Friday, January 30, 2004

Most appropriate for the Queen of blogs: Jill wears a crown.
A week-end off?
For a moment there, I thought I was ahead! I couldn't remember what I had planned for this week-end, I have already prepared the lecture for Monday, I have gotten up-to-date on the administrative work, I have started preparing for the next rush of lectures starting next week, I have sent off an article, I have even cleaned the house! Then I remembered why I have been working so frantically to free this week-end. I am having visitors and will spend quite a bit of time babysitting. Oh yes, I love my niece and nephew, but they have way WAY more energy than me. I am already looking forwards to a restful lecture monday morning...
Night and day
Somehow the way night crawls towards the little red or blue dots on World as a blog never ceases to amaze me. I am soon going home from work, it is afternoon, and the edge of night is almost here - but no, not quite yet! The sun has turned, spring is approaching and the curve is wider, more generous at the very top, in my cold, distant corner of the world.
Fun and games
I know they have been mentioned before and been there a little while already but hey, they are doing good and pouring out fun stuff! The Ludonauts may give us scraps and half-baked ideas, but personally I find that it is a good way to get a discussion flowing.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Blogged roar
"Who is Lori" is my uninformed question, when Kaye Trammell at "so is this mass communication" introduces a new blogger. But Lori enters life as a blogger with a loud stating of what some of us may think of as obvious by now. I still want to direct you all to it, because on the background of wonderchicken's much-linked punk-blog post, it is refreshing to see new live bodies plunge into the pool with such intensity.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

A portent of change
Lately, I keep noticing this young man. After a week or two I noticed that he was always in the same place at the same time. He sits in the corridor downstairs, reading, quietly, patiently. Sometimes he holds a baby against his shoulder, sometimes he is rocking the pram where his baby is sleeping. Once I saw him with a woman, while she was breastfeeding the baby.

From these observations, I have constructed a story - a story of two young people, students, and their baby. They take turns looking after their child, and when she needs to be at the college for her lectures, but still wishes to breastfeed, he waits for her, reading his textbooks and looking after their child. He isn't there every day, which makes me think that they take turns looking after the baby and studying, sharing the burden equally. This is a new narrative of fatherhood, of partnership and of male/female roles, and I love it. If this is an example of tomorrow's fathers, perhaps something is changing for the better after all.
Virus alert!
Don't open any attachments from me right now, unless you have specifically asked for them! The college is being totally bombed by some virus, probably the MyDoom virus, but who really knows these days? Anyway: I am NOT sending out any unrequested attachments today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Guilty pleasures versus real important stuff
My thesis ought to be good news for Lisa Clark-Fleischman, who writes about "Guilty pleasures: The shame of being a role player" in the 2003 fall issue of Daedalus. At the same time, I do recognize the problems she describes:

There is a definite public relations image challenge facing role-playing games. This is bad news for the game industry and hobbyists alike. Gaming has two faces in the public eye. One is a deviant criminal warning sign. The other, more disturbing because of the larger scope, is the social perception of gamers in a negative light. Both prongs are ugly and equally unnecessary, not to mention costly when one considers the missed opportunities of expanding the target market. So why aren't industry leaders howling for change?

In my own department I have received clear - if not official - notice that the research of games is wasteful, silly public sponsorship of a hobby, and it has nothing to do with the research profile of the department, which is democracy, public access and the freedom of speech. When I tell people what I study it is always with a certain defiance and a touch of fear. I have had former classmates pull out the wallet and offer me their money right away, rather than tapping their accounts through taxes and the public research funds - a demonstration of disgust and distaste of my work.

I read this as a demonstration of power. Roleplay is subversive, it channels energy into groups and organisations that avoid definition. It plays with symbols and signifiers, and reveals the strategies of society in order to explore, manipulate and question them. Because of this, roleplaying needs to be controlled and players need to be shamed into keeping their experiences safely in the private sphere, not as learning tools in the public sphere.

