Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The gift of lust
I close my eyes and make a wish. This year I wish not for love, not for safety and not for warmth, but for lust, devouring passion, wild driving desire. Nothing pushes me, I live through routine, mechanically, coping well, and with no craving for more.

But I need more. I need fear and hurt and pain to chase me into weeks of frantic activity, accomplishment and satisfaction. I need something to pull me up this long uphill slope I live on. I need lust, lust in the new year.

May you all be blessed with it, and never fully sated.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Why should it be more than a game?
I am currently reading Barry Atkins' book More Than a Game. At first glance I was quite enthusiastic, but I have trained my own gaming assistant who has a surprisingly clear and critical gaze on the things that interest him. My teen-age son took one glance at the list of games and claimed that it was leaning heavily towards first person shooters, that the Sims does not make up for the lack of good strategy games, and Half-Life isn't a game I should use to demonstrate that genre for my students, I should use CounterStrike.

As I started to look more closely at the book, I found some other flaws. For a book that wishes to address the debate of games as scholarly object, the reference list is surprisingly clean of scholarly works on computer games. Considering that it is published in 2003 and probably written in 2001, the book still ought to have references to Aarseth, Bolter and Grusin, Jenkins and Murray, even if Atkins may have been doing his work too early to discover the existance of Game Studies and the entire debate on analysing computer games.

These issues aside: for a book addressing computer games outside of the ongoing debates on the topic and without references to relevant literature and with experience from a certain type of games - it is surprisingly good! Barry Atkins has lucid presentations, he has a clear understanding on the (somewhat outdated) problems of game scholarship, and he is enthusiastic about gaming. I read it with a feeling of having been there - somewhere back in the last millennum, when I was just starting to study and write about games. It is an interesting book that holds its own within its limitations, and I am reading it with interest and perhaps a touch of nostalgia.

I am however a little miffed at the title. Computer games do not need to be more than a game, and the way I read this book, Barry Atkins and I agree on that.
Magic Light
Saturday, the sky appeared to be blue, but when we looked closer it was a weird, greyish blue that had nothing to do with the cool, clear skies of frosty winter days. The sun shone, and the snowy peaks of surrounding mountains were bright shining pyramids of light against the weird sky, rising above the dark mountainsides and the lead-grey fjord.

The phenomenon was odd, and could only happen where the sun barely clears the peaks of the mountains in daytime: the cloud cover was so high up the sun shone under it and lit it up from below! The few dots of fog were pale cotton puffs against the cloud-cover, and appeared like light summer clouds against the sky, only this was a cloudy winter sky.

It turned the landscape into a magic place outside of season and time, the kind of weather that might be considered an omen, good or bad, I don't know. Good, I hope, as the light lit the clouds from both sides... but it might also be bad, the warning from the Matrix of ruined skies and heavens controlled by beings other than mankind.

Still, without doubt, it was pretty.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Sitting down
A while ago Jill, me and several others, among those Liz Lawley and Dennis G. Jerz, sent our writing through gender-detection software. We all had texts that came out both as male and as female. Typically for the texts that came out as written by men was that they were written in the authoritative voice of scholarship - it was the voices we use when we talk about the topics we really know something about, something other than our private lives and emotions, and on fields where we are authorities. Also, it was when we made conscious attempts to conform to the writing in fields where men are supposed to dominate.

So, Edward Castranova runs the texts from a Dominant Woman at a BDSM site through the gender-check software, and finds that she is male:

And there's the added benefit that, in collecting the data, the company has some weapons to go after the behaviors that are messing up Sims Online. Example: I took text from Lady Julianna's writing at the Alphaville BDSM site Black Rose Castle (found through Ludlow's Alphaville Herald BDSM interview) and ran it through a gender-detection engine. OK, so Lady Julianna is a man. Doesn't really mean anything here, but it opens interesting potentials and problems.

If somebody writes with authority about something they know - suddenly they are male? Gentlemen... really.... think again. Writing in a way the gender-recognition software recognizes as a male does not require male genitalia.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Christmas Eve
It is Christmas Eve that is the big day for Norwegians, and I have been working like crazy the last few days to have everything ready for tonight. Still, with everything I don't mean everything the way my mother did it. When I grew up I spent the afternoons and evenings helping out in a house where Christmas preparations went on from November.

My mother would buy the side of a sheep and make "rull" - a sausage-like meat for cuts, spicy and flavourful unlike anything commonly associated with Norwegian cooking. Her "sylte" - the pork version of the same things - was also sharp and offered a mixture of cloves, nutmeg and pepper to cut the fat meat. I learned to stuff, roll and sew these meats before I was 12, and they would swim in salt, under pressure, until they were frozen before christmas. In cold years they would just be left on the verandah, covered to keep the crows off them. My mother would never stop at seven types of cakes. She would have a long long list which always started and ended with pleskener, a simple lady-finger like cookie. She would make them early in December, and the first batch would be gone long before Christmas. But in the mean time she would make berlinerkranser, sandkaker, sollikjeks, lefser, sandnøtter, fattigmenn, julemanna (julemenn), mandelpletter, sirupssnipper and four or five other types with names I can't remember, before she made doughnuts, a night-long session where she rolled them out and my father cooked them, and then ended it all with a final batch of pleskener again.

From this I learned to wield a rolling pin, to organise the kitchen, to plan for several processes simultaneously, and to have way too much in the kitchen cabinet compared to what a normal modern family needs... And I got a fixation on cookie tins, which still pulls me into antique shops and makes me buy chocolates and cookies I don't really want because they are in such incredibly neat tins.

When the last cakes were baked, the cleaning would start. In my mother's house there was no mercy at this time. I am pretty sure that I might have had much better grades in high-school if she had been a little more easygoing about Christmas, because every December, just as all others were preparing for their final exams, I was cleaning. I was emptying out closets, cupboards and cabinets, cleaning walls and ceilings, taking the covers off all the cushions, cleaning them and stitching them back on - by hand, of course, it had to be invisible! This is also when I got my first repeated stress injuries in shoulders and arms - I would have aching, clumsy arms and hands by the time of the final tests at school, barely able to hold the pen. It wasn't until I was at the University and didn't have all those tests before Christmas but still returned home to clean the house, that I realised it wasn't the writing that did it to me at all, but the cleaning: evenings spent scrubbing down a new room in my mother's large house.

All these preparations were not in vain. Ours was a large family, and we carried cakes and slices of meat to relatives, old, sick or just too busy to make some "real" christmas food. The house on Christmas Eve would smell like a mixture of pine, spice and soap, and when we came up from the sauna to dress and carry the presents into the livingroom and put them under the tree we would be cleansed as was the house, ritually for the turn of the sun. It carried with it a feeling of being born again, being new and ready, having achieved something vital, something that would ensure the birth of the new sun and bring the light back to the earth. When we feasted on all the riches prepared for this long, long night, it was with wild abandon and with the knowledge that we had done it all, all that we could, and it had all been done right.

The best thing of being an adult with two almost adult children is that I can make my own decisions about these Christmas traditions. I can decide just how much I want to clean. I still like to have a clean and tidy house, and I force my children to help with the pre-christmas chores, but I haven't cleaned a ceiling in this house since we moved in. I will soon have to, it's starting to look a little grey, but I will do it sometime this summer or spring, when there is a lot of light, when I can leave doors and windows open, a summer cleaning at my own leisure. I can also bake JUST as much as I like. OK, so I like baking a little more than strictly needed, and who really needs seven types of cookies these days, but it's fun! And some traditions, like the ginger-bread house, have become too important to ignore.

But I don't change all the tablecloths for christmas-themed ones, and I don't have crates and crates of decorations to fill up every corner of the house. I don't even have special Christmas curtains for the kitchen. And I certainly don't have salted, dried mutton ribs for Christmas dinner. For Christmas we have, of all things, turkey, lean gentle meat that agrees with adults and children alike. And my cake this year is a carrot cake decorated in the least Christmassy colours I could find in the cabinet.

Still - I have done all that I could. I have done it with all the energy I have, and my offering to the new sun is all of my spare time and a house prepared as I find most fit for the celebration this night. And we will eat, drink , sing, walk around the Christmas tree and give presents lovingly chosen and wrapped. I will bring cookies to share with my relatives and I will taste theirs, careful not to "carry the Christmas away from the house" by refusing to take part in what hospitality is offered me. The midwinter feast is all about light, hope and the return of life to this bleak, stormwhipped land, and it is a task we all take part in, as we know best.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

500 gram mandler
200 gram kokesjokolade
8 eggehviter
400 gram sukker

Mal mandlene og riv sjokoladen. Stivpisk eggehvitene og sokkeret, så blander du alt forsiktig med en slikkepott. bruke teskjei og lag små kladder på brettet (husk bakepapir). Steik i 15 - 18 minutter på 150 grader Celcius.

