Friday, February 28, 2003

In times of hardship
By way of David Gallagher, the reassurance that you can never go down the drain.
The value of academic content
I have recently received the "generous" offer of publishing articles on different topics from three different, independent, more-or-less commercial web-sites. They have very little in common, and range from a wish to publish student papers on public information to articles on games. What all three do have in common is:

They want to publish selected articles which are of interest to their reader-group on their own web-site, and not link to others.
They want to get these articles for free.
They want to get these articles ready-to-publish, with all the reviewing, editing, coaching, proofreading and adjustment for web-publishing already done.

In other words: they want high-quality academic content for free.

This is an interesting observation. Not that I am surprised that somebody want the good stuff for free. What interests me is that academic content, long, heavy, serious critical articles, is considered material which attracts readers! Offline; magazines and newspapers shun the long format and the complicated discussions. The broadcast media are even worse: Creating a long critical documentary for television is a gamble - and a bad one at that. Online the trend might be different. The combination of easy access, good search-engines and individual viewing/reading situations might favour the complicated argument and the thorough documentation: If you sit in front of the computer you're not distracted in the same way as with the other media, and you can read what you like, return to it when you like, or download and print what you like.

In a media-use situation where the individual has a chance to expand on his/her own interests, the value of the content changes. The academic articles which used to have value only in very narrow contexts: such as in the struggle to get jobs, tenure and grants within Academia, suddenly acquire value on the commercial market.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The music of life
The basement is filled with music at odd times: drums, piano, guitar, saxophone, clarinet, even the occasional sound of trumpets. The sounds are punctuated with song and laughter, steps running up and down stairs, and scents of baking, of pizza or other, odder concoctions. I sit in the upstairs livingroom and enjoy the sounds of happy life and activity from a discrete distance. Listening, I understand something about why my mother is so unhappy about her empty, quiet house. Large houses need sounds like these, sounds and scents and footsteps, doorbells ringing and the vibration of the bass notes through the floor, sudden flurries of happy voices as a couple of longlegged teen-agers run from downstairs to the computer, or pay a quick visit to the refrigerator. Did I mention I love having my kids around?
A little late
but very appreciated! Only two days Anja :).
feeling clever?
From Anders Fagerjord, fellow suffering almost-done-with-his-dissertation doctorate candidate, a message for all those people who feel smart out there.
Craft-based MUDs
Greg Costikyan describes A Tale in the Desert as a different MMPG:

Essentially, the core mechanic of A Tale in the Desert is a materials-processing tree tied to a tech tree and a list of skills. You gather basic materials to build gizmos that let you transform the basic materials into more complicated materials so you can learn more skills and build more gizmos and even more complicated materials...

This sounds very much like the system we tried to develop for Lu'Tamohr, a MUD that was set up by a group of the players and administrators from Dragon Realms. It also resembles some of the ideals from Aarinfel and Azhad: MUDs less reliant on hack'n'slash and more on skills, craft and trade, development through negotiation rather than killing.

I am looking forwards to see if this game really does keep the players around for more than the 7 months which seem to be the average of games like EverQuest. Dragon Realms kept a stable player base for almost 4 years, through a combination of hack'n'slash and role-playing. Aarinfel and Azhad lasted much shorter, Lu'Tamohr was too complicated and ambitious for a bunch of amateurs to get properly off the ground. While there is intellectual challenge in puzzle-type games, there is very little to kick your adrenalin into flushing your veins, and sometimes there's nothing like a good fright!

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The Real Language
I just downloaded and installed Opera on this computer. Now Opera, while being the fastest browser on earth, is a browser that speaks not just Norwegian, but new Norwegian.

If you don't know about Norwegian language debates, you are ignorant of something essentially Norwegian. We don't fight over land or religion, gender or race. Norwegians fight for, about and with language. Norwegian was actually lost in the black death. The entire literate class died in the plague, and the country was repopulated with public servants, teachers and priests from Denmark. That forced the linguistic drift towards Danish and later, after the Danes got us involved in the Napoleonic wars on the french side, towards Swedish when all the same functions were replaced with Swedes.