I would have loved to see role-play in the public sphere. Imagine the energy used on reporting football matches spent reporting role-play sessions? "Yesterday night, the Roaming Dragons staged a meeting of the United Nations. The player with the US representative character agreed that USA will pay all their dues to the UN, thus financing among aother things all of the asistance in Iran after the earthquake, as well as UNESCO's work to educate girls in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The character playing the Turkish representative was so impressed with this move that he immediately agreed to introduce to his government the plan for integration and independence of the kurds in Turkey, the same plan that had been drawn up by the Arabian alliance in the previous role-playing session in December 2003." We could have had alternative readings of history, testing out of religions, governing structures and class conflicts, with players interviewed afterwards: "What did you really feel when you understood that your interpretation of democracy would fail, and the priests and the conservative/military coalision would win this evening?" Or: "So this time the world was blown apart through impatience and lack of interpretation of the portents. How will you avoid a similar outcome in coming role-playing sessions?"

Silly? Funny? Not any sillier than the questions directed at athletes, sweating, dribbling, exhausted after giving everything in order to run a marathon 20 seconds faster than some record. But that is public interest and important news, because people really want to know and people need heroes and role models. Right?
When I am not refreshing my knowledge of public relations theory, I am going in directions that surprise even me. Next to the stacks of required reading I have Flow; the classic work on how to achieve happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmyhalyi and Black Sun by Julia Kristeva, a work on depression and melancholia. By coincidence more than strategic choices, I am reading about creativity and artistic expression from two entirely - not to say opposing - positions. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as a sensation filled with a state of joy and creativity, while Kristeva explains creativity through loss, grief and melancholia. The challenge now is to figure out if they have anything in common at all, apart from their presence, by random accumulation, on the same desk.

Monday, January 26, 2004

On conflict
"conflict could not occur without communication." Jandt, p 71
Who knew this about PR?
I have spent a few years NOT reading anything written by Grunig, but now, as I am back to teaching the information students, I am back refreshing my knowledge of the four models of PR and the "excellence in public relations." For once though, I was really refreshed! Page 302 of the monster book concerns Gender and the PRactitioner - and the practitioner here is the PR practitioner. The ideal of excellent PR work is according to Grunig two-way symmetrical communication, and before this paragraph we have learned that only organisations where the dominant coalition is not afraid that new ideas should threaten their power use this model. Anyway, this is the passage that caught me:

Although feminine characteristics enhance the ability of the practitioner to practice the two-way symmetrical model, women - and perhaps men with feminine characteristics - often do not get into the managerial role where they can practice that model. Thus, Wtherell's study suggests that is crucial for women to develop strategies for overcoming the discrimination and socialization that keeps them out of the managerial role if organizations are to use their feminine characteristics to enhance the excellence of their public relations program.

Now of course I was quite annoyed at the idea that women have to develop those strategies. It's really the organisations that should do that, if they want to be better at PR, not the women, who already have more than enough to cope with developing strategies for getting into a position where they can start developing other strategies. But I was quite refreshed by a few other things. First, the writer was very clear that feminine characteristics is not exclusively something women has. Second, that the reason why organisations did not get the advantage of their women practitioners is that they don't give them the power they need to develop eutopia (now, we all knew that already, didn't we...). Third, that it's the men at the top who is the dominant coalition and who keeps the rest of the organisation in line and thus avoiding excellence.

I never was a big James Grunig fan. His work is much used and quoted though, and it is thorough to a degree that is quite impressive. But I may become a Larissa Grunig fan, as she is introducing PR practitioners to the existance of women in their midst, and even from a position right in the middle of one of the more massive bibles of PR. Yay!
Time for lunch
But NOT at McDonalds.
Issues in studying weblogs and games
This is a list of issues I need to clarify for myself this week. Preferably tomorrow afternoon.
  • Democracy: Why blogs are important for the freedom og speech and support democracy is easy - but how does this connect to games?

  • Social spaces: How to define an online social space and then research what happens and who participate?

  • Games: where does the game and and the socialising begin?

  • Weblogs: which definition to go with (that one is pretty easy, and I even know why.)

  • Convergence media: what genres overlap, interact, influence and change weblogs? Games? And how does these genres influence the sphere around them?

  • What do I want to do: book, articles, essay, documentary, hypertext, website?

