Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Game Rating

I am looking for the restrictions on games, other entertainment products and the connection between these ratings and the freedom of speach and expression. One reference is a long and seemingly nice wikipedia entry, with many useful hints and links. I have also referenced the Super Columbine Massacre RPG and the Slamdance film festival. Other thoughts of where I should look?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A web-writer is dead

Tron Øgrim, internet enthusiast and eager contributor to the Norwegian Wikipedia, died 23rd of May 2007. It was very sudden, most likely a stroke.

Tron Øgrim was a politically controversial person, ideologist of the communist movement through the seventies, and important to many better known Norwegian authors, politicians and visible contributors to the Norwegian public debate. He himself wrote what he talked of as the first Norwegian weblogg: Under en stein i skogen (under a rock in the woods).

Tron Øgrim did not grow old, but compared to the teenagers who today feel they have just discovered this terra incognita, the unknown land their parents know nothing about, he was of another generation. Perhaps almost two generations apart. But he was an active user, one of those where the border line between user and developer blurs, one who understood the net and its structure, not just its immediate use.

Time is always, in the end, measured by the individuals in relation to human lives; the length of a lifetime, the age of a child, the length of a human cycle. And now the internet culture in Norway has reached a point of no return: one of the early, the active and the visible is gone. It's time to realise that the net is larger and longer lasting than a single human life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Culture of the information Age

There is a conference in Budapest in October. It looks interesting both because of the topic and as a place to go (Hungary! Very interesting place!). Culture of the Information Age concerns itself with cultural change due to new information technology, a topic which tends to be ignored when it's not treated like a dystopia. It had to be somebody outside the "Ameropean" cultural dominance to rise the question analytically and perhaps even without fear.¨

Deadline for abstracts is June 4th.

From the mail bringing this conference to my attention:
János Kodolányi University College as promoter of FreesideEurope Online Academic Journal is organizing an international conference with the theme of The Culture of the Information Age to be held in Székesfehérvár, Hungary from October 10 to 11 2007.

We invite abstracts (consisting of 200 words and a short CV) that focus on the themes listed in the attached conference outline. The abstracts sent in will be reviewed and chosen by the Editorial Board. Participants will be asked to present a paper and provide a copy of their talks in MS Word format for possible publication.

Prepare for a mess

I am testing out the new blogger interface tools, and have discovered that although there are several annoying features it can do much of what I want to. This should get rid of the broken frame the heading has in certain browsers, and it can also give me more flexibility in general. I am not entirely happy with the pre-set options, but as I have found ways to work around them/override them, the blog will be redone in the not-too-far future. When the time comes, many things I really like may disappear for a while, as they are being worked into the new template. Don't panic, that's my privilege.


It's been a while since I complained here about the "quality reform" in Norwegian education. The Norwegian education system was altered: 3 year bachelor degree instead of 4 year cand mag, master degree after 5 years instead of hovedfag after 6-7 years, more teaching and supervision, less time for reflection and independent research for the student and also less time for research for the faculty.

Imagine the surprise when it turns out that less time to study, more pressure towards keeping the schedule, less qualified and updated teachers and less resources for testing and assessing the students led to less knowledgeable students.
*insert sharp tone of voice, desillusioned sarcasm shining through*

Thankfully we still have people who remember how to do research in this country, and at the University of Oslo some of them did exactly that, they checked if students learned the same in three years as they used to do in four. The answer was no, they don't.

The paper "Morgenbladet", one of the few papers where they still read research reports and 100 page evaluations (or at least the press releases about them), calls the syndrome "kunnskapsfallet" - the fall of knowledge. The evaluation of students at the University of Oslo confirms what people in colleges and universities have been saying from the beginning. There is very, very little in the "quality reform" that makes for better students.

It is a quality reform though. That much is true.

Thanks to Jon for the links and the reminder.

For non-MMORPG addicts: ORLY is short for "Oh, really?" Often seen when n00bs state the obvious.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Virtually present

Why am I, who know so much about online communication, so reluctant to use them for lecturing? Tomorrow I am going to talk at a meeting organised by biblioteksentralen, what they call Web 2.0 skolen (web 2.0 School), and I will be in Volda while they are in Oslo. I am going to talk about weblogs and modern media, and I should be able to do this blindly and left handed... but I am really uncomfortable, and use too much energy on it.

I think the clue to why is in the way I have learned to teach. It has happened through my own trial and error in the meetings with students - face to face. Whether it's five or 150 - or just one, crying in my office - I have always faced them. Even when they email me, I know we have met or will meet. The body, the reading of subtle signals, the eye contact, the touch of a flirt with the audience - it's all about presence, mine and theirs.

Tomorrow it will be all about presence too, but so much limites, such narrow bandwidth presence. Ironic that it takes broadband for it.