Når du lager dette får du en MASSE eggeplommer til overs. Her er noe du kan gjøre med det:

Marengs med eggeplomme
3 eggeplommer
1 spiseskjei vann
4 desiliter melis
1/4 teskjei hortetakksalt
1 teskjei vaniljesukker.

Garnering: grovhakkede mandler.

Rør eggeplommer og vann. sikt melisen og ha den i. Visp massen kraftig til den er tykk, lys og porøs. Tilsett hjortetakksalt og vaniljesukker. Sett deigen med skjei smurt og melet stekebrett elelr på bakepapir. Strø over mandelhakket. Stek kakene ca 20 minutter ved 150 grader Celcius.

Den første oppskriften blir temmelig mange kaker, men den andre kan trygt dobles.

Monday, December 22, 2003

The Meatrix
In these times of over consumption - The Meatrix!
Colours and me
I have taken this test three times now, and unlike Cyborgmommy always come out the same - bright and glaring yellow!

you are yellow

Your dominant hues are red and green, so you're definately not afraid to get in and stir things up. You have no time for most people's concerns, you'd rather analyze with your head than be held back by some random "gut feeling".

Your saturation level is very high - you are all about getting things done. The world may think you work too hard but you have a lot to show for it, and it keeps you going. You shouldn't be afraid to lead people, because if you're doing it, it'll be done right.

Your outlook on life is very bright. You are sunny and optimistic about life and others find it very encouraging, but remember to tone it down if you sense irritation.
the html color quiz

That warm fuzzy feeling
The official Christmas cards are flowing into the department. Since I am horrible at card-writing and all that, I don't get many, but one found its way into my drawer today. I almost got worried, because it was from the Norwegian Data Inspectorate, and my first thought was: What did I do now?

It turned out I had done something good! A person called me this autumn, asking me please recommend a former student who might need a short term job. A few phones and I found a graduated student who fit his specifications, and told her to call him. Then I called back to him and told him he would have a phone-call. Three minutes of work, and it was up to them to figure out if they wanted each others' skills and tasks.

I am not an agency for job-matching, but I like to see my former students in jobs that suit them, and I love making peoples' lives easier. The Christmas card today shows that I now have not only one but two friends in the data inspectorate. Who knows when that can be useful!
Christmas preparations
For those of my friends out there that worry about the traditional Christmas in the home of Dr. Mortensen: I have two types of cookies to go to finish the traditional 7 types - eggyolk meringue and coconut macaroons, both to be produced on popular demand from eager family members. I am afraid that my gingerbread house will not have as much personality as Jill's. After all, my kids by now have a super efficient approach to gingerbread-house decorating, among other things includes eating all the non-stop before they reach the roof of the house.
Learning from students
One of the good things about this period of assessing students is all the things I learn. Even the most boring load of low-level droning papers can teach me something about what students understand from textbooks, lectures and comments made to them. Reading the exams tells me about the curriculum, what should be adjusted, where we should make an effort to teach more or clearer next time around and where we pershaps should find some newer or more precise literature.

I am also learning a lot about methodology, of writing and structuring a paper, of different genres in paper writing and of the importance of those structures I sometimes feel like I am repeating to the extent of absolute boredom. I know how to spot a flawed hypothesis in three sentences, and I can tick the most common errors in most humanistic and social science theories and methodologies on my fingers at a moment's notice. Exams can do one thing: make professors better!

From the most recent batch of papers I have also had the incredible blessing of starting to think about two central concepts to my own work: flow and immersion. There is an immersion article out ther ewaiting to be written, and it should be coupled with among other concepts: flow. The working title in my head at the moment is seduction, immersion, flow and satisfaction. Of course, it is all about games, and it is all about pleasure, the pleasure of letting go. It's an article I have wanted to write for years, and it will be an essay written for my own pleasure, using my pet references. Just thinking of it makes me smile.

It's been a while since the thougt of writing and building a scholarly argument made me feel eager and happy. No matter if I finish this, just recognizing the feeling and cherishing it, in the middle of the chaos before Christmas, is really, really GOOD.
Almost there (is that where I want to be?)
A surprising little email this morning:
I thought you would be interested to know that your blog is #15 in our weekly BlogSpot hosted sites poll. That leaves it just out of the running for this week, but frequently when a blog is close, it makes it in at a future point. We rely on Google to do the choosing and limit the search to BlogSpot sites and to the prior one-week period.

Take a look at in the right-hand column to see this week's Top Ten.

Congratulations on having a site that Google considers extremely important in this past week.

Regards, --Steve Covell

So google considers me extremely important. I am - hmm - baffled?

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Never in a Winter's Night
I have been good today, done a LOT of work - so I was going to have some fun and install Never Winter Nights on the new computer. But instead of a fun night of game playing and work combined I got a really weird problem. It looks like somebody grabbed the right hand side of the image on the screen and dragged it around the back of the screen and back to wrap around at the left hand side of the screen. Weird, unexplicable and very frustrating. I have of course written support and asked what can cause this, but it's getting towards midnight and I have wasted an other couple of hours on making Never Winter Nights work on one of my computers, so that I can play it and assess Jill's students.

I am learning a few things thought from this, valuable if I manage to get my multimedia editing course running: students must submit their work in standardised formats, decided on and tested by the staff. The neccessary software must be supplied free of cost by the University or College when using external assessors. And assessing games/multimedia products/cybertexts needs to pay differently from the standard rates used for a 15 page paper.
Advent surprise
Almost 10 pm, and the doorbell rang. I was tired from struggling with Neverwinter Nights - something I have to do right now, yes, it is work, and I have to play. Anyway - I was kind of tired with technology that doesn't work. And then it arrives. Oh baby, my new love! A new computer, lcd screen, dvd burner, photo printer... I cleaned out of the computer room, for a year now the den of husband and son, the air almost unbreathable and I don't know when we last saw the floor. This room is now shining clean, and I have decided to make new curtains and am considering the wallpaper... perhaps something slick and past 2000 to match the computer. Yep, I am planning to move in here!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Saving the world
from a lack of grades and oral assessments. Will be back once mission is accomplished.

Monday, December 15, 2003

A moment's quiet
I had a list of things I wanted to write down - things accomplished before I took a break. But in the multi-directional reality of life, a break is not a break, and the first time I wrote the first sentence, I didn't manage to write "I took a break", instead I wrote "before the phone rang", thinking I wrote "I took a break", because it did ring after I had written the first half of that first sentence, and suddenly all the things I had already finished were insignificant compared to the things left to do.

Confused? Not after the next episode in Dr. Mortensen's office life...

Sunday, December 14, 2003

girls and books
By way of Cyborg Mommy - these weird and wonderful pictures.
What I might remember
If I was hypnotised to remember who I was in some former life, who knows who I could have been? No limits to the splendour my mind could come up with, but somehow I don't think I was anyone remembered by posterity.

Perhaps I was the fourth wise person. I never got mentioned, because I wasn’t a wise man, but a wise woman. I was the one who asked for the way when we were lost, the one who remembered to pack a spare blanket and a bag of treats for those moments on the trail when you really need some extra energy.

When the men went to speak to King Herodes in Jerusalem, I visited with the wife. She told me what the king would do if he learned where the newborn king of men was. Of course I had to make it sound like an angel told me – and she was pretty enough to be one – but at least they listened.

In the stable the others brought gold, incense and myrrh. Nobody remembered what I brought to Maria. I had warm clothes for the child and the mother, food for them all, herbs and little things a woman needs. While the others admired the baby, I cleaned and cooked, and told Maria she needed to make sure they got out of there quickly, since the King in Jerusalem would be looking for her baby.

I was forgotten, as the wise women tend to be. The three wise men have been celebrated through the centuries. I was lucky to live when I did – I was ignored, but not burned.

Friday, December 12, 2003

It looks pretty
Yeah, I know, I live in what looks like paradise. Anybody who envy me are invited to come and clean the pretty white stuff off the drive-way. I'll even serve coffee after a job well done.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

A very elegant defense
According to sources in Oslo, present at Anders' defense, it was "elegant". How could it not be? I wish I could have heard it, as it is I will just have to say congratulations, Dr. Fagerjord! Party well, you deserve all the praise and glory and flowers and presents coming your way today!

