Tuesday, December 30, 2008

About research blogging

This autumn there was a slight stir in the Norwegian blog arena, as the forskning.no, the web site associated with the Norwegian Research Council, started a blogg with invited guest bloggers. Jill criticised the style and approach, while I said "yes please, and can I bring some friends?" when I was approached and asked if I wanted to blog for them.

It's the "bring some friends" part I am the most happy about, and it's also starting to spread on the blog. At first we (Ragnhild Trondstad, Kristine Jørgensen and me) were the only ones who blogged under a common name - spillforskerne, "the game researchers." Now there are more groups popping up, such as the sports researchers and the welfare researchers.

At the beginning, the blogs were an odd mix of too long and too heavy articles which could just as well have been printed in a journal, and too light articles which looked like "sex-in-the-city-goes-to-university." Now, a few months into the project, most of the bloggers have learned. Today's blogger is a typical and very good example. He's the dean of the medical faculty in Trondheim, but just before Christmas he slipped on the ice, fell, and broke 4 ribs. This leads to reflection on his field - medicine. A personal experience combines with his expertise to a process of contemplation and reflection which leads to sharing with others.

While this is not exactly blogging about ongoing research, it definitely communicates research. He links to other people's research, he puts it into a larger context, and he personalises it through sharing his thought process. By doing this he also describes how integrated research and reflection is in the life of researchers. He opens up to the process. Instead of spending his time dwelling on his considerable pain, he searches for a distraction through his job. Most researchers recognize this feeling. It's why we work until we get repetitive stress injuries, until we burn out, or until we are numbed with pains from the neck to the butt.

Also, he answers the question "when do you get time to work?" We get time to work all the time. Most of the researchers who publish regularly, who search for new projects and are active in their fields display a deep and abiding interest in the field, and can work while having a conversation with their children, going for a walk, or reconvalescing after accidents.

Of course, this means that we never really get to work. When you have the job pulling at you constantly, you're also constantly interrupted. The child does not want to listen to your lecture, your partner needs to talk about his own things while walking, the painkillers takes away your ability to really focus. Not to mention the distractions during the work hours. Students, lectures, meetings, colleagues, phones, assessments, reviews, deadlines, budgets, equipment - where are the ivory towers when we need one?

All of this is very nicely displayed on forskning.no. The system used for blogging is still not the best, and the approval process is comparably slow. But it has a good balance between the personal and the professional, it presents the people behind the research, and it's the most popular page on an already quite popular website.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's the week before Christmas

Everything is slowly falling into place. The subject for which I am responsible this spring is taking shape. I have a few interesting dates for lectures and other public appearances in place. I am for instance scheduled to be part of Faltin Karlsen's defense in January. There are a couple of great people coming here to talk to the students. The book is finally out of my hands, and with the publisher, not to return here until in March, when the publishing date is.

I will be insanely busy during the Christmas week, but it will be good busy. I have to write a first draft for an article on e-learning and games, and for this I am planning to follow up the topic of theorycrafting and crowdsourcing. This means I have to read up on literature on how to be a better gamer, and test the theories out in World of Warcraft. Oh, the sacrifices we do for research. It all falls into the cross-over community topic I started to look into for the IR 9.0 conference in October 08, and aims at more work on collaborations and participation using multiple platforms. More about that later, I hope.

A lot of the work I am doing on games is now slowly falling into place with the work I have been doing on social software and the social web. Patterns are emerging in ways that makes it a lot easier to, for instance and rather unexpectedly makes it easier to lecture on Public Relations - which I am now doing regularly again after a break while in Umeå. I have always been in love with the process of seeing connections, caught in the web of knowledge as I am.

Now it's finally stopepd raining, after a week. The storm has relented, and I am optimistic about people coming home for Christmas. I'll be celebrating in one of the few spots the family controls which is still free from internet access: my mother's house, where I grew up with the most beautiful view I have ever lived with. It will be busy, messy, loud and not peaceful at all. But it will be a very different kind of mess, and I can't wait.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I am currently in Ulsteinvik, half an hour away from Volda, but I could just as well have been on another planet for the distance from daily demands. The information education with our connections have left those mundane demands behind, in order to think and plan. This year we're looking at information technology, the Public Information/PR business, and the educaiton, and have a couple of guests.

Eirik Langås visited from Making Waves to talk about their practice and give examples of their online design projects. Right now I am listening to Pattie Belle Hastings, who is talking about teaching interactive media.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Less women than 25 years ago

According to New York Times there are less women in computing - or at least in the educations - than 25 years ago. And it's not just about building the right game to use to draw them in.


It's December 1st, and the kids have started hinting at what they want for Christmas. In that spirit, I have been trying to figure out what I want.

New umbrella.
I just went to Oslo and was dressed for cold, but ended in rain, with no umbrella. Home I checked the family store of umbrellas. We have loads of them, but only one or two that actually work, and none of the broken ones are worth repairing. So, a new umbrella, one with patterns and colour, strong enough to endure wind, but small enough to fit in the computer backpack.

Alice B. Toklas cookbook.
I got one years ago from one of my sisters, and I loved it. So did one of my friends, and she loved it so much it never returned. I'd really prefer to have the missing one back, but the recently published Norwegian translation would be good too. And no, I have never tried the brownies.

A red purse.
I have found the perfect shoes (despite not being able to search Copenhagen for them in October) for the Christmas parties this year, and now what I lack is a purse to match. As age progresses, I find that I need somewhere to put my reading glasses when I go out! So it has to be just big enough for a pair of glasses, some cards, cash, keys and a cellphone, and a deep, rich red. Yep, I have seen some already, but I just can't bring myself to paying 6-7000 kroner for something I'll use 5 times. Then I'd rather save the money for a lap-top for when I work at home, a semi-portable one that would be perfect in front of the television - but not really on the road. I'd use that probably about 340 days a year.

And that's where it stops. Somehow, my desire for more objects into my life has become quite limited. Sure, I'll be happy for presents, and there are things that make my life easier. I am starting to accumulate shopping bags, for instance - little nylon ones that lie peacefully in the pocket until I go shopping and say a slightly smug "no thank you" to the disposable plastic bags. Now, one may ask if it's better to have several nylon bags than plastic, but I have seen it work: bringing a bag keeps the content of the plastic-bag drawer down.

And that brings me to what I really want for Christmas. I need to unclutter my life. It feels like I just accumulate, rather than throw away. So if you have a brilliant de-clutterer...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just what I wanted right now...

At facebook we get those automatically generated ads, in your own language and adjusted to your ip address. Those ads are however not always all that clever. This is today's least lucky combination.

First: Borrow 250 000 Norwegian kroner with no security. Brilliant idea, get a huge loan at much larger interest than normal, now when interests are going up all over, living gets more expensive, job security is dropping, unemployment is rising rapidly and the oil fund is drying up as the shares it has been invested in are losing their value.

Next: Get 4% off on fuel. Now, this is useful, as fuel prices are dropping internationally due to much less consumption. If we don't keep up the use of carbon-based fuels, we'll never get the artics up to a livable temperature year round. North sea oil gets cheaper, but oddly, gas is no cheaper to the Norwegian consumer. Perhaps I should try to get 4% off, so I can contribute a little more to the global warming.

Third is the really brilliant one: Win a vacation to Thailand. That is: If the plane can land there, and the airport isn't blocked by demonstrations, the threat of a military coup abates and the president decides to give over the pwoer so the country can have a new, peaceful and democratic election.

Monday, November 24, 2008


By way of a colleague, a fantastic little video of the faces of video gamers, presented in New York Times.

Chocolate doesnt' work.

Among the important findings in research on health professionals in Norway: A chocolate bar is not enough of an incentive to get an increased response rate when physiotherapists are asked to report on their practice.

If dark chocolate doesn't work, what tools do we have left?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Twitter and blogger

I have been playing around with twitter for a while, and it's slowly growing on me. The conversations, the quick messages back and forth, the chance to see what's going on with friends: it's nice. What I can't do is reconciliate that with blogger. I will remove the twitter window from the blog because of that.

When I put the twitter window in, I was planning to use it to talk about Age of Conan experiences. Then I moved from Umeå and back to the rather crappy desk-top computer I still use at the college in Volda (no way am I even going to try to put it on the lap-top), and I haven't been able to play since June. I am supposed to get a new desk-top machine, but that was in August, and now it's November. Months of play-time lost, and months of having to rethink the twitter window.