The idea of a Norway seperate from Denmark and Sweden, an independent nation of Norwegians, was a rebellion from the districts against the capital: west and north against the south and east, farmland against urban areas. And the most important activist was a man called Ivar Aasen. He was important not for his political views, but for the research and linguistic creativity. Out of language spoken in the Norwegian countryside, he reconstructed an independent Norwegian language, one based on how the people spoke, rather than the upper middle (danified) class. And in modern times, the desire to use new Norwegian was even strong enough to shift Microsoft.

I am linguistically more than a little schizophrenic: I speak new Norwegian, write book Norwegian and read English... but with Opera, I surf the net in New Norwegian! There's something about words like "snøggbufferen" or "utsjånad" - not to mention "bunad" - that makes me feel like I am home, linguistically home. Opera speaks the language in which I think my most sincere thoughts. Perhaps not the brightest, perhaps not the most sophisticated, but the thoughts that are deeply true. Don't trust me if I tell you "I love you". But if I look away from you, hide my eyes, shy and scared, and whisper "eg elskar deg", then it is real.
New Love
I have had this beauty for almost a month, but I haven't had it set up to my pleasure until now. But today I am testing it out at home, and it has already passed one important test: I can sit in front of the large windows in the livingroom and it still gets a strong and good signal from the router in the other end of the house. I am in the best chair in the best spot in the house, with the best computer and connected. Life is good!
The sound of a cod orgasm...
The Journal of Virtual Environments - JOVE, formerly the Journal of MUD Research.
Health and stress
Just to remind myself again that yes, there is a connection between mental stress and physical health:
Stress undermines immunity
Stress that is ineffectively managed and remains too high for too long can contribute to physical illnesses.
Immunity and stress - Rats and rabies. Somehow this feels particularly relevant.
Jest for the health of it - One of the few known antidotes!

Monday, February 24, 2003

Just to remind you all of Anja Rau's blog. She has had a burst of creativity, and her blog is worth a look.
New Blog
Always good to find an other voice which speaks of interesting topics - and makes sense while doing it.
Action Research (Signs of brain activity)
Elisabeth Lane Lawley writes of weblogs and sense-making, and my brain labouriously shifts into gear.

My experience with sense-making is from the public relations study which I established back in the last milennium, and which I lead today. Brenda Dervin's sense-making approach has always been an important alternative to other methodologies for audience/receiver studies. I do find, however, that Action Research is a wider and more rewarding methodological choice for web-studies. The development of technologies, software and web-communities which are dependent on the user rather than the designer need to be studied not just through the act of common sense and understanding, but through cooperation with the people who actually use and develop said communities. Action research also has the advantage that it assimilates the changes which the study itself causes in the community. This is a meta-aspect which is particularly important with transient and easily influenced groupings such as you find online. The degree of reflexivity in the research needs to be high.
Still coughing rather than sleeping at night, but oh, it's good to be home, good to cough in my own bed, good to see the kids, good to sit in my favourite chair at my large (if by now, full) desk, good to breathe fresh air unpolluted by propane-gas explosions.

Lesson of the week - if you travel: don't get sick.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Going home
This time, my stay in NYC did not lead to inspired blogging or any other fun stuff for readers and listeners alike. I have been without a voice physically and mentally, for more than a week. I could have set up a webcam and let you all watch the grass grow at midwinter, and it would been slightly more thrilling than my last ten days. (Or perhaps a link to David Gallagher's pictures of entombed cars - although that is rather funny.)

Tomorrow I'll be with my family again, though, just in time for my birthday. I am so looking forwards to that! When I know I will be away from the kids for a month or two, I don't really miss them... when I get delayed a week, it feels like I can't get back to them quickly enough.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Dr. Hilde
The good news today: Hilde defends her dissertation, and after this will be Dr. Hilde! Congratulations, wish I could have been there to watch, learn and applaud!
Still in NYC
I should have left for norway last week, but due to the flu I couldn't fly. Now I am declared well enough to fly - once I contacted the insurance company and convinced them I could NOT fly last week, I needed a doctor's report to be allowed to get back on a plane again - and I am just waiting for the travel-insurance company to book me a ticket home.