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Short term memory - and I mean short
It is totally shot. Too much information yelling for attention. I carry little pieces of paper to tell me what I was going to do when I go to do copies, fetch printouts, get a glass of water or give a message, and I have turned calendar keeping into a rigid discipline. It always happens when I get stressed - it's how I know I am doing too much.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Have to take a day off, in the middle of the pre-Christmas chaos, to see my mother's doctors and nurses. She broke her thigh-bone and was operated Sunday. Priorities shift, endlessly, as the flow of life shifts about me.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Strolling about the Metaverse
I just read through Cory Ondrejka’s article (pdf) linked from a post at Terra Nova, and it was intriguing. Cory, I agree with a lot of your points, and they correspond with what I have found studying MUDs. I do however not agree that the Metaverse is a MMORPG.

As far as I am concerned, the Metaverse is the web itself. While Stephenson's vision does not overlap Gibson's vision and the concepts Cyberspace and Metaverse may not be synonyms, they are more closely related than the Metaverse and computer games. I find that limiting the Metaverse to the different graphic games limits, as you argue excellently in your paper, the user - or inhabitant - in a manner that runs counter to the desire for personal expression and creativity.

But when your article opens with: "However, despite the enormous technical advances of the last decade, the concept of a broadly appealing online world has not yet been realized." I wish to point out that the image of the Metaverse can be restrictive as well as inspiring. The Metaverse and Cyberspace are metaphors for how the web CAN be used and developed, not how this will or should happen.

1) It might be that graphic interfaces are not the ideal medium for the expression of user creativity. At the moment graphic interfaces rule the net because we have few other technical options. A world where we navigate by sound or by touch may be as efficient, as soon as the technology supports that. While visual interfaces rule out most other simultaneous operations, sound lets us sort through and focus by utilizing the much more efficient selective perception through the ear. Our eyes can only see in one direction at the time - our ears have no such restrictions, nor does our three-dimensional bodies. A lot of our physical interface with the real world depends not on vision, but on the sensations of the body.

2) I think there is already a budding Metaverse out there, an online space where people express themselves freely, dependent on their abilities and desires. MMORPGs are part of this, but not all of it, nor even the most important aspect. It is called the internet. All the different communication clients and clients for interaction and experimentation are parts of this Metaverse - the digital space of human interaction.

Being of the firm belief that computer games push the development of the computer industry and technology forwards innovatively and as a good alternative to the weapons industry (even if they at times overlap) I have great sympathy with the MMORPG=Metaverse analogy. But I think the present-day computer games are still just one more step towards realising the full potential of computer-generated communication.

Friday, December 05, 2003

No increasing violence
Just found an article about violence between 1990 and 1999 in Norway. Turns out there has been no increase in serious violence: that is intended harm and serious harm. There was an increase in reporting less serious violence - what we call "body insults" (legemsfornærmelse) in Norway, but as harm in these cases was minor and the result of accidents, it is not reported as violence. As for violence among young people: the ratio of violent youths and violent adults remains stable. There has been an increase in certain groups, such as ethnic minorities in large cities, but not among youths in general. Youths have shown the same decrease in violence as adults.

The article is from 1999, so I don't know about 1999-2003, but still - if video, internet, television, cinema etc was to blame for the increase in violence... it's not like it should decrease in the nineties, hmm?
Just found this information, which might be relevant when jill wants to use sms and not email in USA: According to the CIA factbook, Norway has as many internet users as cellphone users. In the USA the number of internet users is ten times that of cellphone users. Now that information is a little dated, Norway now has more than one cellphone pr inhabitant, which means approcimately 5 mill cellphones.
Yes, it looks like I am back
Since 1998 I have been only partially involved in the exams at the department. Before that I was normally not only one of the examinators, but the person to arrange, administrate and be responsible for one the most demanding and largest (most students) exams. This exam is just before Christmas, and as a result I would always be sick for Christmas. From 1992 until 1998 I was in bed, sick, most of the Christmas holiday. The woman who has been doing the job I used to do is already on a sick leave before the rush has even started.

I almost forgot about this until this year. This year I am fully back to teaching and expected to pull the customary load at the end of the fall term. So if you don't hear from me until January I am either grading papers, doing oral assessments or sick with fever. Quite possibly all at the same time; been there, done that.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Queer musings
Randomly sampling blogs for an article, and I come across no milk, please. It's really funny, weird and smart and mixed up. See what a diamond can do!
Bourdieu and the role of intellectuals
I would like writers, artists, philosophers and scientists to be able to make their voice heard directly in all the areas of public life in which they are competent. I think that everyone would have a lot to gain if the logic of intellectual life, that of argument and refutation, were extended to the public life. At present, it is often the logic of political life, that of denunciation and slander, 'sloganization' and falsification of the adversary's thought, which extends into intellectual life. It would be a good thing if the 'creators' could fulfil their function of public service and sometimes of public salvation. (Bourdieu 1998:9)

Pierre Bourdieu (1998): Acts of Resistance Against the New Myths of Our Time, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Laboratories and real worlds: Games and positivism
The debate at Terra Nova is taking a turn that exposes one of the problems I have with a lot of game scholarship. Edward Castranova states, in a reply within the "fascism is fun" thread:

Alek: "But I am really scared by the idea, that studying an artificial social reality, with it's basic assumptions - an ontology of sorts - so different from real world societies, might give a simple answer to a question that social sciences are meticulously researching in these - allow me to say this - more real societies."

I guess, contra Alek and Nick and a few others, that I'd prefer not to allow you to say this. I believe the essential forces of economics emerge whenever humans interact under conditions of scarcity and specialization of resources. The essential forces of sociology emerge whenever individuals sort themselves into groups. The essential forces of politics emerge whenever the structure of resources and groups create collective interests, issues that everyone cares about but that need to be resolved by the community as a whole, through designated leaders.

With this, as I understand Edward Castranova, he claims that games can give directly relevant information about human interaction, and act as a testing ground for theories, to see how they work in society, and he considers the more cautionary voices to be dismissing games as a field for learning about human interaction. This is a positivistic view on games, where games are treated like the laboratories of the behaviourists. Castranova does not appear to be aware of the failure of the skinner box or the staged experiments on human violence and media influence (Noble 1975) as he argues for his view of the general validity of the forces of economics:

But the claim that generalizing is impossible, or only allowable for trivial aspects of behavior ("when thrown together into community, people argue"), goes much too far, I think. It's very easy to dismiss the goings-on in a virtual world as a tempest in a teapot, or as 'just a game,' or 'virtual and hence not real.' I mean, what makes political engagement 'real'? Surely the touchstone cannot be the realness of the objects in question; people have had bitter politics over lots of intangible things, from flag colors to communion wafers.

My stance on this is that we can learn a lot about human behaviour from computer games. But what we learn is about human behaviour in this given context. Humans behave differently in different situations, and we are intelligent enough to realize that being part of a research project, for instance, is a different situation from our every day life. This is one of the main sources of errors for researchers who work with human beings and the human condition. It is one of the reasons why so many people have spent so much time and resources trying to answer the question: "are the media dangerous?" If we agree with Edward Castranova, that behaviour in games tells us how people will behave in the flesh world given a similar situation, then please, PLEASE forbid Grand Theft Auto and all other games that promote violent, aggressive, destructive behaviour!

Human beings are too complex for human behaviour to be understood through the limited study of behaviour in games. That does not mean that we cannot learn significant things about the games, or that games are not important. Try to tell athletes, sports fans or just amateur players of sports that playing their particular game: football, volleyball, handball, is not important! Try to interrupt a game of chess between two dedicated players! Try to crash a LARP, fool around, break it up, and see how understanding the players will be! Games carry immense significance, have a symbolic power and yes, economical power, but this meaning is not directly transferable to any other arena.

This is why I think games - also computer games - need to be studied: Because we don't really understand their significance. We know they are important to human beings, we know they generate activity, creativity and even conserve sanity, they build understanding and social skills, they promote understanding, cooperation and healthy competitiveness, but we don't really know why, how, where, when. There is no such thing in my book as "just a game". But that is also why I don't think they are just an other part of the same trivial everyday behaviour mode.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

In character and out of character
I have been over at Terra Nova today, seeing what the dedicated writers there are coming up with while I am busy looking at other stuff than games. A few interesting discussions were brewing. I posted a reply on one, but I think I want to expand on that reply, so I am doing that here.

