Monday, March 31, 2003

Blogs and orality
Jill asks her students if blogs are oral media? I grew up close to an oral tradition, a somewhat unique situation. My father's family were all more or less illiterate, not just in the understanding that they didn't like to read, but in the meaning of not being able to read. Their culture was an oral one, their knowledge passed on through stories. To this day, the outrageous, amazing, incredible story lives quite well in my family, along with the art of telling it, the pauses, the quick asides, the use of voice and body, in my family a story isn't just told, it's performed. But my uncles are masters of the form, they can sit down and tell a story full of elegant puns, silly metaphors, entertaining similes and memorable comparisons which stays with you for years after you heard it.

This embroidery is important in an oral tradition in order to make the important points memorable. I still remember, almost 20 years later, a story my uncle told which centered on new fishnet technology. The story was silly, happy and intricate, but the deep truth of how that technology was killing off the cod in the area where he lives, rendering the small-boat fishing close to the coast unprofitable and leaving thousands of fishermen unemployed and in need of government support was something that dawned on the listener slowly, as the elegant points were repeated, cherished and retold.

In an oral tradition knowledge has to be linked differently. Yes, we link in blogs, but the links we make are not so that our minds can recall the information, but so that our fingers recall it. I remember the incongruos image of fish getting glasses to find the way past the nets to shallow water in order to breed, but in a blog I would not need to create such an image to make the link between filaments, captured cod and breeding, I would link to the appropriate research information and that would be that. Point and click, no need to embellish further.

In my opinion blogs are very much a written form, they are the public letter, the open journal, the commentary column of the internet. Once in a while perhaps we find blogs where the art of telling stories has been preserved to the point that it approaches the skill of the sami story-tellers, but those people don't tell stories like that because they are blogging - they would do it in any format, the blog just happens to be useful.

(Sorry, all cod-fact links in Norwegian only.)
Thinking space
There's a stack of book on my desk, waiting to be read:
Gaston Bachelard (1958) The Poetics of Space, 1994 edition, Boston, Beacon Press.
Crang, Mike and Nigel Thrift, ed. (2000): Thinking Space, London and New York, Routledge.
Weinberger, David (2002): Small Pieces Loosely Joined, a unified theory of the web, Perseus Publishing.

Reading them will satisfy several purposes. One: a touch up on the concept of space for an article I am supposed to submit sometime soon. Two: Thinking about intimacy/publicity and digital spaces. Three: Prove to myself that I can still read a fairly complex book.

Until then.... I have papers to grade.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Welcome to the addiction
I feel the pull. I feel the need to let go, to spend all waking hours, and some when I should be sleeping, in this trancelike state of fictitious reality. My fingers hurt already, after a no longer familiar effort, and I growl in frustration as my goal eludes me - again.

Yes, somebody has opened up Dragon Realms II: The return of Balpherus. The main immortal is Kyndig of One of my all time favourite players is acting as an immortal at the moment, because it seems like Kyndig will be absent for a while. The game isn't really anything like Dragon Realms of old yet, but for an old player with a new character which can't really explore much anyway, just being back with that familiar skill system, the oh-so-familiar leveling and the promise - no, demand - of role-play is like coming home. Seeing Gustalvo, the non-player character innkeeper in Haven was almost like seeing some old aquintance...

Anyway, if you want to see what I used to be so addicted to: go to Zugg software and download a version of ZMud. If you scroll all the way down you find the free, unsupported version. Then you log on to, port 9000. I may be there. Actually, unless I am teaching, eating or sleeping, it's pretty likely that I am there. Ooops, I found the boar that I had to flee from earlier today. this time around I'll get it! (Or I'll return to fighting clay pigeons...)

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Recovery in progress
After a the shock of sending the thesis away, I am settling into new routines. They are not back to normal - as if I could know what normal is - they are oddly different. I sleep a lot. I don't just sleep late or go to bed early, I fall asleep around 9 pm and sleep with only a short break for brushing teeth and crawling into bed until 7 am. And I do this all the time. I work out in order to wake up and get back into shape, but that has almost turned into a new obsession. When I am not swimming, sleeping or eating, I go through my exercizes. I managed to read Life of Pi, but that little book took me almost two weeks. I kept napping over it, concentrating on the story at one level put me to sleep, to catch the deeper meaning was way beyond me. I will just have to read it again. Later.

After the years of frantic activity, even the periods of no writing being frantic (perhaps particularly those, frantic scrambling to find something to write, to process material and books and all those aborted attempts), it seems like my brain has lapsed into a coma. It has said to my spine: "I am taking a break, you run this thing." And my spine does the things it knows how to do well - lapse after lapse in the pool, eating and sleeping. Occasionally it leads me into newer territory, like blogging.

