Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas spirit arrives digitally

This year the feeling of Christmas has been hard to achieve. But on Monday, suddenly, my daughter calls me. "Mom, did your present to your sister get lost?" "My what?" I respond, because I really wasn't thinking about Christmas presents. "It's on the internet, a present for her from you and dad." On the internet? WTF!?! What does the internet have to do with my presents? "A friend just mailed me," the girl continues, "she says that there's a list at posten.no, over lost presents at mail offices, and this one is in Bergen."

So online I go, hurriedly, ignoring my husband's demands to hear what's up, and yes, there it is:

Ikke typisk julegaveinnpakking, blekblått papir med mørkere tegninger av blader ca 12x9cm og ca 2cm tykk gave.Til/fra lappen er hjemmelaget i turkis papir, pyntet med gullfarget sløyfe i stoff.Kloke ord på innsiden av gavelappen

That's definitely my present to my younger sister, and it's fallen out of the envelope I had packed their presents in, at some mail office in Bergen. And so I hit the "send us a tip" button hard, hoping there's somebody at the other end to receive the message about the correct address. But then I start reading about all the other presents, and there's this image before my inner eye, of presents spilling out of bags and boxes, falling out of envelopes, condemned to an unsure fate at the mail offices all over Norway.

However, using the internet, the Norwegian mail has finally found a very sensible, loving use of the net and the social media. Somebody sits down and registers each present, and then you can look through the list, and if you see something you think you know you can tip the mail office, tip the person you think it's for or from, or just spread the message through facebook or twitter. "They sent you a present after all." There's a box of perfume. There's a soft present in star-splattered paper with a self-made snow-ball tag on it. There's something that looks like a book in blue and gold paper, from Maria to Elena. It's at the mail-office, and if you know Maria or Elena, you can help them and make sure their message reaches the destination. I love you. I care about you. I remember you. I took the trouble to find something for you, wrap it and send it, and I really hope it reaches you. And if the traditional channels are not good enough, I really hope somebody helps my message along, because I care, I do.

Merry Christmas!

Update: the mail office didn't register the "tips oss" tip, so I called them. After a few minutes I received a call back from a lady who was not at work at the moment, but she was willing to ask her husband, who also worked at the Norwegian mail, to find the present tonight, when he went to work, to make sure to deliver it. Talk about service and friendliness!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Philosophy and games

A conference in April, in Greece, the Philosophy of Computer Games. So tempting! Now, do I dare approach philosophy and games again, and do I manage to do so in time for the deadline of February 1st?

Monday, December 06, 2010

The weirdest people

By way of the Danish videnskab.dk, a pointer to an article by Canadians that concludes with how a lot of American research about human behaviour is wrong. Well, it may conclude that European and Asian research is wrong too, but since they haven't really checked that, who knows.

The important thing with this article is how it talks about generalisation. So much of the research done in the United States is done on first year students. This means it's done on a very narrow group of people, with very specific views and cultural background. An example they give is the relationship to death. Americans have, according to the researchers cited at videnskab.dk, a fundamentally different approach to death than Europeans and people in other cultures. The fear of death is much higher, something which influences the entire society.

When I have stayed in the United States I have felt that very clearly: The sense of being in an alien culture. I thought I would find something familiar, due to language and how we all feel we "know" USA, but oh dear, I was so wrong. An English friend who worked out of New York in a highly international firm told me how Americans are more xenophobic than even the Japanese, and how in their line of business they were quite reluctant to hire Americans due to this.

This kind of connects to my thoughts about English as a "lingua franca" for research, something which of course makes it very easy for American research to spread through the world, but put all non-English speaking people at a distinct disadvantage when going in the other direction. It is a mechanisms that helps maintaining the illusion that we are all similar, because we have to learn how to communicate not only in a language Americans can ready, but also through concepts understandable in an English language culture.

An experience which was an eye-opener to me was when I published this article. I had originally used class to describe differences which would create communication problems within a culture, but I was told that I should not use class but ethnicity, because class wasn't really relevant (in the US). I compromised by using gender, which worked, but the experience was quite shocking. I never thought (and still don't think) there can be a culture where class isn't relevant. For instance, I suspect that a lot of ethnic conflict is also a struggle of class, and the strive for acceptance and respect isn't only about skin colour, but also about making a class journey. This is a fundamental paradigm for anybody who have grown up in an academic tradition heavily influenced by marxism, and while I may be wrong, it highlights the differences between Scandinavia and the USA.

On this background "the weirdest people" is a very important contribution to the discussion of western research, and I guess I should go looking to see if there's a library near me with access to Behavioral and Brain Sciences at Cambridge journals.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The world falls apart

For those out there who still play WoW, the last few weeks have been some ride, right? With the preparations for Cataclysm, the expansion arriving next week, Azeroth is changing, and I find myself wondering about how much I have relied on the stability of the game world.

agirra's wolf

This week-end I took my original game character and rode around Durotar and the Barrens, her starting area. It was shocking. Where I had quested as a newbie, where I knew every nook and cranny, every quest and bug, it was all different. A huge rift split the land. The Alliance (ouch, that hurt) has several more strongholds in Southern Barrens, and the orcs have been pushed back into the mountainsides. Stonetalon Mountains is the site of fierce battles between gnome and goblin technology, Ashenvale is being stripped by gnomes and orcs working together, Thousand Needles is almost gone, and Feralas has large human and elf settlements. Azshara is a low-level goblin zone - I remember grinding bloodelves for cloth and gold when saving for my first fast mount - and Tanaris has a lot of new beaches. I find the changes hurt me in a way not too dissimilar from when they built a road right over my favourite mushroom place in Ørsta. It's not like I was hanging out in that spot much except when I looked for mushroom, but I always knew it was there.

Now, it's gone, like the great lift into Thousand Needles.

It's cool though, in a way losing the mushroom patch was not. It has made me drag out the low level characters I haven't bothered level, and re-explore with the sense of risk and adventure I felt way back then, more than five years ago. It's beautiful and different and terrifying, and I feel like a newbie, disoriented and frustrated and happy at the same time. The sensation of something being at stake is back. So far, I love it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Christmas present tips for your geeky friend

I know what I want, at least: A very special memory stick! And if it's a girl geek and you want to say "I love you" in a suitably romantic way...

Or, if she's an academic geek, and happen to be exactly like me, then she wants to try out new software, or needs a new version of the old. Trust me, nothing says "I love you" like knowing exactly what software your favourite geek girl needs. Or do you want to impress? Go for something expensive!

Pink bloggers

One of the most popular Norwegian girl bloggers at the moment is a young lady who calls herself Linnea, and writes the blog "All you know is wrong" (Alt du vet er feil). At first glance you expect to encounter a typical fashion blog, as the top picture is of a very good looking girl with nice earrings, a fashionable top and a cheeky smile. The "About me" section gives a warning though, as she writes:
Jeg er over gjennomsnittet bitter, og liker stort sett ingen andre enn meg selv. OBS: Man lærer ingenting her inne.
Translated: I am more than averagely bitter, and don't like anybody but myself. Note: You learn nothing here.

Then you start reading, and you realise that this is not your average fashion blogger. Linnea writes a wonderful stream-of-consciousness type posts, all about herself, her experiences, feelings and, yes, clothes. Where your average fashion blogger would show herself off in handsome clothes, Linnea posts a picture of herself, on the floor of a gym, the result of a fall because she was just slipped going down one step. Not only did she fall, most ungraciously, she did so while wearing a thermo-suit, which is standard winter workwear for anybody working outside. So, not your standard fashionable one-piece; it's utility clothing for the most unfashionable (but extremely important) jobs.

This particular post, titled "I don't know," discusses exactly her position as a blogger, and particularly a "pink" blogger. She is outraged at being characterised as a pink blogger, and I can very well understand that. Her writing is sometimes as delicate as if she had puked all over the screen, as her stream-of-consciousness often appears to not have been subject to any editing at all. There's nothing polite, sweet or candy-scented in her texts, and pink is definitely not a colour that comes to mind.

What this random, meandering and carefully not-edited post still manages to say is: "Look, I am not cute or graceful or strong or smart, and I am still the most popular and potentially influental blogger in Norway." And I have to say: I can see why. Linnea is the girl who doesn't have a grip, her closet is a mess, her life is filled with inner conflict and struggle, and she is intolerant and angry - your normal, average girl, who happens to be able to write and use a mobile camera. She speaks for the bitch in all girls who are sick of trying to blend and be gracious, and she reveals her total lack of taste quite ruthlessly.

