deserves to be blogged again.
If you are looking for a present which will really make a statement for a writing-freak like me, buy me one of these pens.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

I just got back from Oslo, where I have seen Jill, Hilde, Janne, Ragnhild, Anita, Anders, Espen and a lot of other people I have never mentioned to you out there, like Ingunn Hagen and Per Hetland, two of my favourite people in Academia.

I am exhausted, but happy. The presentation went much better than expected. Jill and I met Sunday evening, around 10 pm, sketching a plan. In the morning, over breakfast, I typed it into my lap-top and copied it to a floppy, gleefully reminding Jill that there are things her imac can’t do. At the Research Park we strained the skills and (amazing) patience of Andrew Morrison and his competent staff, but they delivered. Ten minutes before the presentations started up again, we were pasting the morning’s comments into blogonblog and linking them. As the next session started, Jill discovered that her lipstick and jacket were still on the table up front, and I had to hold her to her chair by force, promising her I’d distract the audience while she applied lipstick.

Hilde and Helen were on before us, they were great: serious, competent and organised in the way female researchers often are, upholding the tradition of having to be twice as good as men to be heard by half the number of people. (note on the organisation: after lunch there were no male presenters but those who were in groups: Andrew and Anders. The audience was halved, and the “power-attendants” were gone. It was embarrassingly familiar.)

Finally we were on. By now we had worked each other into a giggling, adrenaline-fuelled frenzy. We still had no idea what to say. While the group before us were speaking of dance, I wrote the introduction paragraph: how to start the entire presentation. Jill nodded. We were on.

The next 15 minutes were kind of blurry. Reading Anders’ comments afterwards was very interesting. Yes, we had coordinated our outfits, in this manner: Torill: “My clothes don’t fit me anymore, and I went shopping for something to wear for the conference… but I am freezing to death!” Jill: “you look great! Do we have time for me to run and change? I want to match you. After all, I am lugging my entire wardrobe around!” Torill: “sure, I’ll be finishing this list of keywords anyway.” Looking at Anders’ interpretation of this spontaneous act of coordination, I realise that the next time we do something together we have to go for a serious shopping-trip as well as get a choreographer if we are planning to top this.

My duties were not done with the presentation though. I had, not entirely certain that it was a clever move, agreed to give a speech at the dinner. I hate doing that, but I agreed out of principle – I prefer people to say yes when I ask for favours, so I acted accordingly. How that went? Well – I think it went OK.

So that’s it. After floating on a cloud of nervous energy fed in a loop between Jill and me since Sunday night, I landed with a crash this morning. Now I am at home, in front of the wonderful view from the living-room, waiting for the connection to the internet to kick back in. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so critical of the EU vision of the future European net: mainly more bandwidth and a more reliable internet, where I was hoping for user-research to see how people actually use the fairly functional network already existing.

Friday, April 05, 2002

Looks like I am between a rock and a hard place when it comes to blogger and blogger pro. I want to update to blogger pro - it has all those neat features - but I can't run Internet Explorer on my lap-top, which is the machine I use when it's important for me to leave notes about things I want to remember, when I want to communicate with colleagues or family while travelling - when I generally want to be able to use the blog for stuff which might be a bit more urgent than the usual more-or-less adademic musings. So until Blogger comes up with a pro-version which is compatible with Opera (which I am in love with, by the way - of course, it being Norwegian has nothing to do with it....), I am doomed to be prioritised below the Microsofties.


(As for the lap-top and IE: despite having windows reinstalled on the lap-top, it still turns off the entire computer when I access certain sites. It baffles our IT department, and after all the problems I have managed to cook up on my computers over the 11 years I have worked at this college it takes a bit for those guys to be baffled.)
Children's games and sex
Mark points out two flaws in my discussion of Henry Jenkin's article on games and learning.

1) nothing can be colonized by commercial interests: economy permeats everything already.
2) children's games are sexual.

I'll address those two topics particularly, although they were not the main themes of my original post, because I have opinions on both.

1) When I say that the area of play is being colonized by commercial interests, I mean that our understanding of what is playing, what is fun, is increasingly defined by marketing. With the danger of propagating nostalgia; the targeting of toys as a product to be bought for children, as well as the idolizing of childhood as a lost realm, a protected golden dream of safe happiness where the dangers and the harsh colours of adult reality does not intrude work along with the legislation defining children, defining adult's duties in respect to children and protecting children from abuse, exploitation and neglect, to define "childhood" as seperate from "adulthood" in a manner which we do not even question. We tend to forget that childhood is a social construction. Where the legal definitions of childhood were constructed in order to protect children against working in the mines until their bones grew soft from lack of sunlight or weaving rugs until their legs were crippled from sitting and they were going blind, these same definitions have been used to create target groups for "otherness" - and ugly otherness at that.

We do not permit children individuality, we stare in awe and fear at the prodigies, think it's odd and alien when the eager, flexible minds of children grasp what adults do not. It breaks with the definition and the image of children as lesser beings from a world apart - from the realm of childhood (signified through lack of experience, lack of reasoning power, naivity and helplessness). And then when the children punish those of their own who do not conform to this otherness which we have let advertising, toys, clothes, schools and organisations shape the group of humans from 0-12 into, we are shocked and try to cure this lack of tolerance through theraphy - often through treating the victim - by helping him or her to conform and thus become invisible to their persecutors.