I hope my poor vacationing and recovering brain doesn't stay in Helen Keller mode. Or perhaps that is what I ought to let it do, perhaps that is the only way to be free.
Dagladet, somewhat late, covers warblogging. I guess the word "warblog" only gets any meaning for journalists when other journalists have used it first.

Elisabeth Lane Lawley has been interviewed for this piece on c|net on the use of blogs to spread news in wartime and times of upheaval and change.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Men and women

The text, almost redundantly, says: What men do while downloading something.... What women do while downloading something...
No-war blog
This one, by way of my almost-wall-to-wall colleagues Erling and Thomas: No War Blog.
It has an impressive blogroll, but not all of those links go to blogs which are primarily concerned with war or no war.
Smartmobs and anti-war rallies
From Mark Dilley, who uses a Wiki for his blogging, a hint that I should look at smart mobs. That was an exellent idea, although the anti-war blogging has cooled down a little there (not so novel any more), the mixture of technology and demonstrations is fascinating.
Do you know any blogging of USA anti-war rallies?
A media researcher in Norway, Rune Ottosen, who wrote a very good criticism of the last Gulf war as well as a discussion on the rhetoric of war after September 11th (both in Norwegian, though), is of course very busy these days, but not too busy to reply to my email. I asked him if the Norwegian under-reporting of the anti-war rallies in the US is caused by Norwegian editorial choices or by under-reporting from US sources. His reply was that the large Norwegian newspapers Dagbladet and Aftenposten are both very critical of the war and of current American politics, but they take most of their news of USA from CNN. This is probably what causes the underreporting at this end of the line, since CNN seems to have chosen sides.

Rune Ottosen ends his letter by asking me if I know of any blogs that report these protest. Most of what I have on them I however have from sporadic reports, like Alex Golub's uncommon post (march 20th) and occasional remarks in Mark Bernstein's and Elizabeth Lane Lawley's posts, or emails from people like Pattie Bell Hastings. These report some of the resistance, but are not focusing on it. Does anybody out there have better samples for me to pass on to Rune? The email is tmathivoldadotno.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Blogging classes
In the middle of a surrealistic conversation, Alex Golub writes about blogging a class. He - or Mena, if there is a difference - is concerned with the knowledge which is not conscious, the knowledge gained by making connections, through insights, not through rote learning.

I don't make my students blog, the way Jill does, but I make my students log their progress all the way. They write not just papers, create products which we assess etc etc, but they have a diary, a log of their work. this is because I want them to focus on the process, an attempt to make it clear for them that in this situation what they end up with is not as important as the insights they make while they are striving towards the products we ask them to produce. Which means that if we ask them to work on a web-site for an organisation, it's not important to finish the web-site, what I want is an analysis of what they tried to do and why they couldn't finish said site. I have students who are ambitious and want to show off their work. they know it's important to have a portfolio when they come out there in the real world, so I don't need to push them towards the product.

Nothing puts focus on the process like a diary, journal or log. When you have to sit down and put into words all those little decisions, you get a clear image of what has been going on, and you have a chance to see not only what didn't work, but if there were freak combinations which worked. A blog is just the same thing. It's public and electronic, it has a few better search-features than your handwritten journal, but it gives you a chance to go back and check where thoughts, ideas and combinations came into your writing, from where and why.

With or without a lightsaber.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Two weeks after I sent the thesis to Bergen, the section of humanistic informatics confirmed that it had arrived, all copies intact. This may take a while...
Who are "we"?
L.t. Smash writes live from the sandbox. And the management moves his site around, as well as presented us with a set of site regulations where they essentially say that they own everything written in the site and all emails sent to the email address. I am curious about who "the management" is.
Iraq and USA in the Media
From bloggers I read and emails received I have come to realise that there are protests inside the United States against the war in Iraq. As I have mentioned already, this is hardly ever mentioned in the Norwegian media. Concerned with this, I asked my colleague, journalist and teacher at the television documentary education here at the college, if there are ways to find out where the information on USA stops.

Today, the news-tree is no longer the simple structure of stringers, journalists, foreign offices, main international news-agency, national agencies and newpapers/television/radio. The net has done us the service of dissolving the power of several of the gate-keepers in the old structure. On the other hand it has become a lot less obvious where the information stops. Are the american news-media writing about the local protests? I find a few references to anti-war rallies in for instance USA today, and New York Times has an article on international anti-war rallies where the source is Associated Press. A quick peek at AP newspapers around the US, random samples from as diverse areas as Montana and Texas, Oregon and Georgia, comes up with exactly the same headlines and the same picture at the front page of their internet version, and all of them are concerned with the same topics as the Norwegian media coverage.