If Linnea has a colour to her blog, I think it's orange. It's warm and angry and temperamental and contrary, and it picks you up and makes you feel cheery, even if it's obnoxious and hard to tolerate in too large doses.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blogging - is it journalism?

Accidentally, as I was following up on other topics, I found that there is a wonderful drama playing out in the Norwegian blogosphere, complete with a sobbing bride, nasty, greybearded men and a handsome football-player. OK, the football-player has very little to do with it, but he's a very good-looking accessory.

So, what happened here?

A young and beautiful woman works part-time as a journalist in an online paper, and is fashion editor and co-owner of an online magasine. At the same time she is making money on her fashion/lifestyle weblog: Fotballfrue - football wife (yeah, that's where the handsome man comes in).

So, somebody reads that she has income from a lot of different sources, and they question her ethics (and they do it while she is on a honeymoon, how rude!) in an article about fashion weblogs.

There are a lot of bloggers who have very high hit numbers, and use this commercially. Fashion blogging is "in" at the moment, and so the companies pay the young and the beautiful to let others know what they wear and use. The principle is nothing new, it's pretty much the same as sponsoring skaters while they were the "cool", or athletes, for that matter. Ohh, again, almost a reference to the handsome husband who never really enters the story!

Anyway: Some fashion bloggers do it to make money, some do it to create a name for themselves, to build their street cred. However, being a good fashion blogger takes a lot of money, in order to keep up their fresh front they need to be seen in the most interesting, newes and fanciest outfits available - and what is better than getting paid to do this, alternatively getting the products directly and free from the producers?

So far so good. But what if you are trying to build not just street cred, but actually become a journalist and an editor of a magasine? What should the smart fashion blogger do? Oh, and by the way, "journalist" isn't a title you get by getting an education and a license, like "medical doctor" or "lawyer," it's something you become if you practice journalism. So if you don't practice journalism, you are not a journalist, no matter how much education you have.

The whole issue with the football wife isn't really that she writes on order for companies. The issue is that she at the same time calls herself a journalist and an editor. She acts as a marketing officer, without making that obvious in the different posts, while also trying to build the trust and reputation she needs in order to be taken seriously as a journalist. And when she is criticised she claims that blogging isn't journalism, and so she can do what she likes.

She is, in a way, right. On "fotballfrue" she is her own editor, owner and writer. As long as she doesn't harass anybody, she can write what she likes. If her business strategy is to promote objects or trends for whoever pays her (are those fake louboutins, or real?) then she can do that to her heart's content on her blog. She will gain a lot of treet cred among other fashion bloggers, and probably among her followers as well. And she is right, her blog isn't journalism.

Does that mean blogging isn't journalism? No, because if she wrote according to the standards of journalism, her blog would be journalism. Again, journalism is a practice, not a license or a stamp put on only some organisations.

Back to the drama.

The pretty young lady is a part-time stand-in for Side2.no. So she is, at best, part-time freelancing as a journalist. It's not really anybody's business how she spends her time when she's not working for them, and Side2.no can stop using her when ever they like.

And that's what really should come out of this story: she doesn't have a job, she has a pretty face, a fashion blog, and ambitions to become an editor. In a case like that, what is the smart strategy?

I find myself firmly on the side of the grey-bearded evil, which isn't so odd, since I am turning pretty grey as well. She should clean up her blogging act, and stop selling her opinions to the highest bidder. People who write commercials for pay are not welcome in the journalism union in Norway, and when journalists change jobs and go into marketing, they need to swap unions. It's how it goes. If she wants to go that way, she needs to adjust to the standards, or she will have no journalistic credibility.

However... she might not want or need it. She's young, she's pretty, and people are paying her to wear beautiful clothes. Why should she worry about journalism? But then I'd recommend that she removes the "journalist" title from her webpage. If you don't practice journalism, you aren't a journalist. If you claim you are, you will be criticised. I am sorry, really, and it's horrible that people are letting you know this while you're on your honey-moon, but that's how it is.

Oh, and have a wonderful time. Your life looks like a slice of marketing heaven.

Corrected due to Undre's comment, thanks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thinking in your first language

This was supposed to be a post about cheating, and ghost-writing academic articles. However, Lisbeth connected it to educational language politics, and that started this. Read at your own peril - it's all about language and education from somebody who only knows half of it.

When ever I spend a lot of time away from Norway, my language suffers. Three - four weeks into a long stay in an English language country, and I forget all language. I am unable to formulate thoughts and ideas, numbed by the constant translation that takes place in my head, even if I do think in the language I speak. I am suffering a version of this here in Denmark, not as harsh, but more subtle and exhausting, as the constant translations in my head are concerned with subtle details. The only cure is to immerse myself, for a while, in Norwegian, to soak up the words, the music of the dialects, the structure of the sentences. I need to find the voice of my original thoughts in order to find a voice at all.

When I had this experience the first time, I never connected it to the language conflicts which gave birth to nynorsk - new Norwegian - or the political struggle for first language classes for non-Norwegian-speakers in school. But then I discovered a pattern: How not hearing or speaking my own language exhausts me, numbs me and slows me down. It doesn't replace one language with another, it takes away all languages, and I struggle in my search for words.

I guess you are now not surprised the to learn that no, I don't think there should be a lingua franca which all academics should use, from school-children up to professors. I also don't think we should force all students to write all their work in for instance English, just because it will make it easier for an American scholar to read their papers.

This doesn't mean I think we should stop communicating. I am truely grateful that I can talk to Italians, Portuguese, Koreans, Turkish, French and Finns without me having to learn 6 more languages. I'd love to, but I'd need some serious state grants to support the learning period. What I mean is that in order to be able to use our energy on thinking, language needs to take the back seat. We shouldn't insist that our students constantly struggle with words when what we want them to struggle with to be ideas, concepts, theories, hypothesis and arguments. It is enough, really. After all, if they, like me, were born to a social strata where higher education was a far away dream, not an everyday chore, then learning to be an academic is a whole new language in itself.

I would like to see two directions for language in education. First, I would like to see the language education in general strenghtened, and with it culture and literature. People who speak more than one language fluently are more empathic, think quicker, assimilate knowledge faster and in general appear to have more flexible minds. So that's a resounding yes for more emphasis on languages. However, I'd like education to contain more than two languages. We should learn to speak and regularly be encouraged to practice 3 or four languages. Why? Because if we can listen to how another person speaks in their own language, we will meet them as very different persons.

When we study, we should be allowed to learn in our own language, learn to have discourse within our own culture. With a base in the mother tongue, we should then challenge others, stretching ourselves in order to learn not only mastery of another academic tradition of discourse, but also respect for it, for the difficulties others need to overcome in order to communicate with us. It is hard to be a foreign student. It is hard to be an academic from a small country, forced to publish and cooperate internationally. But we should focus on the benefits to be had by learning not just one or two languages, so we can get by, but several: opening the world to us in a very different way.

If internationalisation is to get anywhere, we need to teach how to communicate. Even today, that means in more than one language - but it also means honouring our own while we do it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

IR 11.0 is over - thanks all

There should have been some kind of face-to-face debrief after IR 11.0, and I will at some point in the not too far future write the AOIR board with what I think they need to know (functionality of the conference organising system f.ex.,) but for now I'll just take it here.

As some noticed, I was extremely ambivalent on facebook before I went to Gothenburg. I was ambivalent in real life as well. Although some felt that there was good reason to criticize the decisions I had made about the schedule and the responses they got to their requests before the conference, neither decisions nor responses were based on lack of consideration. I had a certain number of rooms, a certain number of contributions, and a certain number of hours, and I had to make all of that sum up to a functional conference. However, the scheduling, gruelling work that it was, was just the tip of the iceberg. It covered the last 4 months of a one-year effort, an effort that started in October 2009.

This conference removed that already elusive concept "spare time," and even cut into the sacred raiding time. Rather than settling to blog, play with photos, write friends or chat, when I picked up the computer I'd start responding to emails or work on some conference detail. I am not whining. You see - I liked that. I got to write a lot of people I have not seen for years, people I have only read (about) and some total strangers who turned out to be extremely interesting scholars. What's not to like!