I find that by displaying twitter to my blog, I show the short end of conversations. It feel silly, and also pretty intrusive as it displays my responses to other people, in a context where they do not talk to me. It's a break of the conventions of polite conversation, which is along the same line as hearing only one half of a phone conversation. You hear/see responses that indicate and reveal intimate information about the other party, while the other party is not there and is not even aware of in which context their information is revealed. It has overtones of gossip, outing and betrayal, which may be a reason why some find it so incredibly offensive to listen to cell-phone conversations in public places where they can't escape, like busses and trains.

Anyway, I don't want to be the one who shouts out intimate information about friends in the public square, while they aren't there. So down it goes, that twitter window. Not that I have been all that active in it, anyway.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Updated internet history anyone?

I am looking for a short and good and updated article on the history of the internet with a focus on multimedia and media convergence. Anyone?

So far, the best option I have found is Asa Briggs and Peter Burke: A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet. The two last chapters are on convergence and multimedia.

Any better suggestions? (Norwegian/Swedish/Danish or English.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

I am sick! Really!

I got the flu at perhaps the worst moment for my credibility in years. Wednesday November 12th I gave up, settled on the couch with cough medicines and paper hankies, and spent the day salvaging what I could for the students I would not be able to lecture the day after. At midnight the 13th Wrath of the Lich King was released.

When I logged on Thursday afternoon, I had already been asked several times how the expansion to World of Warcraft, the game I have been playing and writing about for several years, was. I had to respond to all that "I don't know, really, I know I am here with my laptop and the expansion uploaded and account upgraded but I still don't know! I am sick! It's true!" Even guild mates ruthlessly teased me when I finally came online. Nobody would believe my characters were not all level 71.

So, what have I found out in the now 36 hours since then?
My characters are all still below 71, and they have a long way to go. I did however get three of them 1/3 each to 71, so levelling is not going to be such an impossible grind once I no longer have a fever and headache.

I tried out a deathknight, and I was absolutely delighted! I'll blog more about that elsewhere and in Norwegian, here I just want to say that the interface and the storyline felt fresh and different. Already the story potential is grinding away in my head, and my deathknight is getting a life of her own. Yeah, I'll reveal that she's female. No surprise there. I get a kick out of having female characters with tragic backgrounds and not too easy futures. Too much Marion Zimmer Bradley early in my career as a fantasy reader, I guess.

Getting new skills in crafting and new areas in which to use them is a thrill. I haven't tried out inscription though, although I can definitely see the use for it. But getting to practice the skills is not that easy. As everybody else are out gathering, everything but skinning and, oddly, fishing is really hard. It's also tough to get the quests done in starting areas, as I have to fight other players for them, not just the mobs. I am very happy it's a pve server, as the fights are not literal. It's more a question about tagging fast, something a warrior isn't the best character for. By the time my shot goes off, a mage, a priest, a warlock and a hunter have tagged the next four mobs I need for the quest. And with my luck a druid has taken the fifth.

Do I like the expansion? So far I am exstatic. The "feel" of Northrend, where it all happens, is very different from Outland. I haven't been able to explore more than the very basic starting areas, but I have seen two of those. They are very different both from each other and from other areas, even if they are established by respectively the forsaken and the orcs - two well established factions with the Horde. I don't know about the Alliance side, we'll have to look for some of "the others" for reports from the other side... but I have no reason to believe they don't have the same experience. After all, a lot of the quest areas are common for Horde and Alliance.

I have only finished one instance. The other attempt was stopped by a paladin tanking in dps gear. While that can work out if the pally knows how to tank, this was one in gear which had clearly not been found in instances. Despite its epicness it was not made for the very specialised task which tanking is, and we kept wiping for 20 gold worth on my healer character. Which means the tank got to pay more than enough for the wipes, plate is a lot more expensive to repair than mail.

Both Utgard and Nexus are interesting instances. Utgard I did with an extremely experienced tank, so it felt easy. It still held some great upgrades for my dps character. Nexus was where we wiped, so I took a quick dislike to it. Where Utgard felt like the Hellfire Instances, Nexus felt like the Tempest Keep instances. Both instances had more in common with the Outland instances from The Burning Crusade expansion than those had in common with the classic instances.

And that's all so far. I am still not able to focus on playing for too long at the time, so I don't think I'll be raiding in Northrend this weekend, but I will try to use the rested bonus on the characters, and look at the quests. It's a lot more fun than to dwell on my lack of a voice and the fact that I would be mistaken for Rudolf if I went out right now, what with the glowing red and sore nose and all.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life outside the city

Much as I enjoy visiting cities, living outside them is sometimes much more entertaining and exotic. Today's message to the college was one of those moments. We have a guest lecturer coming in - well, we do a lot of that, a small college like ours just can't cover everything with our own staff. However, this one has more than one errand. He also sells potatoes.

These are not just any potatoes, they are carefully nurtured almond potatoes, a delicacy in a country where we eat potatoes with the rice or pasta. It is still such a wonderful message, such a strong reminder of where I am. The college is surrounded by fields where sheep and cows graze, and one of the huge public arguments lately was about using some of the best fields still left close to Volda center for a conference hall. And when you grow potatoes, you have to, quite literally, put your fingers in the soil, which is a Norwegian expression for having a reality check. Volda is a place where it's easy to put your fingers in the soil. And some people even manage to get potatoes out of it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Light over Volda

It's rainy, gloomy and dark in Volda today, and I don't want to go outside at all. That means this is a good time to remember how beautiful the place can be, with the contrasts between earth, water, air and fire in mountains, fjord, clouds and sunlight.

And a bonus picture of the midnight sun, as it passes a peak in Tromsfjorden, to shine on through the night and into the morning.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Paper discussion form

I am following the group "visual culture", and even if I didn't have access to the papers originally, I get a very good idea about the quality and issues of the papers presented here. This conference has always used a lot of time on each paper, and also a lot of resources, as each paper has its own opponent. The writer gets 10 minutes to introduce the paper, then the opponent has 10 minutes to present his/her views, and then it's 10 minutes for free discussion.

I love the way this group takes the job of opposing the papers very seriously, something which leads to a very high quality in the arguments. I think this is my favourite conference form. It makes for very stable groups and not much cross-visiting between tracks, but at the same time each person presenting papers get good peer feedback. This way presenting a paper here isn't a way to get more publications, but it's a step towards publishing in other media, books or journals, as the papers get a thorough peer-reviewing during the conference.

13th Norwegian Media Research Conference

This year's media research conference organised the "Norsk Medierforskerlag" is on Lillehammer, and the main topic is television practice and television ethics. Four keynote speakers have been invited, and I am luxuriating in having time to just sit at the back of the room and listen.

So far it's really interesting, and I am remembering why I started studying media at all. Brian Winston replaced Georgina Born, who is delayed, moving his talk on the ethics of 'reality' shows from tomorrow up till today. His well considered and very interesting talk systematically adressed concerns about the 'realness' of documentary and the ethics of reality television that I recognized in that way that you feel when somebody make sense, the feeling of both having things fall into place and being enlightened at the same time.

The second keynote speaker of the day is Robin Nelson, who talks about TV fictions. He is the author of "State of Play," a title that woke me up for a moment. (Well, I was awake already, because he was using examples from Carnivale, one of my favourite dramas.) But no, it was not about gaming or playing, it was about television as in plays, or drama, not as in playing.

Returning to a home

Sometimes, going away can feel like going home. For years, I have been going to international conferences, and have found some in which I feel like home. The Digital Arts and Culture conferences, the Internet Research Conferences, the different game research conferences such as State of Play and DiGRA, these are places where I can expect to meet the people who understand what I talk about, what I think of, and the choices which have led me to where I am as a scholar and also a person.

But sometimes it’s possible to get much more home than that. Today I am in the 13th Norwegian Media research Union’s conference in Lillehammer. It’s a biannual conference, so this has been running for 26 years, so if my maths is right the first one should be in 1982. I started in media studies in 1984. Over the 24 years since that I have studied with, worked with, argued with and laughed with a very large portion of those present here. We have aged and grown and developed in different directions, and more have come to. But that is some of what coming home is like: To return to the familiar place, that which we expect to be unchanged, and find that it both is and is not the same.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A crisp click

My beloved laptop was starting to annoy me. The little tiny dell xps M1210 I got in 2007 was no longer as responsive as it should be. A quick visit to the school's IT office, where they blew the dust out of the fan, gave me back the old fps and the cooling the machine used to have. But still, something was missing. It felt sluggish and unresponsive, impresise and insensitive. This was not my eager little plaything any more.