Staying put

I am green with envy as I read Jill's conference notes from the Personal Democracy Forum. I wish I had been there, I wish I was experiencing something new and exiting, I wish I was in New York in spring and that the magnolias were still blooming.

I am not though.
Aaaannnnd, it's hard to admit it, but it's good.

Last year was a breathless race about the planet, exhaustion, guilt and worry combined with adrenalin and stimulation is an oddly exhilarating drug, and it makes me feel driven to perform perhaps at times beyond what I can defend. This year I can lean back and learn, find substance for my performace. And in reading Jill's notes - and the reports of others who are there, who are present where things happen, I find that my absence triggers my curiosity, and I start imagining what could happen.

And that, my dears, is where I tend to find my real motivation. Preferably bored, often frustrated, and wanting for something to happen, anything, really... and so I have to think it up. "What if..." in a grand or small scale, is all research is really about, isn't it?

Monday, May 14, 2007


Sticking your head in the virtual quick-sand which is World of Warcraft is a good way of not really catching up with the latest in other trends, or at least the vocabulary, like Crowdsourcing. The wikipedia entrance I linked to there is an interesting example of the concept: first, wikipedia is a result of crowdsourcing: large amounts of people cooperating openly and individually to improve information and make more available. The entry is also obviously under revision, it's flagged as too short, too many references, not reliable, needs rework, needs more references, poor quality - it's obvious that a lot of people have been at work picking the original entry(ies) apart.

Personally, I have always believed in Crowdsourcing, and I believe in it in the way the cooperative power of self-organised interest groups is described in the Swedish book Samverkansspiralen. Here it offers voluntair work and cooperative action as a way to gain more knowledge and empower the participants towards more action - like for instance political activism.
I believe opportunities for open participation and contribution can go somewhere good, if you get caught up in a good circle, a positive spiral.

I found the concept itself, Crowdsourcing, in a paper which was surprisingly good. Dagbladet, one of the larger tabloids in Norway, has been going downhill for years. It used to be a very good magazine with interesting reportage, knowledgeable critical journalism and ambitions to cover Norwegian and international culture in depth, not just through sensation reporting. Saturday was an all time low for the paper, as the front page was all about who have which well-known figure on their "friends" list on facebook. It was about 10 minutes research and perhaps 30 minutes of getting the pictures "just right" behind that classic piece of journalism. The first time a Norwegian newspaper used all of the front page on just one case was in 1980-81, I think in February 1981, if I remember correctly. Of course, I can google it. Yep, February 22, 1981.

This event was a shocking piece of news in Norway at the time. Two members of a neo-nazi group, "Norges Germanske Armé", were executed by their leaders, as they were considered to be a danger for the organisation after a weapons theft. One of them had however already talked to the police, and the police was on to that something was going on. They couldn't prevent the double murder, but they did get the ones guilty immediately. This event had everything: drama, deep historical roots, controversy and important political consequences for a country forever deeply branded by Hitler's plans for a master race. Today Norwegian banners and national symbols are used as a substitution for forbidden nazi symbols. It's a past which is always with us.

Fastforward from a front page (not even in this paper, but their main competitor, this paper was still full format and filled with words, not pictures in 1981) dramatically displaying this tragic and stunning event, to pictures of Norwegian "stars" and speculation about who knows who on facebook. Yes, I keep losing illusions about the progress of journalism on paper.

So what did I learn. I learned that there is a word for the viral spread of knowledge, the anthill of collaboration which creates rhizomic growths with the virtual function of anything from tumors to castles online. I had to check, a journalistic experiment for crowds.

For years, I have been telling journalists they don't need to be worried about their jobs, because the individual personal publishers of blogs, wikis and other direct publishing systems are not journalists. Now, considering what looks like a steady decline of print and television journalism, organised, cooperative journalism may be a good reason to start worrying.

(BTW: From the front page of this not-worst-case paper: "Abused online", with a picture of a well known Norwegian actress. Turns out somebody have made TWO fake profiles in her name on facebook. The horror, the horror!)

Aesthetics of Play

The conference was in 2005, but since I am now reading and writing about - yeah, exactly, aesthetics of play - the link is fresh and bright and new for me! Great content from interesting writers, and I am delighted to revisit this topic.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

So hip, so cool!

I was in Bergen and talked (the links) to the student community of Bergen, with VamPus, also known as Heidi Nordby Lunde. The student paper StudVest proudly proclaims that blogging will remain. "Bestå" (remain) in Norwegian means something which will last forever - that's not exactly what I said. I tried to indicate that I think it will be altered and absorbed in other technologies, but that some kind of easy written personal publishing with a similar form to current blogs will remain. But hey, doesn't sound as good, does it?

