Monday, December 31, 2001

I have been complaining to Adrian about this house: despite the fact that I love it, it looks like my parents or in-laws live here. That might be because we have inherited quite a bit of furniture, though. But some items would never have been part of their homes. My mother made it very clear that something like that big ugly thing (she used thing, not computer) would never be part of her livingroom. What I am happy about is my favourite room in the house, the kitchen. The furnishing is real plastc imitation wood from the 70ties, and after I removed most of the lovely green glass knobs and painted the green (different shade of green) wallpaper, this is the room where I like to set up the lap-top and enjoy a quiet day of working at home. The picture is painted by my sister, and has followed us from kitchen to kitchen for almost 15 years.

The view isn't so great, but the room feels safe and restful to me (when I have done the dishes).

One of the things which might be so frustrating to my sense of interiors is that it's a 70ies house built with some of the qualities of the old traditional farm-houses. That gives us a house designed to hold one of the large, generous living-rooms which was the best part of the houses built from 1965-1980 in Norway, but compromising. This house has that wonderful kitchen and a good, sizeable laundry-room, rather than the tiny rooms the times demanded for a modern household, which reduces the scope of the livingroom and makes it smaller and (shudder) cozy.
In the last month three young men have disappeared on their way home from parties here in Norway. I know: 47 people, all related, were killed in a car-accident in South-Afrika, and I am talking about three young men between 16-19 who didn't come home from the parties they were at. But it's such a different situation. If this had been women, we would have cried sex-crime and th police would be rounding up known rapists for questioning. But since it's three young men, they assume that they have gotten themselves into trouble such as stumbling into the frozen rivers, fights with rivalling gangs, falling down drunk and freezing to death... Well, not any more, really. Now the Kripos: Criminal Police have been called in on the latest case as well, the disappearance of 17-year old Lars Gillesen Hognes. They are checking his internet accounts, his chats and his cell-phone to see if it can give a hint as to where he went Thursday night, rather than going home.

Newspapers like to make cases as large as possible, and introduce a fourth mystical disappearance from 1998 to make it look larger and more dramatic. Who knows, it might be connected. I find myself looking at maps, wondering what kind of person is moving slowly from Hemsedal and south through wintery, frozen Norway, looking for young, pretty men - or boys, really, just few years older than my own son - seeking out parties and perhaps offering them a lift or the experience of their lives... It has to be someone who looks harmless, perhaps even seductive: an old man who needs assistance, a middle-aged woman who reminds them of their mothers or a favourite aunt, a pretty young girl who smiles at them, a cool boy who could be one of them...

It's like the plot of some particularly nasty mystery-novel. And I find that I watch the news with the same feeling of doom as I read crime-novels. Will the next boy disappear to the south... or back up north? We all know those plots: according to the conventions of literature, it can't stop now.
Jurgen Habermas, some links.
A quick overview of his Critical Theory
From Representative Publicity to Public Sphere
Habermas links, Habermas rechts you need to read German to both appreciate this clever title and the site with the mixture of quotes in German and English.
Habermas and the Frankfurter school, and despite the consistent use of "was" in this article, Habermas is not dead and his contributions to scholarly thinking are still at the "is" stage. The rest of the Frankfurter school can be spoken of in past tense though.
More Habermas resources.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

Following the comments on "The Social Network Explorer", I have had an email which told me things I didn't know about blogs and bloggers. Interesting things about networks that are created in the old fashioned way of physical contact (sometimes very close contact), about a feudal system worthy of Habermas' re-feudalisation, and certainly not the public sphere of discourse I thought this to be. Habermas uses the words which are translated "Borgerlig Offentlighet" from German to Norwegian... when I try to translate to English, I get "Public Public", a ridiculous phrase. But his idea was that a rational exchange of ideas could happen in a space where all can express their meaning informally and as equals. This would lead to an open discourse, informed and democratic, which would be the best base for decision. According to Habermas, we had such a state of innocense in the 19th and early 20th century. It was succeeded by Re-Feudalisation.

No, I am not quoting sources or even passing the words on. But I'll be dragging Jurgen Habermas out of the shelf, read up on the theory (OK, so I have to teach classes on this anyway) and see what I can do about tracking links. Perhaps there is a way to use the social network explorer after all.

Friday, December 28, 2001

A new toy, and I have to check it out (by way of Jill and Hilde): The Social Network Explorer. It makes interesting claims, it says that I have only one blogger friend: Hilde on But if asked, I'd call both Jill and Lisbeth Friends... Then it goes on to recommend some people I might make friends: I know some of them, and we are at polite nodding terms, our connection is that we work in the same field. Why should I want to be their "blog-friends"?

I am feeling imposed upon by all these tools. I don't keep track of who reads and who looks in here, who links and who comments - I don't like the thought that others can use something like this explorer and decide the level of popularity of my weblog, or the number of the links, or the coolness factor of tose who have linked to me... It takes away something from the pleasure of writing, it invades my space on the net. Perhaps what I want is to write in a Jane's space, such as Mark Bernstein describes, where only those who know what to look for can find me.

No, I don't want that either... I just want to have my weblog in peace, one place where I can write, think, share, and not compete.
Mark Bernstein is in Singapore, and I am thoroughly jealous of him. It's - 10 C outside, and I can't stop thinking about the old lady in the Indian Quarter, who foretold my future. She claimed I'd be back to Singapore one day (of course, after she had questioned me on what I do for a living, if I like travelling, if I like Singapore and other relevant questions). She also claimed with authority that we'd buy a larger house in two years and it was more than five before that happened, so perhaps I'll not return to Singapore in this life, but in the next.
Looking for definitions of amateur, I came across this delightful sceptics dictionary. It has a small article on alpha waves, which correspond with the measurements made of children watching television, where the brain activity was dominated by beta waves. Because the desired alpha waves were supressed and the beta waves (fast/active) were dominant, researchers concluded that television worked like a drug on children. This was the base of a lot of fear of television and later any monitor media, when it came to the effect on children. I haven't heard much about this particular brand of media research lately, but the harm is done: the belief resurfaces at intervals to make parents blame television for what's wrong with their kids rather than looking at their own life-styles, diets, exercise or activity-patterns.
amateur at Merriam-Webster OnLine
Entry Word: amateur
Function: noun
Text: 1 one having a marked and usually informed taste or liking for something
amateur: a person who engages in a study, sport or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons.
Fall 2000 I spent in New York, a visiting scholar at the department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. It was a time of forced introspection and sadly very little contact with the host department, exept a series of lectures I followed. Particularly the classes of Fred Moten were wonderful, the sheer cultural shock of sitting in on the classes of a black academic specialicing on jazz was enough to make my brain shift gears and new paths of thought open.