Until I got the brilliant idea to ask if I could have a new keyboard, mouse and touchpad. The machine now responds with a crisp click as I touch keys still not worn smooth, the touchpad resists the finger sliding delicately over it, and the mouse gives its little message as the key passes the point of registrating my action. Sometimes happiness is a new keyboard.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blogfest in Urbino

I have just learned that Fabio Giglietto and Luca Rossi are a great team when it comes to cooking up original, entertaining and intellectually challenging events. They are also great fun to hang out with, but I knew that.

As a lot of the Academic BarCamp lectures during the Festival dei Blog were in Italian, I didn't get it all, all the time. But the open-source schedule was pretty full:

A BarCamp is supposedly all about self-organisation, which meant that if you wanted to go here and give a lecture, you could. But they had made sure to get some people who were actually prepared, by both using invitations and online scheduling. Still, I had to be quick at the board to keep my original time and place for the lecture.

One of the most interesting observations was how important this event was to Italian media. Fabio mostly, but also Luca, were chased by people with cameras all over Urbino. I only saw Fabio stand still when in front of a camera:

Another interesting aspect was how much the "play" part counted for the festival. It's a cliche how much more spontaneous and playful Italians are than us steady, slow Norwegians, but sometimes those stereotypes do fit. The Italian blogosphere is a lot more interested in meeting, making out, and playing, than our rather slow and carefully considered bloggers. Would we have been able to organise a Twitter game in the middle of a Norwegian small town Sunday at noon? I think not. First, nobody would be there. Second, if a stranger wanted to tie a black thread around a strangers wrist and parade him or her in front of a judge to prove they had found a "follower", it would have been considered weird at best, threatening and offensive would have been more likely.

This was just part of an event where the participants also had to run around in Urbino guided by coordinates and google map from point to point. This is when the second stereotype about Italians decided to strike, and the entire net in that part of Italy collapsed. No fear though. True geeks have satelite links, or girlfriends with 'net connections. So when the "Blog olympics" were done, it was time for prizes. And of course, the media documented this extremely important sports event:

And then there were just a few more interviews, before the event could be wrapped up:

And if you still would like to see my lecture, it is on this site, but you have to pick "barcamp" on the tags over the initial movie, then scroll down on the right to my name, and then cross your fingers that it will eventually show up.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SEB bank and evil overlords

I have blogged before about my problems with banks, personal numbers and bureaucracy while living in Sweden. I thought I was out of it and had finished with the whole thing. It turns out I am not yet done.

As I left Sweden, I was still waiting for one last payment. I had tried to get the money while I could still take them out from a Swedish bank, so I could finish the account properly, but they didn't arrive. As it was a sum of some substance I didn't want to just forget about it, and by the time I found the money hadn't been paid while I was still in Sweden, it was too late to change method of payment. So, I made a deal with the SEB bank. I'd empty the account from Norway, down until I had less than 100 S kr left. Then they would close the account on a certain date, if it contained less than 100 S kr.

A few days before the set date the money arrived, and I cleaned out the account and cut the card to pieces. End of story, I thought.

Not that easy.

Turns out I in the process of ending it, ended up owing the bank. Not a big sum, about the same as the bank could potentially have owed me as part of the deal to close the account. I was really surprised, I had a debet card after all, I thought I couldn't take out more than I had in the account.

The problem is, I am about to ruin my credit record over a ridiculous sum, because I thought the story was over, so I didn't change the address on the account and hence got no notifications - and the bank didn't agree with me, and didn't cancel the account, and sent notifications to the old address.

So now with the expenses, the amount has doubled several times. What I owed by the time the University in Umeå forwarded my mail is no longer something I could have asked a friend in Sweden to cover, and I need to figure out a way to pay. Of course talking to the Norwegian SEB doesn't help. I need to deal with SEB Sweden, and that I have already discovered several times over is not particularly easy.

Oh well, this is the punishment for thinking something could be easily fixed, and systems are fool-proof. Both assumptions are wrong, at least in this case. So here I go again, the saga of Swedish banking continues...

Still not really real

I just downloaded the copyedited files from Peter Lang publishers. I haven't looked at them yet. It's too scary. It's worse than an exam. Perhaps even worse than getting the evaluation of my Ph D. I am hoping people will read this, I mean, real people, not just five peers who are equally geeky and nerdy as me anyway.

Well, now I know what I'll be doing: Reading my manuscript. Just in case anybody worried I'd be bored, now that I am back in Volda. I am not. Instead I am scared.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Last two weeks

I have been travelling again, and it's been fantastic. Last night was not so fun though, back home here I was treated to some seriously bad weather: full storm, rain and some sleet, planes that were cancelled, busses that didn't arrive and ferries we luckily did catch. So you'll get the reports from Urbino, Venice, Copenhagen and Oslo a little later. Two academic gatherings, several meetings and a seminar is going to take a little time to process and blog properly anyway.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Web stream from Urbino

Not live, but as soon as it's coded my talk, which startet 15.30, will be on this site.

At 16.18 what you can see there is Fabio Giglietto introducing the Blogfest, together with Maz Hardey.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Flickr, the MMOG

These are links and some comments for my Academic Bar Camp contribution Saturday the 11th of October.

Originally designed as a support for/part of the "Game Neverending" (According to Wikipedia), Flickr is designed by Ludicorp, a web-application group designing "playful communication" and bought by Yahoo in 2005.

TechCrunch on Game Neverending: April Fools joke or the game appearing briefly as an experiment? Note that the date is April 2nd.

Packrat on Facebook built by Alamofire.

Pictures tagged green: Dolls, self portrait, handmade postcard.

That last picture is also part of several pools, one of which is the I made it myself-pool

Notes in a picture: And a comment on Flickr policies on the same time. This is about a discussion on cencorship concerning German members on Flickr.

Uploaded video, and comment on the video subject.

Watermark on Flickr

Flickr Community rules.

Groups and softcoded rules:
Dan Hanna and his video presentation of his daily self-portraits through 17 years.
PAD - picture a day - .lollo. and her photostream.
.lollo. addressing her audience.
.lollo. aiming at her audience.

Hit, Miss or Maybe pool and group.

Erling Sivertsen, Associate professor and competent amateur photographer, with an active Flickr profile.

Polite request for behaviour in the comments field from the photographer.

Library of congress' photostream.
From their photostream - ignored group invitation.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Urbino, yeah!

Somebody in Urbino are having fun! Yep, I am looking forwards to going there.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

European Parliament and bloggers - 2.0

As I mentioned Tuesday, there has been a suggestion for a report on Concentration and pluralism in the media in the European Union presented to the EU Parliament this week. This happened Monday, and several amendments have been made to the original report by Marianne Mikko. Most significantly for bloggers, the current report (document 002-002) reads:
22. Encourages an open discussion on all issues relating to the status of weblogs;

This is a pretty radical change from the original plan for a registry of bloggers. But perhaps the most interesting amendment is not in the suggestions, but in the list or "whereas" - the reasons and the background for the suggestions:
AD. whereas weblogs represent an important new contribution to freedom of expression and are increasingly used by media professionals as well as by private persons,

This is quite a turn about, from a document that was asking for a registry og bloggers in order to combat spam, desinformation and pollution of the internet, to an aknowledgement that weblogs contribute to the freedom of expression.

So, despite the somewhat omnious encouragement for debate on the status of weblogs (read: we're not done with you yet, bloggers!), this document is a lot more uplifting than the earlier documents. This is however not the only direction in which the document has been changed.

From being a fairly direct attack on media ownership structures, it is now an even more direct endorsement and encouragement of public broadcasting as an alternative in order to retain or regain media diversity. For instance, on how new technology is embraced in the name of pluralism:
R. whereas, however, respect for pluralism of information and diversity of content is not automatically guaranteed by technological advances, but must come about through an active, consistent and vigilant policy on the part of the national public authorities,

And in the suggestions:
4. Calls, therefore, both for a balance between public and private broadcasters - in those Member States where public broadcasters presently exist - and for the interlinking of competition and media law to be guaranteed in order to strengthen the plurality of the media; emphasises that public media broadcasters are also increasingly driven by profit-making, often raising questions relating to the appropriate use of public funds;

5. Believes that the main objectives of public authorities should be to create conditions that ensure a high level of media quality (including those of the public media), secure media diversity and guarantee the full independence of journalists;

However, the perhaps most interesting point comes tucked in almost at the end, as suggestion number 48:
48. Calls for greater transparency with respect to personal data and information kept on users by Internet search engines, email providers and social networking sites;

Suddenly there is an added point about social networking sites, search engines, email providers, and their use and potential abuse of the information we, as participants upload to them. I have to say that this starts getting interesting. Organisations such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other of the main actors in this field have become so big that it takes a union of nations to be able to ask them vital questions such as: What do you do with the information you are collecting about us all?