It was fun, I have, after 15 years of lecturing, finally lost my panic for talking in public, and VamPus is a pretty quick and clever lady. But I have to admit that the high point for me was to come home and check facebook and see that my daughter's friends think I am hip and cool, just like her. I mean, when students think some crazy woman old enough to be their mother is cool, either it's time for me to put on a pinstriped suit and stop dying my hair, or they are trying to impress my daughter.


Anyway, message of the day: Vote smart, Vote Erla

Monday, May 07, 2007

Blogging, en medieboble?

Bergen tomorrow, and I'll be talking about blogs, and whether or not its a media bubble. I'll leave the conclusion for the ones who are actually there, tomorrow, in Bergen.

I'll tell the rest of the world later, if you REALLY want to know my authorized version.

Friday, May 04, 2007


I mentioned the rather weird short version of "forhåndsvisning" (preview) in the Norwegian version of blogger some days ago. I have probably not been the only one to react, because today it was changed!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Snubbed on Facebook

So, I did the deed and made a facebook profile. Not all that active, I log in once in a while to accept requests, play around a little to see how it works, and invite a few people I know to be my friends.

And then one of them doesn't approve me.

Who'd have thought.

Not that it matters, and of course it's no reason to accept everybody, but still, it's not like I invite all kind of people I never met. It felt weird to see others in the same group of people linked, and me left out. The visual lack of a connection was a stark declaration, a public rejection.

I suspect a large part of the power of facebook lies here, in the power to include and exclude, and make both the links and the lack obvious to the insiders, but still unvoiced, unspoken. Luckily I am no longer 10 years old and desperately unhappy when somebody doesn't pick me, or write in my book of memories. But it makes me wonder... what will I do the day somebody I am really uncomfortable about want to be my friend?

There is no way to aknowledge a link which is less than friendly, no such thing as "casual aquaintance" or "neighbour I never spoke to the 20 years we lived close" or "yeah, I know who that is, but that's all." The neutral, unemotional, that which is less than friendship but still more than strangers - there is no category for that. And that leaves an odd sensation of unease, as the world is split into friends and not-friends. It is just too simple.

Be nice - it's good for you

From the journal Human Communication Research, vol 33, number2, April 2007, "Affectionate Writing Reduces Total Cholesterol: Two Randomized Controlled Trials" by Kory Floyd, Alan C. Mikkelson, Colin Hesse and Perry M. Pauley.

In two 5-week trials, healthy college students were randomly assigned either to experimental or control groups. Participants in the experimental groups wrote about their affection for significant friends, relatives, and/or romantic partners for 20 minutes on three separate occasions; on the same schedule, those in the control groups wrote about innocuous topics. Total cholesterol was assessed via capillary blood at the beginning of the trials and again at the end. Participants in the experimental groups experienced statistically significant reductions in total cholesterol. Control participants in the first study experienced a significant increase during the same period, whereas those in the second study did not. Cholesterol changes were largely unmoderated by linguistic features of the writing produced in the intervention. Potential therapeutic implications are discussed.

Imagine the implications. In the risk group for high cholesterol? Sit down and write about somebody you love and care for. Consider the good things in human relationships. Look for the things that, literally, heals your heart. It also gives a new meaning to the idea that a broken relationship can mean a broken heart. It can, really.

Now excuse me, I am off to spend 20 minutes writing about my favourite people, and why they are so special.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Meta post - safe topics

No, I haven't gone crazy and changed the content here to overdone melodramatic fantasy writing. No worries. I just don't want to think or write or blog about what's up in my reality right now - too many potential traps there for lurking readers of evil (or just petty) intent. So instead, a list of safe topics.

Conference papers. They are already partly in the public sphere, and we all do it and we all have to work on it. Mine for the DAC conference in Perth, Australia, just got accepted, now I have to start working on it, to make it presentable.

Weather. Weather is firmly in the public sphere, and the last days have been wonderful! Spring has finally reached us, and the nature I live right in the middle of looks like it's been designed after a post card. And don't get me started on how the waterfalls looked this weekend. Notice the unfolding leaves on that birch.

Books published by others, as long as I say nice things. And that's the plan. I focus a lot on computers for the medium of gaming, but that's just a tiny slice of a big field. A lot of the gaming, particularly fantasy gaming, happens offline. Patrick Williams, Sean Q Hendricks and W. Keith Winkler have edited Gaming as culture, where they discuss a lot of other types of gaming, table-top, magic and other fantasy game topics. One article is on computer games, the other 9 are not. I have always been aware of the connections between computer games and the larger fantasy culture universe. This book is a very nice link between worlds which should be much closer.

Blogging is a way to direct my thought process, as well as release topics which keep distracting me. Today is a day for direction.