Halfway through the semester the kids came over for the fall vacation, and we all found room on the floors of an apartment already filled pretty well with me, my books and Matt. He was planning to give up the apartment to us while the kids were visiting, but he was soon drawn into the chatter, charmed by their pleasure with life and their curiosity. Returning from NYC, I had a lot of films I needed to develop, but they all disappeared in the mail. The only pictures I have from that fall are the ones Matt had taken with his camera. Dub Rogers, another NYC friend, scanned some of them, and look: here they are: Matt, Sine (she's a friend of my daughter), Erla and Hauk under the Verrazano Bridge.
Finally cleaned up.
Blogger played tricks with me tonight. I posted a picture and a story - then decided that picture deserved a better-told story, and deleted it - I thought. It refused to be deleted, and I posted an explanation: that I was trying to delete, but couldn't. That post didn't publish. At that point I decided that I didn't want to go crazy over it, and I went to bed.

When I came to work today, the picture and the story was still at the blogspot, and the explanation still wouldn't post. So I deleted the explanation and published again, and it all cleared up!

Events like these are what makes people antropomorph technology. It seems so reasonable to explain them through human or animal characteristics: Blogger was stubborn, the post refused to be deleted, the program changed its mind and I managed to convince blogspot to let go of the offending post.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

And this shows a piece of the house as well, almost snowed down. We are tucked up there, the four of us and the cat, surviving on Christmas left-overs for a while yet, don't worry.

I have had some wonderful christmas presents in the mailbox: pictures, pictures, pictures.

The next days you'll be introduced to how I look, to my friends and family, and the famous house with space for guests. And there will even be a picture of the elusive mr Miles of Melbourne, even if he is turning his back to the camera and does a good "nisse" impersonation. But the first picture will show the view I have moved to - this time, in one of the more mellow moods:

This picture is taken from the balcony just outside the bedroom - sadly it's not the right temperature for a romantic glass of wine, but those who insist on roughing it will be served a steaming cup of gløgg, I promise.
Jill had found this more suitable version of "which XXX are you?", this one for gamers, and I guess it wasn't all that surprising that I am an adventurer.

What Video Game Character Are You? I am a Gauntlet Adventurer.I am a Gauntlet Adventurer.

I strive to improve my living conditions by hoarding gold, food, and sometimes keys and potions. I love adventure, fighting, and particularly winning - especially when there's a prize at stake. I occasionally get lost inside buildings and can't find the exit. I need food badly. What Video Game Character Are You?

The alternative was a little more surprising, but hey, it's a classic, and I guess that is the best that can be said of women my age in this "game":

What Video Game Character Are You? I am Pacman.I am Pacman.

I am an aggressive sort of personality, out to get what I can, when I can. I prefer to avoid confrontation, but sometimes when it's called for, I can be a powerful character. I tend to be afflicted with munchies constantly. What Video
Game Character Are You?

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Several years ago, my younger sister gave me a five-year diary for Christmas. She thought I'd like to write and compare: what happened when - to keep track of the way the kids grew and time passed. Writing a diary has never been about the passage of time for me, it's always been about a project, a topic, a journey, my experiences, but not the daily grind.

The five-year diary was never touched. I have diaries from travels with the kids, I have travelling-letters from my journeys alone, saved and stored, I have descriptions and short notes in a long list of note-books, which I have always used while doing academic work, but I never picked up that leather-bound, gold-edged beautifully printed diary, even to write my name in it.

Today I gave it to my mother. She's 76 years old, has a heart-condition, and keeps telling us that she will die soon. She has also lived through a war, the development of this country from an industry-low farm-country (there are some wonderful pictures of my sisters and the horse they used to run the farm they were managing, I always envied my sisters for having lived on a farm with a horse) to a technologically advanced society. Her father and grandfather were stone-masons, they participated in building the rail-road from Bergen to Oslo and were active agitators in the labour-party; which played an important part in building the well-fare society which Norway is today. Her late husband, my father, was sami, and she taught him to read and write after they had met - forcing him to read out loud from the newspapers every day. Now when we struggle with my son's dyslexia, she nods in recognition, and says that's the same problems as his grandfather had. My son doesn't have to switch from his mother-tongue to Norwegian to learn to read, and he grows up surrounded with books and technology to assist him, but the inherited dyslexia is pretty much the same, even down to the same type of errors: mixing up b and p, d and t, k and g.

Suddenly, holding that diary, I realised that the knowledge which was important to me personally, and which is about to be lost to me, is my mother's knowledge of the past. If she managed to write down her thoughts and recollections it would be a document of far more value to me than the huge house she insists she is keeping for us to inherit, or the treasured knick-knacks in her cabinets. Much as I love the bowls and chests my father painted and cut out, or the finely embroidered table-clothes we never dared use as I was a child, the inheritance I will miss and which will be lost forever when she is gone, is her knowledge.

I find myself hoping that she'll use that diary, And I also find myself wondering how I can download the files from this blog, store it on a cd and hide it for my kids to find when cd's are obsolete, antiquated technology...

