Wednesday, July 31, 2002

I have been sleeping. I don't know when I last slept like this, relaxed and safe like a child, without a worry in the world, without waking up, without listening for sounds or movements. I fell asleep sometime during one of the familiar american series on television last night, their soundtrack a lullaby as I stretched on the couch, comfortable at last. Sometime during the night I moved to bed, and according to reports this morning I agreed to having the cat in the bedroom (I am allergic - were I conscious I'd never allow it.) I woke up late this morning to glorious sunshine, to a country of shimmering waters and intensely clear colours. From the bedroom window we did not see the idyllic views of Jersey, or the old walled city of St. Malo, or the City-sprawl of northern London, but a fjord, a mountain, and the light of late morning. It was an awakening from a dream. The sounds were right, the smells were right, the cool air from the window was right... and the dream of the last three weeks of travelling - it all started when I went to Bergen, after all - was gone. I was here, at home, and I had finally been able to sleep.

I know, in a few days I'll start longing for travelling again - but not until the too-real laundry has been done.

Friday, July 26, 2002

and I loved this story about what theory can do to the mind. Warning: don't watch movies or television with me if you don't want a running commentary on structure, references, context, style and genre alongside it... (Several friends and family members have had their viewing pleasure altered for life this way.)
I am in London, at a Virgin Internet Cafe. And this machine has a keyboard! *contented sigh*

This has been a busy holiday, and most of the time I have been so exhausted that I haven't had time to think about how much there's still to do with my dissertation. Reading Hilde's blog today didn't help - I find myself sick with stress, rather than relaxed and happy after almost two weeks of vacation and a long week-end to go. What am I doing here when I could be in front of a computer day and night, doing the (many) adjustments Espen suggested when we met in Bergen two weeks ago? I have given up so much for this, why couldn#t I just skip this vacation with the kids as well?

That is why. I promised, last year, that this year I'd go with them abroad, spend my vacation with them, not the writing and the reading. I am so close... I don't want to come out at the other side not knowing my kids.

So, I have been to Jersey and gotten a sunburn hiking along the cliffs of the north coast - wonderful, hiking has always been a favourite thing to do with the now-teens, once they are warmed up they are like eager dogs running ahead and turning back, waiting at a viewpoint or eagerly struggling on some detour! I had an other sunburn - and desperately sore feet - spending two days in St. Malo and Mont St. Michel, stretching what I remember of gothic architecture to the limit as we walked through the wonderful monastery - a part of my mind thinking what a GREAT site that would be for Live Action Role-Play. I have walked through Harrods and been too overwhelmed to spend a pound - and I have bought new bras at Rigby and Peller - which is where the Queen of England has her made. And That brings me here - stationed at Virgin Music, at an internet cafe, waiting for the rest of the family to find a sheet music store where they might have that special Gerschwin book my ambitious saxophone playing girl needs for the audition to the big band she wants to join. I haven't found the red shoes I have been looking for... and don't think I will... but hey, I have seen Les Miserables, I have seen A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe theatre - standing area - and before I return home I want to visit Tate's Modern - and then I'll be happy, my cultural alibi is safe.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

I feel like screaming. I am annternetconnection which is a red box with no keyboard, and type with a stick, a if i wa paralysed. Only the light sunburn reminds me that i should relax and enjoy st. malo. and no, no link - this thing will not let me multitask!!!!

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Vacation - almost
Tomorrow morning, at 06.55, the plane leaves Volda for Bergen, where I am to see Espen and Jill. After two days in Bergen, I am off to my little sister's wedding, which I suspect will be a quite colourful affair, and then two weeks vacation in England with husband and kids. I'll most likely update this blog when I get to a computer, but that won't be regularly. But don't worry, I will be strictly supervised by my very sensible and responsible teenage kids all the time, so I and everybody else will be safe and sane until I return to a computer in August.