A Norwegian free-lance journalist has started a blogg-like site devoted to media criticism, inspired by the way journalists and media were controlled during "Desert Storm": mediekritikk by Henning A. Hellebust. It's written in Norwegian, but it's basically a criticism of the coverage of the war centered on the situation in Iraq. My concern today is not so much what we actually learn from Iraq, but what we do not learn about the rest of the world while all media attention is on Iraq. One example is, as I have already mentioned, what happens inside USA while they wage war abroad? The war will end, but the internal shifts of power in USA may have far more influence on the future Norwegian politics and also economics. What happens in Afghanistan? Angola? Palestine and Israel? We get no other news at present but endless special broadcasts from Iraq and from the camps of the Americans and their allies.

What I want to know is whether this is because Norwegian editors are doing a lousy job at choosing material for us, or if the obsession with information - any information - about bloodshed and horror and the potential thereof is better than all the rest of the news generated in the world during the last week.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Salam Pax on reality
:: Friday, March 21, 2003 ::

as usual Diane comes to the rescue
please stop sending emails asking if I were for real, don't belive it? then don't read it.
I am not anybody's propaganda ploy, well except my own.
2 more hours untill the B52's get to Iraq.
:: salam 7:05 AM [+] ::

Good attitude. The reality or not of online persona is a lot less important to me than what they actually say. I am intrigued by Where is Raed and I’ll keep reading it. But that is because I think of blogs as highly subjective, and as such not the carriers of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If I thought I could get objective information through blogs, I’d probably be very interesting in determining the “real” source of this blog. In that case I would have a real trouble most places online.

For instance, I got an ETA yesterday. That is an Electronic Travel Authority for Australia, one that will let me visit on a tourist visa: up to three months at the time for the next year. But who knows, the 20 dollar I paid may by now be in the pocket of some clever scamster, and when I get to Australia I’ll be refused entry and sent back on the next plane. It could turn out to be a rather expensive error. Reading Where is Raed holds no such danger, and I do it freely and with great interest.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Online Role-play in education
By way of Jan Ole Bolsø, a link to the Nord-Trøndelag College where Knut Ekker arranged a role-playing game for his students in order to train them in argumentative techniques, language and online communication. The text is in norwegian, but it describes a cooperation between colleges and universities in different European countries. IDEELS is short for Intercultural Dynamics in European Education through onLine Simulation, and is a research project where five universities and colleges in Europe cooperate in order to find ways to use the net to increase intercultural understanding.
Protests in Chicago
Alex Golub reports from Chicago. This is an other of those things that don't show up in Norwegian media. Norwegian media have special broadcasts day and night covering Iraq, with one of our more interesting young writers, Åsne Seierstad, trapped in Bagdad and reporting from the spot when ever she has a line out, there are observers at the UN, in Washington and glued to the internal disagreements of the European Union, but nobody tells us that there are riots and police actions taken against protesters in Chicago. Thank you, Alex, for going against your self-imposed rules for good blogging.
Ruthie at Ruthie's Top Secret Diary wrote to tell me that the name of her blog is highly ironic. So, in case there were any misunderstandings: Ruthie says it's highly ironic, and google doesn't reveal secrets to you even if you make a search which says "top secret".
I have added Bjørn Stærk's Warblog to my blogroll. I don't always agree with his opinions of Norwegian politics and this war, but at least he has the presence of mind to mean something while I am too overwhelmed to watch a newscast without falling asleep from sheer denial.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Melbourne in May!
It's now official, I'll be in Melbourne for DAC 2003 Streaming Worlds. Jill, Lisbeth and Susana will be there, Adrian is already there, and many many more who I do not yet know will make their way to Melbourne in the fall (isn't that amazing?). I am absolutely exstatic, I love Australia, I love Australian food - the incredible mix of all different cultures and all those fruit and vegetables- , I love their wine and there are some chocolate cakes, like die covered with chocolat and coconut which I have been totally unable to get out of my mind since I visited in 1996. 7 years. I have been away for far too long!