Sunday, December 23, 2001

It's almost Christmas. Will I be blogging? I guess so. The ADSL to my house works admirably, and I'll need to think of something other than cakes and food. I tend to get over-dosed on being nice. However, my kids are turning into interesting, intelligent people I enjoy spending time with. 14 years ago I had one of them in my belly while the other was running around in a red dress shining with glitter. She hunted down the old lunch-bag of my brother-in-law, and while we were eating grouse on Christmas Eve, she was eating dark bread with brown cheese, slightly stale, but stolen, private and without having to sit around and listen to the grown-ups.

Today those two are tall, lanky teen-agers, getting ready to grow taller than me. They use me for transport, money and food, I use them for research, testing out computer games and sites on them: "hey, can you have a look at this, how does it work, what is it about?" I also use them for recognizing people and remembering names (something I am spectacularly bad at): "Who's that? Whose mother is she? Should I say hello? Do I know her?"

In this way we have come to realise that living together is useful for all of us, not just a strict neccessity until I can legally throw them out/they can legally flee the house. Others told me that having teen-agers would be the real test to my temper: I think it's so nice and so easy - much easier than the screaming horrors of sleepless nights, or the stubborn, unreasonable 4-year-olds, not to talk of the distracted, thoughtless 9-year-olds... These are almost adults: nice intelligent adults who surprise and challenge me, but also support and assist me.

Too good to be true? I fear so, and expect disaster to strike. Until then, I'll enjoy this Christmas, which feels like it will be a good one.

Saturday, December 22, 2001

Jill, what are you saying? I thought you knew about Spillets leser, leserens spill from 1997? But it's not published in a large publishing house, it's published by the college, and no, I don't teach games, I teach public relations, which is how I came into studying games at all. At the same time there was a flurry of thesises to Masters levels, particularly in Oslo, at the Department of Media Studies and the Informatics Department. About now - 4-5 years later, games as a tool in teaching is fairly well established and explored, and it is about time for taking the games seriously - as we both know.

Eva Liestøl must have written quickly and efficiently though... I really want to have a look at her book.

Friday, December 21, 2001

I've just been to see Lord of the Rings, and I have two teen-agers walking around all starry-eyed talking about details from the film. No, it's not like the book, and I would have liked Glorfindel to be there, he was one of my major focuses for fantasies all through being a teen-ager and well into my twenties. I think that was because he was quite well described, enough that I constantly expected to meet him again in the book, while I never did. There has been some later controversy though, spawning discussions about the identity of Glorfindel, wondering if he was originally slain by a balrog and then returned to Middle Earth from the halls of waiting. Me, I didn't delve into his past, I enjoyed imagining what he was doing to fight Sauron and the darkness while the book was busy following Frodo, Aragorn and the rest of the fellowship of the ring. I have to admit that Arwen doesn't quite fit the role of fantasy character for me, not even to identify with. My favourite was always Eowyn - she acts, she goes out there and she makes a difference, rather than just sit around and be loved. But she ends up with the better choice though - Faramir was an other favourite, perhaps because he was an academic at heart!

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

More people have tracked down my email-address; Frank Schaap who maintains the site/blog (which is in my habitual surfing-path) used his knowledge of non-english languages to track me down to tell me that I had better be careful to even joke about "men" and "women" as mutually exclusive categories:

gender is a social construction and thus gender is what we say it is and repeating that men and women are 'naturally' different and can or cannot understand eachother (unless they're gay/lesbian, which, in this warped common sense theory, makes them less of a man or less of a woman and more like the 'opposite sex'... heterosexuality after all must prevail!) is IMHO not a very constructive way of thinking about people... about individuals.

What shall I say but: thank you Frank, for saying and knowing this, there's hope for human-kind, in either gender or versions of genders, as long as there are nice young men like you out there. Me, I am a lot of things, but very few have accused me of being straight. Sometimes I don't hear the warning bells of genderised doom when I fool around: thanks for this pre-Christmas jingling.
Oh, and I love your puss - same colour as my cat.

From this morning's mail: Jesper Juul, applying his well-developed sense of humour, points out that women don't understand men either. Thank you Jesper, that's one of the things I thought I had figured out, and now I have to start all over again....

His other point really shot holes in my theory about the construction of the artificial female: Turing preferred men! Now that positions Turing right up there with people who understand women, right alongside fashion designers designing women fashion which fits young boys. I think I'll stop there, before I fall into a rant about how women who have reached the age when they are supposed to be fertile normally have breasts and hips, not to mention waists! That I am sure has little to do with exposing/testing artificial intelligence, only with artificial bodies.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Jill, men have so much trouble understanding women, they probably hope that if they can program a reliable fake, they'll know how the female mind works. If the Turing game helps them think they are in control, at least it gives them a pick-up line which I don't worry about: "I don't understand my artificial female."

yes, that will make the girls melt...
The Quest to End Game Addiction
This looks like a sane view on game addiction: "Compulsive playing tends to mask underlying problems such as depression, anger and low self-esteem, said Orzack, who said she was once hooked on computer solitaire. " Still, reading about online addictions on the net (of course), it turns out that I am addicted to just about everything that might give pleasure: games, chatting, shopping, work, cyber-sex - and some tests for offline addictions: regular in the flesh sex, books, comics, television, chatting with friends in coffee-shops, chocolate... I can't have any of these addictions too badly, since I have time for all of them, but the criteria for addictions keep making me an addict when ever I take a test.

I guess that says more about the nature of tests online. I'd like to see tests which checked if I am addicted to my children, for instance. I know I would be, because I have at times neglected work, friends and social activities, as well as given up hobbies, to have more time for my children. Right now I would probably be told that I am addicted to Christmas preparations, because I'll be neglecting a lot of my other addictions for that...
Mark Bernstein comments on Gonzalo Frasca and the relationship play/narrative.
I'll get back to this. But at the moment, I feel like Gonzalo: there are too many who say that play is narrative. When I have the energy (read, when I don't feel that I am just spitting in the ocean when I try to say something about different types of play and different relationships to narrative) I'll get back to why play is not narrative, although it's possible to construct narratives from and about play. That's not the same thing though.
Hey, Kerstin! *hugs*
OK: Lord of the Cockrings. It just had to come.
Mann, kjærligheten er ditt håp
An article in Norwegian, discussing the problems of men in a society where women have stopped looking after them as well as looking up to them. It leads to men having worse health, less confidence and shorter life-expectancy - Darwinism would claim that men will end up at the garbage bin of development soon. The article concludes that: Man, love is your only hope.