The topic was "facism is fun", and it was discussing the idea that players want influence, but facism may be a fun thing in a game. This looks like a contradiction, but I don't think it is. First, the discussion and my immediate reply at Terra Nova:

The thing the experienced roleplayers I played with in Dragon Realms tried to make sure everybody understood was that DR was a GAME. It is not reality, and it shouldn't be mistaken for this.

Now there might be a difference between a game and an online world/community, but I think it would not be healthy if we mistake the community of minds with the community of geography.

Within a community of minds, fascism can be fun! Not because I think a dictatorship is a better way of ruling a country, but because I would enjoy the challenge. I don't think I would be the kind of brave hero to go up against a real dictator - I would not try to assassinate Franco or even Hitler. While I hope I would dare to do My best to undermine them, I am a very mediocre revolutionary, I fear. But in an online community, or in a game, I could try my hand as a part of the opposition.

It might get me kicked by the immortals or administrators, and so what? I can just go through a different server with a different IP address, make a new character and try out a new strategy. I don't need to fear for my children, I don't need to worry that our doors will be kicked in at midnight and my husband shot in front of my eyes to show me the error of my ways. I may get a few nasty emails and perhaps somebody will hack my connection and plant a virus if I have been REALLY bad, but there will be no breaking of bones, no burning house, not even a little Berufsverbot.

I think the connection between In Character and Out Of Character is something we need to remember both as players, participants, administrators and researchers. It limits both what we can do, what we can learn, and what effects game strategies has. It also opens up for the exact same things, just with a different value, a different meaning of the same things in the flesh world.

And yes, in role-playing games, you need evil. "The bad guy" should be accepted, respected and then enjoyed. There's nothing like a good adversary in a game!

Once I had posted that, I realised that both the initial debaters might be right. I wish to have influence while I play, freedom to do what I like online, and to be able to change the systems that surround me. I don't want to be somebody elses pawn and nothing but that. This may translate to democracy, but I think that may be the wrong metaphor. Because I don't really want to have influence on somebody elses rules. When I play a game, I want to understand, use, come up against and perhaps find the flaws in and thus crack somebody elses rules. The freedom to exert my influence and my rights is part of the rules. A game where the rules imply a dictatorship can be really fun because playing it gives so much room for subversion. A game where the rule is "do what ever you like" does not give me anything to do that makes it worth while. Where is the joy of being the head of an underground army to liberate the world from the evil clan of hedgehogs, if the hedgehogs can be removed by simple popular vote and don't fight back?

However: within the rules, I want freedom. I am in the game because I know, among other things, that as long as I am following the rules, I can do anything! If there is no rule against it, it is not wrong. Of course, game culture can imply unwritten or uncoded rules, but that is part of the experience, and you quickly learn what is considered right and wrong - and then you have learned an other level on which to play the game. What bothers me is if new rules are added at the whim of the immortals. That is when a player loses the freedom vital to playing, and the experience becomes frustrating. This is also the type of immortal intervention you find players protesting against - either actively, by organised protests, or passively, by leaving.

So the question is, really, at what level did the two talk about democracy and facism? Seems like I should have stayed a week longer in New York, and attended State of Play. The department would have fallen apart and turned towards anarchy though, if I had stayed away longer, further neglecting my customary position as the dean's left hand, the real architect behind the power....

(OK, I have to point out that I slipped into gaming mode and not professor mode at the end there. It wouldn't have been anything as fun as anarchy, just more of the same bureaucratic boredom.)

Friday, November 28, 2003

Youths and multimedia practice
At Oslo University College, department of journalism, information and librarian studies, I found the doctorate thesis of Helge Ridderstrøm. He is an associate professor here, and has written a study called "På vei til multimediale skrivepraksiser. Ungdommers tekster på Verdensveven i didaktisk perspektiv" or "Multi media writing practice: World Wide Web texts of youths in a didactic perspective." It is about young people's (13-17 years old) home pages, and it discusses style, use and meaning. It is a BIG piece of work, and definitely for people with special interests, but being one of those I was quite happy both to find the dissertation and to meet the man.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Testing, testing...
An other little online toy, by way of Dennis, who is a mastermind...

INTP - "Architect". Greatest precision in thought and language. Can readily discern contradictions and inconsistencies. The world exists primarily to be understood. 3.3% of total population.
Take Free Myers-Briggs Personality Test

More about the INTP personality type.

And the test and typology is at least a hypertext, I am pretty certain it is an ergodic cybertext as well, as with I Ching. I guess a horoscope may be a cybertext as well, but not to the reader who reads a magazine: to the astrologer, who reads the star-charts!
The love of tools
Bourdieu, Pierre: Photography, a Middle-brow Art: "There is an emotional attachment to a camera: I love my Leica both physically and emotionally." (1990:139)

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Blogger Spotting
Over the last two days I have met Dr. Jill, Dr. Klastrup, Dr. Corneliussen, Jon Hoem, Candidate Jopp, Thomas the Librarian and The Real Jesper Juul. Dennis is right, the defense was followed closely in certain parts of the blogosphere.
Quick report; Back from Bergen
I can't report any outrageous behaviour from last nights defense dinner. When I left Dr. Jill was euphoric, but still well behaved, radiant with her own brilliance. Yes, finishing a Ph.D. IS a special moment, a wonderful feat, and I become increasingly convinced that it needs to be celebrated with family, friends, colleagues, supervisors and dignitaries present. Last night was Jill's day, and we were all touched by her energy and joy.

And she deserved a celebration, the two days leading up to it had been sufficiently rough.

The trial lecture was well designed, and Jill is a warm and personal lecturer. That did however clash a little with the genre "trial lecture". While the audience may perk up at the occasional story, her presentation was stronger, more involved and more to the point when she remembered to glance at her prepared papers. She also tended to refer a little much to her dissertation, and lost sight of the relationships between avatars and hypertexts, examplifying more than elaborating. These things were however minor flaws, the lecture was well designed, warmly presented and a perfect occasion for admirers of Jill's light style to spend a pleasant hour in her company.

For the defense, Jill chose a daring combination of different shades of green. She can carry it off, but perhaps it didn't lend her the aggression she could have needed in order to seize the opponents by their well-prepared and well-educated necks? The opponents were gentle, giving their questions the shape of invitations, and in the first session Jill rose wonderfully to the occasion after some initial hesitation. We had the pleasure of watching two sharp, strong women in academic sparring as she and Marie-Laure Ryan explored the layers of depiction and texts. The audience left for the break throbbing with the energy of the exchange, happy and eager for round two.

In the second session some of that energy had somehow left our heroine. Bjørn Sørensen picked a central concept and asked for a clarification, but it turned into one of those moments when all you can say is: "Oh, thank you for elaborating on that, I have nothing to add." Those are part of a defense too, and they should be, or the opponent would not have done his job. Bjørn is a kind and caring man with no need to dwell any further on that, and he moved on, rapidly towards a solution.

The outcome - we don't REALLY know that yet. But after the comittee has signed the papers, I don't think they are going to tear that piece of paper up and send Jill a letter saying it was all a sham. So although the formally correct title is Dr. Designata at the moment, Dr. Jill slips easily off the keyboard and tastes almost familiar on the tongue, the sounds mixing like champagne and caviar.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Email dysfunction
More trouble with the college email. The mail is delayed, and the delay is so severe at times that snailmail seems a better option. This morning two of my colleagues received an email from me concerning something we fixed yesterday. It was three days delayed (and no longer valid). If I had walked down to town and posted a letter it would have arrived earlier. Students who come for supervision and mail their work the day before arrive three hours before their emails. Colleagues at other colleges and universities call me when I don't reply to emails which clearly are urgent. I would like to blame spam and spam filters, but apparently that isn't all the truth. The gist of this is: If you don't get a reply to an email to me, it is probably because it hasn't reached me. If it is really urgent - find some other medium.
Possible Torill sightings next week
It will be possible to catch a glimpse of me running past, a tired-looking middle aged woman with a too heavy backpack and glasses that need to be replaced, in these locations:

Institute of media studies, University of Bergen, seminar for staff and graduate students, Monday 22nd.
Sydneshaugen skole, at Jill's trial lecture Monday 22nd.
Sydneshaugen skole, at Jill's doctoral defense, Tuesday 23rd.
Oslo University College, at the NOLUG meeting, Friday 28th.