  • Connections and cooperation: got to get things together so I can actually express ideas to others.
New catches
Just added two interesting looking sites to my list of blogs. One found by way of Mark Bernstein is Makiko Itoh's i am makiko, i am not a nameless cat, and Chuck Olsen's Blogumentary. Makiko caught me with her description of realitity shows and the game aspect of them, a long, rambling but to a television and games addict (yes, I enjoy studying media) like me, very interesting post. Chuck Olsen just has a cool project, making a documentary on blogs. Well, that is journalism, documentary, blogs, new media, convergence and of course a touch of very human curiosity about whether anybody I know will be mentioned, right there. How can I not link to him? Enjoy!

Sunday, January 25, 2004

The Postmodern Condition
The first five chapters of the 1979 edition of Jean-Francois Lyotard's book The Postmodern Condition, A Report on Knowledge can be found here.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Blog rock
This article is much linked, but it certainly deserves it! This describes perfectly, even to a woman who never really got the punk rock thing (I was gutting fish in a tiny west-coast town at the moment), that blogs are about power to the masses, not the academics or the organised media or the politicians with their officially appointed bloggers.
Hand in hand

"Can I hold your hand?" the honourable member of the board of the University asked her friend next to her. The academic procession, the procession that opened and ended the promotion, was strangely reminiscent of the lines we stood in at school waiting to be led back into the classroom after a break. I stood just behind the six members of the administrative board, first of the righthand line of Doctores, with Jill just behind me clutching her speech.

With a touch of cynicism I commented that this was the first, and probably the last time I wore a robe in an academic procession. A member of the board turned and grinned at me, pointing out that: "You can never know." Jill fell in love with the velvet robe of the headmaster, while I mostly worried whether I would remember the prior instructions. "Walk to the podium when the dean tells you to come forwards. Stand with the other Doctores on the podium. Step up to the headmaster and the university director when your name is called. Face the audience while the dean introduces you to the audience. Shake the hand of the headmaster and director when you get your diploma. Walk back to the others on the podium. Wait until all are done. Shake the hand of the dean as you pass him on your way back to your seat. Take the inside seat, because Jill needs the outside seat to get up and do her speech."

I almost started to cry during Jill's speech. She talked about starting out green and insecure. That was me. I never thought I would do it, I had absolutely no confidence in my academic ability, and although I was in the same office I had used for 7 years already and so knew perfectly well where the office equipment was stored I fell into a depression that lasted large parts of the first year. And here I was, clutching my diploma. My father was barely literate, and yet here I sat in this hall, holding in my lap the highest degree the Norwegian educational system could give me. He would have been making a fool of himself if he had been there. He would have videotaped everything, he would have been talking too loudly, he would have drunk too much of the white wine and shook hands, his calloused hands, hard as horn, against the soft and dainty hands of professors and deans. I missed him desperately, painfully aware that he would have understood nothing but been beaming with barbaric pride.

"That is my boy" the mother of my colleague pointed out to somebody who asked a question, "and the colour on his shoulder is purple. He is in media." "My parents are here," Jill told me. Perhaps out of solidarity she muttered "I don't think this is so important that they needed to be here, but they insisted." "I would have travelled much further than this for Erla's promotion" I assured her. But afterwards it was time to party, and after a dinner of tapas with Jill and Kate, my other Australian friend in Bergen, a little nap in the hotel room, it was time to celebrate Hilde's birthday. We celebrated and celebrated and celebrated, while Hilde's boyfriend carried booze and killed a large amount of the most highly specialised braincells in Bergen.

So many braincells died that night that the next morning, hurrying to reach the plane back home, I forgot the diploma that had made me weep the day before. It was found in the hotel though, and will soon be here.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

So, it seems like the ladies at think I have misbehaved. Liz Lawley writes in her blog about catfights and unsheated claws, pointing to the comments on misbehaving. Well, I am just glad I kept the post that has been criticised in my own "bully pulpit" and didn't intrude on their space for my "singling out" of one person.

What I tried to do was to connect some statistics and research with a post by Danah Boyd, whose statement disagreed with the statistics. I "singled her out" because she was the one who wrote that bloggers seemed to be white males - not because of her particular habitus. I did however feel that her post and perceptions revealed something of her habitus: her position as a woman with interests in a field that is mainly male dominated.