For those who believe in planning ahead, read Sheri S. Tepper: The Gate to Women's Country.
Dave Winer has the nominees for the blogger of the year award, and it's interesting to see who's nominated and what kind of sites they maintain. My impression from a quick browsing through, is that it's men discussing technical/economic/political news, and very often referring to - each other.

At, the blog babe of the week might be disappearing. Since I got nominated but didn't make it to the top (steep competition there, I am sure....) I have been kind of miffed and been absolutely certain that it's all a matter of showing enough skin in the pictures sent to the jury of one... No, I don't think so - but it's symptomatic that it's been possible for one guy to find and promote a female blogger every week of the year, but when an other is supposed to choose the 15 outstanding ones there are two women: Heather Champ and Susan Kitchens.

I'll not go into personal bias, because weblogs are biased, it's one of my favourite things about blogs that they are subjective and personal. I have however found that blogs are good tools and a good medium for women in which to publish and to speak out, it's not a lack of good female bloggers that gives the ratio 13:2 among the nominated bloggers of the year.
Conference Video : NIC2001 - Nordic Interactive Conference 2001
For us who weren't there, but have been following Jill's reports and want to see more.

Monday, December 17, 2001

The Turing Game and The Risk of The Personal in Jill/txt.

I haven't read Jill's article or the response to it or played the Turing Game, so I am eminently unfit to comment on this. I guess that means I can be objective?

Objective is an interesting retoric position. Teaching journalism, I have stopped using the word "objective", only speaking of "etterrettelighet": an open way of writing which lets your reader check your sources - staying honest and thrustworthy within the context where you work.

No writing can be objective: even natural science or hard data sociology is victim to the context in which its researched and reported. Not being objective doesn't mean there is no truth, but it shows that truth is limited: a fact is limited by the situation in which it is observed.

A researcher is part of the context of research, a scholar is his or her own tool: not showing your face, your position and your opinions: your pre-understanding, is to hide a part of the context in order to make your statements seem to be more general, more valid: more objective. It's a long way from hermeneutic pre-understanding to the reflexive methods of action research, but even hermeneutics, the text-analysis of sosiologists, is clear about the limitations of facts and the need for interpretation of all facts.

Interpretation leads to subjectivity, and no careful proofreading removes the subject from my text, even if I don't use "I" at all, thus successfully hiding the source of the stream of words on the screen or the page. Our most important tool as text-scholars is interpretation: we all try to do it as honestly as possible, showing what we interpret how and why rather than just stating our feelings/findings, but it's still the work of the subject. A well-trained, honest and precise subject, perhaps, but still...
Computer Games and Digital Cultures
Speaks for itself. Go there. Talk. Listen. Grow.
journalism and blogs
Mike Sanders in his blog keep trying questions blogging and journalism. Blogging has been called personal journalism, and so Sanders asks if that means that we are all journalists now.

From a professional standpoint (as a teacher of journalists), that is a silly notion. I don't become a reporter because I write a report, I don't become a nurse just because I nurse a relative, I don't become a cook because I cook, I don't become a carpenter when I hit a nail with a hammer. What has happened is that the net and blogger has given the tools to publish to everybody. I can write and publish with the same ease as I can make dinner. The results from this general publishing is as varied as the results from home-cooking as well. Some bloggers just heat up half-chewed junk-food, others cook wonderfully elaborate meals. But when we are invited to eat with a friend, we don't insist on the food being perfect: we enjoy what we like, skip what we hate, focus on the fact that we were invited to share and compliment the efforts gone into the meal.
LuckNet Daily Horoscope Pisces
Your analytical skills and your intuition are at a peak today. Don’t hesitate to innovate and take bold initiatives.

Today’s Lucky Number: 19
Lucky color: blue
High energy point of the day: 11:00 p.m.
Sign to make friends with: Taurus

What shall I say? I have 10 hours and 50 minutes to go until my energy is at its high point today! No wonder I feel like I need lunch, not work.
Research Blog
The words "research" and "blog" are a sure way to get my attention. Samantha Callan has collected links to articles about academia, work and young children.

Friday, December 14, 2001

Back - almost - after the party, and here's a link for Norwegians, kind of in topic when talking about christmas tables: Vin på polet

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Snøord/Norwegian words for snow
I knew we had many words for snow - I didn't know it was this many.
All quiet on the blog-front...
For the next few days, I doubt if I will be blogging. No, I DON'T have tendonitis! What I do have is two days of assessing oral exams at the college, ending Thursday with a "Christmas Table" (julebord), the traditional Norwegian way of eating and drinking too much, with often disastrous effects for careers, work-relationships and marriages.

It's the closest thing we come to a "blot", the original norse celebration of the turn of the sun-wheel (Christmas is called Jul in Norwegian, which incidentally is almost the same word as for Wheel). The vikings would slaughter a pig to prepare for Jul, brew beer, bake, clean, visit the sauna and generally prepare for the darkest night as a celebration of life, wealth, fertility, warmth and light. In a good Norwegian "Julebord" you can see the same thing with a modern twist. We might wear heels and have showered rather than rolled in the snow before racing back to the sauna, but it's still a preparation to meet the darkness of winter, gathering mental strength to survive until the days grow longer and warmer.

So if I survive, and we haven't sacrificed a horse and gotten arrested for putting up a nid-stake, I'll be back in a proper Christmas mood.

Monday, December 10, 2001

Lisbeth and Jill down. I am starting to feel alone. And my hands are hurting a little as well...
Sometimes, I think newspapers take the "make the news"-slogan a little too seriously. Today's front-page in Dagbladet was a huge picture and a long description of norwegian oil platforms, why they would be exellent terror targets, and how the security and the defenses have been increased since september 11th.