However, I did get tired. The last weeks before the conference I just had to give up on raiding all together, because with teaching and administration and the conference, I was working 10-12 hour days. Not quite that long weekends, but still, it's not like I followed regulations. And so, as the conference approached I dreaded it more and more, as the workload just kept increasing.

Then it started.

Most things went right. Some went wrong, and nobody could have done anything about it. (I am still really sad about Jon Bing being ill though. I think that was the biggest low of the conference.) Some were fixed before they went really wrong. But most of all, I loved the fact that people were happy there. The compact conference site, the excellent food and the work people put into their presentations and their research - as well as into each other - made it all work out surprisingly well. And the feedback afterwards still warms me, even if I was so spent at the banquet I couldn't even say thank you politely.


I am still proud of this plaque though, although I really don't know where to put it or how to deal with actually owning it. Makes for a fun conversation piece, and yes, it does warm, along with the praise on the aoir list and the twitter stream, now that I have realised the conference was a success!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Copenhagen part 4: bikes revisited

Today about flow and control.

There's something intensely satisfying about using the bike to get around. While biker weblogs in Copenhagen worry that Danish children don't learn to play with and enjoy bicycles, I am rediscovering the sense of freedom I used to feel as a teen-ager, the agency and control the bicycle gave me.

My first bike was stolen though, and it was years until I had another bicycle of my own: at high-school I bought a Raleigh racing bike that gave me a sense of flying, as I zoomed past the cars stuck on the road into Ålesund every morning in the seventies. I used that bike for years, and I also used it to ride almost to the railway station. Now, that may not sound like such an achievement, but where I grew up that was a 2-300 kilometer ride, included crossing at least one mountain, and at the time also came with bonus sleet, the terror of brakes failing in a frozen, wet downhill trek with a heavily loaded bike, and nowhere to sleep over when I reached my destination.

Imagine my delight today, when I rode down to the railway station, zooming through the sunny, quiet Copenhagen Sunday streets, to buy tickets for the IR 11.0 conference.

Now, a regular morning or afternoon in rush traffic, biking isn't all that easy. I am learning the trick to it, and the number of rude comments yelled at me are slowly growing less, but I still have to focus. Even experienced Danes have to focus, as proven by the encounters I witness: bikers almost getting into fights as they ride side by side, disagreeing about some move that happened behind me before the two (normally male) push past me in angry competition - just to have to stand still and ignore each other at the next red light. And sometimes my biking colleagues come into the office, all shook up, talking about how they were hit - several times - by other cyclists, in the 20 minute ride through morning traffic.

Copenhagen bikers come fast and ride with intent. But on a sunny Sunday, the air crisp and clear and the sun low, throwing the glare off the water into my eyes, biking in Copenhagen is just the right balance between challenge and mastery. I own the streets. I make clever rounds in order to get at the place I want to go in the best manner, and I smile secretly at other bikers as we move smoothly from being on a vehicle to being pedestrians. We have all the options, and then some. And so I make an extra loop around the block, to come from just the right angle into the back yard, and I roll into place with a wide grin plastered all over my face. The act of biking is putting me in a flow state of mind, where I could go on and on, exploring Copenhagen just because I can.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Copenhagen part 3: Advertising

I have watched way too much TV the last few days. The literal pain in my neck has done anything else absolutely unbearable. This means I have found myself mindlessly watching more than a few ads.

Before I left Norway, my husband noted that the trend was towards stupid men. Here, the trend is towards unreasonable, idiotic, furiously raging women. There's particularly this one television channel that annoys me at the moment, YouSee. What happens is: He, friendly, relaxed and reasonable, comes into the room, and she goes into attack mode immediately. She tells him her favourite sex in the city episode is on, and no way is she missing that rerun just so he can watch the match he has been waiting for all year. He just smiles, nods and grabs his computer. She keeps yelling, angry and obviously after a fight, but he just smiles and agrees and goes into the next room, turning on the computer. Of course, he has broadband from YouSee, and so he can get to watch all the matches he wants, without having to fight with her over it.

There are more of these, such as an ad for beer, where the women go crazy over a lovely walk-in closet in the new home of the hostess, pointing out details such as shoe-racks and large mirrors. This is all done in slightly hysterical, whiny squeals of delight. Then we hear a deep, full roar of happiness, and we see where the men have ended up in their tour of the house. They have found the important closet: the walk-in cooler for beer, where they express their delight in a manly manner, the anti-thesis to the materialistic exstacy of the squealing women.

And another: he has installed video on demand, so when she shows up with large bags full of delicacies, ready to settle down for a romantic night with dinner, a movie and some nice wine, he hasn't rented the movie he should. Instead he keeps telling her "video on demand", while she goes crazy and yells at him and walks out without him getting more than a constant repetition of those words in. He shrugs, and settles to watch the movie. Now, I am not sure who is more stupid here, he COULD have said: I have the movie, darling, I just have to put in the right codes on the TV, and we'll have a lovely evening. Instead he stands there repeating three words which obviously means nothing to her. But that's because he's so clever and "in" on what goes on, and she's a technological moron.

Somehow, I don't feel like buying YouSee, beer, or video on demand after watching those ads. I just watch the Danish Radio Culture channel (DR-K) instead. They have some extremely interesting programs on art, and artist portraits. And, most important, no ads.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Computer games in the libraries

A very short, but very nice, press release, notifies the public that the Norwegian government suggests in the budget for 2011 to put aside 2 million Norwegian krone to buy games for libraries. "Innkjøpsordningen" is the system that secures a certain number of copies sold to public libraries of all books published from certain publishers (I don't know if self-published books count.) This will now be increased with a sum earmarked for games.

Two million krone isn't that much, but there aren't that many Norwegian language games out there. However, the most interesting part of the release was this:

Dataspill har blitt et sentralt kulturuttrykk og er en viktig del av særlig barn og unges kultur- og mediehverdag. Markedet domineres i dag av utenlandske spill. Det er derfor behov for å sikre barn og unge tilgang til alternative produksjoner med norsk språk og innhold.

Quick and dirty translation: "Computer games have become a central cultural expression and an important part particularly of the culture- and media everyday life of children and young people. The market is currently dominated by foreign games. There's a need to secure access to alternative productions with Norwegian language and content."

After years of repeating this almost every time I get asked why I think games are important and deserving of research and attention, it feels very good to see it in a public press release, as the reason for such a very sensible proposal.

And thanks to Pål, who knew I'd be very happy to see that press release!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

IR 11.0 program update

I am stuck in an EU ICT conference in Brüssels, which, ironically, offers an outrageously bad internet connection both at the conference center and at the hotel. This means that I can not respond to the many email I keep getting about the conference program.

The program is as finished as I can make it until I know more about who are withdrawing from the conference. This draft should have been published last week. This is the responsibility of the local chairs. I can not help you on that regard, and I am as eager to have this published as you are to see it.

All I can say is: This draft of the program should have been made public last week, and as far as I know it will be, any second.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blame the woman

I am currently stuck at Kastrup, waiting on a flight to Paris which is already severely delayed. Now, this is no fun, but some people just can't take it. The lady informing the passengers was still delivering her message as a man stormed up to her and started telling her off. Another employee of Norwegian, the airline, told him they were really sorry, and the man backed off for a moment. 20 seconds later, he ran back, and started yelling about the crappy service, and how he never got an apology from Norwegian. The male Norwegian employee offered very polite apologies on behalf of the company. The complaining man brushed him off with: "I am not talking to you!" to keep yelling at the female.

What was that? It's not like they had different jobs, it just happened to be the woman on the loudspeaker, not the guy.

Having too much time to think about it, I have realised it's simple. It's a matter of "blame the woman." She is more vulnerable, even when she speaks with the voice of authority (the loudspeaker). Hence, she is the one to attack.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hedonism in August

One of the topics I have been working on for a while concerns hedonism as a moral philosophy of gaming. This is, of course, frightfully ambitious, seeing that I am not philosopher. I am certain my arguments can be ripped apart quite easily by somebody who have actually studied philosophy, and not gaming. If so, feel free to find my article The player as hedonist in the Journal of gaming & virtual worlds. But for those of us who are more concerned with new ways of thinking about games and game research, I am trying to poke some holes in the idea that pleasure can be planned and designed for.

A counter-productive claim, if you are looking for a formula to make winner games, but if you're trying to gain insight into the wider processes of gaming it's very important to keep looking for different viewpoints. And so I have thrown one of mine out there, going out on thin ice for the sake of trying to carry an argument across.