Danah Boyd did not offer any support to her question but her personal experience. When we expose ourselves in this manner in a quick and not-so-formal environment such as this, once in a while things can feel a little more personal than if we get the reply to our statements half a year later in a scholarly article in a peer-reviewed journal. The discussions on have made Danah Boyd and Elizabeth Lane Lawley post about blogs being unsafe spaces. Yes, they are. Sometimes even intelligent, experienced and high-profile bloggers like Elizabeth Lane Lawley read posts too fast. Reading the update to Liz Lawley's post on you will find this:

Update: Ah. I just realized that Torill's probably referring to danah's post "why are bloggers mostly straight white men. That makes the post make a little more sense to me. I do note that danah specifically excludes LiveJournalers and other "journalers" from this characterization--which the Perseus study that Torill cites does not. In re-reading the comments to that post, I think danah does a pretty good job of qualifying her perception in the specific context. I don't think it's socialization that causes the perception that the visible technical and academic bloggers are primarily men.

The link to Danah Boyd's post was in my post all the time, nothing "probable" about that. I have been thinking about editing that post, because I saw that my language was Norwegianised and so seemed a little less precise than I desired. I will however leave it as is.

If I am wrong, and it is not socialisation that causes Danah Boyd's perception that the blogosphere is dominated by males, then fine, my assumption is wrong, or the definition of blog is wrong, or Perseus is wrong. But being wrong is something we have to deal with if we want discussion. And I thought we wanted that?

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Happy birthday, Hilde!
And may the princess and heiress to the Norwegian throne, born on your birthday, live up to the expectations that come with your example!

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Public or private
A case that escaped me when it was most active, brought to my attention by a colleague: A specialist in electronic warfare was accused of public anti-muslim opinions. He had published these on the internet. In Norway it is not permitted to harass people for religion or race, or to make public statements that can be deemed to be racist. In this case, the statements were considered racist according to the Norwegian criminal law. Synnevåg (the expert) had been encouraging others to harass and persecute muslims through an open news group.

There was no case against him, but he left his job with the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment. Afterwards he sued the Norwegian Ethical and Humanist Union, Human-etisk forbund (HEF), for making the case against him that caused him to leave his job. His claim was that they had breached his privacy by gathering information on his opinions from newsgroups.

The judgement in this case was that HEF had done nothing illegal when they used the information from the newsgroup to make public the opinions of a researcher in a prominent public position. Newsgroups were considered public spaces, and what he had published in the discussion was considered to be in the public domain, not part of a private conversation.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Dreaming of elves
I haven't had a game-related dream in more than a year, perhaps two, but yesterday I woke up with a vivid memory of what I had just been dreaming. I was the half-elf wife of a human minor noble. It was a marriage of convenience, and we were both hoping to manipulate the other into becoming our puppet. I particularly vividly remember having used the element of surprise at the dinner table of some remote noble relatives. In my dream I seized him by the throath, sharp nails digging into the skin just by his adam's apple, while I softly promised him that...

I woke up there, the memory of his skin and the pulse underneath my fingertips clear enough to wonder if I had, in my sleep, seized a man by the throath. But my husband was peacefully asleep, and I had no idea what I was about to tell that man in his tacky velvet with too much gold embroidery.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The blog iceberg
A little late, but still interesting statistics for anybody interested in blogging: The Blogging Iceberg, a white paper by Jeffrey Henning at Perseus . This study puts this post by Danah Boyd at into perspective.

The perseus results may indicate a potential error in the fact that people online can register and appear to an other gender than in the flesh world, but I personally don't think crossdressing bloggers are a statistically significant group. More interesting is the information that men don't maintain their blogs the same way women do. I keep hearing mentioned in passing that blogs are a women's medium. Yes, according to this research, 56% of the blogs surveyed were created by women. When the majority of the estimated 2,72 million abandoned blogs out there are abandoned by men, that makes blogging even more of a female dominated medium, with only 40,7 % of the active blogs created by men.

One likely explanation for the perception Danah Boyd has of men dominating the blogosphere, may originate in a male behavioural pattern online. That is likely, seeing that she is a Ph.D. student in Information Management and Systems at UC-Berkeley. To reach that far she needs to be socialised to have certain interests and disregard others - we all are by the time the educational system is done with us. Her perception of a male dominance of the blogosphere is in that case not a perception that holds true for the world of blogs, but for the world of accepted, academic writing and her own idea of what is interesting and important reading.