This is the last time I leave Volda before Christmas, I suspect, as the week after is when the exams and the grading starts for real here. It feels a little good, really. I know what I will be doing until Christmas and beyond: grading and planning the next semester. I am definitely not out of work.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Not to do...
Jill linked to this page, and I have to admit, I almost failed to see the humour, as I have done quite a few of them during similar situations:

1."Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise for the singing of our National Anthem." - well, not for the anthem, but they all rise for the candidate!
4.Describe parts of your thesis using interpretive dance. - Not dance, exactly, but how about a swordfight?
11.Have bodyguards outside the room to "discourage" certain professors from sitting in. - Oh yes, and they were in the auditorium too, ready to jump in and attack in case of an unpleasant question.
37.Fashion show. - Isn't that what is is, really? At least with us vain Norwegian female scholars.
44.Black tie only.
49.Defense by proxy. - the opposition were so kind, that is how it felt!
56.Do a "show and tell".
57.Food fight. - see swordfight
58.Challenge a professor to a duel. Slapping him with a glove is optional. - that's what it is all about!
112.Invite the homeless. - EVERYBODY were invited

And this is something I should have thought of:
138.Have everyone bring wine glasses. When they clink the glasses with a spoon, you have to kiss your thesis. Or your advisor.
Orange energy
I opened this grey envelope from the University of Bergen, and what did I find? A thesis! Thanks Jill, I will make sure to prepare a LOT of questions Ex Auditoria for you!
Geocaching and bookcrossing
An other email (hey, people read this!), this time from Ray Davis at Bellona Times, who suggests that what I describe as a game might be a better description for Geocaching. Perhaps so, as geocaching really is a game, a game of finding something in a remote location, leaving your name and getting a little reward.

There is a sport in Norway that works like that: Cross country running and orientation (?) - people running about in the forest, carrying maps and little cards. They have to hit every point on their map as quickly as possible, there is no track, they have to find the remote and hidden stashes, and then they punch a hole in their card: each point they have to find has a different pattern.

The family version of this takes more time and is spread over a wider area: it is possible to find two or three - or just one - post for each trip into an area, you don't run, but walk, and you spend the entire season searching to find as many posts as possible. And then there is the totally informal version of geocaching: at most cairns in Norway there is a box or a plastic tube hidden, with a notebook and a pen or pencil. When you reach the cairn or perhaps the word "varde" means beacon, you admire the view until you have caught your breath (they are always at a peak) and then search this notebook out to leave your name in it.

But this is a different game from the bookcrossing game. Bookcrossing is also about creating a character for yourself through your choice of books, it is about disseminating a specialised kind of information, and about sharing the surplus of your bookshelf. To many bookcrossing may not be perceived as a game, but as Ray suggested they think of themselves as to be teaching, or to be book reviewers or book lenders.

Me, I am fascinated by the quest. Sadly, Volda holds no bookcrossers, or I would be watching that site obsessively. Knowing people around here, we might get a combination of geocaching and bookcrossing: plastic bags of books left at remote, barely accessible peaks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Say cheese on the cellphone
My colleague Erling Sivertsen has written this article, printed in Bergens Tidende Tuesday. It is on the expansion of cellphone photography, and how photography becomes both more private and spontaneous and at the same time more public and more widely dispersed. Norwegian only, but it is one of the best articles I have seen Erling write in quite a while and actually one of the best articles on mobile photography so far, so for those of you who manage to struggle through the text it is definitely worth it.
Games and selfish pleasures
As I came to work this morning, I found a nice friendly email containing a blog post somebody had not been able to track back here. It linked to the "Read and release" post below, and concerned books and games. I have written and asked for the link to this post, I expect it will show up when the sun (?) reaches the other side of the planet.

This email did set me to thinking a little further on the bookcrossing game, and since the post was in the email, I will quote from it without the link:

But Torill's point for her posting was that in a comment within the bookcrossing website someone had registered 1500 unread books-which turned the whole idea into a game of competition rather than one of reading more and sharing. All this just makes me realize that no matter how far we come in innovative media, social awareness of the ecology and love for our fellowman, there always is what I have come to call the "radar-anti-radar-radar" theory. If you come up with a good idea, someone will find a way to personally benefit from even the most altruistic of intentions.

This is an assumption that giving books away through bookcrossing is an altruistic act. I would say that no, it isn't! When you leave or send away a book through something like it is not charity or love of fellow man. If that is the goal, buy good books to your local library, anonymously. It is in a way a chain letter without the threats. You pass something off to random people and expect to have them cooperate with your needs and desires. You expect them to satisfy your curiosity and build your self esteem through positive feedback to what many of the bookcrossing community think of as "random acts of kindness". Remember that what some people think of as kindness may by others be considered littering, for instance. This doesn't mean that participating is bad: it is fun, others think it is fun, and if the people who find the books don't want to participate they can either keep the book or throw it out, no harm done!

There is very little pressure for participation on the next finder/reader, something expressed in the low amount of books that are registered as "caught". Even if half of the books a bookcrosser leaves randomly are thrown out as litter, from what I can see less than 10% (and that is a generous guess) are registered as caught by random readers, leaving 40% of the books, a large chunk, residing on bookshelves or being passed around outside of the bookcrossing tracking system.

All games have their powerplayers though, and so with bookcrossing. The quote from the community section was probably from one of those. I do not know enough about the real powerplayers to be able to tell. However, all of USA has about 15000 books currently "in the wild", so if an American citizen has released 1500, he or she has released 10% of all bookcrossing books currently not caught/registered in the states. I would say that qualifies for powerplayer status. So this person likes the game more than the reading of books. That doesn't make it more or less selfish an act than what the less aggressive players do. It is just a more specialised way of playing, with a different kind of reward.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Would you prefer to write Norwegian, but can't find the computing terms in anything but English? This should help: Lita dataordliste. You can probably use the different Norwegian dictionaries as well.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Read and release
I have been fascinated by the concept of for a long time. The idea of diminishing the mountain of books without letting the books go completely is very seductive. I have after all spent time with them, touched and paid attention to them for hours, some for days. It is hard to just let them go, and an ID that lets me trace their travels is just my things.

However: Today I was reading entries in the community section, when this comment leapt out at me:

I don't buy books for myself anymore, just for bookcrossing. Now the problem is that, as I'm registering them, I'm thinking, "Oh wow, I've just *got* to read this!"

This is written by a person who has registered more than 1500 books! The rest of the post indicates that the main goal is not so much to read books as to get a high score on the release list. Does this mean that bookcrossing is a game? I can see that it would be. You have those who release and those who hunt. There is definitely an element of quest on both sides, the quest for a nice place to leave a book and the quest for a book out there. The participants have different strategies to make their books be noted, and you can buy or make specialised equipment. There are rules you need to adhere to, and there is an arena that is defined through the release notes - where the place where you leave the book is defined as a bookcrossing zone. The actual reading of the book becomes secondary, if what you do is play this game of catch and release.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Games and intellectual property
Just a quick link to point to GTA's post on Gamer's right to the stories of their characters.

Considering that several of the players I interviewed from the MUDs were testing out plots, character concepts and ideas in the games, this is perhaps a much needed confirmation of the contribution of the players as active participants, not just consumers.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Much as I love using opera, the last months I have found myself relying increasingly on Internet Explorer. This is mainly because Opera 6.x didn't deal with the webmail or with blogger, so I would have to open up IE anyway.

I have just upgraded to Opera 7.0, and it looks like it works. I have checked the different web mail boxes, I have tested the different forms and the websites that tend to get corrupted, and it all looks good. If that trend keeps up, I now have a version of Opera that works! The user interface of opera is so much better than IE that it almost makes me exited. Now, to finish the registration process and lose those stupid ads...

Friday, November 14, 2003

Ilinx Question
I had a lecture on computer games today, perhaps the most intimate in years: Me and three students at the animation education here in Volda. Talking about games I found myself guessing, as I tend to do, at Caillois' category: Ilinx.

I know what Caillois says about it:
Ilinx. The last kind of game includes those which are based on the pursuit of vertigo and which consists of an attempt to momentarily destroy the stability of perception and inflict a kind of voluptous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind. In cases, it is a question of surrendering to kind of spasm, seizure, or shock which destroys reality with sovereign brusqueness. (Caillois 1979:23)

What I do not know is what is a good example for the students to this. What computer game destroys reality with a sovereign shock and not through slow seduction?
An other Brooklyn based photolog, Satan's Laundromat. By way of Anne.

It's cold, the streets are slick and slippery and it is getting darker in the mornings here in Volda. Our house is large and comfortable, nothing like the small, dark and cold apartment I lived in the last three weeks. I love the house, its inhabitants and the view, but I still miss Brooklyn. Or rather: I miss walking out the door and be within a five minute walk of what we consider really exotic businesses, such as nail-parlours, cleaners, laundromats, delis, car services, funeral homes or Starbucks. I guess I would like that on Manhattan too. Or in Paris, London, Berlin (yes, Berlin would be good), Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto, Rome, Vienna, Amsterdam...