It's hard to be evil

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

CPH p.2: So you think you can ride?

Moving to Copenhagen meant bringing my bike - of course. After all, Copenhagen has a strong bicycle culture and an eager biker population, with their special interest advocates, such as Mikael at Copenhagenize.com. I used to ride my bike to school in the summer half of high school, rushing past the stuck cars at home, I went biking around the fjords and mountains for fun (and love - strong motivator, that) during the summers, and I rode my bike to work down the steep Bergen hills - and back up, to regain strength after a car accident. When I went to Umeå as a visiting scholar, I brought my bike, riding through the winter on spiked tires. I thought I knew about riding a bicycle. It's a motor skill you don't really forget, right?

Well, Copenhagen has revealed several of my bad habits.

At first glance, it's extremely easy to ride a bike in Copenhagen. There are the famous Copenhagen lanes separating cars from bikes and pedestrians, and the cutest little traffic lights with red, yellow and green bikes to tell you when to go and when to pause. You go to the tourist information or your hotel or the parking authorithy, and you ask for a bicycle map to find all the best biking routes, and you have donned your helmet - preferably, since you're as vain as me, some fashionable version camouflaged as an elegant hat or a fancy cap, or a smooth helmet painted to match your bike or your outfit. After all, biking in the city, you want to look chic.

Now, off you go - and suddenly you discover the Copenhagen bikers' glare. Danes are pretty polite, and tolerant of tourists, but do mind that glare. Did you pause in the wrong side of the lane? There will be a tingling bell - and a glare. Did you forget to signal your slow-down and stop? There's that glare. Did you turn the wrong direction? A muttered "shit" and that glare, again. Slowly, you'll be getting it: you're doing something wrong, and it's time to figure out what before something happens.

First: signals. If you like me learned about traffic safety and biking in school, then you know about using your hands to signal right and left. However, Copenhagen has a third signal: stop. It's used for stopping at the curb, for turning off to the side to wait for the crossing light, for having reached your destination and stopping to park your bike. You lift a hand (optional which) and hold it straight up, either open or as a fist, doesn't matter. And you preferably do it early, or somebody will hit your from behind, and you'll get a lot more than a glare.

Next: attention. At the beginning you're happy to avoid being hit by cars. Then you start congratulating yourself that you don't hit any pedestrians. Then you discover all the bikers glaring at you, and you realise it's time to look out for other bikers. This is when you learn to look before you turn. You see, the lanes are not one-track lanes, but two and sometimes three or four-track lanes. It works just like with cars, slow to the right, faster to the left. Once you have passed your obstacle, you fall in to the right again. Unless you're chatting with your friend at your side. Danes can talk and bike at the same time. Astounding capacity. When you're at that level, you stop caring about the glare, because you're riding with that easy balanced arrogance that comes with knowing you're looking better and getting stronger and more healthy with every turn of the wheel. Yeah, they look good.

Anyway, about that attention. Don't let those good looks distract you. What you're looking for is traffic, and you need to learn how to anticipate it. See that group of people and the bus just pulling in? They will pass through the bike lane in a second. See those tourists messing around, waiting to cross? They don't know about the bike lane, and they will block you. And behind you - catch that faint hum? You're being overtaken, and you need to check for that if you plan to shift out to pass the biker in front of you. And DO mind the red lights. Biking like a maniac to the next light just to have to stop is a waste of energy. Ease up slowly, and hope it shifts to green before you have to stop. It's not like there's always a railing to hang on to. But you're learning.

Soon you'll discover the more subtle signs of Danish biking culture. Like the turned up or tucked in right pant-leg. In the summer half of the year it's mostly turned up, to avoid getting the pants into the chain. That's when you'll notice another little subtle thing: when you wear sandals and your pants are short or tucked up, your ankle tattoo will show! That is, of course, given that you have biked around in Christiania or downtown for long enough to decide you really want a nice little decoration on your right ankle. I have never before seen that many ankle tattoos as I saw this summer, tucked neatly between the shoe and the short or turned-up pants.

Now you're ready for another difficult biking exercize: finding a parking spot. I know people who don't bike in Copenhagen because it's such a hazzle to park. Yeah. But don't despair - despite the many angry glares you'll get if you put your bike in front of shop windows, there are thousands of designated parking spots all over town. And some of them are pretty damn good. Like the ITU basement, which is to a large extent dedicated to parking bicycles.
Parking itu 2
And yes, my bike is there, today as most days. Sometimes sore, sometimes soaked, sometimes just happy to have gotten here on time - but I live 10 minutes away by bike, and I love it.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Is there a rythm to gaming?

All who have played games know there is a rythm to them, an ebb and flow of activity and energy, back and forth, sometimes like a tango where the participants are evenly matched and push, give and counter with intense focus, sometimes like the inexorable march of the invading feet as the stronger participants lay waste to all opposition. From the lighthearted singsong of easy togetherness to the complex concert of a well-rehearsed team, yes, there is a rythm to play and to games.

But to gaming, as a phenomenon? Is there a flow and counter, an emerging patterns of back and forth, intensity and slack? I don't know, but Tom Apperley is looking for it. In his quite new and fresh book Gaming Rhythms: Play and Counterplay from the Situated to the Global the topic appears to be an assumption of interconnectedness of gaming practices, globally.

It is an extremely interesting thought, and I am looking forwards to seeing there Tom Apperley takes it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When businesses discover games

From my friend Esther Ewing, a link to some talks published in TED: When games invade real life by Jesse Schell, and The game layer on top of the world by Seth Priebatsch.

Both talks focus on how gaming is becoming the new money-maker, and how it is possible to learn from game design in order to make more and more money. In Priebatsch' presentation the main topic is the connection between farmville and facebook, and how farmville can stop the world. Schell's presentation is a pretty dystopic discussion of a totalitarian surveillance state where game strategies are used to make people serve the system - mainly the commercial system.

Although it doesn't really bring anything new to gaming, these talks are interesting for a few reasons.

First: They don't bother to mention that what we are really seeing is that game designers are using techniques used in advertising since late 1700, not "new and fantastic" strategies developed by game designers. After all, letting people know that games are just doing what PR departments have done since Barnum would not pay as well - nor play as well.

Second: They don't care about the GAME part of gaming, only about the score, grind and production part. Which means they forget what a game is. An example used by Jesse Schell is Lee Sheldon's grading levels, where he lets students level up in class. That's cool, really, the grading systems in most Universities are outdated and inflexible, and doesn't really provide detailed feedback. However, changing the grading system isn't a novel idea! In Sunday school we got gold stars if we were good, and went there to collect those stars. Well, I was bad, so I hardly ever had any, but what's the difference between a gold star and a level, and why is it novel?

Still, it's an interesting way to spend some time, to see how gaming is now an acceptable metaphor for "new ways to make people do what we want, without complaining." Enjoy.

Update: I tried to remember where I touch - briefly - on games as totalitarian systems, and it's in the upcoming article in one of the next issues of this year's Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds. There, now I pitched myself a little too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Desire, art and the metro

Dance nytorv
This morning it was raining in a far too familiar way, so I decided to get on the metro rather than the bicycle. Cycling is quicker, but I wanted to spend the day at the office fairly dry, so off I went. That turned out to be a really bad decision, since the metro didn't run to where I wanted to go, due to the weather. Yeah.

However, in a way it was a good decision. In Kongens Nytorv, my local station, there's an art installation this week by a group calling themselves Urban Forest. Through music, soft lightening and moving images, they want to turn the otherwise pretty drab and functionalistic metro station into a very different experience.

I watched the flowing images for a minute, cursing myself for leaving the camera behind, when I realised that - hey, I hadn't! After all, in my pocket recided my new übergadget, the new smartphone!
In a few seconds I was clicking away. The connection down at the bottom of the Nytorv station was however too weak to upload, and by the time I had realised my train was never coming, I had to take another and then change at the next stop, and the train at the next stop was never coming and I had to walk, well, uploading was out of my mind.

Still, it's only a few hours later, and I got to upload through the ITU wireless. The pictures were surprisingly good, considering they were taken with a phone in very low light, in the morning rush.
Dance nytorv 2

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Moving to Denmark - August edition 2010

In a lot of ways, the move to Denmark has been much smoother and easier than the move (for a year) to Sweden. Most important is probably that I knew both Copenhagen and ITU pretty well, while I had never been to Umeå nor Umu before I went there.