Prolonged rituals
I didn't think I had the time, but after a conversation with the dean and the headmaster of Volda College, and a phone call from the University Director's Office, I managed to find a spot in my busy schedule for a trip to Bergen, to the Doctoral Promotion January 23rd. Jill will be giving a speach on behalf of the PhD students at Bergen University! Could there be a better, quicker and better adapted speaker? I think not.

I had problems finding a hotel though, so I ended up at one of the really nice ones in Bergen Center. It will be a treat: a night in my favourite Norwegian town, seeing friends and having no duties but to smile in a friendly polite manner while wearing a robe, and it is still defined as work. But after this, I am definitely Dr. Mortensen, no more doubt. Well, at least if I manage to dig up the money for the doctors' ring. I imagine it is an absolutely neccessary accessory for knocking on the doors between me and an overwhelmingly bright future.


(Irony/sarkasm warning: the entire last piece of this post, particularly about the "doctor's ring" and the "overwhelmingly bright future" is meant to be read ironically. The whole situation is pretty ironic, as I had not planned to talk about this almost embarassingly odd part of the PhD rituals. Why am I there at all? Well, get an invitation, be in Håkonshallen Friday, find me, and I will tell you the story.)
Six Billion
By way of Grand Text Auto: six Billion, an online magazine of narrative journalism.
Dr. Juul
Two days late, but heartfelt: Congratulations to Jesper, The Ludologist, now Dr. Juul!
The edited history
Do you ever have a memory surface, in a painfully real glimpse, bringing with it the intense feeling of shame, humiliation, remorse or grief that you felt when you realised the true meaning of that event? I do, all the time. A word, a string of music, a scent, or perhaps nothing, just the batting of Chinese butterfly-wings, can bring up a split second of images I have attempted to supress.

Whenever I get one of those spells, I wish I could edit my past. I would like to do everything from deleting it all and starting over, to go in and correct different little episodes: five minutes spent preparing here, 10 seconds of thinking before I talk there, choosing a different route while driving to the swimming pool on a long-past winter's day, pausing to offer help rather than passing by a stumbling drunk in some far city. I face my prejudices and flaws in these penetrating glimpses of the past, hating it. Still I wonder: who would I be without it? I know my potential arrogance, my lack of patience and the promises too easily spoken, and these moments in retrospective shame keep me firmly planted in a strong resolve to avoid creating more such flashbacks for my own torment.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

It worked!
And ooh, it worked! I showed up at "the World as a Blog"! Fun!
Five hours
Five hours of teaching today. It doesn't sound like much, but of course, us Norwegian have a special twist to torture a poor scholar. A Norwegian lecture at a college or university is supposed to be based on your own, original research, preferably done particularly for this class but at least something you, the teacher know intimately through your own efforts. It is supposed to relate this research to the topic the students are working on, and preferably be so packed with information that the students can write a textbook by taking notes. This means that after five hours, if my brain isn't swimming in its own juices, steamed by internal energy, I have done something very, very wrong.

But today is the last day of my personal hell-week this semester. It might get worse, but at least I haven't planned anything rougher for myself. Which means I can bitch about it, which always makes things easier to bear, you know.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The World as a Blog
I just added a geo URL to the template of this blog, so I can check what blogs exist in my immediate meatspace, and it it works out right thinking with my fingers should start showing up at World as a Blog when ever I post.
Social networks and research weblogs
Stephanie Nilsson from Umeå University, a blogger who was working on a paper concerning weblogs and social networks, has published her paper online: The Function of Language to Facilitate and Maintain Social Networks in Research Weblogs.

A very interesting paper, although I have to read the part about social and informational links again. I would have liked to know which weblogs she used to come to her conclusions about the difference between movable type blogs and blogger-blogs, or if she is talking about generic blogs - in which case I would like to know how many blogs she studied to come to her conclusion.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Wholewheat pasta and a spicy, rich sauce, with meatballs. Yes, I am hungry.
Classroom blogging
The sound of hectic activity and frantically tapping keyboards surround me. After the first hour of frustrations, all students have found computers that work, have blogger accounts and figured out the basics of blogging. Now they are searching for good links, cooperating happily or suffering with the initial barriere to that first blogpost.