And when I get home, Baldur's Gate II just arrived by mail, so my spare time is taken care of.
Monster attack on Denmark!
Chatting with my NYC-connection, he mentioned a movie I have not had the pleasure (?) of watching. Perhaps Lisbeth or Jesper knows about it: Reptilicus, the "most dangerous 200 feet of rubber snake ever to menace a small European country." According to the net it even exists on DVD - and yes I am looking for a copy. I think this is a must see - particularly to get a good look at the well-dressed Danish extras fleeing this horror!
Blogs, news and Big Media | Weblogging
Should Old Media Embrace Blogging?
by way of

In this article Andrew Sullivan claims that:
“Blogs have emerged as an instant critique of major media,” says Andrew Sullivan, former editor of the New Republic, whose weblog book reviews can lift a title into the top ten on Amazon. “At the same time, bloggers are parasites on big media, relying on them for stories and raw material.”

This is an interesting statement, as it gives blogs one of the characteristics of what I assume Andrew Sullivan calls "the Big Media". According to one of the most used and quoted articles on media ever written: The Structure of Foreign News by Galtung and Ruge, news isn't news unless it's already been defined as news. This positions blogs, if what Andrew Sullivan claims is true, firmly in the tradition of exactly the media he claims blogs are parasites of. The logic conclusion should be that all media are parasites - and that is more than partly true. Media don't, after all, live from producing news, they live from selling us, the audience, to the advertisers. They are not really parasites of each other, they are parasites of us. Andrew Sullivan is such a parasite himself. According to The Economist, he makes a measly 6000$ a month on sales from products he promotes on his site. Now he probably has to pay a little bit for his connection and server space, and taxes like the rest of us - but at least to a Norwegian Academic, that sounds like a decent living.

So what do big media groups stand to gain from adopting a format that delights in promoting competitors' content, and relies on relinquishing editorial control?

Editorial control in media is a myth, today. It has been relinquished to the advertisers and owners, as well as to competition and popularity polls, a long time ago. Blogs just might make that somewhat more visible - and perhaps honest.

OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan
Blogging as one of the things that's "right" about USA.
By way of

Monday, July 08, 2002

In case you wondered why Americans can't have small, sensible, ecologically sane cars.

Friday, July 05, 2002

A room of your own...
Bedroom Culture and Media Use
A very interesting article on where children spend their time, and what having your own room means for kids, as well as how it influences their social life. I am still looking for where I read about the change in childrens games in New York, from being social and not controlled by adults, to being solitary and controlled, mainly out of the fear for letting children out of sight. There might be a little article here somewhere...
Girls and boys at school
Hilde writes about the fact that the boys are falling behind, and there's speculation that this is due to boys being discriminated against.

In a way that is what is happening. Society is changing into a place where the early development and better physical control of women is becoming an advantage over men. The school system rewards and nurtures students who are able to sit still and concentrate - something boys are physically less able to do than the girls. This wasn't really a problem earlier, as boys could choose different careers, careers which depended on their physical strength, endurance and manual skills, with teaching in the apprenticeship system which involved more parts of the body in the learning process than ears and eyes. Today even becoming a carpenter involves sitting still and listening for long, endless hours.

As a result, more and more boys are registered as having learning disabilities. They need special attention, special resources in order to keep up, or the teachers just give up on them and consider them stupid.

I don't think this is a result of the women's movement going too far.. I rather suspect that a lot of the success of women over the last 50 years is tied closely to this development of a need for different skills and abilities: a development which leaves men at a disadvantage because they are men, just as women were at a disadvantage in a society where brute strength and not bearing children was important to maintain health and gain status.