Thursday, November 13, 2003

It is an odd hybrid, a mixture of styles and of stones. Resting above a wide and slow river on the hill of an overwhelmingly populated city it thrones in detached solitude surrounded by trees, tall, arched bridges leading away from it. It is so carefully contrieved, so thoughtfully positioned in order to make place for highways, busses and security systems. The Cloisters attempts to be a medieval fortress/cloister in New York.

We walked through the stone rooms one slow afternoon. The elegant arches that should have led into halls where pillars soared towards the sky opened into flat, confusing rooms. Supports for pillars and vaults rested useless on the wall. Walled in and covered atriums were fenced with a mixture of pillars, stones from different quarries and in different styles - not the organic mix of a row of pillars growing together over time, but the confusing mix of styles close in time but separate geographically, suddenly put together. And the portals and doorways. Each room had a multitude of exits, little stairs going up or down, and lit from stained glass windows in yet an other style.

It was a walk through a fairytale medieval. This was the middle ages not as they would be lived in, but as they are written about or reproduced. Walking through the rooms I realised why they felt so familiar despite the disassociation with the medieval churches and castles of Europe. These were the medieval castles of fantasy. In fantasy literature and computer games there is always a convenient doorway, there is always a glaring gargoyle, there is always a forgotten relief or a beautiful tapestry in a small hall. And there are few fireplaces and even fewer nightpots or pits, toilets in the third floor with free fall into the moat - not to mention a total lack of disrepair. The best part was the gardens, where herbs were wilting as they should in October and old fashioned apples were ripe and falling from almost bare branches.

Yes, it is pretty: lovely pieces of art, singular paintings, treasures of gold, silver and precious stones and elegant manuscripts. And when we left the museum and walked through the park to the subway I noticed, amused, that we had chosen to walk through an area where a remarkable amount of single men were casually strolling or waiting under bridges, close to little paths off into the bushes or just leaning in striking poses against the wall. Somehow their carefully casual presence in the middle of an unkept park in office hours a common working day seemed much more natural and right to me than the contrieved past I had just left.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Girls and games
are a good mix
Salmagundi News
This poor game has been ignored while I have been defending my thesis and waiting for my hands to heal. I logged in today, and it is still there, waiting for me to get back to working on it. I haven't dared checking the notes yet. Not too many of them though. There is a lot I can do while waiting to see if I can find the other builders and immortals, like putting back together the wiki that was ripped apart as we parted ways with our first mud host.

I am however starting to feel like doing it again: that thrill of imagining worlds and arranging for conflicts to come. Just feeling that I have that desire to create makes me feel relieved, as if I am somehow healing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Bartle Nova
At Terra Nova they just welcomed a new writer: Richard Bartle! An other reason to add it to your blogroll if it isn't already there!
I ruthlessly ripped off Jill's list of books to her library, but I had already ordered some of those books for Volda. Still I will just pass on most of that list to my favourite librarian. I think everybody should have a library close by, a library to love.

However, much as I love the librarians at the library here in Volda, not many come up against the librarian of my childhood. I was this wild, undisciplined child who never really knew about the books I read, so when I found this book with the interesting cover called "Two Towers" I borrowed it and the next one, "Return of the King". The librarian warned me it was number two and three in a series, and I really should read number one first. I still borrowed the two books though. That night, when I came home from band practice, there it was, book number one, "Fellowship of the ring." The librarian had grabbed the book the moment it was turned back in by the last reader, registered it in my name and taken it to my parent's house.

It was the first hint that people valued the reading of books, and the reading of books in a certain order. It was also the first time an adult had encouraged me to read a book since I had learned to read. And it was the first time I understood the power of librarians. Since then I have worshipped them.
I just finished the last of two lectures today, and it's still not 24 hours since I arrived home. Luckily I had most of the material I needed for these two lectures and prepared them before I left for my little vacation, but it was still rough. I guess I am starting to become a rather hardened lecturer though. I was able to speak over four different topics to four different audiences in three very different places in four days in USA. Then back home to these two lectures (one only postponed since yesterday, this fall break was planned!) and a little rest before I am off to Bergen for Jill's defense (Which will be a splendid, triumphant affair!) and to speak at the department of media studies in Bergen on games (They are using my title in the announcement. That really tickles me!) - then home to change planes and off to Oslo, for a lecture on blogging.

I am exhausted today, but this is fun too. I find that I am more confident in my own work and my own knowledge, and that this makes me a better speaker. I have more examples, a deeper understanding of complex issues than I did five years ago, and am more able to recognize problematic and complicated apects of theories and texts. In other words: I have learned. Five years of intensive reading, writing and studying has taught me something. Surprise, huh?

Monday, November 10, 2003

Rules for Sjur
A Norwegian blogger with more than a touch of irony, Sjur makes his own Rules for blogging. They are (short and translated version):

I can never talk enough about Foucault.

I must never have a commentary field.

Remember to carry through with the anarchist eliticism.

Remember to use heavy artillery while hunting sparrows.

Be inconsistent.

Oh, and his blog shows up on the windows line with "Because I am smarter than you". All in Norwegian, though.
Too close for comfort
Sometimes, words come too close for comfort. Especially words written and spoken by people who know too much. They become threatening, and remind us of how we have exposed ourselves, made us vulnerable to the ones who happen to be close.

Information is power, and we wish to control it ourselves. This is why it is so hard for humans to open up, and why it is so important for some, like us, the bloggers, to control the information about ourselves. And so we write it out carefully, veiled hints, unspoken comments, little pointers to what we may wish to indicate, but not release to the world.

How much of this information can we really control? Nothing, really. Once our words are in the public domain, they can be linked to, quoted, used and combined without our consent and control. To write and publish is exposure, even if it all we expose is fiction or academic articles. An inventive reader can find anything they like in any text. We know that, it is how many of us make a living! We read, cross-check, hyperlink, quote and refer, and find traces of love-stories in a novel, but also unhappy break-ups in academic texts, or personal obsession in a career.

When we do this to others, we get scholarships for our work. When others do it to us, we feel violated.
The Prom
Goodness! What shall I wear? Jill asks as she is invited to the Prom. Then she invites me, and I am happy and flattered, but unable to figure out what the prom really is.

And today isn't a day I feel like partying. I should have been warned before I left New York really. I spent half an hour on the 200 meters from the security check to the gate on Newark, and they were calling me to the gate before I was through the line. Then in Oslo the plane was late, I came at the back of an endless line for the passport control, and finally the luggage was delayed. So, of course, I didn't make it to the corresponding flight to Volda. Now I am at the airport in Oslo, stuck until 4 pm. I had to buy a new ticket - I had been too cheap as I planned for NYC, and the ticket couldn't be changed. And then, to top it up, I am informed that I have 25 kilo overweight and have to pay half again for the luggage. No, this is not a day for partying.

Instead I hope it is a day for getting work done. I have two lectures in Volda tomorrow, and I have the notes for them right here, on this disk next to the computer. I hope. That would mean that all I need to do is to make a few little connection, floppydrive to wire to computer... But my hands are tired and clumsy, and all I really want is to lie down and sleep. Still, I force my eyes to stay open, determined to utilise the four hours of internet access I just bought at the wireless network here at the airport.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

I was there, really
Just in case more people think my travels are a sophisticated hype, I really did give a lecture at Quinnipiac University and I really did meet Cyborg Mommy and you know, she doesn't have silver latex hair! (although I saw traces of that personae scattered about the house) She is however a very warm caring person with a lot of different interests and at a perfect age! A very good experience!

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Blogtalk 2004
I said yes to be part of this, possibly caught by surprise! Since I am still vacationing/travelling/guest lecturing I am a little in the blue about exactly what I will be doing about this, but it looks like it might get interesting!
The secret is out now
I have not blogged my itinerary this time, because Dennis G. Jerz wanted me to surprise his students with my presence here at Seton Hill, creating a scenario where the students would suddenly be confronted with the flesh and blood reality of someone who might be just an other figment of his mind. There was even some questions in class as to if there really was a Norwegian blogger waiting to speak to them, or if this blog was all a fake and Dennis got some woman come in and impersonate me. It might have been!