This is a very different and much more interesting document than the original one, and while I am both repelled and fascinated by the style and language of these documents, they are proof that group processes and the machinery of democracy sometimes do lead to better results


There has been another school killing in Finland, a horrible tragedy that turns out to have been the result of a long-standing plan. A young man has entered a school and killed students, teachers, a health professional and himself. He killed 10 people.

In the shock of this people look for something to blame. And look, he played Battlefield II just before he committed his acts.

Battlefield II is a multi-user game from the producers of Battlefield 1942. It's a game where they put a lot of emphasis on details and correctness both in images and in the function of the weapons and strategies. A lot of people who are interested in strategy, tactics, weapons, uniforms, history, current politics and a long list of other issues that connect into the playing of a complex game, like Battlefield II.

The two school-shooters in Finland in (2008) and (2007), knew each other, according to witnesses. One of the things they did together was to play Battlefield II.

It's very easy to assume that the game caused the killings, when you look at it like this. But the truth is, it's harder to find a person their age who has NOT played a computer/video game, than one who has. And if your main interest in life is weapons, violence and death, you won't be playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour.

The second killer probably did a lot of very common things the last hours before his act. He got dressed. He probably ate or drank something. He was studying to become a cook, and went to his school. He had a cat. He played a computer game.

These are not the things that turn a person into a killer. A person who wants to kill others may choose to surround himself with things that will make his decision and his task easier and more acceptable to himself. If you believe the only solution to a problem is violence, then you surround yourself with proof of this. There's enough proof. Look at Iraq. Israel. Afghanistan. Or closer: the entire south/east of Europe. People who believe that a problem can be solved by violence are not hard to find. Did the second killer watch the news? Did he listen to the radio? Did he read a newspaper? Did he hear George Bush speak about warfare, and a firm line?

Faltin Karlsen is interviewed in Dagbladet.no, where they discuss games and violence, and the fact that the second killer played before he died. Faltin's research is on games and violence, and his response is as sane as it can be. To plan for six years to kill others is not something you do impulsively after playing a computer game. It's absurd to say there's no connection, as it's probably not a coincidence that a man with his interests preferred Battlefield II. But it's equally absurd to claim there is a direct causal connection from gaming to killing. It's more likely that his gaming is a result of what ever made the second killer kill. He wanted to shoot. The game let him pretend to shoot. So he played the game. Gaming should be viewed as an effect, not a cause.

Karlsen suggests another angle at the end of the article. He points out that the media give killers a huge amount of attention. If you want to be famous, murdering your schoolmates means instant fame. Like terrorists, they use terror to become visible.

A way to dampen this trend might be to stop fetishising the killers. Don't show their pictures, don't mention their names. They are not heroes, they deserve no fame. Give their victims a face, show the lives they disrupt and ruin, show the devastation left in their path, and grieve the deaths they cause. But don't make them famous.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

European bloggers and the freedom of speach

In June there was a lot of discussion all over the blogosphere, and in some newspapers as well, about a draft report fom the Committee on Culture and Education, written by Marianne Mikko. This report was discussed yesterday, as the European Parliament is currently in session. This is taken from the short draft of the main topics for this week's session.:
Call to defend media pluralism, but questions over blogging
Parliament will vote on draft resolution tabled by the Culture Committee that calls for steps to be taken to ward off threats to media freedom and diversity from owners, shareholders and governments. At the same time the committee voices concern about the uncontrolled nature of blogs and other on-line media. The own-initiative report, drafted by Marianne MIKKO (PES, ET), argues that "the unrestricted concentration of ownership jeopardises pluralism and cultural diversity" and that there is a "considerable risk" that concentration of ownership and the private media's pursuit of profit can compromise its ability to act as a watchdog for democracy

Obviously something like this gets picked up by the bloggers, and there was apparently quite an outrage when this was first discussed in June this year. Some think this outrage was more than a little misplaced. Jon Worth at the Euroblog delivers a quite sober analysis of the case.

Still, there is reason for concern and to follow what is happening right now closely. The draft does suggest certain changes which may impact bloggers in Europe in probably not exactly well-thought-out ways.

This is the premise for the suggestions in the report (which is written in a fascinating legaleese) which most directly concerns bloggers:
whereas weblogs are an increasingly common medium for self-expression by media professionals as well as private persons, the status of their authors and publishers, including their legal status, is neither determined nor made clear to the readers of the weblogs, causing uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits,

Several of the suggestions respond to this:
4. Stresses the need to institute monitoring and implementation systems for media pluralism based on reliable and impartial indicators;

7. Proposes the introduction of fees commensurate with the commercial value of the usergenerated content as well as ethical codes and terms of usage for user-generated content in commercial publications;
8. Welcomes the dynamics and diversity brought into the media landscape by the new media and encourages responsible use of new channels such as mobile TV;
9. Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers;

11. Encourages the disclosure of ownership of the media outlets to help to understand the aims and background of the publisher;

This doesn't look so bad, does it?

The problem particularly with point 9 is that it does not really reflect an understanding of who the bloggers are. It assumes that all bloggers are adults who blog on topics of public interest and which does not disclose potentially harming information about the individual. Or that they all should be. It does not take into consideration how much time and energy is currently being used by parents and teachers to teach kids and teen-agers NOT to disclose everything about themselves, including name, address and their economic situation, to random strangers online. It absolutely counters the work for internet smartness and safety. It also ensures that people will stop discussion sensitive issues, which may be everything from the many grief-sites written by parents who have lost their children, by way of tentative artistic expressions and self-published art and poetry, to discussions of culturally stimatising sexual behaviour.

The assumption that full disclosure is good for all is probably correct for much of the news, academic and politics blogging which happens in Europe. But those are not the main mass of bloggers. Underage bloggers talking about hobbies, games, interests, loves, sexuality, fears, personal experiences or exchanging pictures of their cats comprise a large blogging group, and blogging is an important part of their learning process, in aquiring increased media literacy. Now, of course, the draft says "voluntairy" and "economic interests", and those with no economic interests can just stay unenclosed, can't they? Or should this group stop blogging alltogether?

Marianne Mikko says:
Ms Mikko told us "the blogosphere has so far been a haven of good intentions and relatively honest dealing. However, with blogs becoming commonplace, less principled people will want to use them".

Asked if she considered bloggers to be "a threat", she said "we do not see bloggers as a threat. They are in position, however, to considerably pollute cyberspace. We already have too much spam, misinformation and malicious intent in cyberspace". She added, "I think the public is still very trusting towards blogs, it is still seen as sincere. And it should remain sincere. For that we need a quality mark, a disclosure of who is really writing and why. "

Are blogs with cat images "pollution"? Are blogs with information which counters the official line "pollution"? Are blogs that criticise and disagree with EU in general and Marianne Mikko in particular "pollution"?

Some of the points in this draft are really good. I'd be interested in a full disclosure of ownership structures in European media. I suspect the Norwegian media ownership structure is no worse than the rest of Europe, in which case a very few owners control almost the entire organised publishing sphere. There will be a few alternatives, and Europe still has a fairly strong structure of national public broadcasting organisations, which offer some plurality. But a European map of the commercial news organisations was pretty bleak already in the eighties. Axel Springer Verlag introduced a model which has become quite effective and dominant, with Michael Murdock as a good follow-up. Wikipedia has an interesting article on media concentration, and I don't know the details well enough to say how precise it is. The many frames in this article asking for assistance in the clean-up and expansion indicate that this is a matter of concern and conflict. If the European Union managed to map the media conglomerates of Europe, that would be quite a feat.

But with the ownership of registered, organised media as hard to track as it is, how can anybody ask for full disclosure from all bloggers? First of all: What is a blog? Any homepage can be a blog. And blog software can be used to create pages and sites which don't look like blogs at all. To try to remove all "spam" from the Internet by removing blogs means to revoke the public's right to publish online without a license. In Norway at the beginning of the 19th century there was a death penalty to start a newspaper without a license from Copenhagen and the king. With no further comparison: is the Committee of Culture and Education really suggesting that all people who want to use the Internet for anything but email should register in a database and disclose all their personal information, including their economic connections?

The suggestion must fall on its own lack of reason.
First: It's impossible to define blogs in a way that will single out this group, and not include all the other communication strategies common online.
Second: Short of closing down the 'net, there's no way to control all communication through it. Amusingly, the report indicates voluntairy registration, which is an appeal to the community spirit which has built so many useful and good resources online.
Third: There's no way EU can argue against information control in China, and try to impose the Chinese vision of full public control of online communication on the European citizens without running into some really unpleasant clashes with their own ideals.