I have been working like a maniac all winter, and I was afraid that exactly this might happen. I ignore my own exhaustion and go on until I have no resistance left. This is why I had cleaned my schedule for these two weeks, they were supposed to be a vacation. but since I didn't manage to finish the thesis before I left, it became two more weeks of intense and stressfl work. Friday, when I was supposed to rest, my body screamed stop, and I got a fever higher than I have had for several years.

So, instead of getting on a plane Sunday, I read and slept. there was a blizzard in New York, but I didn't notice anything, I was competing with the radiator for heat. The last week-end, when I was supposed to say goodbye to friends and do some last-minute shopping came and went, and I was coughing my lungs out in Brooklyn. My son's birthday, which had been carefully considered as I planned the vacation, zoomed past, and his present is right here in my suitcase. matthew, my NYC connection, friend and surrogate family has been doing his best to spoil me, but not even he could change the view outside his window from one of backyards and houses into the cool, clean view of the fjord which I have been aching for.

I guess I am cured for a while now, not of the flu - I am still coughing and my voice isn't good - but of the bug that makes me want to get out, away, onwards to foreign countries and different ways of life. All I want now is to get home, settle into the manageable orderliness of my life, and rest... for a very long time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

And stranded in Brooklyn. The fever dreams were just the first hint of how hard the influenza virus hit me. I haven't been out of the apartment since Saturday, when I was to see a doctor in order to get the note the insurance company needed since I was NOT getting on the plane the next day. So now I am here, without a voice, without a return-ticket until I have been declared well enough to travel, and without the energy to do anything at all about it.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

I am a virus, floating in a stream of signals which glow as they zip by at different speeds. What am I looking for? I know it is here, somewhere... and like moisture I seep through a firewall into a library. Each book is changed as I attack them amd turn them into the generic "book", But every generic book is different, influenced by the book I was before this one. What is my mission? I am here to gain control of the reading of the world, of one particular book, and every time I open my eyes in this feverish haze in which I dream, I know I am one step closer, one little victory nearer to my target.

I am not sure what my target was tonight, but the journey stayed with me. Somehow my mind was more than flesh, and the ideas of Gibson, Stephenson and Dick mingled with my own desire of being connected. Waking up to only the senses of the flesh was almost sad, as I found myself once again isolated in my own body.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Lisbeth blogs again
and I recognize her problems immediately. Here I am, tucked up in Brooklyn, getting ready to get home and finish the thesis... and I am running a fever, I who never get a fever. I get a cold, I lose my voice, I sniffle and cough and whine... but here all I do is sit around staring at the walls, feeling My inner temperature go up, up, up... fingers shaking and mind numb at the thought of being trapped here by something which won't let me finish, submit and get on with my life.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

New in my world
While I have been semi-conscious with the shock of glimpsing the end of my dissertation struggles, Anja Rau has been busy getting the first number of Tekka out, Anne Galloway wants to know if anyone ever submitted a blog as their PhD dissertation. (Sorry Anne, I don't know, although it's an interesting thought - in Norway you can submit a collection of articles, but that's as liberal as it gets here, I fear.) David Gallagher at is in California and the pictures make me sick with envy, Jill's blogg for the course on web-design which she's teaching this spring looks great and very interesting, and I am looking forwards to lunch with Eric Zimmerman tomorrow.

Oh, and unless you like the thought of fungus covering your tongue, don't read Stephen King: Dreamcatcher.
A niece!
I just became an aunt, for the third time, this time to a girl. It's my younger sister's child, so now Storm has a lttle sister. I wonder what she'll be named - I am highly in favour of what they suggested - Tora (thunder).

Monday, February 10, 2003

So close...
I have 20 something comments to remind me of little things I can't do from here, and which I need to do when I get home, and perhaps a days work re-transcribing an interview where the file has been corrupted, I need to insert a nice model which a colleague has made for me, I need to make five copies of the whole load of paper and I need to write the request to be permitted to submit the thesis... And then that will be it. I have never been this close to finishing, and it makes me feel nauseous with exitement. Now I will send copies of the file to all my mail-boxes, family and colleagues, to make sure it's not lost to any errors, and then I'll lean back on the bed and think restful thoughts. I have a little work to do, but compared to what I just finished with, it's nothing. Now... just one day when I come home...