What we need isn't as much a men's movement as a human's movement: someone to see to it that all men and women have equal opportunities according to their abilities. But that will take quite a bit of redefinition of what's important in our society, and how to reach those goals. Until then, the struggle of conflicting interests is the best way to get anywhere towards a society where all have the same chances. I think.
Francis Strand is slightly chilled by excessive American flag waving. It's interesting what an important symbol flags are. I don't like nationalism - but the Norwegian flag has a history closely connected to the development of the country as an independent nation (which we haven't been for a hundred years yet), and has been a symbol of independence and defiance right up to the 20th century. At first Norwegians had the Norwegian Lion on the Danish flag, then the Swedish flag with a red corner and a white diagonal cross, then the Norwegian flag as we know it was a compromise between the danish and the sweedish - with the top inner corner carrying the union mark (the "hering salad"). The Norwegian flag as we know it today would later be flown as a protest against the swedes, when the "clean" flag, with no union mark in the corner, was outlawed. Later it was outlawed again during the second world war, together with the red knitted cap! Norwegians take any opportunity to wave flags... but we have an advantage over Americans: nobody are worried that this flag-waving signals an ambition to take over the world, it's more a quaint little tradition, just like the pretty embroidered national costumes.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

People buy digital cameras in Norway this summer, and according to an article in Aftenposten this makes spouses argue as wives protest. The husbands want the pictures on file and are quite happy with that - the wives feel that they won't have any paper copies for their albums, and protests against digitalised pictures.

This assumes quite a few things about Norwegian households and modern technology: 1) Men buy the technology. 2) Men use the technology (take the pictures). 3) Women process the outcome of the use of the technology (make the albums). 4) Women use the product (pass the albums around), particularly for network-building and maintainance. 5) Women haven't grasped the idea of processing through technology (getting a photography printer). 6) Women don't email pictures to their friends.

I would have loved to see a study of the use of slides. Slides are similar to digital pictures in that you need some particular technology in order to access them. You need to take them to the photographer in order to copy them to paper and glue them in an album. What I'd like to know is, did the women say: "No, don't use that film!" when their husbands took slides or perhaps even made little movies with old-fasioned film cameras? And did they protest the move into video, because they couldn't look at the tiny pictures on the tape without using special technology?

Me? I am going to look for that credit-card sized little logitech camera this summer.... despite the fact that I know we have five other cameras which will all give better pictures. But then again - colleagues have claimed for a decade that I am not really a woman.
I have decided to keep the temporary title The Digital Juggler.
I googled the name, and the only hits which were a perfect match were to this blog. I did however get one interesting hit: The High-tech Juggling Jukebox. This is the site of a juggler who experiments with motion sensors in his juggling act, playing music dependent on his motions. I find that quite fascinating, how the body can control the technology through new interfaces. And I am fascinated because it's so very science fiction: Like just putting your hands under the tap at public toilets, and the water will flow without a touch. It's almost like those novels and films where doors open and lights go on and off controlled by movements in the room: arcane handsignals mystifying the primitive visitors to such future wonders. The school my son was at experimented with motion-sensors to control the light, by the way. The problem was that when the kids were too well-behaved, the light would go out. Or perhaps that motivated them to be particularly quiet?
A delightful little hypertext for Norwegian readers: Thomas Hylland Eriksen's: Bivirkninger, en tekstlabyrint (Side-effects, a text-labyrith).

Thomas Hylland Eriksen is one of the more colourful Norwegian scholars: a social anthropologist who likes to comment on Norwegian culture, exploring Norwegian popular and common culture and scrutinising it from the viewpoint of a very well trained and quite sophisticated academic. This makes irony almost inevitable, because who can take either position seriously without choosing between them? But that's one of the things I love when I read his writing: that little voice of rebellion against both his roles - or all.

(link by way of Trygve)

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Klastrup's Cataclysms
Lisbeth doesn't gaze longingly at games and wish to play them again, and I have to admit that I don't either. But the CD-rack of games is always either empty, or filled with games I have no idea where they came from. And if there's a game I want to look at, I have to book it sometimes a week in advance. Because in this house, where there are two teen-agers who grow up in a household and a time when games are like books and comics, part of the cultural environment, games are things to swap, to borrow and to lend, to copy, to test out, to comment on, social and cultural objects that float around together with the videos and dvd, the music CDs and the copied minidisks.