With the example of the milk scandal in China running at full force at the moment, the potential for abuse of a weblog registry should be obvious. Also full disclosure would make whistle-blowing a lot more problematic. Certain things are more reliable when told by an anonymous source, this is why sources need to be protected from disclosure.

But, anyway, the draft report is not a law. It's a suggestion which may or may not influence European media policy. And it's an example of how hidebound it's easy to become, when all you read are the blogs that concern your own field. Read a little wider, Marianne Mikko. Start your own blog. Who knows, you might like to be able to talk back, and not feel such an urge towards regulation. If the spam bothers you - start working for developing a European based, independent search engine to challenge the hegemony of the few US based ones. How that would be interesting.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Found smile

Found smile
Originally uploaded by Rotill
I spent the week-end scanning pictures together with my mother. My mother is 84 years old and her health is steadily deteriorating. Worst is perhaps the lack of interest in the world around her, the way in which she falls behind everything. Not that she is feeble-minded, not at all. But she has for instance been paranoid about computers for years, and not wanted to even listen when we have offered to hook her up to the world.

This week-end she changed her tune. I scanned some really old negatives she had never seen before, and kept nagging her: Who is this, where is this, do you know these people, can this be my father on this picture? With her bad eyesight she tried to get a glass to look at the negatives, but then I just enlarged the pictures on the screen.

Understanding technology comes with realising that it can be useful. My mother has never had the slightest interest in more news than she gets through newspapers, the radio and the television, social networking or academic pursuits. But this machine could help her see again, more clearly and easily the things she remembered and cared about. Finally a reason to care for computer technology!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Research blogging and blog norms

Forskning.no, the news portal associated with The Research Council of Norway, has just started a blog. It's a site where researchers contribute to a national project of making research easier accessible and visible in Norway. Apart from their normal journalistic work, they have cooperated in many different ways with research and educational communities in universities and colleges. My own students have for instance in many different periods written for forskning.no, and had their articles edited, commented on and published by specialists - an extremely useful exercize for students of Public Information.

Jill Walker Rettberg, probably the most highly profiled blogger in Norwegian academia, is however not happy with the blog as it's organised. She wants technical changes, more specialised blog-tools and different behaviour from the bloggers. I agree with her comments on form (we agree on a lot of stuff, as long-time readers of our blogs know), and have already communicated much the same to forskning.no, making it clear that our blog will not look quite like what they have published so far. But it's going to take a little while yet until I get on with blogging there and get to see how much of her criticism of the tool and of NFR's policy of blogging that is too-the-point, and how much is just a matter of letting a new group and a new publisher get some time to settle into their role.

As for the comments on payment - one of the responsibilities of a publicly paid academic is to participate in the public debate. Yes, there should be ways to register blogging in a way that would give us "points" when counting publications, and I am certain this would propel Norwegian academics into a blogging frenzy all over the country. However, we are already paid to be part of a public exchange of thoughts and ideas. No, I wouldn't turn down the money if forskning.no paid me for this. But yes, I am willing to do it because it's part of what I am supposed to do.

And what am I going to do?

What is taking a little time to organise is a group-blog within the framework of forskning.no. Three other Norwegian game researchers are joining me, and we will be blogging on game research. The first post on this blog is circulating among the bloggers as we speak. I promise, the first blogpost will be about establishing the blog, its topic and style, as well as introducing the bloggers and saying a fw words about game research. After the first post it's free for all: to engage with the field of game research according to the preferences of each blogger. We will produce at least one post every second week, which means a minimum of one post every two months as we are four. This is not an unreasonable amount of text. Most likely we will produce more, long and short posts, and forskning.no will pick a post to feature on the front page when they see something they like.

Will we adhere to Jill's style demands? Sometimes. Will it be a brilliant blog by experienced bloggers? Sometimes. But blogging is about more than one style. Blogging is about freedom of expression, of the potential of the writer and the tool, and about the choices made in a process, not according to some already set norm. If it was not about breaking norms of publishing and experimenting with form, blogging would not have developed much in the first place, would it?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Festival of blogs

I have been invited by the wonderful people at the University of Urbino "Carlo Bo" to join them for the blogfest in October 10th - 12th. I have promised to contribute to the barcamp, and am looking wildly forwards to it.

I am planning to talk about topics which will become the main focus for my research for the next year or so: the playing of the web. One of my very early hypotheses, and the reason why I started studying computer games, was that the new technology invites an approach which is more playful than mundane. In order to understand this hunch, I had to explore games and theory around games. Well, with one thing and the other, I have been doing that for a while. Now it's time to lift my nose out of the virtual worlds and start drawing the lines from the game-projects I have been involved in, and to larger contexts.

While Italy looks like a counter-productive place to start discussing these topics, as I am afraid I won't be able to get as much out of the general activities as I would in a place where I could understand all of the language, I am looking forwards to hang out with Luca and Fabio and the rest of the crowd from Urbino, and I'll ruthlessly make them listen to me, as well as translate what I don't "get".

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Secret blogs

Once upon a time I had a secret blog. Many others did as well, and some were shared: For a while several of your established blogging researchers shared one. Some of these secret blogs were not all that secret, as we told each other about them. It was blogs about things too personal to share under our own names, but sometimes too painful or too exiting to hide. I have deleted most of those secret blogs, but some are still out there, even beyond my control. Life moves on, the immediately urgent topic is not so urgent any more, things change and passwords get lost. The ones that are now lost are not particularly personal though, so I don't fear to be tracked own and have to face them.

When I thought about these secret blogs now, it is because I suddenly intensely miss having one. I wish there was a spot in the blogosphere where I could write about personal grief and anger, in such a way that it would not harm me or anybody else, but I could still voice it. By writing it, giving words to my frustration, I could release it, forget the password and move on. But I have no more secret blogs, and I don't believe in that kind of exorcism for this. It creates no bonds and no protection against shifts in priorities, guilt, anger and the desire to rewrite history.

Still, I know the attraction of the secret blog. I'd write about it there, my anger, my disappointment, my grief. Instead I have to rewrite and sublimate it all into a metapost, a post about the usefullness of a certain type of blogs.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's becoming real

I haven't written all that much about it, because I haven't wanted to jinx the process, but last night I sent the final manuscript of Perceiving Play: The Art and Study of Computer Games off to Peter Lang Publishers. It's supposed to be in the stores some time in spring 2009 - most likely March.

It's been an educational experience. There are so many words which are hard to translate between English and Norwegian, and I feel like I have run into every one of them as I have tried to negotiate with the publishers and editors. Also, I never knew I had contract-phobia until I had spent 3 months not signing one. And I have learned several new meanings of "proof-reading."

But it's also been a good experience. The editors Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear have been amazingly patient when I have panicked, although at times I think I may not have panicked enough. I have also loved to work with the content. This is the book I want people to read before they contact me and say "there's nothing written about computer games!" (Alternatively: "There's no research done on computer games.") I have not been able to read and cover everything, but I have made an effort to cover a wide range of topics, and treat them fairly. Now, a fellow guildie told us all generously in chat that 90% of everything written about game studies is crap. I am not sure how to use that statement. I have some options

1) I can assume that not covering the whole field doesn't matter, as I have covered the 10% worth writing about.
2) I should have quoted this person a lot more!
3) I can assume that my book, not being all that, is perfect for the majority of what is published in game studies.
4) I can ignore what's being said in exuberance at midnight, Friday night, online, and just hope my books doesn't prove such statements right.

One thing I think is really hilariously funny though. I have illustrated parts of the book myself. I am getting published also as a graphic artist ;) Now how cool is that? OK, so the graphics are drawings of game screenshots, but hey, those are MY pencil lines! I never thought that a career of intense reading would ever lead me to publishing images - something I haven't done since I was 20 and worked in a tiny local newspaper in Hardanger. Where I actually worked on one of the first computers in use for setting papers in Norway. Oh, the joys of aging - when you have been part of history.

Anyway: Now that it's accepted, and sent, and the wheels are turning towards publication, I am relieved as I havent' been for a year. It's good. It's really good. Champagne tonight, I think.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

First day of term

I met the students for the first time - again - today. I am growing old. You see, I was just about moved to tears. Students are so incredibly fresh, like the term, like our plans and hopes, and there's so much that can happen from here on and through the next three years...