I made seven blogs, but we are only using five of them. Each blog has a topic, and two-three students have access to each blog. I have told them to start by writing a definition of their task, read the others' definitions, and then comment on those definitions. They all work at varying speed, but after a few "is this what you want us to do all week?" they are all working. Well, most, I think I have lost one, but that's an other matter.

The five blogs in question are Spill, Mobilitet, Digitalt Demokrati, Digital Organisasjon, Dokumentstrukturar and are Norwegian language blogs, of course.

I haven't had time to read through the posts some of my more hyperactive and argumentative students have posted already, but no matter how this works as a learning experience - I am having fun!

Monday, January 12, 2004

New York underworld
Satan's Laundromat has a long series of pictures from an abandoned subway tunnel. The subway has always amazed me. The NYC subway system transports as many people as the entire population of Norway in 36 hours. (It is an exhausting thought - everybody, children, people in hospitals, the elderly - all the people who live in Norway, would have to travel at least once every 36 hours if we were to keep a system like the NYC metro busy.) But the pictures from the abandoned tunnel show something very different - a haunted space, a monument of movement long ceased.

And in one of the pictures is a person - Steve - whose presence prompts a link to his site, undercity - a guerilla history of New York.

(Update: The pictures from the tunnels are from Newark, New Jersey, according to the guy behind Satan's Laundromat.)
Spam filters and coincidences
Sometimes, I think dark and angry thoughts about my Internet Service Provider. Today I logged into a mailbox I only use for a very few administrative tasks to do with the account. It is normally free of spam, with one or two emails to lists that annoy me because I know I said yes once and now I can't find the "I want to get out" button. Today the mailbox was stuffed with real CRAP!

Once I had deleted my way down the list to the real mail, I found, surprise surprise, an offer to test their spam-filter for free for a month.

Deep Play and Flow
Two different and still similar sounding references to play. Diane Ackerman on Deep Play:

Ancient people had their own forms of deep play, Ackerman said, and termed deep play to be rapture and ecstasy. "Rapture is being seized by force ... rape, ravage, usurp," she explained. "Ecstasy is a Greek word meaning a symbol of standing, or to stand, outside oneself. When you are experiencing ecstasy, you fly out of your mind and watch the known world dwindle in the distance."

and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on flow:

Mr. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."
By way of Nick Montford at Grand Text Auto: TouchGraph GoogleBrowser.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

An other view
D. Myers at anti-you, anti-me, anti-anti is quite critical of Castranova's recent article in Game Studies. Makes for interesting reading.
Dr Holmevik!
Congratulations, Jan Rune!

It is SO good to see one after an other of the people I have learned to know and love through this process of doing a PhD finish, get through the last rites, and become a Dr. Artium. Jan Rune is one of the few men in this group, eminently huggable. His warm personality and welcoming nature made my first days with those incredibly sophisticated Ph.D. students who did it the "right" way and not the hard and dirty way so much easier. Without Jan Rune, Espen, Jill and Hilde, I would have been so lost and never, ever found my way out of the abyss af almost done.

Friday, January 09, 2004

I will make my escape into reading, writing and museum/gallery visiting between March 12th and April 6th. That time will be spent in New York, just me and my laptop visiting my hiking boots. I will probably be writing something on blogs for blogtalk 2.0, or something on games just because I really had an epiphany the other day and know exactly what I want to write! I am already itching to start, and it's funny, but that makes me extremely organised around all the tasks that just need to be done before I get started. Feels good.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

I was looking for something else, and in my archives I found this post. I am aware that I occasionally blog about the strain of being an academic, but the good thing about posts like that is to discover that yes, I get over the dark, impossible moments when oblivion seems like such a good idea and I worry that my hard disk is full. I do get back to working, and what I expect to be normal IS actually normal. The pain, stress and exhaustion is the anomaly, not the touch of satisfaction and even happiness.

So yeah, hereby noted, life is good at this side of the computer, and I am throwing myself into the new year and the tasks of teaching knowing full well it will drain me - and that I will come out this spring still on my feet.
New Cinema Symposium - France
In the Cinemathèque de Toulouse 2-4th of February, they arrange a symposium on new cinema, where they explore the connection between cinema and other visual media, such as videogames. Among the speakers are Espen Aarseth, Jay Bolter, Richard Grusin and Peter Chung. Another one of those events where a poor scholar would have liked to be. And this is one of those happening where said scholar would REALLY have liked to be present, and would have, if the chains of labouring in the auditorium did not hold a woman in such a harsh grip at the moment.