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Tony Manninen writes of Cooperation in Multi-User Virtual Worlds, the example of Counter-Strike.
Confined children
I just took a little time to sit down and read prof. Henry Jenkins' article Complete Freedom of Movment, in From Barbie to Mortal Combat. While there are parts I don't recognize, such as his description of the gendered difference between playspaces, I guess those are as much social and cultural distinctions as gendered distinctions. After all, working-class girls and boys in Norway had pretty much the same duties and the same freedom. Apart from that I embrace fully the argument of how computergames and the passive consumption of media among children is not caused by the media, but by the development of our culture: towards a society where we restrict and control the free time of our children to the point that they have no freedom, no secret place in which their imagination can roam but their inner space.
Freakin' crazy
yelled at the top of your lungs, with a sharp, nasal voice. It's the Brooklyn kind of crazy, and it's how I feel today. No, nothing special, just the usual type of pre-submission labour-pain.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Death of the videogames
Read Greg Costikyan's argument concerning why videogame is an obsolete term.
Another gaming blog
videogames this time: Brian-Mitchell Young presents: jccalhoun Popular Culture Gaming, a blog with not-so-frequent posts. In the middle of a long rambling one concerning games-as-art (january 16th 2003, no permalinks), doing a certain amount of kicking in open doors etc, he had a point:

This is why it seems that the question, “Are videogames art?” should be thrown out. There are other questions that are more pertanant. Why does it matter if it is art? What does it get the gaming community? Who benefits from calling it art and why? All of these are questions that need to be asked when one tries to argue the “Is it Art?” question. It does not seem that much if anything is gained by videogames being classified as art. [My italics]

Who benefits is always an important question. Academians certainly benefit. Define games as art, and they can suddenly be studied in different contexts. The designers benefit. Art doesn't just give them respect, but real money, not to mention protection through the legislation designed for works of art and different from the more anonymous mass-produced text belonging to a more public domain. The audience benefits. When you call it art, active criticism isn't just desired, but also expected, and on a different level from popularity ratings. This is a first step towards greater diversity, and it opens up for different demands from the audience - demands to quality, to inventiveness and to formal and expressive beauty which so far has only been glimpsed randomly.

The question, I think, isn't so much why we should not call games art, as why should art be so narrowly defined, and why is it defined by such a small group of people? For that, I recommend studying the works of Pierre Bourdieu.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Monday Morning Lag
(the post that caused my trouble...)
Still jetlagged, which means that I have been sneaking around this apartment as quietly as possible for hours, reading a little in the light of a red lamp (yes, very brothel-like, but nowhere near that interesting).

The trip here was good, and I managed to catch two movies of the type that will never make it to Volda. One of them was S1mOne, over a similar topic as Gibson's Idoru - about a man who has an affair with a virtual actress. But where Al Pacino gives life to Simone to the point that his own minds starts playing tricks with him, accrediting her with more independence than his computer-generated female avatar has, Idoru is a whole different entity, independent of men, developing through nanotechnology into not just an artificial intelligence, but also an alien intelligence, capable of independent emotions.
They keep moving!
But if you want to find them, Hilde's blog has moved here, and gone through a metamorphosis in the process (lovely, Hilde!), while Jill/txt has just had a few minor readjustments even if it has moved as well.

And finally, I got to post and say that....
I have had a few bad days bloggerwise. I kept getting error messages, and when I tried to go into the blogger help-files, their links to the possible answer came up with an error message. then I tried to write and tell Blogger about the errormessages on their helpfiles, and was told that since I am a free blogger user, I can't expect that they look at my requests for assistance.

Yes, I am aware that I use blogspot for free - although I am paying to keep my blogspot ad free. But why haven't I bought blogger pro? Because it doesn't offer me a good alternative yet: I need to be able to post from a wider range of browsers than blogger pro offers me. I also don't need all that blogger pro offers. Is Blogger about to do the mistake of so many other types of software for publishing and sharing? Make blogger pro so advanced that most people don't need more than a little bit of it, and then charge the users for all that superfluous software that they might need... all the while forgetting about the people who made the software known in the first place, those unwashed masses who just wants something fairly simple, perhaps not entirely free, but close... but who want this simple part to work well?

Anyway... thanks to Phil Rignalda's troubleshooting blog the problem appears to be solved, and I may go on publishing for free like the freeloading parasite I am.