Anyway, to get away from the sentimental stuff:
We have a large group, almost doubled the number since the sudden low two years ago. This is something we are extremely happy about, and a challenge we're ready to meet. This is not the largest group we have worked with, but it is still big for a lot of the teaching-intensive subjects we teach.

Due to the reform of education in Norway, we now have very homogenous groups, where most students are young and have little work experience before they start. This is a challenge, as it means they have a lot to learn about society, but at the same time we have them for three years, not two, which means that we have more time for this process than we used to.

The information study staff are at a long-time high, there are less leaves and more of the regular staff at work at the same time than we have had for a long time. YAY for that, as working with a good, experienced staff makes life so much easier. It leaves room for all of us, if not for anything else, then to breathe in and out slowly a few times, look around and figure out what we are doing and what we should do. Definitely the best way to start a term.

The study has been tweaked in the last year, and I returned to find that it was changed to eliminate several of the issues that have been hard to work around. Do you understand what a good feeling that is: to go somewhere else and think about something else for a year and then return to something that works better than it did before I left? OK, the conclusion is that perhaps I should leave more often... but right now I am just delighted at the work that's been done while I was away.

And now I have a new class of students. Young, fresh, unmarked students. And this is where I quit before I get started again!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

This and that...

Some odd stuff that's been coming my way the last weeks:

Somebody have, for some odd reason, invited me to participate in a work-shop for physical theatre. While I'd love to do something like that, it would be to set myself up for failure. And not exactly what I am doing, anyway. And the dean would finally ask me to reconsider how I spend my time.

I have been invited to an interesting conference in Germany, which sadly is at the same time as IR:09 - More Fun, More Risk: Digital Games as a Challenge for the Protection of Minors. It is obvious that no matter what I might want to say about the threat games represent or not to our society, the fear of them is growing. And so it really should be taken seriously: people should look at this issue with open eyes, not just as enthusiasts and enemies. I hope this conference can do exactly that. The program is however not available yet, and the titles of the tracks are not exactly uplifting when it comes to hoping for neutral view. Well, time will show!

And now, over to the marketing department!

Nah, I am just afraid it will look like marketing, because I am so delighted with a couple of objects. First, my MOO cards, ordered through flickr.com and taking advantage of my flickr pictures. I love it, it's a handful of colourful memories from 2007-2008. Flowers from Australia, silk from Japan, snow and forest from Umeå, mountains and water from Norway.

The other thing I did was to order a photo book from blurb.com. I just made a small one, and ordered three copies, one for each kid and one for us. It's lovely, an overview of what we looked like in 2006, and I know the kids will love it as much as I do. So now I am moving onwards to step two of the plan: To make one for my mother's birthday. SSssshhh, don't tell!!! I am trying to get all her daughters and our families over the last 4 years into one book, with as many names and times as possible. My mother has a very relevant complaint: we never give her pictures any more. We share with each other, but we send nothing to her, as she is disconnected from the digital age. I am planning to amend that, in one, big, swoop!

So, that was the Volda news. Also: The house has changed colour from whitish to blue with indigo windows and a grey foundation. I think it looks great. Seriously, I like it. Still a lot of details to paint though. I never knew I had such a big house.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dr Galloway!

And while we are talking about finishing doctorates: Anne Galloway of Purse Lip, Square Jaw, is done with her Ph D! Congratulations!!!

Journalism and research

One of the things journalists always want more time to do is investigative research. They want time to dig into the facts of a case. They want to study more than one or two sides of it. They want time to interview a lot of people. They want to go to the depths of the case and find the truth. Investigative research or "gravende journalistikk" in Norwegian is the holy grail, the justification for all the other work journalists do, the reason why we need those who find and spread the real truth about society.

As long as the investigations concern something OTHER than journalism.

My colleague Jan Fredrik Hovden has just finished his Dr. Polit. on journalism and the cultures of journalists: Profane and Sacred: A Study of the Norwegian Journalistic Field. In his work he interviews journalists in order to understand their practice in relation to the concept of "social fields" by Bourdieu:
The first objective of this thesis is thus to study the practices of Norwegian journalists (how troublesome this word is going to be!) as located in and structured by a social field, using the theoretical tools and empirical investigations Bourdieu has made of other social fields as guidelines. In this way, this thesis is a contribution to the debate on the role and function of journalism in the public sphere and the understanding of journalistic practice more generally.

With Pierre Bourdieu as his model, guide and inspiration, Jan Fredrik has embarked on a long and painful project, as ambitious as it is important: To understand how Norwegian journalists practice their job. He has spent more than four years on this, an amount of time no Norwegian journalist can afford to spend on understanding a case. He has collected the facts systematically and from a very large number of sources:

In contrast to what seems to be the case for most prosopographic
analyses of social fields, the field analysis in this thesis is not based on (secondary) data of known individuals (e.g. biography collections), but on anonymous data collected by a survey questionnaire to a sample of Norwegian journalists and editors in 2005 (cf. appendix 1 for more details). Such an anonymous/survey-approach to the construction of the field – if with its own share of methodological problems – has some compensations, making it possible to incorporate a large number of individuals and variables in the analysis, which for example makes it feasible to include both dominated and dominating agents in the same field analysis.

Jan Fredrik Hovden has not only done the work, but like a good sociologist (and he is good, no doubt about it when you read his work) he also opens his methods up for criticism by publishing those. When did a journalist tell you how they made the decision to use this source and not that? When is there a methodological discussion attached to the article you read? When do you hear about the phone-calls, the strategies, the discussions about how to find and confirm a "case"?

One of the few times you do that in Norwegian journalism is actually in the much despised and deputed book "En helt vanlig dag på jobben" by Håvard Melnæs, former journalist in Se og Hør, a weekly magasine concerned with the lives of Norwegian "stars" (in a very loose sense of the word). Without any comparison to the work of Jan Fredrik Hovden, "A Regular Day at Work" by Melnæs was received as a betrayal. Melnæs describes how he cultivated the father of princess Mette-Marit, the commoner and single mother wife of crown prince Håkon of Norway. In this work he also describes the culture among the journalists and editors, and the lengths to which they were willing to go for a "case", up to creating cases themselves by arranging weddings and parties and paying for vacations and other services offered the subjects of their journalism.

Jan Fredrik Hovden's work is specifically not a subjective one-person view on an extreme case, as Melnæs' biography is. Hovden comes out of a tradition where access to his material and methods is as important as the conclusions. Exept for the anonymity of his sources the material he builds on is available for his critics, and others may check if they want to draw the same conclusions. And while journalists have the desk to read through their material and check if it is worthy of publication, Jan Fredrik has had three professors read and think through and criticize each word of his thesis, not in 10 hurried minutes while more cases scream for attention, but after months of deliberation.

So, how do the journalists receive his work? By claiming that academics have no substance to their criticism. As Per Edgar Kokkvold, general secretary of the Norwegian press union, says:

– Det er all grunn for mediefolk å være åpne for kritikk, og å engasjere akademikere til å se på om rollen som den lille manns forsvarer tas alvorlig nok. Jeg har ikke noen kvalifiserte synspunkter på dette. Men denne avhandlingen og andre rapporter om hvordan mediene utøver sin makt, og hvordan de retter et kritisk søkelys på alle maktinstitusjoner, viser at vi må nærme oss akademia og kritikere med et åpent sinn. Det er imidlertid ikke alltid disse har noe å fare med, sier Kokkvold til Journalisten.
To translate and summarize: Journalists should be open to criticism, and engage academics to see if the role as defender of "the little man" is taken seriously. But this and other reports about how journalists use their power shows that we have to approach academia with an open mind. However, not all have any substance to their work. (My emphasis).

So, when a journalist writes about the practice of others, that's an important function for journalism, protection of the democracy and main goal of journalism. When a journalist writes about the practice of journalism it's a betrayal. When an academic writes about the practice of journalists, he doesn't know what he is talking about.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

WoW insider and the anthology

Jessica Langer has just been interviewed by WoW-insider. It's a nice interview, and the comments were pretty good to us as well!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Norwegian vacation

"Do you all have summerhouses and cabins?" the foreign students asked my daughter, as she and her friends planned to bring them out to a family-owned cabin for a real Norwegian treat. The Norwegian students looked at each other, trying to figure out how to explain that it was not the luxury of the wealthy they were talking about when referring to the places they all used to go for vacations. The pool-cocktail-leisure-factor is very low on a regular Norwegian cabin vacation. My daughter tried to explain. "My grandfather spent years building the boathouse. All pitched in. He got the materials from houses he disassembled, clearing out sites for others, and it's really simple. Now my mother owns it with her sisters. We could never afford to buy anything like that." The other Norwegian students in the group told similar stories, stories of effort, passion, summers filled with work and common labour. These Norwegian students weren't children of the Norwegian "nouvaeu riche", but of very regular people, living regular lives and working for their bits of the good life.