After New Haven and the visit with Pattie Belle Hastings, I managed to get a nap in New York between 10 pm and 4.15 am - which is when my NYC connection got up to prepare breakfast for both of us before heading for Pennsylvania Station. The train left at 07.05 and I was in Greensburg eight hours later, tired, aching and WAY too warm for November!

The trip was worth it though - I love travelling on trains, and I got to see landscapes I would otherwise never have passed through, only over. Seton Hill is such an idyllic little university, and Dennis is a perfect gentleman - meeting me on the train station with a care package and a lot of enthusiasm. The classes were nice - polite students, even with a touch of enthusiasm! The first class might have been only moderately interested in what I had to say, but they were polite and well-behaved, and sometimes that is all a poor guest lecturer can ask. The second class was smaller and about writing for the internet - and a lot more enthusiastic about what I might have to say. Or just even more polite!

Anyway, it's been great, and when I get a way to edit the pictures on this machine (I AM getting photoshop installed once I am home) there will be pictures to prove that - well, perhaps not that I was really here, but that I took the time to somehow procure or manipulate the pictures in order to convince the world that I may have been here. Tomorrow - Baltimore!

Monday, November 03, 2003

I click through the pictures from yesterday, from the New York marathon, and I discover something that somehow feels almost significant. The first runners hardly touch the ground, they seem to hover inches over the ground, light and graceful, like dancers. Then the further behind the runners, the more of them are touching the ground, one foot, both, still in motion but no longer flying low. At the far back they never leave Terra Firma, not dragging their feet, no, never that, but slowed down as gravity ties them to the grey asphalt. It is like my childhood, when I would dream that my feet did not touch the ground and I would fly.
OK, I am hard at work in the library at Quinnipiac University, feet up, leaning back in a large comfortable leather chair, wirelessly connected to the world. This is the way it should always be. I need to introduce the library in Volda to the pleasure of overstuffed chairs!

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Bryant Park
Feeling extremely cool as my beloved lap top (yes, I have deep feelings for my lap-top, lowly PC as it is and not one of those sleek macs most Norwegian academics sport) here in Bryant Park in NYC. The hot-spot is in the north west corner, and on a warm day like today, 18 degrees Celcius in the shadow, this is a place I could get used to visiting. I'd not mind taking my work out here, chatting with students on the net, reading email, writing drafts and plans while there are people all about me. I like the life, the sounds of the living, the movement and the light, and have always liked the large reading-halls of the University over the loneliness of a solitary room. But now the time is drawing near, I am on my way to New Haven to see Cyborg Mommy in the flesh, and I need to get to Central Station.

They come quickly or they come slowly, they shout and wave or they just focus on movement and breathing. But they all run past the subway station in 85th street, which is where I was waiting just to see, again, the incredible sight of thousands running the New York Marathon.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Yes, I noticed that last night was Halloween. It was an amazingly warm night, perfect for skimpy costumes, and the night was crowded with sexy vampires and their helpless victims. We managed to get to the parade in Greenwich Village early enough for a good spot this year, and the reward was a fun hour of watching wild creativity and bizarre monsters dance before a happy, eager crowd.

The Catch
Today's quick little fishing trip on the net caught me quite a few notable little treasures. First: Nieman Reports magazine: Online Issues. I found this magazine, in PDF format, by way of Clippings. Things magazine is worth a look - a lovely rambling portal rife with links. And then there is the muse, kristina the doktorate student who thinks about blogs, wikis and what not: infomusings blog.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

No personal touch
I know this is probably a very uncool and politically incorrect thing to say these days, but I am going to brave it anyway.

I have wondered why, with all the briliant people writing in the different group blogs, am I not toally enchanted with them? Like, for instance, Gamegirl advance has been around in my field for ever, but I never really did become a regular reader. I'd check it up once in a while when I was in the mood to see what they had written about games, but it was never on my absolute to-do list, like so many of the single-writer blogs out there. Then as Grand Text Auto came alone, I thought that would certainly become a hit: my kind of people, my kind of theory, and people I knew personally! But no, I still read it, but it's not like checking out if Noah has posted again on his sporadically updated kind-of blog. Which I have to admit I check more frequently than GTA!

When got online, I thought at first that my annoyance with it was because I was not asked to be part of it. I am quite aware of my touch of vanity, and live in terrror of letting it take over my judgement. So for the first while I just shut up and read it, determined not to speak from my dark side. After all, there are GREAT people writing there. But after a while I discovered a few things. I had no desire to be part of the discussions - the form didn't speak to me. I did the cooperative blog thing a couple of years ago, it was great for that particular task, then it was over and I didn't feel a craving to continue a public conversation while both Jill, Hilde and I could do the same thing through linking to each other's blogs.

And that is the heart of the matter I think - why I do not really like the group blogs. I like to choose the author I like to read. When I check GTA I read Nick and Noah's posts first. When I read Terra Nova I read TL of course, Castranova, Lastowka - and the others as the topics catch my attention. But this means that I have to sort out things I don't care to read, go through the postings and seek out the ones I am curious about. This takes time and energy, and makes it a much more pleasant experience for me when I read one person's blog.

I love Anne Galloway's writing, and when I check PLSJ I don't have to search through the posts to get a fix. I know that Lisbeth will almost always post something I am interested in, I enjoy the long rambling posts of Mike and the way Dennis collects links and topics from all over the net - so I go there and get what I like: I get my fix quickly, easily and without distractions.

I think the group blogs become somehow too closed, too directed inwards, to the discussion happening there between the participants. Perhaps it is just me: That I like to feel that I address one person at the time, that I like to focus on the individual and get confused, stressed and loose interest when I have to relate to a multitude. It might also be that group blogs are getting too close to the newspapers and the journals: That the blog as a form is not really all that good for groups and the group blogs should utilise better the same techniques as online newspapers: headlines, categories, columns rather than the informal disorganised conversation-like rambling that the personal blog is so well suited for.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


I cannot defend travelling without consuming some high culture, and this time I did that at the Guggenheim museum. Somehow, it touches me less than the little mundane sights - the tired women on the subway, the display of cakes in a window, the broken plaster on the pavement by a construction site. these images linger in my mind with sound, taste, scent, while the sterile splendour of the museum leave me untouched. Only the keyhole leading into Frank Loyd Wright's study linger, the rest as smooth and finished, done with, as the pop-art of Rosenquist on the white, flawless walls. One thought will not let go of me though, the thought of a concert there, one by Magnar Åm, that surprising composer who directs choirs and writes music for echoes and mountains, his sound-images a sweet and piercing opposite to the din of the city.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

8th street
Over the last couple of days I have been doing a bit of travelling on the subway. Sunday to have indian food with Yoko and Juha, a wonderful japanese/finnish couple, Monday in the pouring rain to pick up some of the important stuff of life: books, wine, DVDs for improved vacationing purposes. I am off again today, and will probably be right back in those tunnels tomorrow. Yesterday the train smelled of smoke after we had passed 9th street in Brooklyn - we had been delayed due to smoke in the tunnels. Mercifully they did not say fire, but we all know what makes smoke, don't we?

The subway seems to me to be the ultimate dungeon, the model of many a computer game. It has the monsters rushing out of the dark, wind preceding them as they force through what little air is down there. There are lost souls that hardly ever leave the protected darkness, living in that noisy, insulated maze, there are crumbling mosaics and there are bright new patches and well-used paths. Passing through this maze is not just a matter of patience and endurance, there are rules you need to follow, gaps you need to mind, dangers you need to avoid and occasionally, pleasures and treasures you may enjoy finding.

Sunday, October 26, 2003


The windows were dirty, and the large plaster statues framed with curtains made from threads of light stopped the eye and defended the interior from the casual glance. But the second look draw me to the windows and set me searching for the entrance. Closed, the place remained a mystery, a shop of lamps hung like ripe exotic fruits from the ceiling, from the shelves, all colours and shapes, lovely textiles lit from within creating a mystery garden behind that dirty glass.

When travelling, the mundane and trivial becomes vital, and I learn to cherish the simple comforts as not so simple after all. The pleasure of knowing where the bathroom is, becomes luxury after brushing my teeth in the unsteady motion of a train. Friday the mundane pleasure was the laundromat. Large, slick, clean and brand new, I went in there, spent a little money and just let the machines perform their magic. Oh joy!

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Text Adventures
Just as I am playing with pictures and exploring the new camera, Dennis G. Jerz posts a link to remind me of the value of text. From Things Magazine:

Although the box that sits on the desk is essentially mundane and lacking wonder, inside is a cabinet of curiosities, with each and every machine somehow different, their many functions and properties signified through a myriad of obscure objects, things that must be opened, expanded, collapsed, scrolled, stored, filed, deleted and edited. Of course, we still love to explore the physical world of objects, but this seems to be increasingly about those personal, internal environments.