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

I am aware
that there is a war, although the first battles have not been fought yet. I don't think there will be much about it in this blog though, mainly because I don't know how to deal with it. It's such a horror - while I have always had the standard academic distrust of America and the cultural arrogance of that huge, rich nation, I have never imagined - even after the many other wars USA has been involved in - that they would declare war on a smaller nation without the support of UN. Perhaps I have been naive. Perhaps I believed too firmly in the values of democracy, freedom and peace that the US has preached, despite the many proofs against it. The result is that now I am numb and unable to deal with the loss of those many lives, the potential pain, the lurking horror. I am aware that it's not here, Norway is far, far away in a corner of the world, but I still somehow feel personally violated. I think what has been violated is my trust, my faith in the world order, as the fragility of the terror balance becomes apparent.
email spam - little gripe
I don't think I'd mind the spam so much if they at least could get my gender right. I know that women might have an interest in Viagra, but why should I want a larger dick? Why should I want to build bulging muscle to impress the girls? Well, OK, I could be a butch dyke, but I hardly think they are a large part of the female population... And why should I want the endless supply of hot teenage sluts longing to suck hard dick?

Perhaps these headlines would cheer me up:
  • Skilled sweedish masseurs wielding essential oils for you!
  • Eager proofreaders happy to remove all blemishes!
  • Let me pamper your hands! (feet/hair/skin/brain are good options here)
  • Stay in bed, get in shape: accomodating trainers in your home. (OK, that one is gender neutral...)
  • Chocolate goes with everything! (depends on the time of the month)
  • Men who really want to explore your mind! Call our hot number 8009666777!

    Well, I would still delete it, but I'd do it with a smile!
  • All tomorrow's parties
    Amazing thing, search-engines. Looking for old-fashioned boots, laced and with an underslung heel, I found a copy of All Tomorrow's Parties by William Gibson. It's a Russian site, so I don't know what more might be hidden here. Wonder if this is a bootleg version or if Gibson actually lets his book be available online like this?

    Tuesday, March 18, 2003

    Secret Diaries
    A boy in Thailand writes his secret diary in english, so his teachers and parents won't know that he has one and what he writes, but he wants to adress his readers. Is it a secret diary, or a clever trick - perhaps a diary that has developed into something else? It is a very public secret, a very visible and loud confession.

    My Secret Diary is software with password protection, so little brothers won't be able to peek... Unless the little brothers turn out to be clever little hackers, which they frequently are...

    The Secret Diary is about journal writing, but not online: The art of writing paper diaries.

    This is an application for linux users, possibly an interesting blogging tool, if you want a public Secret Diary.

    And of course, blogspot has its secret diary, this one written by Ruthie, a nice little journal at the moment mostly concerned with what happens in the library where she spends time with her books and friends.

    I am looking at these secret diaries mainly because I keep thinking about intimacy and personal publishing, but so far I am just sidling up to the topic, sniffing at it carefully, kind of waiting to see how it will develop.

    Monday, March 17, 2003

    I keep turning to the computer, thinking I need to edit an other chapter, do some proofreading, write... something. And then there is no more I need to do. It feels odd, like loss. My sister the artist likens the sensation after giving up a new work of art to grief. I think she is right, this feels like grief, like the loss of a lover, like the end of an affair. My mind keeps returning to it, keeps thinking I need to spend time with my significant other - only to find that it's over, I have sent it away.
    Salam Pax
    By way of Elizabeth Lane Lawley, who thinks this is for real, a link to a blogger in Bagdad. I have no idea if Where is Raed is actually written from Bagdad, and I really don't think Salam Pax is a real name, as it means, as far as I can interpret: Welcome Peace. I do however think it's a very interesting blog, real or not, so it's there, on my blogroll. And I hope Raed will turn up and not be lost.
    Google second guessing us?
    March 11th I wrote about Google, blogger and language. I have had a few responses to this. Desbladet comments on the connection between content and advertising:

    The search engine lives and dies by associating content with key words. Their advertising model does, too - I understand that they're good enough at this to charge more than the going rate in the industry and I dare you to claim to be surprised.

    The conclusion is that the value of content increases, as I observed in February.

    Ezter Hargittai, Ph.D. student at Princeton University, disagrees with that conclusion in her blog. In an email, she points me to her post about how local google sites second guess users. Her conclusion is that google sees where we log in from, and generate ads due to the log-in. That is a logical but unsettling claim, as it does bad things to anonymity, but I am not entirely certain that she is correct.

    I can't use this blog as a test-case, since I pay to keep it ad-free, but I have a few others. Blogonblog is for instance managed by me and Jill, written in English, and yes, the ad is in English. Trial and error, the blog I post to when I play around with templates, is in both languages, and there the ad is in Norwegian. Interestingly enough the ad in notater, Torill, the blog I use when I post things for lectures, is in English - or it was at the time I checked. The writing there is in Norwegian, and I post to it from Norway, but in this case, neither assumption seems to be correct.

    I guess the conclusion is that google is doing stuff to integrate blogger and use it to sell ads... not sure exactly what yet.

    (update: at 15.00 my time the language in the ads in "notater, Torill" is danish, which comes pretty close...)