However, when you struggle for daily survival and you know it's possible to make the equivalent of a yearly income at home in two months if you can just get a job in Norway, the Norwegian idea of working for "fun" becomes somewhat absurd, and the way I have just spent the last week becomes ridiculous. So, what have I been doing?

My mother's childhood home is still in the family. My mother shares ownership with another relative, and since there is some insecurity about the future of the place, we have just been making sure the house doesn't fall down and the forest doesnt' take totally over. But this year the house really needed to be painted. Four academically educated adults have just spent a week of vacation doing something a couple of Lithuanians would have done faster, better and cheaper, if we calculate the accumulated salaries of us wannabe painters. And to top the irrationality, I spent most of the time cooking and baking for the other three in a kitchen with no hot water, barely any running water (drinking water must be carried from far off), and a not-exactly functioning stove, putting together elaborate meals from scratch, to keep them working with full bellies and happy smiles. I am just glad we had electricity - kind of. Now I am exhausted, hurt all over, and stink from days of hard work and no shower. No water closet either, btw.

So, why do something like that, and even enjoy it and keep the object that causes repetitions of such experiences?

There's something so extremely satisfying in staying alive and leaving a physical mark from your passage through time, that it is almost a national cult. Not all do this by cooking under extreme conditions or painting run-down buildings in fresh and inspiring colours. Some do it by walking to the nearest mountain just to look down and think: "I was down there, now I am here." And afterwards: "I was up there, now I am here. I did it, and I am alive." Others do it by catching their own dinner. Then, when you eat the catch, you can think: "I caught this, I killed it, I cleaned it, I cooked it. I know how to feed myself, and I am alive." Or you can sit inside, feeding the fire with wood cleared from the patch on which your little cabin stands, eating food carried up on your back, listening to the rain and watching the fog and the clouds, thinking: "I am warm, dry, full, in shelter and alive."

I think the Norwegian vacation is all about being alive and seeing the act of living confirmed and reconfirmed by covering distance, physical labour, hunting, gathering (there's something extremely "alivish" about gathering liters of fragrant mushrooms or juicy berries from the forests and mountains) and fishing. Kneeling on the ground in front of a pot full of self-caught fish just cooked in sea-water over an open fire, the whole scene bathed in the light of the midnight sun, a cousin expressed his profound sadness, his pity, for the rest of the world. They had no way to experience this: the circle of labour and life, of struggle and blessing.

To work, to eat, to work, to eat, and to do it all so directly was the most beautiful thing in his life. Of course to him the mountains, the fjord, the sky above us, the family around him and the low light of the sun at midnight was the only thinkable scenery for this experience, and part of his lament. Poor world, not kneeling on the ground about to partake in the simple bounty of one of the harshest climates of the world.

And so, while I hurt so badly I am in tears if I turn wrong, I am also deeply grateful that I can feel this. I can care for those who rely on me in the most direct manner, by feeding them and easing their day. I can leave a trace of my passage through the world, not by publishing something nobody reads, but by painting a wall and seeing the colour change with each stroke. And by doing this I care for others again, as that wall will shelter them and keep them warm. Fed. Sheltered. Now all I need is to start knitting again, and they will also be dressed.

There are still Norwegians who consider rediscovering these aspects of life in it's most clear and simple reality to be a luxury, a priviledge and a way to gather strength before long winters in jobs many times removed from the simplicity of human survival. Normally I am not one of those, but this summer I am revisiting this realm of my upbringing and my summer paradise. And yes, it hurts, literally. But it also warms, as my father said of the wood we'd cut, clear, transport, cut again, stack, dry, chop and carry in to the fireplace. It warms more than once.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Back from Umeå

And while I have the blog window open: I have moved back from Umeå, and am in Volda, about to start moving into my old office. Feels good, although there's a lot I am going to miss about HUMlab, the department of Culture and Media, where I was situated, and the colleagues there. But it feels extremely good to be here, tucked in between the mountains and the ocean. It feels like home.

Surveillance and democracy

This morning the Norwegian paper Bergens Tidende had on their front page a case about blogs and bloggers. A group within the European Parliament have voted over whether blogs should be controlled and registered - and they were 33 for, one against the proposition. for more information on this, have a look at Jill Walker Rettberg's post on the topic, which has interesting links and a well-informed commentary.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bye bye, Umeå

My year as a postdoc is up, and I am in the process of packing up. It's surprising how much stuff accumulates by being in one spot for some time, but unsurprisingly, the largest bulk comes from books.

So, what have I learned in this northern spot of Sweden? Apart from what I came here for (finish a manuscript, write some articles, meet new people, figure out the secret of my further research, all of which has been done), I have learned a few things about this country which is so close and so similar, and so subtly different from home. Let's start with the negative stuff, so I can end it at a happy note.

Personal number: The source of all evil. I didn't get a Swedish number, I got a "coordination number", which I could do as a Norwegian citizen not about to move to Sweden.

Banking: It may be as bad to be foreign in a Norwegian bank, but I hope I never need to find out. Source of many problems: No personal number.

Healthcare: Good once I got through the initial bureaucracy. My problem with the bureaucracy? No personal number.

Mail: I could never know how the mail would arrive, where, how, and where I could pick it up if I didn't catch the delivery at the right moment. And when I went to pick up mail, the main problem was... yes, exactly, no personal number.

Language: Swedish is very close to Norwegian, but there are moments when we just stare, stupidly, at each other. Being stubborn, I refused to speak "Swedlike", but yes, I did adjust my language, searching for more common words. I have learned a lot of synomyms for the most everyday things. I did not have to resort to English... much.

Weather: I have dried up like a prune from the inland dryness, hurt my back on the ice in winter, and become very sick of wind. Also, it got really dark. Thinking about it makes me want to go home, even if home has more rain and harsher storms.

Fika: For somebody who don't eat cakes, sweets or any other stuff which it's common to serve with coffee (and hardly drink coffee), this is a pretty useless social habit. It's nice, it's important, and one should participate. I have spent hours nursing a glass of water, smiling politely.

BUT there's another Swedish food habit I think is wonderful: Warm food for lunch. If there wasn't a well-stocked, reasonable and good place to buy a lunch that would meet all my requirements, I could bring my own and heat it in one of the many many microwaves spread in all the different spots designed to have lunching spots for all.

Bicycles: I love it. I would never use the car to get back and forth from work if I lived like this. Problem is that in Volda I don't go back and forth but up or down. This may be an Umeå thing though, but seriously, it made me buy winter tires for my bike, so I could use it all through the winter.

Maintaining roads: If there was five centimeters of snow, the next morning I'd be woken up by huge machines clearing the parkinglot outside my window. And before I got to the University, they would have cleared and sanded the walkways.

Coffee: Much cheaper and better and more varied than in Norway. I wish I liked it better than I do!

Prices: I kept changing into Norwegian krone in my head. Great fun.

And then there were the things that were surprisingly familiar.

People: Basically the same everywhere, these dressed sharper, but that's where the difference ended. Oh, and they kept telling Norwegian jokes. We don't do that in Norway, we tell Swedish jokes, and they are, of course, much better.

Organisations: No matter where you live, reorganising an institution is a pain. Very nice to watch from the outside, although it triggered unhappy memories.

Television: It's as easy to fall asleep watching Swedish television as Norwegian. Same wonderfully sleepy rythm to it.

To conclude: Going home is good, but mostly because I am returning to something which has, over a lifetime, become "normal". I could easily live with another norm - perhaps I could even learn to drink enough water and to moisturise - and be just as happy. Perhaps even more, the landscape in Umeå invites more for the kind of casual exercize I need than the west-coast of Norway does. I am not surprised by this knowledge, but over this year I have learned to understand it in ways which were theory before.

Would I do this year again?
Probably, and I wouldn't do much differently.

Would I have stayed for another year if I could?
Not really, I feel very ready to go home. But then if I had another year, I'd have been planning and thinking very differently.

Would I go back here?
I'd love to come back. After all, I finally know how to get around, where to find good tea, and what goes on in the restaurant next to the place where I live. I'd like to re-use this knowledge.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Same sex marriage

After years with legally binding registrations of partnership being possible between partners in same-sex couples, today the new law of marriage was accepted. Now same-sex couples can be married, in the legal sense of the word, and have the same rights and responsibilities as other married couples. This is controversial in Norway, particularly among christian conservatives, and accusations about the "gay lobby" are flying about on websites and in discussions. Be that as it may, personally I think that anybody who love each other enough to want to share everything, including the responsibility for each others' natural or adopted children, should be protected and supported by the law in the nation they live within.