It is exactly the internal environment that is the beauty of texts. Barnetimen, with the radio plays I used to listen to as I grew up, used to quote a letter from one of the audience: "Pictures are so much better on the radio." And they are. Pictures are better in text. The beauty or horror of the people my character met could never have been created in images: the bloodspattered armour of Marconi, and his grisly habit of hanging the fingers and ears of his enemies in a chain about his neck - even the scent of decay of the pieces attached to his armour in the last days of his splendour and insanity - was conveyed by his description. Not to mention the ephemeral beauty of Fey, the hinted landscapes just outside of the room descriptions, or the intricate splendour of the Moon Palace, a confusing labyrinth of doors opening in on them self, no one door leading the same place from both sides.

It is this inner landscape that lends life to text, sound and music, just like images lend shape and colour to the same. But it seems to be more inspiring to go from text to image than from image to text: not many books have been written about paintings, photos or movies.

An other advantage of the text based game is that it allows participation at a much higher level than the graphic games, as it easily includes people with less computer skills in creating them. That is important too, in my book.
Roaming the streets
Wearing the boots that make me feel like I am an explorer, a hiker in the wilderness of the big city, camouflaged as just an other academic but in truth an adventuress on a quest to understand and analyze a different world, I went out to do my job as mother of a drummer boy. I went off to drummers world on 46th street, armed with a wishlist from my best beloved of sons, and the confidence of my undercover status. After years in the same house as teen-age musicians, I have been forced to learn quite a bit about their instruments, and I am by now aware of the difference between a splash, a crash and a ride. I can also recognize a high-hat... but if somebody tells me Hauk needs a dash, I may just go and attempt to buy it. And an equal angle at the same time. So yes, this was kind of scary. But I managed, and got safely back out on the street heading for the subway at 50th street.

On the way I passed this store, where I expect to spend some time when I go to buy the cymbals. Getting sheet music in Volda is restricted to "learn the clarinet (trumpet/trombone etc) 1-2", and that isn't really sheet music? So that reminded me of asking my daughter for a wishlist, or I may just go in at one of the many NYC music stores and shop for her: random samples of music for clarinet and saxophone.

After this I headed up and east even further, way out of my usual haunts. Unlimited subway cards are a must! Up there I found what I think I will get for the family for christmas - my many sisters, that is - and since I know at least one of them checks this blog I am not telling!

Instead I will tell you about Economy Candy. The scent of it knocks me out and takes over my brain, as sweetness surrounds me from the moment I open the door. I go there for the best chocolate in the world. French produced but as I visit NYC much more frequently than France, I do my chocolate shopping where I can. This meant getting back down from 79th street and across from the west to he east side, way down east and south of Houston. Yes, those boots were still feeling pretty good! And they felt good all the way back to 95th street with the R train, although they are better for walking than sitting. Sometimes very supportive shoes become too restraining while sitting.

In Bay Ridge houseowners are being attention economical. If you have to decorate for halloween, why not put up a little sign to announce who you are voting for as well? Political and cultural message in one colourful package!

Today I find that I am tired, but I am starting to feel like a human being again. I don't feel the need to rush out and immerse myself in the pulse of Manhattan, and even if I am not yet ready to finish the lectures and articles I shold write this and next week, I am not feeling sick at the thougth. But instead of being a good girl and getting all that work done I am going to use my lap-top for the DVD function: lean back on the bed, lap-top in lap and watch my NYC connection's anime. I thought I had survived the defense with the post-partum depression well, but today I feel through the contrast to last week that I still have a long way to go before I am back in shape and ready to work at my normal speed. However I also feel like I made the right decision when I insisted I needed this break. Perhaps, in a not too far future, I will be blogging something to do with games and media theory again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

New Doctors
They come in droves now: Jesper Juul has submitted his thesis, Jill Walker has had hers accepted and worthy to be defended (I will have a bottle of champagne for you Jill) and my colleague Johann Roppen has published his thesis online: Orklas lange revolusjon - "the long revolution of Orkla".

Orkla Media is one of the largest media companies in Norway, and through the last 20 years they have been buying and restructuring the local newspapers. Johann's thesis describes the position of editors in this process, and the connection between the role of the editor and the power of money. The defense will be November 8th - sadly I will not be there and do for Johann what he did for me. He was the host at the doctorate dinner, bright, daring and sociable as he is. All I can do is wish him all the best, and hope that his defense will be as good an experience as mine was.
City hiking
Every time I am in New York I regret that I left the hiking boots at home, every time I go I look at the boots and think: no, I am not carrying those. This time I did what I have wanted to do every time: I bought a pair. Black, aggressive looking and heavy they protect my feet as if they were held gently in a cradling hand, and the worn pavements and the broken brick of the perpetual construction site that is New York no longer hurt my feet.

But a big city has more than hiking boots. This picure is mainly a message for Susana, to say: I found them! And they are comfortable too! I have been looking for high-heeled red shoes for years, and since my feet match the rest of me, and no part of me has ever comfortably fit into the dainty sizes of feminine fashion, it has been more than a search: it has been a quest.

These two pictures represent something else, as well. They are the first pictures I have managed to post on this blog from the new camera. I had decided I did not want to post fragments of myself, but my own views out, away from my body. I will still do that. However in a way these fragments represent the situation of my life at the moment. After ignoring my own welfare for years until I was done with the PhD, my body strikes back with a vengeance. Both hands hurt, my thumbs are really painful when I try to hold on to something, and at times I lose sensitivity in the three major fingers of the right hand, feeling substituded by a fierce tingling. My body is protesting in fragments against the lack of attention given to it, my arrogant assumption of mind over body. So perhaps this is not wrong, to spend some of the time here focused - not inwards as in introspection, but towards me, seeing the body and its needs for a while.

Monday, October 20, 2003

pictures unrevealed
There are moments when I miss the desk-top computer at the college. This is one of those. I just can't make any of the many picure editing programs that come with either the mac, the pc or the camera to work the way I would like it to. Let today's comment on computer culture be: half-baked editing programs are a waste of bytes!

I have a plan for how to circumvent the editors all together, but it is not going to happen today. This means you all will not see the many pictures from Oyster Bay and the Oyster Fest (I may be back with pictures from my NYc connection's murky past in suburbian America). Instead I will make sure to let you see the results of today's shoe quest, if I succeed!

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Photos to be
Safely in New York, what was waiting for me there? A present! My NYC connection who happily puts up with me when ever I need some time away from all the things I feel I should do, bought me a digital camera because he is SO relieved he will no more have a frustrated PhD student visiting, but a happy confident So in the style of the Norwegian blogger ladies, I will start bothering you all with MY pictures, not something snatched from here or there.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Tomorrow morning I am leaving for New York. Three weeks away from all the stuff I should have done here. Perhaps I can use my hands freely and without pain when I return.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

It's almost impossible to believe that this and this is the same fjord.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I have three days in which to finish all those little things stuck on my desk for weeks as I have been getting my head around the teaching again. I will not make it, but at least I'll try before I leave for New York Friday morning. Two weeks of vacation and one week of work. But fun work!

Is there anything I should make sure to see or experience in New York between October 17th and November 3rd? (I am leaving the 10th, but that last week is busy).

Monday, October 13, 2003

It is official!
The letter arrived today: I am now officially a doctor artium - dr. art. But wait, there is more! I will get an invitation later for the Doctor Promotion, a ceremony to be held in Håkonshallen in Bergen, January 23rd 2004. According to the letter from the headmaster of Bergen University (no less), I'll get an invitation later. Oh dear, I can't wait to see what more rituals there can be around a Norwegian doctorate degree!
Super hero in your living room
I have been quoted again, this time in Bergens Tidende, the local paper for Jill and Hilde. The article is about how computer games are increasingly accepted as a medium for adults, and the quotes used by me are pretty simple and stereotypical - the papers all want me to say that computer games are good for you.

I desperately try to tell them that no, I can't prove that, but the game I have studied has been good for the players I have interviewed! That, of course, is a too limited statement for journalists, so they edit happily and I am not the woman who made computergames healthy. But I managed to read through the article before it was published, and I got rid of the direct connection between games and physical health, so I guess I can forgive the journalist for calling me a Cand. Philol. (which is the title you get with a hovedfag - master's degree), and not a Dr. Art (which is the title you get after an accepted doctoral defense).