In case there are any potential suicide bombers out there, reading this, let me tell you why Dagbladet is wrong and it would be a stupid idea to commit suicide by flying a plane into an oil-platform:

There are no cameras around to see what happens.
There will be no pictures of terrified innocents fleeing the fire, at best there will be some orange life-boats floating around in a puddle of oil.
There will be a lot of animals killed. This is bad, because killing people can be justified - but a war on species which are already in danger of extinction is bad publicity.
Norway isn't very powerful, and it won't launch huge retaliation scenarios where the country the terrorists hide in stands out like a suffering underdog - unless the terrorists happen to hide in Lichtenstein or Luxembourg.
Norwegians don't sound angry and arrogant on international television: they sound too helpless and clumsy for that.
Norwegian? We can swear as much as we like in the native language, it still sounds like the sweedish chef in muppet-show. Who can take a terrorist who picks the sweedish chef as a target seriously?

Anybody else have good reasons not to attack Norwegian Oil Platforms?
I was introduced to a new blog today. It looks interesting, and the writer has an exellent taste in links! But her comments-page didn't work with netscape, I might try from explorer later on.
Was this among the Taliban Games when Lisbeth, Jill and Gonzalo were posting several of them? I can't remember - no matter what, this is a very simple little thing where it's up to you to kill as many Taliban warriors as possible - and you can take out quite a few camels as well. The Statue of Liberty represents the US, stomping around like a giant, and the Talibani are running back and forth totally disorganised, but very quickly. I guess I should laugh... but I am left with an unpleasant aftertaste, and it's not sticky-sweet, as with the cats.
If you like cute pictures and cats, combined with musac, Cat Wisdom should be the thing for you. Personally, I am not too fond of "cute" and I am desperately looking for the off-button for the musac, but since a good friend passed it along, I looked patiently at all the sayings, and I will take one of them to heart:

When the going gets tough....
the tough find a sunny spot by a window.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

By way of Gonzalo Frasca: Rune Klevjer's open letter on his work concerning rhetorics and ideology in games.

Rune Klevjer: please get a blog! We need your voice in the daily discussions! - Kronikk
This article discusses recent media research from the University in Bergen, Department of Media Science, professor Martin Eide. It points out that there has been a change in power from the journalist and the media as the 4th power of the state, to the sources as more empowered. Norman Kirkeide, the author of the article, describes this as a loss of innocence: when the source knows how the media will use their information, and plans for it, and the media know that their sources know, and the audience has seen it all before.

Into this mixture Martin Eide and Terje Rasmussen throw the question of new media and the blurring borders between journalism and personal publishing.

I think I have to add that book to my wishlist for christmas.

If I were a work of art, I would be Piet Mondrian's Composition A.

I am rigidly organised and regimented, although my cold and unapproachable exterior hides a clever way of thinking and a rebellious and innovative nature. A lot of people don't understand me, but I can still affect them on an emotional level.

Which work of art would you be? The Art Test

Zarf's List of Interactive Games on the Web
On March 19th I mentioned my comfortable chair, HÅG Signét 7700. At that point it was new and a vast improvement from the chairs I had used before. It has saved me from the disabling pain in my back I tend to suffer from when I work too much, and it has also (I am certain) saved my hands and shoulders from the kind of problems Jill has now - I also tend to get problems with my hands.

Still, it could be better. I miss being able to change the angle of my hips while I am seated, and I want a chair where I can sit up and lean forwards, and the seat will follow me, or I can lean back and stretch out, and the angle in my hips will change and I can stretch the lower back. So today I had a visit from the very nice physiotherapist from the college health service. He had coffee, tried out the chair, read this blog, looked at my desk, tested the mouse (I need to get one with a wheel), frowned at the keyboard, squeezed my squeezy balls (and Jill, he agreed with me, you should use them, but not until your hands are better), told me that the makeshift "fix" of my desk done by the janitors here isn't acceptable and I deserve better (Ohhh, I really like this guy) and wrote down the address to blogger.

This physiotherapist comes highly recommended by my cat, he's one of the few people she prefers over me when it comes to sitting on laps, and I can see why, he doesn't just pet her, he massages her, the spoiled puss. But who can compete with this?

Wednesday, December 05, 2001
A band with their own online world! I wonder how something like this will relate to the game-worlds? Or are Aerosmith the only who are allowed to "play" here?
The "Quality Reform" damages student rights!
Today I am a Concerned, Norwegian Citizen.
I don't really know where to take my worry - and I am not really the one who should be worried, the students are. The new reform for colleges and universities in Norway is changing one of the best things with the system of grading students. While it will demand more feed-back to the students during the year, which is good and which the Media Department has been doing as long as I have worked there, it leaves the students at the mercy of the teacher they have to relate to all year. While I won't mind having very polite students, who don't want to piss me off, I don't think that makes for a healthy learning environment. I'll continue in norwegian - I don't have words in English for this.

Dette er hentet fra Kirke, Utdannings- og forskningsdepartementets brev om Kvalitetsreformen:

På bakgrunn av institusjonenes frihet med hensyn til valg av vurderingsordninger vil dagens system med to sensorer, hvorav én ekstern, ikke kunne opprettholdes som en generell ordning. I departementets merknader til § 50 nr. 1 heter det bl.a.: "Med lovendringen vil det være opp til den enkelte institusjon å fastsette hvordan den eksterne evalueringen kan gjennomføres, enten ved ekstern deltakelse i den enkelte vurdering eller ved ekstern evaluering av vurderingsordningene." Det henvises til merknadene for eksempler på alternativ bruk av ekstern sensor. Departementet vil oppfordre institusjonene til å utveksle erfaringer fra bruk av ulike ordninger.

Dagens bestemmelser om bruk av ekstern sensor gjelder inntil ny lov har trådt i kraft.