They wanted 60000 words. I have been in the unusual, for academics, position of having to bulk up my manuscript. "But I write a compact language" I whined to my editors. "I noticed" Colin replied, laconically, and pointed out that I really could use more adjectives and adverbs if I wanted to.

But this will have to do. There are pictures, tables, screenshots and pretty drawings. And I am within the parameters of the book I wanted, without having to make up stuff I hadn't planned should be in it. Feels good. Now off to scan images and put everything together the way I want the world to see it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Day of the Swedish Flag

I should have known, but the Swedes kept saying "it's nothing like in Norway" when talking about the Swedish national holiday. So now I am in an empty university, where even the automatic window opener refuses to work. The day "nobody takes seriously" is at least a serious opportunity for a day off. So I am out of here, and off to find my camera. Now I know what they were preparing in Gammlia this morning!

As a side note: tomorrow is the date of the end of the Swedish/Norwegian union, in 1905.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Found Stories

Where was craigslist.org all my life? Uuuhhh - I guess, hooking up people with things to sell and buy in the US?

Anyway, I have found craigslist AND I have found a source of stories of my favourite kind. You know, the kind of stories that are about what might have happened - if. Desperately seeking Susan stuff, right there at 'missed connections'.
Green, Washington, Blond, Main Line, Boston, Washington, Flight, Grandma, Upper West, DUI, CA, JET B, Philly U, Delaware, not a good day, I know how it feels, time to change that..

What goes on here? It's parts of a conversation, I think. And how did he or she feel? And how can it change? Others are not as cryptic, but just as evokative, in their "almost touching" kind of way:
You got on at Atlantic and stood by the doors until Wall St. I'm pretty sure you noticed I was staring and I'm sorry about that – I just found you incredibly attractive. I was the brunette with short curly hair and a black v-neck sweater, sitting down. I tried to see if you were wearing a ring, because I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if you were taken. If you aren’t, drinks sometime? If you are, have a great day. ;)

It may just be my New York fetish that kicks in, that all these missed connections are a reminder about life happening, constantly, in such a huge mass of people. But I think it's the potential, all the things that could have been started if somebody had taken another step, asked the right question, left at the right station, forgot about propriety and given out the number:
Ok, so you asked for some 'advice" on something and then my phone number. Maybe I should have just gone for it. Would like to meet up for a beer or coffee - you were cute. Now the inevitable question - what did you ask about? ;)
But I am not the only 'missed connections' reader, and some think this is a good place to tell others how to behave:
Unbelievable. A guy has the courage to approach you and ask for your number in person, you reject him, and then you post a missed connection looking for him. Why? I'm asking a serious question, I can't understand this. Are you just hardwired to reject everyone and anyone, no matter what, if they display interest in you?
Ohhh, the drama, the nosyness, the humanity seeping through every post. It makes me want to go back to NY and then read this section every day after a trip on the subway. Perhaps I find something like:
You were lost in the book you were reading. Your glasses kept slipping down. I wanted to take them off you to see what colour your eyes were. But how could I, when you never looked up. You were wearing a red jacket, black jeans and hiking boots. Tell me which book you were reading, and I'll pay for the drinks.
I think perhaps the most interesting story with this kind of ads (I read them in the papers, when that's where they were to be found)is that people don't walk through life unseen. Even if it's the guy who helped you pick up the groceries after an accident, we're seen, remembered, looked out for. It is pretty romantic, really.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Virtual Walking

The title is flashy: Paralysed man walks in Second Life, but the reality is much better: they have found an interface from the brain to computers, which lets the paralysed person control computer programs. In this case it's let the person control the motion of an avatar in SL.

This is a wonderful story, and looks much more uplifting than Monkey brain controls robot arm, which is, pretty much, the same story only with slightly different technology. Also the monkeys are a bit more sophisticated, while it's cool to be able to control an SL avatar, tre dimentional movement which can result in being able to feed yourself and not dependendt on being fed is pretty impressive.

It all reminds me of the email I got, almost two years ago, from a woman who had spent the last 12 years of her life in a wheelchair. She had forgotten, even in her dreams, what it was like to move around. World of Warcraft had her jumping and dancing in her dreams again.

Computers can give us back the feeling of freedom and control which circumstances makes us lose - not just because we think we are free and in control, but because we are. The woman who wrote me could, through WoW, play games, crack jokes and have fun with her children, who were hundreds of kilometers away. For her to go and actually do that in the physical world would have been a huge effort.

Computers, even computer games and virtual worlds, do real things, because they are real communication devices. So, some of the communication is a bit more elaborate than other modes, but hey, it's shared experiences!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Final touches 1

I haven't written much about it, because I feel so apprehensive and actually quite shy about the project. I am currently writing a book, to be published at Peter Lang's publishers, some time this winter I hope. It's the book I have always wanted people to read before they come to me and ask if there is something written about game research. To this end I am packing it full of game research references, but also declare my defeat, immediately. There's no way I can cover it all. All I can do is try to get enough variety that the person who is planning to do "something" about game research goes off and does a few new, more informed, searches.

When I finally dare write about it, it's because it's coming together now. The editors have asked me for what they want changed, the illustration issues are kind of solved, I have found a way to increase bulk while also following some of the advice I have been given (hugs Ragnhild), I have a proofreader waiting impatiently for the text and financing for that, too, and I have received some reassuring noises from the editors about my writing. I am just too efficient for them. Use more words, they say. It hurts my journalist heart, so I am afraid all I'll do about that is to add content.

The most fun part of the recent changes has been on the advice of Ian Bogost. I haven't drawn any illustrations for publishing since 1981. My early dreams of a career as a graphic designer and illustrator died as my love of academia hit hard and suffocated all else. But now I am doing that again. And again, that shyness. This is a part of me that can not be backed up by references or research. When I publish the graphics in this book, I am going somewhere new and scary. My only comfort is that I am really not planning to change careers. So if people laugh themselves silly over the graphics, it's OK. As long as they understand what I am trying to show.

I still have a chunk left to add. I miss about 5000 words. I know what's going into it though, and I am racing through the rewrites earlier in the book, in order to reach that section. I just realised that I am telling the truth: That is why I have been so driven lately. I have something I really want to write. I just need to get there.

So, I guess that tells you all where I am off to. Actually, I am off to fetch the mail at the office, have coffee with at least one group of people-I-should-see-more-often at Umeå University, play some AoC so I can see if my enthusiasm is triggered when I reach level 20 (out of 80), and generally try to be something other than a driven hermit maniac. We'll see how that works out. This morning I hurt myself in an attempt to care for my health. Now I may be crippled and doomed to remain in hiding for days. YAY!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Articles this year, so far so good

I wondered where I was when I got my copy of our lovely WoW book, Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft® Reader, since I didn't blog it. then I remember - I was travelling, Umeå, Volda, Copenhagen, New York, and too much was lost in transit. No not physically, but things to which I should have paid attention.

The book is a wonderful object to hold, both because it's packed with work from people I know and respect, and because it know so much about the rest of it. I was there in that taxi in Copenhagen when we came up with the idea of the book. I read the early drafts of applications and suggestions that Jill and Hilde sent off, I was there while we discussed it in the different lists, in game, out of the game and when the call for paper went out to more than the guild I felt still involved in the process.

Not to take the glory from Jill and Hilde, they did an incredible job in getting the book out, but I feel like this is my baby too. And the baby of Lisbeth, Charlotte and the other authors as well as the ones who were somehow inside the process but never got to present their work here. This is a book that comes from a game researcher's community, not a collection of strangers who happened to write something relevant, and so it carries with it an odd flavour of nostalgia.

Another anthology I was represented in this year is written by exactly such a collection of (to me) strangers: Handbook of Research on New Literacies.

This is a very different beast. It's a huge brick of work which can easily compete with Lord of the Rings in size, and it sprawls all over the place. I did find the articles of some friends here too though, and it looks like it has the potential of being a very useful reference work for the topics in new media research in this decade. I do have some fondness for it. Not because the articles make me remember great conversations and happy moments, frankly, I have not been able to take in all it contains, but because this book too has led me to meet great people. Interesting, sharing and generous people - in a way those people are more important to me than the stack of books and journals that is accumulating on my CV. I like doing this work. I just need to see a physical result once in a while to remember why.