I think one of the things that has made it all much easier, is that I got a personal number, or CPR - central personal registry number (?) right away. With that I got a dancard, which appears to be THE card all danes carry, a health card, and could immediately get the correct taxes and get into the ITU salary rolls. Money is useful stuff.

Next, I knew a lot more people when I arrived to Copenhagen. I have been here a month, and will have to spend a month (well, the week-ends) just inviting people over for dinner to make up for the generousity I have met. In Copenhagen I have semi-adopted family, colleagues I am really happy to meet again after 12 years on the same conference tracks, colleagues I think of as friends and LOVE to hang with, people I have met online who turned out to be fun company, and the Copenhagen members of the guild Tooth and Claw, who showed up at my door, filled my tiny apartment until it was about to burst, and then dragged me out into fresh night air for drinks and geekery. Copenhagen has made me feel welcomed indeed.

While I loved the place I lived in Umeå, I am exstatic about this neighbourhood. I live right downtown Copenhagen, by the both famous and infamous Nyhavn, in a lovely street just busy enough that I feel I live in a city, and peaceful enough that I don't feel any of the aggravation people report from living in cities. There's life, but no mind-wrecking noise making me dream of water on pebbles - the nightly noise of Volda. Well, at least not yet.

School hasn't started yet, but I am to teach two classes, Digital Rhetorics and Digital Culture and Society. I am exited both about the topics and about the people I am to cooperate with: Lisbeth and TL are wonderful people I have always felt inspired by. It makes me want to stretch, and I am looking forwards to engaging with the topics.

There's still a lot to be done, but I now have to leave a large chunk of it to my husband. He has to finish up in Volda, before I can seriously engage with finding a place to live for us all here. Right now there's a buyer's market on property, and if we're lucky, we won't have to turn to begging to get a place we like to live in.

Now, excuse me. I have to go explore what the clapping and cheering is about, at the harbour. It does sound like fun.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

IR 11.0 and accomodations

Ted Copman has started collecting information for a wiki, with travel tips for Gothenburg and IR 11.0. Useful stuff indeed!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

First day at school!

I have worked here a whole week now, but still feel a little awed by this high-tech building, trying to get into being here. The place is empty and quiet during the holidays, and it's also opressively hot. So is all of Copenhagen though, it's really different for a poor Norwegian dumped here.

The reception was wonderful. Flowers, a grand tour with our appointed guides, and introductions all around. Another colleague started at the same time: Adriana Araujo de Souza e Silva. Coming from Brazil, I suspect she's more used to the weather here right now than I am. I'll have to show off my autumn survival skills later.

I am slowly getting my head around some of all the things that need to be set. So far it's running a lot more smoothly than when I went to Sweden, but that may be because I am more prepared for the difficulties of changing countries. The Danes seem more familiar though, than the Swedes - a bit more easy-going and less formal. I am sure I'll be clobbered over the head with differences any minute now, though. I have a new phone, a new account (no money yet though), a place to live and a vague map of the place in my head. For a woman who's used to navigating by "up" and "down" this "flat" is somewhat disturbing. I lose the sense of distance, and there appear to be no limits the the sprawl of the city.

One thing is very different. I have managed to get a tan. Now, if you live in a place on the planet where most of the time is spent avoiding the sun, you have no idea how different this is. But for us who are more familiar with full-body rain wear than with sunblock, a tan is something to be desired and cherished, both for the variation (for once, not vampire wannabe) and for the health effects. Sunlight can not only cause cancer, but also protect against it. At the same time vitamin D is vital to protect against a lot of other cancers. This last article is interesting, by the way, as it's questioning one of the great dietary myths: That of the benefits of polyunsaturated fats.

Finally research is starting to see what Scandinavians have known for ever: sunlight is good for your health. And so you'll find us on the beaches, at the pools, on verandas, in gardens, stripped of as much clothing as we can for decency remove, and ready to soak up those rays.

Me, I am still trying to get some things in place before I hit the beach. I will though, believe me, I will.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


I am not writing much these days. I wake up in the morning, and start sorting something. Everything goes into one of three categories: throw, give away, keep. Then the "keep" stack is split into pack, use, Copenhagen now.

The biggest challenge were the books. We have reduced 25 years of collecting books to one (full) book cabinet. There's no way I am throwing out the graphic novels, those are still stored here and there through the house. The books got split into keep, give away, and store in a secret location until we can't keep them there any more and need to do something about it.

I have gone through letters, clothes, drawings, several drafts to the greatest Norwegian novel in modern times, a million pictures (keep) and a seemingly endless amount of pens and pencils in the strangest places. The kids kept some of their toys, but I am keeping more... Like the little red and white cat, that had to get its head sewn back on. And the brown and grey puppy that saved the night so many times. That beautiful puzzle that was the advent gift one year. The red christmas dress she wore when she left the table to raid the bags of her aunt, eating bread with brown cheese under the table while the rest sat down for the Christmas evening dinner.

It's wonderful and sweet, and I keep letting go of so many things. The letters - it's incredible how many letters we used to write once. Ribbons, cheap jewelry, old glasses, ugly promotional mugs. When we sell the house and get rid of most of the furniture, we'll be where I planned: having reduced the clutter in my life by at least half. My husband eyes the beautiful glasses in the cabinet with an evil eye. I told him to pick one glass he could do without. He found two. When I showed him which I wanted to be without, he refused. Those were the ones he liked. He is as bad as me. I find him lost in old diaries, digging through old letters. He touches hand-knitted sweaters with a loving hand, muttering about how wonderful those were, once, how much pleasure we had from them. Old tickets, old passports, scraps saved in order to make a scrap book - he savours them, and I sneak in behind him and trash what he puts down for too long.

We are getting there, though. I have sorted out the plates and cups we don't want to keep, knives and forks, CDs and videos. We have even sorted coins. Today I packed my shoes: use, store, bring, thrash. The boy laughed, and shook his head when I tried on all the pairs. I managed to get rid of - mainly to the salvation army - 10 pairs. I didn't count how many I kept. I took pictures though, of the shoes lined up on the livingroom floor, looking like they were planning an escape through the door.

It's raining and cold. I think I'll be able to leave this place. But the roots have to be severed string by string, trashed, stored or to be brought with me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It feels final

It isn't, really, because I have a two year leave, leaving myself the option to turn around and come back to this hideout between the mountains. This hole, my sister so lovingly describes Volda as, and she's right, it is a hole in which to hide, a sudden green spot in between black mountains. And I have been crawling back into it over and over again over the last 19 years, hiding in between my expeditions into the world.

Somehow, living in Volda, the distinction between "real" and "virtual" world feels meaningless. What's real about living here? It's so secluded, so filled with its own rules, concerns and moving by its own rythm that living in the flesh world of Volda is like living in a virtual world. The insane beauty of the place, combined with the ruthless weather, the heavy darkness and the dreariness of the third month of rain and sleet, it turns Volda into something on the flip-side of other flesh world realities. At the same time - this is it. This is the reality, because reality is made up of a million little spots like this, places of heartbreaking beauty and equally numbing mundaneity, spread like random handfuls of marbles all over the planet.

The distinction between places is more than anything, a state of mind, and somehow I suspect the Volda state of mind won't stay behind. There's a tale in Norway, about the man who got into a fight with his house "nisse", the otherworld power living on his farm, traditionally bound to the land. At the end he gave up, sold the farm and moved. Among his stuff, however, the nisse was happily singing "we're moving today."

There are parts of Volda I hope I'll never leave behind. The easy assumption that people care, the sudden closeness in times of need, the long-term strategies to protect and care for the community, those are all some of the best qualities of small-town life. And there is a nisse I really hope doesn't come with me: the pettiness, the lack of generousity towards that which is unknown, the selfish scheming, the xenophobia. Sadly, I suspect that I'll find that wherever I go, that part of human nature was there before me.

As for the college? I have loved and hated this place for 19 years. I really need to work somewhere else, at least for a while, if I want to stretch and develop beyond my own comfort zone. But I am not fleeing. I am making a strategic move, keeping the lines of retreat open. Yep, sounds much better that way.