    Sunday, March 16, 2003

    Life Continues
    After the impact of submitting the thesis has become more of a memory and less of a painful blow, Life continues. A few things wait for my attention:
    SKIKTs wrap-up conference.
    The Information Study and the Quality Reform, new curriculum and potential international contacts.
    DAC 2003 - where do I find time (and funding) for that?
    Digital Spaces - rewrite and revise chapter 10 to be published as an article.
    The Digital Juggler - multitasking and play, an article I have wanted to write for a long time.
    Public Intimacy - about blogs, possibly an article with Jill, depends on which of us is the more busy.

    But first, I'll go join my family in making dinner. I'll put the computer down, and not feel guilty about it.
    Students visited
    One of the fun things I do is visiting the students in their internships. They spend two months in the information department of some organisation, anything from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by way of Burson-Marsteller to the Norwegian Church Aid.

    Most of the time it's just nice, I get an update on how information- and public relations departments are organised these days, I get to meet a lot of people knowledgeable in the same things as I work with, I have a lot of nice cups of tea and coffee, and get to stay a few nights in Oslo, which means a little bit of shopping and some nice meals. Some of the time it becomes hard work: occasionally I need to negotiate between the students and their supervisors, or interfere with the internship if I see that the student is suffering/misbehaving. Some times I get new, different and fresh experiences. This time I visited the Romanian Embassy, where I have a student. Getting the appointment was surprisingly complicated. At first I didn't find their phone-number anywhere. When I finally did, by way of the cell of the student in question, I did not get a reply from the embassy as to when I could come and visit. Talking to the counsilor on the phone was totally out of the question.

    So you imagine, it was with mixed feelings I went to see the student and her in-house supervisor, the counsilor. It turned out that I was not just expected, but the expectations were expressed through the etiquette of international diplomacy. I was received in a very elegant room, conversed eloquently and politely in a German which I am now quite happy that I once spoke frequently enough to have been fluent in it, invited to think about options of cooperation between Volda University College and Romanian Universities which I had not offered a thought until that point (Oh yes, that was one professional diplomat), and then escorted out - all the way to the sidewalk - with a warmth and enthusiasm about our mutual friendship that can compete with any other latin country.

    For a while there, I really was out of Norway and in Romania. I guess that is what an embassy really is. I just didn't expect to make the journey by stepping from the clear, sharp spring sun of March in Oslo into the cool shadows of one of those elegant Villas in Oscarsgate, behind the Castle.
    When stuck writing
    I was not used to that, before I started writing the big thesis. My writing normally happens in quick, desperate bursts, almost trancelike, in the minutes between lectures, student supervision, meetings and the many other little tasks that make up the life of a teacher in a small, busy college in a half-forgotten corner of the world. While I wrote the thesis, I saw the shamanistic value of online places, and I used chats and games the way William Gibson, yes, the writer, uses ebay, and Jill uses writers' blogs. Or I wrote here, in the blog, about all the things which did not belong in the thesis.

    Now I am however back to a writing rhythm with no writer's blocks. The last year and a half, while I have been back to my regular job as well as finishing the thesis, the moments when I have had the time to work on the thesis have been treasured. I have had to make an effort to be able to have the time, and after making that effort, very little could come between me and the keyboard. Yes, I have moaned that I have had a hard time here and there, but that has not been a writer's block, but a thinker's block.

    To think the thoughts I need for the thesis is an effort. To grasps what I want to write about is to build my inner ivory tower block by block, and when I have left it for a while, for the worldly pursuits on the intellectual plains of teaching, the climb back up is longer and more exhausting every time. That is perhaps a bad sign: my work isn't smooth and easy to traverse, and my logic does not create an efficient machine that elevates me step by easy step to the peak. Perhaps have I not built a tower at all but a maze, with thorny hedges catching at the reader.

    But when I find the unfinished part of this maze, the work itself is not hard. Traversing the old thoughts to this point though is like walking on roses... very painful.

    Tuesday, March 11, 2003

    Bye bye, baby
    I just packed five copies of my thesis and sent it off to Section of Humanistic Informatics, together with an application - or is that supplication - to be permitted to submit this thesis for the degree of Dr. art. at the University of Bergen. I am still numb with the shock of seeing it all wrapped up in that little box, labeled and about to leave my sphere of influence.
    Book Crossing
    Jill Walker and Erik Newth have discovered the concept of Book Crossing, and I am happy to blog it again, it's still a tantalizing idea! I think I will prepare a book for the next time I go travelling.
    Google, Blogger and language
    I have noticed one change after google bought blogger: The ad in a Norwegian language blog I occasionally read is in Norwegian! It's an ad for one of the most intelligent Norwegian comedians, Knut Nærum. I love his style and his topics, so finding that he uses blog ads for an advertising campaign is kind of interesting, but I am amazed that google/blogger (goggler? Bloogle?) distinguishes between languages and figured out that that blog is in Norwegian. There's no Norwegian language option in the settings, for instance, so it had to happen from somehow recognizing the language.