Videogames and cinema.

Colloquium the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of February 2004

Film Archive of Toulouse (Cinémathèque de Toulouse)

69 rue du Taur

31080 Toulouse


February 2004 is an important time in the life of the Film Archive of
Toulouse. Officially created on the 12th of February 1964, this February
marks it's the Film Archive's 40th birthday.

We wish to celebrate this birthday by organizing a 3 day colloquium on « the
hybrid form of images: emergence of a new cinema? ». This symposium is being
run in cooperation with the « PNR cinema of Toulouse » ('the National Pole
of cinema resources') which was created by the Department for Education.

The colloquium is based on an emergence of a new cinema which is very much
linked to other media such as video-game, Internet, comics, etc.

We anticipate discussion involving the recent movies: Matrix, Matrix
reloaded and Matrix Revolution as well as the Animatrix, EXistenZ, Avalon,
etc. These movies are widely viewed by the younger generation but many of
the older generation don't seem to be prepared to face these 'new' hybrid
images. One of the goals of this symposium is to facilitate a better
understanding of these films.

4 main forms of crossed images / hybrid pictures have been identified
within the academic community:

- The comment (like in ExistenZ, where the film takes a video games universe
as its backdrop)

- The quotation (The Beach, where Danny Boyle places Richard -played by L de
Caprio- into a computer game in the jungle)

- The adaptation (Tomb raider, Super Mario Bros, Mortal Kombat, Final
Fantasy, etc.)

- And remediation (where we find video game codes in movies. a theory
explained by R Grusin and D J Bolter in their book, Remediation,
Understanding new media).

This symposium is a remarkable as an opportunity to hear some of the
international specialists on crossed images and videogames talk on this
subject for the first time in France, These specialists include: Richard
Grusin (GIT), Jay David Bolter (GIT), Angela NDalianis (Melbourne), Margaret
Robertson (Edge Magazine), Espen Aarseth (Copenhagen), Peter Chung
(Director- Animatrix), etc.

More details:

[CV of the speakers and their abstracts available in English]

Further details: [the organizer of the symposium]

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Traceback: MOO, Open Source, and the Humanities
Here is the press release (In Norwegian) for Jan Rune Holmevik's PhD and defense. Jill blogs the schedule for the lectures of Jay Bolter (first opponent) and Scott Rettberg (guest), who are both in Bergen at the time.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Blogs too
This year, I am using blogs in teaching, too. Not at all like Jill , Pattie Belle and Dennis, they focus mainly on blogs as genre and tool, but as a simple trick to make a space available for my students while they work on a net task. I have no great ambitions of creating new bloggers, or of teaching them to write this way. We force our students to write from day one, for print, for the net, press-releases and student papers: one of the largest strains on the teaching staff in this Media Department is reading/listening/viewing/attending student work.

And now they are supposed to blog. That is because they have net-related tasks, and I want them to solve them through linking: searching, linking and writing short summaries and quick comments.

It's only going to last three days, I am using blogspot blogs which I have already set up for them, and I will be available pretty much all the time. But I think it will be fun!
The secret defense
I received an email this Christmas with an invitation to Bergen (one I sadly have to decline, If I survive the workload of the next two months that will be due to pure stubbornness) to be present at Jan Rune Holmevik's defense.

Making a search for the trial lecture and defense brings up nothing. The University of Bergen page of Doctoral defenses in 2004 is empty, as is the news-section of the section of Humanistic Informatics, which is where Jan Rune has been a doctoral candidate. But the place and date is:

Humanistic Faculty Building (HF-bygget) Auditorium B, University of Bergen:
Trial lecture January 8th at 16.30
Defense January 9th at 10.15

What I can't find is a description of his PhD project, which is a pity, because Jan Rune is a versatile and multifaceted scholar, and I am really not sure what his doctoral thesis is about! He is however a wizard of linguaMOO and a co-editor with Cynthia Haynes of the book HighWired, he works with the use of MOOs in education and was the chair of DAC2000 in Bergen. He is also one of the few people in computer studies who talks right, coming as he does from a narrow fjord nearby, one which I have to admit might be even more pittoresque than this one.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Friday, January 02, 2004

Barbie adventures
Through The Gothamist I found these links to barbie-doll pictures: Barbie version of the Paris Hilton sex video and Barbie menaced by household appliances.
Castranova on Virtual Economies
In his article in Game Studies, On Virtual Economies, Edward Castranova introduce significant insights in between his insistance on using words like "synthetic worlds" and "virtual worlds". It is fascinating to me how he manages to keep using words indicating that what happens in a game world is something beyond reality, at the same time as his articles position games as very much within and with a significant impact on the flesh world.