And now the bookshelves are slowly emptying. As I write, I have barely finished F. I have quite a few boxes to go. I'll get there though, and then me and my boxes and my past will move from this early-70ies built-quickly-and-cheaply crooked box into the glass-and-steel high modernity of ITU. Oh my.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Games: Design and Research

Next week there's a small, but ambitious conference in Volda: Games: Design and Research. It's organised by Norwegian game researchers loosely connected, mainly Kristine Jørgensen (conference chair), Ragnhild Tronstad, Faltin Karlsen, Sara Brinch and me, and financed by Volda University College, University of Bergen, and the Norwegian Research Council.

If you are in the neighbourhood, feel free to drop by for a lecture or two. This conference can not accomodate more than the people participating, but the lectures are open.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Sustainability - Ph D comics style

The real, the unreal and the passing of time

In between semester end, student supervision, guest lecturers, seminars, exam preparation, conference papers (oh no I have more mails I need to send out about that), conference organising, moving to another country and changing jobs, I am a tad busy. However, when given a forced pause (sitting in one place, looking awake), I grabbed the chance to read Playing with one’s self: notions of subjectivity and agency in digital games, by Alec Charles in Eludamos.

I have been using Baudrillard to a certain extent in my own work, and have also read with interest Ragnhild Tronstad's very interesting Doctoral thesis Interpretation, Performance, Play, & Seduction: Textual Adventures in Tubmud.

This prepared me for the sense of going back in time I experienced reading this paper. Fifteen years ago I wrote about the pseudo-interactivity in games (in Norwegian, Charles is exused for not citing that). This was the introduction to meeting Espen Aarseth, and the many, many discussions about the real meaning of interactivity, of agency and power that followed through the years I worked with my doctorate.

And this brings me back to Alec Charles' interesting text, because this is an article which could have benefited quite a bit from going back 10 years in the references. It feels amazing to be able to say this, but the discussions of game texts, literature theory and interactivity were quite heated around the change of the milennium, and a central text is the now old, but not yet, obviously, dated: Cybertext by Aarseth.

Another valuable source is (after the last years of telling people "you don't need to cite that #¤¤%& debate all the time," I never thought I'd say this) the infamous and formative ludology vs narratology debate. Much of the discussion in that debate concerns itself with the question of interactivity.

This little stroll down memory lane made me reconsider some of the things that have annoyed me the last years. Time has actually passed, and there is now enough material that it is possible to have a decent literature list for an article and still miss some of the more relevant material. This is all good, so no, I am not goign to start whining about "these young academics who don't do their homework, and everythign was so much better just 15 years ago..." It does however give a perspective to game studies, and the people who once upon a time said:
2001 can be seen as the Year One of Computer Game Studies as an emerging, viable, international, academic field. This year has seen the first international scholarly conference on computer games, in Copenhagen in March, and several others will follow. 01-02 may also be the academic year when regular graduate programs in computer game studies are offered for the first time in universities. And it might be the first time scholars and academics take computer games seriously, as a cultural field whose value is hard to overestimate.

It feels like 2001 was yesterday.

When I read this and look at the material being produced only 9 years later, it feels like the years must have been very long indeed.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

IR 11.0 results

The results are almost done, I have a small stack of papers still waiting for reviews. However, more than 90% are now decided on, so the chance is very big that you will find that the result is already available in the conference organising system. Please check in if you are impatient, I need the afternoon to finish up the last reviews before I send out the notifications.

--- update -----

For some reason, the results are not available to people. The reviewing process was delayed, and at the absolutely final deadline on the 28th the last reviews were still not in, despite the heroic efforts of several extra special volunteers. This coincided with my teaching duties. I am stuck at present, unable to put in the 10 final hours of work needed to get this done.

I can't give a time, since a lot of the things that need to be cleared up does not entirely depend on me, but I will be working on it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cory Doctorow on Ipads and shared content

Rupert Murdoch can rattle his saber all he likes about taking his content out of Google, but I say do it, Rupert.

Cory Doctorow points to the wonderful conenction between new technology and new content, in this careful explanation of why he doesn't want to buy an Ipad.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

IR 11.0 chairs

No, we don't have a problem with seating for the Internet Research 11.0 conference. I just thought you'd like to see the conference chairs! Here we are, from the left to the right: conference co-chairs Ylva Hård af Segerstad, Ann-Sofie Axelsson, and me, the program chair, in Gothenburg discussing the work that needs to be done before we meet you all in October.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gaining the upper hand

Another article hits the digital sphere. Training, sharing, cheating is now available to the subscribers of e-learning, the journal. In 18 months it will be free, but until then: Subscribe, or be satisfied with the abstract.

This article gathers a lot of the loose threads of my thoughts through the last years, particularly my experiences from playing in guilds that raid (although casually).

Savnevise - Knutsen & Ludvigsen

Norwegians woke up this morning to hear that "Ludvigsen" is dead. It was - surreal. Not only did Gustav Lorentzen appear to be one of those upbeat, happy people who never would let age touch him, he was in great shape and died as his heart stopped during a cross-country run.

Knutsen and Ludvigsen, the team Lorentzen was a part of, wrote texts that almost all Norwegians of a certain age know by heart. The one above is perhaps the most fitting of all for the occasion, as Øystein Dolmen AKA Knutsen sings about how much he misses Ludvigsen. It is almost too sad - and still wonderful - that they wrote the music that lets us express loss in such a clear and simple manner. Thank you, Ludvigsen, for being there with us. Say hello to the badger as you pass through the tunnel.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

In the air

I love to travel. It doesn't matter how, but the process of being on the way somewhere is in itself desirable. When on a plane, train, bus or boat I relax in ways I otherwise never do. All my time is dedicated to one thing: getting there.

There's a saying in Norwegian "du har bare tida og veien," which means: All you have is the time and the road. What it means is that you can't delay, the time you have now is what you need to get where you are going. You'll also notice this in the response you'll get if you ask for a distance. "How far is it from Ørsta to Volda?" "It's about 15 minuts by car." We won't say how many kilometers, distance is measured in time. This has to do with an intimate understanding about how imprecise a measure distance is, when you want to indicate the effort it takes to travel somewhere. After all, if the distance you drive is 60 kilometers, but you spend half an hour being transported on a ferry, your travelling time isn't 1 hour at 60 kilometers pr hour, but 90 minutes - if you are lucky and get directly on the ferry.

And so the recent events which closed off the Norwegian airspace suddenly changed everything about travel. Rather than Brüssel being 5 hours away, as it was when I started planning and bought the tickets for the upcoming trip with students, it's now 36 hours away. I could have left Volda last night by bus. From there I could get onwards to Copenhagen by train, where I might have caught another train to Brüssel. It would get me there some time tomorrow evening. I should have already been on the way to Oslo to make it.

But while I was travelling, the winds might turn and the cloud of ashes might move. Also, while I could do this, as the college would cover it, my students can't afford it. And why should I sit in Belgium with no students? I have been there before, and while I would love to meet some of the people I have been communicating with this get the trip organised, for instance the wonderfully friendly Consul Géneral Baudouin Lagrange in Antwerp, me going to rub shoulders with people I'd like to see is really not what this trip is about.

Hence, no matter what happens, I'll sit tight here until tomorrow and see if we can get on some planes and out of here, preferably with all my students coming along. And suddenly travel is something other than relaxation, it has become oddly insecure, a responsibility and fraught with tension. While we may not be, our travel plans are - up in the air.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


There's a program on NRK these days called Hjernevask or "Brainwashing." It's creating quite a stir, as a Norwegian comedian is having it out with his old professors, particularly any who have been doing gender research and claimed that gender is cultural, not natural.

The program has caused a lot of good and interesting debate, and I don't really feel the need to expand on it here. But for those who have been following the debate, here's Evolutionary Psychology Bingo:

By way of TL - thanks!

Game of the future

The Norwegian University og Science and Technology NTNU celebrates its 100 year anniversary, and to celebrate they have designed the game Spillet om framtiden or "The game of the future". In this you can be the headmaster of the University, fighting some mysterious female evil bandit (I am not sure what she has done, but she is dressed in black and has short, white hair. Is she perhaps a representative of the humanist- or the social sciences, directions which are not prioritised in Trondheim?), solving several puzzles as (you) he zoomes around the Trondheim campus in his red coat.