    The blog in question is Gummihjertet, Rubber Heart, written by Muskat. Which means Nutmeg, so it's definitely an anonymous blog. It's updated very sporadically.

    Monday, March 10, 2003

    Just added Alex Golub's Golublog to my blogroll, just because I like the way he writes. And he writes about things I am interested in, but with writing like his, that's a bonus.

    (oh, and he has lancelot in his domain-name... that's the kind of romantic twist I am such a sucker for.)
    In the beginning
    An essay by Neal Stephenson: In the beginning was the command line. I have it on paper here somewhere... and yes, it's recommended reading for all those who wonder what's "right", PC or Mac.
    I just found the source of much disagreement between me-the-advisor and my students. I keep correcting the way they cite Jim Collins' article in Channels of Discourse, and they keep making the same error over and over again... Turns out the error is generated by the book itself. In the list of content the article is called "Postmodernism and Television", while in the text it is called "Television and Postmodernism. Heh, the things I learn while wrapping up the bibliography...

    Sunday, March 09, 2003

    Family conversation
    Me: "I hate having to do this, it's painful, I have to force myself to do it."
    Husband: "That's exactly how I feel about what I am starting now."
    Me: "You can't feel as bad as me, I have been trying to finish this for four years!"
    Husband: "OK, so you win this time, but afterwards, I want to suffer more."
    Me: "Until I have submitted this thesis, I hurt more than you, always!"
    Husband: "Then get it done!"

    I guess I ought to take his advice.
    About time
    Time to do it. Time to put the manuscript together, print it out, copy it and send it to Bergen. I have spent the morning doing laundry, ironing curtains and cleaning windows, a sure sign that there is something else I avoid. It is this: to finish the thesis, to send it away, to say that this is it and now I have to live with what genius or stupidity it expresses. I am not ready, but I realise that I never will be. It is time for me and my thesis to part. I am not good at endings or departure.
    Good Friends
    Francis Strand blogs an incredible email from an admirer. Lucky for Francis, he immediately guesses who sent the letter - the rest of us can lean back and enjoy a piece of exuberant verbal leg-pulling.

    Saturday, March 08, 2003

    Columbia Guide to Online Style
    I have mentioned the problems of citing computer games. The Columbia guide to Online Style has already tackled this problem:

    2.16 Software Programs and Video Games

    Humanities Style
    Cite the name of the author or corporate author (if available); the title of the software program, in italics; the version number (if applicable and if not included in the software title); and the publication information, including the date of publication (if known).

    ID Software. The Ultimate Doom.
    New York: GT Interactive Software, 1995.

    Scientific Style
    Cite the last name and initials of the author (if available); the date of publication or release, in parentheses; the title of the software program or video game, in italics; the version number (if applicable and if not included in the software title), in parentheses; and the publication information.

    ID Software. (1993). The ultimate doom.
    NY: GT Interactive Software.
    Digital Genres Initiative
    In an email Alex Golub asks that I promote the upcoming conference on Digital Genres in Chicago, May 30-31st. Speakers at the conference are Greg Costikyan, Edward Castranova and David Weinberger, so I guess the topics will be games and blogs. How can I resist?

    Well, I know one way: this conference almost clashes with DAC2003 in Melbourne (May 19th - 23rd), for which I am reviewing papers and where I know I will meet some really good friends. If I manage to wrangle time and funding from the Department of Media Studies here at the College for one of the conferences the other will be out of the question. We'll see though - miracles happen... anybody got a spare one?

    Friday, March 07, 2003

    Virtual faith
    Lisbeth writes of a Virtual diocese. It is an interesting post with some intriguing points about communication and religion, but I would like to comment on the use of "virtual", particularly in relation to faith and religion. I have not read the book Lisbeth refers to, so this is purely based on her post and my thoughts as I read it.