Ben, one of my interviewees, told me that he prefers the classic, simple games, and he used to help maintaining a classic gaming site. I think it's just a matter of time - I feel a nostalgic longing towards that special feeling when I pick up a certain book or perhaps a comic strip. The feeling I long for is not so much the experience of the book as what that experience reminds me of: a moment of innocense, a time of transcience, a period of tranquility or escape, and for that to happen the object must have been part of your life through these periods. I suspect that over the next 20 years we'll see adults who pick up and install their favourite game when they need to re-encounter such a time of their life. Let's just hope technology becomes flexible enough to make it possible.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

One more article - this a short and not-so-formal one - sent off. It's about the internet as the playground of amateurs, where I argue that the non-professional market for hardware, software and network access is what keeps the net growing - and that games are an obvious (almost natural, but I won't use that about something as constructed and cultural as the www) tool in the process of making computers accessible. Oh, well, one more little paper to my credit when the dean counts research and publishing achieved this year.

Five years ago, the Media Department at Volda College was considered the least research- and publishing-friendly department here. After the college devised a system for registering articles, lectures, and different kinds of publications, it turns out that this department, which is about the tenth of the college, does more than 25% of the academic publishing. Short of doctorate theses' (which are rare all over), we publish at all levels, from the simplest little newspaper article to larger research-based reports. That was quite a shock to some of the other departments, as the popular rumour was that we can teach others how to publish - but never get around to do it ourselves.
Leafing through sites of electronic poetry, I stumbled on Xylo, an animated poem by Peter Howard. I found it at Word Circuits, by way of John Cayley's links.

Xylo is a lovely little mixture of music, text and pretty design, the animation controlling the movement of the roaming eye, the dancing split-hair circle distracting as well as leading the eye to this or that text, adding rhythm of movement and colour to that of music and text.
The strangest catch so far. I found the august highland collections by clicking on the newly updated link at blogger. When I find sites like this I always end up in a conflict of emotions that make me eventually reject them - although I like to make up a good reason for this rejection first.

The august highland collections is a collection of experimental writers and writings. The texts I have seen look like they have been generated by a computer, translated to an other language through babelfish and then translated back to English. I have seen similar things done in other contexts, John Cayley for instance lets his texts morph through random sequences into new texts, achieving much of the same scrambled result - but in his case the scrambling is a transitional stage and highly evocative.

What I am left with is a feeling that somebody might find the august highland collections interesting - and I think I have met that kind of people from time to time. There's something deliberately defiant, planned-as-underground, calculatingly chaotic about them that makes me think of bourgoise punks and week-end bikers. I know there are words to be used to describe it which would convey meaning and elicit admiring gasps from the crowd watching. But I just feel too common, too little educated into the mysteries of "high art", 20 years of academic life notwithstanding, to find those words. Still I leave the link here, because august highland is the kind of site that should be rejected or loved subjectively.

Monday, July 01, 2002

Somewhat late in finding this, because Windows XT and Mac OSX might have added new factors which ought to be considered, but I still really enjoyed reading Neal Stephenson: In the beginning... was the command line. He writes easily and eloquently about the Mac/PC cultures, and he has some points I like. Some of them I have used for years in order to strike back at the mac-users (who occasionally sound more like a congregation than users of a product), and some are entirely new to me and have made me look with more enlightened eyes on all operating systems.

When I came to the end of the (very readable) book I got a problem with his opening metaphor though, where people pass by the free tanks lined up along the street in order to get the ugly station-wagon which is Windows. When you have to learn a LOT of specialised information in order to use an operating system, it isn't really free, is it? Time is an investment too, and Neal Stephenson forgets that in his delight - or perhaps this is a new love-affair, this time with Linux.

And if you follow that link to amazon: check out his fiction as well! I really like this writer.