2) Children's games are sexual. Sexuality is shaped and often expressed at an early age, the explorations of bodies, of sexual roles and of power and submission is a strong human drive, and children have not yet developed the layers of religion, shame, fear and other hang-ups which will come later and make them supress their sexual expressions in everyday lives. However: I was speaking of games adults play which they should invite the children to participate in. Even in enlightened Scandinavia, the thought of adults playing sexual games with children is sickening. The power-exchange is too absolute, the barriers of protection for the child are too weak: while children should not be raised to think sexual games among adults don't exist, that is NOT the arena of playing where children should be involved.

Scandinavians don't abhor public nudity. We can let our children run naked in the sun without worrying that the neighbours will think we are displaying them for our sexual pleasure. We don't assume that 10-year-olds are dating and should be watched in case they might display sexual behaviour, such sexual paranoia is not a Scandinavian thing. But we do draw a line somewhere, and one of them goes there - children are not supposed to be a part of the sexual games adults play. And, dear Mark, I think you agree with me there, even if it might burst your fantasy of us sexually totally liberated Norwegians.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Spring is overwhelming me. I guess this will be one of the most beautiful springs ever, since I will be working harder than I have done for any exam in my life. No, it's not like being back in school and reading physics under the lilacs. This is more like trying to do a long-distance run in the full glare of a merciless sun, reminding me of how time slips away towards summer, revealing all the flaws I am trying to ignore, beating against my unprotected skin to penetrate and cast light inside of my most-cherished denials.

And the crocuses are violet - violently violet, shouting their promise of summer at me as I hurry by, yearning for the cool light of the monitor.
Bli blogger du også!
A Norwegian article about blogs from December 2000! There's a journalist who was ahead of her time!

It speaks of the "relatively new norwegian jill/weblogg". Ohhh, the old days, when that was the name of Jill/txt....
Conference program with papers.
The SKIKT conference for which Jill and I have written a paper, described at blogonblog.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Technology Review - Game Theory
Henry Jenkins tells us that computer games can be useful in order to make children learn easier. I'd like to mention that games have always been used to help children learn. It's why we played games of maths at school, it's why there are competitions in spelling and calculus, it's why we would go on little excusions in spring to find frogs eggs and keep them in a tank in the classroom - the value of learning through play is obvious.

The modern problem is that children's play has been colonised by commercial interests, and split from the adult tasks. The sphere of childhood and the sphere of adulthood has the wide border of ever-expanding, idolised and desirable teen-age in between them. This makes it that much harder to see the value of the skills already existing games are teaching, because we view them from our own little bubble of generationism.

We are reducing the playfullness and the pleasure of being adults, limiting our playing to the spheres where children should not be involved: competitions or sexual games prominent among those. Where's our own playful approach to nuclear physics? When we find that, I am sure the kids will be delighted to play with us!

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Did you ever play this game with words as kids? You fold a sheet of paper in four columns. Everybody in the room says a name or a noun, which you write in the first column. Then the process is repeated with a verb for the second column, an adjective in the third and a location in the fourth. When the page is unfolded to read the lines which have been created in this random manner of generating text, some of the sentences are unbelievably funny, some are stupid or nonsensical and some are beautiful. And you have just created a text in an ergodic manner.
The Danger of Chatting
Tommy from Mosjøen (this is in the northern part of Norway) came home and found that the woman he had been chatting with had moved into his house. She had broken the door open, moved all her belongings in and was waiting for him in the living-room with her two children.

It's interesting that Nettavisen, a Norwegian net-paper, makes this a story at all. It is a classic case of bad communication and false expectations. They had agreed that she should move in, and then the guy had changed his mind. She had however gone on with the plans, left her job and everything. A classic story of a relationships with two parties who misunderstood each other. What makes it a story is that they met on a chat. They had been chatting through text-tv, and decided to go through with this after three sessions. The story confirms all the horror stories about what kind of lunatics you can meet out there through chats, it fits well into the image of the desperate people who look for partners online, and it ridicules a woman who's not afraid of trusting strangers.

Her not wanting to have her name in the paper or speak to the journalist is the soundest decision she has made in this case - if only Tommy had been equally sensible. The story says nothing about what promises he made her before they decided that she should move in, only that "she's very determined."
Dissertation update: Done editing the first five chapters. The introductionary chapter might need at least one more reworking, but I'll save that until I am writing the conclusion. Those two chapters ought to match. I am 40% done with the second to last editing (hopefully), and I start to see a defense somewhere in the future. I am still scared, so I'll find something else to do for a month or so, while I adjust to the thought. Expanding the blog-paper to the science-theory paper sounds like a good plan, as does editing the paper to be published in Gamestudies. Yep, should keep me busy until I can supress the thought of having to tell people what I have done - and why.

Monday, April 01, 2002

Jill mentiones that she has her terminology in shape (march 29th, currently writing), and she chooses to use text and reader. That triggered a realisation in me: I am not using text and reader, I am using game and player. And the reason I do that is that no matter how close the online texts Jill is studying and the online games I am studying are, we are not looking at the same thing! So this shouldn’t be such a revelation, but there’s so much else which overlaps in our work: the choice of theory, the approach to power and agency, the focus on creativity and player/reader activity. The difference is that while cybertexts and non-linear texts can be approached playfully, they are not consistently built to support and encourage competition or closed arenas of achievement unless they have been limited by rules and other signifiers of a game. Intent and comparisons differ, while the performance might be seductively similar to the viewer.

Thanks, Jill