    In my opinion, the digital communities and digitally mediated communication has a much larger immediate impact on our fleshy selves than religion has. Religion is a system of symbols, built on trust and cultural expressions, and as such no more and no less tangible than the online experiences and event. The churches which have stood there for centuries, in some cases millennia, are incredible expressions of what people can do within a structure of social connections, but so is the internet! The hard-ware which makes up the net has the same function as a church: a structure where people can get together and communicate. Communication and Communion comes from the same root and means pretty much the same thing: something to be done together, an act of sharing - which is what the world wide web is about as well. So how can a digitally mediated diocese be virtual? In my opinion it is as real as any other, and if it needs to be distinguished from non-computer-mediated groups that should be done for instance by positioning it to for instance the "space" it exists in: cyber diocese, net diocese, or if it expresses a particular religious dogma, by recognizing that; as with the Baptistes, Lutherans or Catholics. I am however not comfortable with the use of a word that indicates that it is any more or any less "real" than other groups who share a faith.
    SMS language
    I started to type a comment to Jill's post, but the comment boxes insist that I give them my email-address, and I hate that. OK, so I normally type in some bogus address, but even having to make up one annoys me, the things insist that I either lie or surrender. Those are not options I like.

    Anyway. SMS-language and school-work.
    the kids around here write SMS messages not just in text-messaging shorthand, but in dialect shorthand. The word "til", which means "to", is pronounced "te" or the same way as the letter "t" when you say the alphabeth in Norwegian. The word "me" in dialect means "with" "us" "also", and is used rather than any of the other synonyms to these words. Not being fluent in the local dialect or the local sms-dialect (I can barely read it, my daughter moderates her messages to me and her father) I can't give you the more intricate examples, but you get the drift.

    I think this is a good thing, it shows a high level of consciousness as to the language they speak: they don't abandon their spoken language for the written norm of the cell-phone interface. This is a highly political issue in Norway, and the youths around here have chosen their own language over the adjusted official norm: good for them.

    When this language creeps into the school-work, it is a version of rebellion. It's permitted to write in your own dialect in Norwegian. The two official languages are constantly adjusted and revised in order to give Norwegians the freedom of just about any way they want to write, as long as it will sound like a word when you read it out. SMS-laguage doesn't, though. That's why it is such a wonderful code, a secret language based on the redundancy in written language and the unspoken agreements among certain groups: a perfect secret code which others do not pick up and if they do - do not understand. We had codes like that, slang is a code like that, based on connotations and specific cultural knowledge which was shared through diffusion, not education. And when a girl writes her english essay in text-messaging language, she doesn't say: "This is how I write and my language has degenerated to the point that I don't know any other style." Her message to the teacher is: "Catch me if you can, I belong to a different group, a different generation, a different millennium than you, this is the future and you are way behind me." I don't say that she is right - but an essay like that is not an indicator of lack of communicative skill, but of rebellion. And rebellious teen-agers is hardly news...

    Wednesday, March 05, 2003

    Blog Aesthetics
    I like the cool green of Jill's new blog design, and the lack of borders, lines and frames which gives the page lay-out an open, airy look. It reminds me of the intellectual newspapers in the 80-ies and 90-ies, Dag og Tid had that open look with lots of air around the columns. Somehow, I connect this type of lay-out with Movable Type. Hilde uses lines to limit her text-blocks, but they are broken up, they can be penetrated, white space touching through the boundaries. Matthew G. Kirschenbaum does the same, only here it's the dark grey that is barely held at bay by white, a reverse white-space aesthetic. (I like the way his blog fades in and out, by the way, as if it is reluctant to come and to go, emerging from the print on my blog, dwindling into a distance as I move on.) It takes a bit of scrolling to find out that Esther MacAllum's Ten Seconds to Midnight is powered by Movable type, but already before I find it with her copyright information, I have guessed, the large letters, the white expanses of her blog, the open frames and the lines about her quotation boxes indicators.

    What I wonder is if these are options in Movable Type to the exclusion of others, if they just happen to be in fashion at the moment, or if people who happen to like a certain design switch to/choose that client to publish their blog? I expect that it's possible to do the same to all types of blogs: blogger-blogs have their typical "look", I expect others do as well, but does that mean that picking blogger or Movable Type is a choice which has more to do with form than function?
    Students towards independence
    Volda College is known for the close cooperation between students and teachers. Staff familiar with the traditions of the Universities in Norway are always surprised at how closely we watch the development of our students. We give them tasks where they get guidance while they work at them, and evaluate their work, not just once or twice, but over and over, each new task an other step on the road towards working as a journalist or, as in the case of my students, information consultant.

    After almost two years of holding their hands every step of the road, in the last semester we throw them into the water to see if they can swim. OK, so we don't do this without a safety net: we call them, visit the ones we manage to reach, and keep in touch through the entire period. This year I have however been a little late in checking on "my" students, due to the delay in New York and my illness. I knew what would happen, so I was prepared when the first emails arrived about lack of relevant tasks, no contact with their supervisors, and just general wishes for some sign of life from Volda. They need us to not let them go entirely yet, to smooth the road a little, to help them see how things interconnect, and to make them more visible in the organisation where they try to make themselves useful.