Mens mappevurderingen betyr bedre sjanser for studentene til å følge med i sin egen utvikling, betyr fjerningen av ekstern sensor innføringen av trynefaktoren som evalueringskriterium i høgskolesystemet. Selv om det er mulig å bruke ekstern sensor, er dette en av de største utgiftspostene til høgskolene i forbindelse med eksamensavviklingen, og bruken kommer til å bli kraftig redusert av økonomiske grunner. Dette fører til at studentene juridisk står svakere i forhold til underviserne. Og hva skjer med klageretten, når høgskolene står fritt til å oppnevne kommisjoner som bare består av interne medlemmer? "Mappevurderingen" er kanskje en fordel for studentene, men å fjerne den eksterne sensuren, den eksterne sensoren og høgskolenes vurdering av hverandre gjennom vurderingen av studentene er ikke en fordel.

For de interne sensorene er den eksterne sensoren også en viktig referanse, en mulighet til å få inn medarbeidere med kjennskap til andre deler av faglitteraturen, og en sikkerhet i tilfelle hvor lærer-student forholdet blir for tett og læreren kan være inhabil eller lite egnet til å vurdere studentens ferdigheter upartisk og noen lunde objektivt.

Hvorfor skriver jeg dette her? Jeg vet ikke hvor jeg skal vende meg for å gjøre studentene oppmerksom på hva som er i ferd med å skje med rettighetene deres. Jeg kommer til å lete etter de riktige kontaktene, men inntil videre har jeg i alle fall plassert et par viktige søkeord på nettet. Kvalitetsreform. Studievurdering. Eksamen. Eksamensformer. Sensur. Studenter. Rettigheter. Trynefaktor.

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

The Electronic Page
Allison Muri writes of the electronic text:

The theorizing of the electronic text revolves constantly around what is "real" and what is not--whether the representation is of "the order of sacrament," or of perversions of reality (orders of evil and malefice): a conversation posed as a uniquely post-postmodern crisis of truth, of body and mind and technology, of humanity itself, as though Socrates had never banned the poet from his Republic for creating representations three removes from the ideal, truth.

I found that I disagreed - but then I realised that I didn't disagree with Allison Muri, but with the theorizing.
mother helps you out... at least if you want to send sms-messages and prefer to write them on the computer rather than on the cell-phone.
Culture and Rationality
Peter Burgess, a colleague I haven't seen for quite a while, has written what looks like a very interesting book on what it is to be Norwegian. Last time I saw him he was on his way to Italy - I guess a book like this can only come about when it's written by a foreigner not at the moment living in Norway.
The Blog Twinning Project : thinking with my fingers
I have become twinned with Jill/txt!
An honour. And since Jill is the blog-idol of several of us Norwegian bloggers, perhaps not such a big surprise!

Monday, December 03, 2001

History - The Search
This is the story of the tree in Rockefeller Center. Somehow, I lose some of my holiday spirit when I think of these trees, perfect, ancient specimen, slowly growing in height and girth, sheltered from the wind and in healthy soil, the few trees left on this planet which have not been damaged by pollution or fallen before the expansion of human "civilisation".

Here in Norway, where several of the world's famous public Christmas trees come from, they are harder and harder to find due to acid rain carried here from the very nations we send our perfect trees to. The giants of the forest, cut from their roots and moved to die covered in lights, breathing their last scented breaths which for a short while replaces the stink of the city before they are dead, dry, cut up for firewood, burned and gone for ever; they leave me sad and tired, and not at all in a consuming mood.
You need to get into the Christmas Spirit but can't leave your computer? Have a look at EarthCam - MetroCams - Christmas Tree Cam. The Christmas Trees (a Norway Spruce) at Rockefeller Center.

Sunday, December 02, 2001

Lisbeth writes of games as spectator sports, and links to this article in BBC News Online. similar mechanisms even existed in the MUD I used to play: Dragon Realms. They had an OOC battle-command, where you could show off/test the strength of your character and your own skill against other players, without influencing the role-play. The results of the battle were announced to all the players in the game, and the characters were restored and returned to the game without having taken any loss in XP or having years added to their lives from the damage they took in this OOC battle. In a way it was a game inside the game.
Playing my character Miran the nice girl is almost impossible these days. The stress of writing demands that I get into something similar to a normal rhythm of day/night, while the players on Azhad are growing older and feel the pressure from the world around them. They no longer spend the nights there, staying online until I log on in the mornings, as they have jobs, spouses and responsibilities as well. There is this narrow window of opportunity in which I could play: between 10 pm and midnight, but I have grown too lazy to chase my kids off the computer - and they have grown into their own rhytms as well, playing, communicating, chatting online, the unlimited connectivity of the ADSL not changing the rhytms of their days and the need to send just one more email before they go to bed. With teen-age girls, there's always one more thing that needs to be said.. So Miran suffers, as does the faction, and I am trying out time-slots, hoping to find one which will let me meet up with people to role-play. Next step will most likely have to be to make an account at one of the huge graphic games, like Anarchy Online.
Just out of reach, wrapped in the words I need to put down is the resolution I have craved, which I have been anticipating ever since Wednesday. Researching computer games to me means that I have to forget about the traditional methods of textual analysis, and attempt to find the tools as well as the right questions to ask, before I can start finding answers. This has brought me to a point where I am using a mixture of literature theory, media theory, anthropology and sociology. This perverse mixture I have connected with Cultural Studies. The result is a varied (and labour-intensive) way of looking at MUDs, where the conclusion of most of the approaches I have tried has been: this is not quite right, this doesn't quite teach me the things I want to know. Most problematic is the way these methodologies deal with the subject of the researcher. Through all the work I have been doing I have seen that my work and my questions have had an impact on the games I have studied, changed the behaviour of the players and even lead to me being involved in developing games, testing out my own thoughts on games as well as learning.