Many others, however, approach virtual worlds as an alternative reality, devoting a substantial fraction of their time to them. According to a survey in Summer 2001, about one third of the adult players of EverQuest spent more time in a typical week in the virtual world than in paid employment (Castronova, 2001a).

However, I find that when I translate virtual, alternative and synthetic with digital, online or computer mediated, I get drawn into the level headed analysis of the economic impact of games. Castranova realises that a game economy is different from a national economy, and that the a game cannot be a model for a flesh world economic structure, no matter the amount of simulation built into the game.

In cyberspace, the coding authority does indeed have the power to create and destroy any amount of any good, at virtually zero cost. Therefore, as a de facto government, the coding authority can indeed control prices. And, therefore, price controls may actually be good policy in cyberspace, even though they most certainly are not good policy on Earth.

The insights which make me enjoy reading this article relate to the first gaming article by castranova, the one that made such an impact on the game study community. It is the understanding that games is a commodity just like everything else, and a commodity that changes the quality of life. Castranova compares making and playing games to building and driving cars:

If virtual worlds do, in fact, grow as a human phenomenon, there may be some implications for Earth economies. It is important to recognize from the start that the mere fact that Earth economies may suffer as people spend more time in cyberspace, does not imply that humanity is worse off. The fact that labour hours that were once producing automobiles are now producing avatars does not mean anything about the level of wealth in society. The basket of produced goods is simply changing. A proper accounting would show, in fact, that the actual production of well-being per capita is rising.

This points to the fact that it may not be the object: the car (or the washing machine, the cellphone or the swimming pool) which is important, but the experience of being able to aquire and use - or play with - these objects. This connection between games in the flesh world and games in the digital world is illustrated by Castranova's equation, where he illustrates his example by describing game A ar the flesh world game of work:

Game A happens to be the always-exciting Work Game of Earth, where you go to the office and face the challenges, denoted by C, that are presented by your boss, your co-workers and your competitors, and where overcoming those challenges garners you rewards, denoted by R, in the form of wages, perks, fringe benefits and assorted entertainments involving the office copy machine.

A large part of the article is concerned with predictions of how games will develop and impact the flesh world, based on economic models and connections between the interests of the producers and that of the players. Parts of this I see as speculation - it might be informed guesswork, but still - predicting the future is always risky... The most important insight, in the light of the direction of debates on Terra Nova, where Edward Castranova is a a moderator, comes in the conclusion:

A common theme throughout the paper is that the analysis of virtual economies will require slightly different tools and approaches than we are used to. The differences are dictated by the specific features of life in cyberspace. In virtual worlds, the entire physical universe is open to direct and costless manipulation by the owners of the game. The human beings behind the avatars are real, and physical, and subject to the laws of Earth, but the avatars themselves do not inherently face any physical constraints at all. The discovery and description of avatar-mediated economic life represent the most important current research avenues in the economics of games.

Games are part of the real world and have always been! But at the same time they are distinctly different. Games can give us some insights to the nature of humanity and society, but they can't explain it all. And it is very reassuring to see Edward Castranova write it out, at the end of such a lucid discussion of the connection between time and money. Which, to me, is what it all comes down to: the base for industrialised society, the pricetag on our time.
I blinked
And so I missed the launch, despite the fact that I knew it was coming. The second 2003 issue of Gamestudies is out, and with articles on virtual economics, grand theft auto and delicious further contemplation.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Blogging in Bay Ridge
A new blog, //opened source, found while checking New York bloggers for new blogs on the R-line. This one is interesting of its own right, as it discusses games and cyberpunk! Perfect! Doesn't have much of an archive though, so I'll be watching it with interest, to see if it keeps up.