    On the other end of the scale are the students who have just forgotten about us. They sound surprised when I call them, and their minds are somewhere else: out there in the life they are leading right now, on the next case, on the next task, on the next problem. It is equally important to reach this group, and I contact them, force their minds back to Volda Mode. They are not supposed to lose themselves in the ocean just yet... a few more months in the nursery in the deep fjords before they head out.

    But this period is one of the most important, not because they learn more than they learned while in Volda, but because they realise that they have learned a lot here. Up until this point they have been among equals, others who know the same things, who have read the same books and been to the same lectures. It is as if nothing has changed, their peers are at the same level as themselves. Now they are among people who do the jobs these students dream of, and suddenly they see that they don't just master them, they have knowledge to give, to share, and their knowledge is appreciated and desired. That is perhaps the most valuable experience, a boost to their confidence before they go out there all alone, without the lifeline back to Volda - in a world where they can't expect me to show up and talk to their boss if something doesn't work out.
    Happy days to my blog!
    I set the alarm on my cellphone to remember the date, two years blogging, because the calendar on the computer has a nasty tendency to alert me of events the day after. Perhaps because I turn the alerts off, as they interfere with my writing. And writing is what this is about for me, the computer, the blog, my work - even when I play computer games I think in terms of writing. My son laughs at the vocal stream of commentary I make if my hands are busy with the console, mouse or keyboard in non-writng modes, as if the words need to get out and fall out of my mouth and into the air. I do the same while cooking, whispering to myself what I do and why, a stream of instructions and commentaries. I think I am turning into an excentric old lady, muttering orders to the voice-activated brain, when I can't write it down, shaping writing into voice rather than voice into writing.

    The voice into writing has been going on here, online, publicly, for two years today. It has become a part of me, and mirrors my own work and growth - sometimes sparkling quick and challenging, sometimes - like these days - slow and labouring, the result of a brain mostly concerned with immunity issues and with little energy left over for thought.

    Tuesday, March 04, 2003

    Weird Weather
    Cyborg Mommy is unhappy because Cyborg Child hates snow. This spring she should have lived here. Even I can't complain about the weather these days: bleak sunlight that carries the promise of spring and warmth, no wind or rain, dry roads and pavements, and lovely, snow-clad mountains with exellent skiing conditions framing it all.

    Monday, March 03, 2003

    First Page
    So close, so agonisingly close... I am waiting for the proofreader to finish with the bibliography of my dissertation - two more days before I panic, but he's good, he is really good at keeping his word when it comes to how quickly he can work. He's also a really good proofreader, even I can see that the text looks smoother, more mature and that the language flows easier after he has had his hands on it. His name is Ian Harkness and if you need a proofreader in English or a Norwegian to English translator, you can reach him through Volda College, where he works part time. That was today's recommandation, and I hope the future brings him just enough work that he can go on proofreading, but not enough that he is too busy when I need him...

    I have decided not to go an other round to find funding to proofread it again, by the way. I'll just have to live with the errors in it now. If a publisher picks it up afterwards, we can talk new rounds of proofreading. Now I just want to finish, rather than wait a month or two to have the language checked again!

    But the agony is still there. What I am torturing myself over today is "What should be on the front page"? What kind of information does the Faculty of Arts expect from me when I submit the thesis? Should I include the aknowledgements, or will those come later, in six months, when the thesis (hopefully) is accepted and published? Silly questions, I know, but fraught with insecurity as the conclusion of four years of working in what feels like total obscurity not to speak of darkness, I have no idea of what will be important when I hand my dissertation over to the commitee.

    Sunday, March 02, 2003

    The Infinite Point
    Once in a while I check if The Infinite Point is still open, and every time I am as happily surprised by finding that not only is it still open, but my old character is still there, with all of her old abilities. Some of the spells have been modified and are useless now, some of the items are gone or adjusted until they are not much more than junk, but she's still there. She also still wears Sauron's black cloak, and is divinely protected from all harm.

    It's odd and reassuring, a link to an other me, the me who loves to play, to be somebody else, who could spend whole nights lost in fantasy. And I wrap that elusive textual body about my imagination and wander the streets of Muirthemne, waiting to see Sauron wake up from some odd coding task, the only one from the old days I really expect to meet there. But I always hope...

    Saturday, March 01, 2003

    At first glance, I was very flattered to find that my article Playing with Players was the topic for a discussion group at the University of Cape Town. But I have no idea what they said, it might have been a slaughter....