Wednesday, I wrote about the delight in finding the work on Action Research, and yes, here it is, a methodology which takes the influence of the researcher and the fluid nature of human relations seriously. After all, there are no long traditions online, and to study net culture is less like studying the natives of Bhutan and more like studying an organisation in a period of change and development. Action research considers the subjects of the research to be active, individual and in possession of enough power to influence their own position in relation to the "organisation" being studied. It also opens for a mixture of methods, depending on which questions the researcher and the participants feel needs to be asked, with the participants or "subjects" being active without necessarily giving the control of the project to them. Some versions of Action Research is a kind of "Research of the Oppressed", where it connects to Boal's Drama of the Oppressed, treated like a tool to make the participant aware of their own position. This was not the intent of my research, but in a way it had that effect, as several of the interviews indicate.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

De ny-slitne; Finn Skårderud om utbrenthet -
I have been mentioning burn-out before, but after I discussed this with Hilde, she asked me to write about it in a form that other Ph.D. students can use.

Burnout is a real threat to students, and particularly PhD students, because studying is a task which never ends. When working on a PhD you also very often work with something you are really interested in, and the work can't be kept within the 8 hours you are supposed to be at the office. An article in the newspaper, a good book, a conversation in the sauna: it will all become related to your job in a very real and involving manner.

There is also no end to how much work you can do on a PhD. There is no quota you need to fill, it's an endless labour where everything from sentences to lab-experiments can be added, reviewed and calibrated over and over again.

You never know if you are doing well. Until the day when you get the response from the assessors, you have no real knowledge of whether you have done well or you will fail. The closest you'll come is indications - you can't be sure. And here in Norway, that means 3-4 years of lonesome struggle, just hoping you'll be smart enough.

So, what can we do to avoid burning out?

All the usual stuff, of course: have a life and make it a physically active one: that's a given, even if it's not always easy. But there are a few problems which are specific to scholars, which can be solved "the academic way".

It's part of the nature of the work we do that we shouldn't start splitting a PhD up in smaller bits and then be graded more often (like every year), so we have to live with the insecurity. But something can still be done, and I think the key-word should be "net-work".

Meet others who work in the same field, talk, chat, listen and present your own work - it's not just a luxury, but an absolute necessity. Conferences aren't just a good career-booster, it's a survival strategy.

For somebody tucked away in a remote location like me, the allotted funds for travelling don't get me far. This is one reason why I use the net, and this blog, as frequently as I do. It lets me see my own thoughts in a different format from the usual, and in different contexts - and it even leads to feed-back! But it would be more fun and better for me to be able to spend more time with Jill, Hilde, Lisbeth, Espen, Jesper, Gonzalo, Anja, Susana - to go to conferences and sit in on lectures in locations which are equally remote, just remote in an other direction. Or perhaps I could afford to invite somebody to spend time here?!?

Actually, I probably could offer an office and a place to stay if a fellow scholar wanted to spend a while in Volda. Want a winter in Volda?
Don't wait until it's over
a Page of Nerd Songs contains this "poem", which might be the first published use of the word "hacking" in the modern understanding of it:

The following parody of Carl Sandburg's "Chicago" appeared in the newsletter of the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT back in the fifties. The TMRC evolved into one of the very first computer clubs, and this may be the first published use of the term "hacking" as presently used...

Switch Thrower for the World, Fuze Tester, Maker of Routes,
Player with the Railroads and the System's Advance Chopper.

Grungy, hairy, sprawling,
Machine of the Point Function Line-o-lite:
They tell me you are wicked, and I believe them; for I have seen your
painted light bulbs under the Lucite, luring the system coolies
Under the tower, dust all over the place, hacking with bifurcated springs
Hacking even as an ignorant freshman hacks who has never lost occupancy and
has dropped out.
Hacking the M-Boards, for under its locks are the switches and under its
control the advance around the layout.


Wednesday, November 28, 2001

the outward work
will never be puny
if the inner work
is great.
And the outward work
can never be great or even good
if the inward one is puny and of little worth.
(Matthew Fox 1983)
NTNU - doktorgrader
Anita Hammer has delivered her dissertation and is defending it Dec. 14th in Trondheim. It's a theatre-theoretical view on the World Wide Web, and I know Anita well enough to be certain it will be an original and perhaps even thought-provoking addition to the understanding of the digital media.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Sometimes, a word or two is enough to find the resolution to that problem you have been working with for - I don't know how long. I want to thank Hilde for saying "action research", I want to thank the Volda College Library for keeping the book-shelves open and accessible for scholars in sudden and immediate need of literature, I want to thank whoever asked our wonderful librarians to order the Handbook of Action Research, and I want to thank my patient broker-friend matthew for patiently listening to a 30-minute rave on a long-distance phone-line about how much easier it will be to finish chapter 4 now, I want to thank my family for their once and future patience with me and my scholarly obsessions, and while I am at it, I want to thank Lisbeth for having started a very useful list of definitions of interactivity and sharing it with her fellow women and men.

Right now, life in my little office is good.

Monday, November 26, 2001

A joke while I keep worrying if I have seen the important things in my material:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go on a camping trip, set up their tent, and fall asleep. Some hours later, Holmes wakes his faithful friend.
"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
Watson replies, "I see millions of stars."
"What does that tell you?"
Watson ponders for a minute. "Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, it's evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"

Holmes is silent for a moment, then speaks. "Watson, you idiot, someone has stolen our tent."

I sincerely hope I will notice if somebody have stolen my tent.
Bibliography on Chat Communication by way of Carsten Jopp's joppLOGG. Thanks, Carsten!
Cybersoc: Internet Research, Consultancy, and Design
Misunderstandings and misinterpretations are common while doing research online, Robin Hamman describes his mistakes in doing research on cybersex. Seems like arousal is a source of error which should not be ignored.
Origo: Skole forbyr «okkult» Harry Potter
Harry Potter is an invitation to experiment with the occult. A school in Melbourne claims that the film and books make adults appear ridiculous, it presents children has having power over adults, and it presents witchcraft and magic like innocent fun. A Norwegian priest says that he doesn't think his 14 year old daughter should see this film.