Despite the language in the cut scenes (did I mention that this is a technical university, not one with a strong language department?), it's a very funny little game, and I am quite delighted with how it combines playfulness, science fiction, game clichés and information about what goes on at the campus.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Going to Denmark

When I started working in Volda in 1991, it meant moving towards where I grew up. The light, the air, the mountains, the language, it all resonated deeply with me, and I felt like coming home after years in Bergen. The kids would grow up with clean air and wonderful nature, in a small community where they had space to roam and where we felt safe about letting them take themselves about where they wanted - and where they knew where to find us, how, at all times of the day. It worked wonderfully for us all, but now they have moved out, my mother, who was an important reason to move to this area, is dead, and the only thing keeping us here is a too-big house and our jobs.

And now I am changing jobs. From the middle of July I will be at the ITU in Copenhagen, Denmark, working with so many wonderful people I have learned to know over the years. I will teach in a field more closely related with my research, and I will do my research around people who can both understand me and challenge me.

It's both a very sad and a very happy decision. I am leaving a place I have grown to know so well, taking the leap into the unknown, moving from the countryside to the city. At the same time I am going towards something I have wanted more and more over the last years, new challenges, new opportunities and, not the least, a change in problems. I am realistic enough to know that it won't be any easier to work in a new place, but I am looking forwards to some variety in my frustrations!

I still have some months left here in Volda, but the energy of the move is quite envigorating, and I am in some odd way both very much present here, and very preoccupied with the move.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Want to work in Volda?

There are currently two positions open at Volda University College for people interested in ICT, design and education:

Associate professor in Media, ICT and design and Associate professor in Digital tools in education.

The final date on both positions is 7th of April, and for more information, contact Dean Aud Folkestad at +47 7007 5310.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Life among the mountains

Living among the mountains dwarfs you, but also lifts your eye and your longing to the peaks, it makes you want to get up, above the valley and the fjord, up to where nothing hinders your vision.

In summer, it's a good life, the challenge is scaled to your ambition, and the reward is a sense of being on top of the world. During the winter, however...

After three avalanches caused considerable damage and closed off the roads leading in almost every direction from here, roads have been closed in most directions. On this list (it may expire) there are 18 closed roads today, closed due to avalanches or danger of avalanches. Four more are under consideration. After a winter of snow in several layers we suddenly have rain and a thaw. It's undermining the snowmasses and loosening that which so far has been stable. Spring does that - and this year more so than ever.

I am not planning to drive to Ålesund this week-end, and if I did, I'd go out towards the islands: Tunnel, bridge and ferry, to get around and away from the mountainsides. I don't want to get caught by anything like this.

In normal years there are always avalanches, or "ras" or "skred" as they are called here. This year however, in addition to the known spots of danger, new areas are hit. And so we lose buildings, and people are in danger, like this mother and her eight year old daughter, who outraced an avalanche by car.

If you were to fly above this area in a small plane, you'd notice that there is no immediate logic to the spread of buildings. There will be a few houses close together, then nothing for a while, even if there may be wide, nice fields there. Then perhaps, one house built prominently on a rock, and then nothing again, for miles. No, it's not like that just because people wanted to live close together or far apart, depending. It's the spots where a building stands the best chance of surviving the winter.

We learn to live with the danger, and there are even people who make a living from maintaining communication in the face of danger. Recently, one machine was taken by an avalanche while clearing the road of snow. The people in it were able to run clear. As I type, others are assessing the danger of avalanches along the roads, at great risk.

Standing on top of a mountain, it feels like you own the world. Buried beneath it though...

Home taping is killing music

This one was just too good to pass by. Thanks Nick!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Games and e-learning

Sometimes I just forget that I have done something, and then it pops up and I go "Oh, yeah, right, I did that." It sounds horribly arrogant, as if I don't care, and I don't like this part of myself. You see, I do care about the articles I write and the work I do. It's just that when I have finished something, I put it behind me and move on, and sometimes I put it a bit more behind me than I really planned, you know. And then, more times than not, I go: "Oh, I wrote this as well. Huh, I almost sound smart!"

One such item is the upcoming article in E-learning. Issue 7 is on Game Design Literacy Practices, and my article in it is "Training, Sharing or Cheating? Gamer Strategies to Get a Digital Upper Hand." Heavily inspired by Mia Consalvo, I write about theorycrafting and the use of specialised gamer sites, where gamers go to help each other learn or develop those mad skills they later use to impress each other with ingame.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Yes, I am part of organising a conference with a major buzzword in the title. Hence, imagine my delight when I found a nice visualisation of this and some other recent buzzwords in Academia:

Friday, February 19, 2010

IR 11.0 submission guidelines

As program chair for IR 11.0 I get several questions along the same lines. So, for those out there who might actually google me in order to find answers, here's the submission guidelines for IR 11.0 Sustainability, Participation, Action:

Submission guidelines for IR 11.0 Sustainability, Participation, Action

All contributions should be submitted to https://www.conftool.net/aoir-ir11/

Each individual is invited to submit a proposal for 1 paper or 1 presentation. A person may also propose a panel session, which may include a second paper that they are presenting. An individual may also submit a roundtable proposal. You may be listed as co-author on additional papers as long as you are not presenting them. This limits each participant to three presentations, all in different formats.

For all participants: Please choose your topics of interest and expertise when you register for the conference. Also please indicate if you wish to review for the conference.

PAPERS (individual or multi-author) - submit abstract of 600-800 words. Please both cut and paste the abstract in, as well as upload one document either in .doc or .pdf format. The system does not accept other formats. Please indicate all co-authors, and nominate a main author, but be sure to remove all identifying information from the abstract itself. Be aware that you can only be the main author of one paper. Full references and formal citations are not required in abstracts, but please be aware that one main issue with papers not accepted to conferences is when they don't demonstrate a good working knowledge of other relevant research, discourses and corresponding authors. If you choose to not use formal citations and references, make certain to attribute ideas, thoughts and quotes to the correct sources in the text.

FULL PAPERS (OPTIONAL): For submitters requiring peer review of full papers, manuscripts of up to 8,000 words will be accepted for review. These will be reviewed and judged separately from abstract submissions. Please cut and paste the abstract in, and upload the papers either in .pdf or .doc format. The system does not accept other formats. Please indicate all co-authors, and nominate a main author. Be aware that you can only be the main author of one paper. Be sure to remove all identifying information from your paper.

PANEL PROPOSALS - submit a 600-800 word description of the panel theme, plus 250-500 word abstract for each paper or presentation. Indicate all participants on the submission site but not in the body of the proposal. Collect and upload the descriptions for all participants in one document, either in .pdf or .doc format. Finally, please cut and paste the submission into the system.

ROUNDTABLE PROPOSALS - submit a statement indicating the nature of the roundtable discussion and interaction, in less than 800 words. Indicate all participants and their expertise in relation to the proposed topic. Upload the proposal in one document, either in .pdf or .doc format. Also cut and paste the submission into the system.

Papers, presentations and panels will be selected from the submitted proposals on the basis of multiple blind peer review, coordinated and overseen by the Program Chair.

Important dates, as of 19 February 2010:

Submissions Due 28 February 2010
Notifications of Acceptance 28 Apr 2010
Abstract Revisions Due 15 May 2010
Full Papers Due 21 August 2010
Pre-Conference Workshops 20 Oct 2010
Main Conference 21-23 Oct 2010

Moral panic goes horribly wrong

This extremely sad tale from China demonstrates only too well how dangerous extremes are - in either direction. While China already is the source of many of the horrible stories supporting the idea of internet-addiction in North America and Europe (such as the person who died after 20 hours of non-stop gaming), it is now becoming the source of the horror stories about what happens when a nation blames one object only for the cultural changes that are challenging the established order.

Deng Senshan was another victim to fear, lack of knowledge and massive propaganda.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where do you work?

I don't mean, what company or what business or what country or what city, I mean: In what kind of space do you work?

I am quite sensitive to work spaces, and I need them to be controlled and comfortable in order to inspire a good working process. That does not mean they have to be overly organised. As long as I find what I am looking for, I am fine. Actually, I tend to use clutter as a way to remind me of tasks. Once in a while - normally at the end or the start of a term - I go through everything on the desk and on the most imemdiate shelves, and clear it. Then I move what I know I will be working with in the next 3-6 months closer to the central work space, so when I look up from a task, I am reminded of the rest of the stuff waiting. Immediate to-do stuff ends on top of my keyboard when I go home from work, and then there's a diminishing urgency as items move further from the computer monitor.

This makes it a lot easier to remember all those little tasks that I need to deal with repeatedly or immediately, but it does have one unpleasant side-effect. When I have to focus on larger, complicated tasks, I get distracted and stressed by looking at all the stuff I otherwise really don't want to forget. And so I pick up that note by the telephone, I respond to the letter by the keyboard, or I leaf through the article lurking just to the left, and the larger task that demands more focus remains untouched. That's when I have two options: To clean the desk again and remove all those to-do things (impossible, really) or to move myself, physically, away. The distance I go depends on the task.

For a focused reading up on material for teaching, going through literature for leactures or reading lists or similar tasks demanding focus but not really such a tough challenge, I change from the office computer to the lap-top, and move into the bean bag in the office. Yeah, I know, I am lucky to have an office which provides a secondary work space and to own a lap-top, but the principle can still apply elsewhere. Just move away from the "short-term-task" space and look in another direction where it's not as easy to pick up everything waiting to be fixed. Pick up the book and turn the chair around. Since I am still in the office I am available for colleagues, students and people who really need to reach me on the phone, but I am not getting all the visual clues I have planted on the desk.

For more complex tasks, I leave the office. When I write an article, I need to focus. I mean, really really focus. I need to empty out all the clutter in my mind that pulls my attention elsewhere, and get into the "zone" - a state of mind that just ignores distractions. When I am deeply focused I ignore time, space, hunger, family and cold. I have come out of writing rushes frozen to the bone and shivering because I just couldn't be bothered to stop writing and turn up the heating. In that state of mind it doesn't really matter where I am, but to get to that point I need to wind down slowly. It is like a cleansing process, perhaps similar to what monks do while meditating. To get there I find that physical work is the best. Working out is not one of my strategies, despite the studies pointing out the benefits, but I guess cleaning and tidying does much of the same as a light walk. It also helps me remove those visual clues that pull my attention away. And as things around me become more tidy, I think about the work I am supposed to do, and gradually I settle down. Once I am settled I don't care what it looks like around me, so no, I am not a superwife in a superclean house. But at least the dishes will be done.

This only works for intermediary focus though. Working at home will quickly draw me back to the need to declutter the house, if I am doing something really tough. That's when I need to get all the way out. That's when I have visited friends in Bergen, New York and Urbino, spent a year in Umeå or rented a cabin in the mountains.

Today, however, I found something interesting - shedworking. I don't really need a shed in which to work, I have a house too-large for two people and can have as big a home-office as I care to organise. It's not for lack of space I am currently tucked into a chair in the corner of a shared home office packed with books and electronic equipment. But walking out into a shed might be the mental journey I'd need to be at rest. And right now I am looking out of the window, considering where I'd like to put that shed.

You see, I need to start a new, very complicated article which I have delayed doing anything about for at least 6 months. I should have been in New York, not staring at my garden. I'll go do the dishes and think about how to pretend I am in Italy. Perhaps a cappucino will help.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blogging the blogged Ph D about blogging

I just want to point you all towards Lilia Efimova's wonderful thesis Passion at work: blogging practices of knowledge workers, which was submitted last year. It is, of course, online, so: Enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2010

IR 11.0 - Sustainability, Participation, Action

The conference website is up and running! It is still being built and tweeked, but even so it's infinitely better than no site at all! Add this website to your bookmarks, right along the URL for where to submit your paper!

Friday, February 12, 2010


This arrived to an emailaddress which I have published online in order to be easily available for people up to the IR 11.0 conference. Since the mail address is openly out there, I am seeing a LOT more spam in the few months since publishing that address than I do in any other mailboxes. And so I also see some interesting phishing attempts, such as the following, supposedly sent from GMAIL. Despite the fancy colours in the original mail, all I can say to this is: Not even a good try, stranger!

Dear Member,

We are shutting down some email accounts and your account was automatically chosen to be deleted. If you are still interested in using our email service please fill in the space below for verification purpose by clicking the reply button. Learn more

Birth date:

Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his or her account within Seven days of receiving this warning will lose his or her account permanently.
Thank you for using Gmail !

The Gmail Team

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Dear Amazon

You know I have loved you since I found you online. You have sated my reading lust and supported my academic struggles for years. I have browsed your pages and lusted for your offers, my wish-list is long and much larger than my bank-account, and in my shopping cart lurks desires I want to consume side by side with guilt about procrastination and lazyness.

But, dear Amazon - you are making life very difficult for me now. I was unhappy with you for a while, in Sweden, when you made me run around all of Umeå to figure out where you had sent my treasures. It was not a funny game, although it did make me ride my bike, through snow and wind, to new, remote places. Back home in Norway though, safely in Volda, I forgave you, because you delivered reliably again. I found my books in my mailbox or at the mail office, a healthy little walk away from home.

I think you know where this is going, though. Amazon, how could you? Suddenly, you are demanding that I take whole days off in order to receive that which I ask of you. You expect me to stay home, like a frustrated housewife, anxiously awaiting the pleasure of those who carry my books to me. Or, I have to ask that they are delivered to work, to be commented, studied and discussed by my peers. This is no longer what I thought it was to be! So, please remember this, my old love: Those are my books you are delaying. I have paid already as you send them, but you are slowing their trip to me through your poor choices of partners. I can change my mind, you know. I can take my wishlist elsewhere, directly to the publishers, or to competitors who deliver instantly.

I also haven't forgotten previous treachery. My patience is wearing thin, my passion is fading, but I still remember the love we shared in the past. You can still repent and return to better ways. Send my books by mail again, please? It is the best distribution system for private packages in Norway. The other systems are good for business transport, but I can't leave a lecture in order to sign for a box of science fiction books. I can't stay home a whole day just to indulge my taste for graphic novels. Please realise this, and give me the option to, perhaps, pay a little more for the transport I desire. It will be cheap compared to the inconvenience and the cost in work hours.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

IR 11.0 submission site now open

To submit your papers for IR 11.0 - Sustainability, Participation, Action, please use the submission site to be found here.

The CFP can be found here, but the link to the conference organising site has not yet been added.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Knitting the revolution

When ever anybody makes a statement about gender in weblogs which indicates that women don't blog, I ask them to go start reading knitting blogs. It's one of my secret addictions, to surf knitting blogs, reading about all the things I could have made if I just put the computer away and picked up some yarn instead. Lucky for me, there are women out there who are both computer literate and knitting smart!

One of these has the weblog Med pinner (with sticks, sticks meaning knitting-needles). On her weblog, which is full of really beautiful patterns and experiences with knitting (yes, it's legal to take a picture of clothes people are wearing while outside in a public place, no, it's not permitted to publish recognisable pictures of people without their permission unless they are part of a parade or a performance or something similar where it's obvious that they are there in order to be seen. This picture doesnt' show the face though, so it should be ok.), she has a button. The text says: The revolution is being hand made, and it links to an exhibition of crafted goods in Sweden.

I had to google that though, to see if I there might be a movement behind it, and what I found was:
An artists' collective named Handmade Revolution.
Two volunteers organising markets in the UK for handmade goods.
Canadian events for selling and buying handmade goods in the "Make It" fairs.
And an angry rant against the idea that the revolution can be hand made.

On the one hand: No, knitting does not remove the fact that my entire life is supported by unsustainable technology. The only times when I get anywhere close to sustainability is when I live in the cabin with simple technology, fishing and growing most of the food, and cooking on a fire made of wood we cut clearing the garden and land around the houses. But even then I am very aware that it's just a matter of days before I turn on the electricity, get into the car and go shopping.

Still, there's another way to think about a hand-made revolution.

If we are to have a systemic change, which is what we need, it will mean that everybody must expect lifestyle changes. We may for instance have to move back to the lifestyle of the fifties, giving up on twice-daily showers, and moving into areas which will allow us to walk or ride a bike or bus to work. We can't drive to malls, and the huge cities need to change very radically, in order to allow for local produce and local markets. And each and every step of the way will mean more direct, hands-on and personal engagement with the comforts of our lives.

One pair of hand-knitted mittens is just one less pair of mittens produced by Indian child slaves sold. But the knowledge and skill it takes to make those mittens can be the key to changing society, if it's used at all levels of life: Knowing how to cook your food from scratch, knowing how to grow it, knowing how to pick and find it, knowing how to use the resources that surround you, knowing how to build a house, row a boat, repair a bike, redress your furniture, repair your clothes and care for a well of fresh water - all this is knowledge that needs a hands-on approach. Technology may save us through some new, sustainable solution, but it's the hands-on knowledge of how our comforts are brought to be that can make us accept this as important.

So start knitting, now.