This might look ridicolous, but in a way such rejection from christians is inevitable. After all, if you believe in the many magical acts which the Holy Trinity performs, then you have to believe that magic can be real. If the priest transforms wine to blood and bread to flesh, and if Jesus really turned water to wine; then of course transforming water to rum - or tepid tea, as the case was in the movie - is possible. But since Harry Potter doesn't get his power from God, and since the characters in the books and movie definitely aren't angels, in the black-and-white world of Christianity the magic has to come from "the dark side".

This means that to believe Harry Potter gets his power from the Devil, you have to believe quite forcefully in the Bible. My conclusion from that is that all us not-quite-so-strong believers, agnostics and non-believers can see the film and read the books safely and happily. And I had a couple of fun hours last night, in the Volda movie theatre!
WomenGamers.Com - Digital Women
By way if Lisbeth, and a review of female characters. Interesting, although not too enlightening: their conclusion is that games have very few great female leads, and that this is/ought to be a problem in the industry. I'd like to see some other statistics though: who plays the games with the strong female leads? Does girls choose games like that? How important is gender when it comes to identification in game leads? Are there other more important factors?

Often I feel that women in games are either helpless, or men with tits. Women (in the flesh world) tend to approach problems differently from men, have different priorities and very different skills and advantages. Some of these advantages don't look all that dramatic on the screen: the killer archivist isn't such a great title for a game, even if we know that women often have a better memory for details, better visual memory and are better able to understand complex, multilayered systems: like archives. That doesn't help much when the games depend on for instance spatial perception (in flight-simulators and first-person shooters) or single-minded pursuit of a position on the high-score list.

Friday, November 23, 2001

In case you wondered what shape to give your night-mares:- Dumb Bombs.
If you're the kind of person who dreams in colour, note that the submunitions (the part that does the real harm) is in green and yellow, like lemons and limes. Comes in different sizes, too.
Some links about the unmentionable: burnout
Utbrent - eller bare litt sliten?
Burned out or stressed out?
The Good, the Bad and the Burned Out
Burnout test
vog blog::vlog
This is one of my favourite descriptions of the feeling of helplessness faced with the Norwegian weather. Ever since the birth of my children - that's the last 15 years - I have felt restrained when walking in the winter. Either I'll slip and get out of balance, and my pelvis will give me excruciating pain, or I will walk like an old lady, and the tension in my back will become equally painful, just a bit more slowly.

My one consolation is walking uphill: it's easier to stay in control. Which is why I loved to read Adrian's post, vividly visualising him sliding slowly backwards. OK, so I read it with a touch of malicious pleasure, but when every step I take is accompanied with pain, I'll take any pleasures I can, malicious or not.

Thursday, November 22, 2001

An other Dragoness, and a roleplayer too! I keep finding more and more female gamers, and they aren't playing around with virtual barbies, but with powerful symbols and avatars which denote strength including, but not restricted to, sex.

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Some electronic books will definitely have more traffic than others. This link is only useful for scandinavians. It tells you how to be a great lover, and what women should do to satisfy men. The author admits what we all knew though, that men are simple and that some encouragement helps. Wish I had a counter on that download, though....
Why do I think computer viruses are games? I have been thinking a little about that since I idly mentioned it yesterday. I often get questions like "why do people hack computers or make viruses", and while I can't really say, the same way as I have no idea why some people like to play football, I can look at why I think it's a game. So me and set out to find some material about that.

Let's look at Huizinga's categories in homo ludens: First of all, they are restricted to a certain arena: the computer. The computer is perfectly suited to be a gaming environment, it's separate from the "real world" without needing to erect stadiums, it gives an equally good view both for the players and the spectators, and you have a ritualistic approach to entering the arena - you even have a secret pass-word.

Viruses are definitely superflous. Nobody needs a virus. They are a result of too much time, energy and occasionally imagination on the part of the creator. They don't belong in "real life" - even if they impact reality (as does soccer, being a huge industry), their function is beyond the ordinary use of the computer. Although there are viruses which are taken very seriously, Huizinga points out that "Any game can at any time wholly run away with the players."

Viruses are limited in time and space, like a game. They are created, distributed, isolated and stopped. The periodic nature of virus outbreaks has its own rhythm, like certain games - or like the bug they are named for. But where the flu isn't created with intent (we hope), several computer viruses are. Viruses are, in their own way, a different order, and they are an important part of creating a hierarchy in some social groups:

While research shows a lot of virus writers act from boredom, Evan says there are a variety of reasons: "It was some credibility in front of my hacker peers to say, 'hey, I can write a virus and you can't.' There's almost even an aspect of 'make them afraid of you,' albeit, no real threat here, but there was the mystique that 'hey, don't mess with that guy, he'll give you a virus.'"

Viruses claim fame and a place in the history books through elegance and effectiveness.

Virus creation and hacking gives access to a world-spanning community. And like sports, it's healthy, because it keeps the skills of the wider computer community honed.

Even the secrecy and mystery of dress-up is well taken care of in the hacking community, particularly when it comes to sending out virus emails. Disguised through several layers of proxy servers, using automatons or 'bots to launch the virus remotely on certain dates, the hacker also often communicates through dramatic, romantic aliases signifying the lone ranger, the dark hero of the digital frontier.

All of this confirms that making a virus and spreading it is play, but is it a game?
I'd say yes to that as well. Hacking has its own "score-sheet" with hits and misses, and that score-sheet has reached the news. It also has the professional antigonists and established "enemies", somebody to measure skills and abilities against. Hacking Nasa, Pentagon or Microsoft ranks high up there, like an olympic gold medal. There is a game-play nature to hacking and virus-writing which is mirrored in other games to play with computers, popularly called computer games.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

by way of Lisbeth: technofemme. Just so you all know what will make me happy come christmas.
A soft-ware technicians lament
by Red Crystal Scream


rubbing my eyes
dragging fingers over gritty eyelids,
staring at the sand dune of e-mail problems.
Condemned to dig forever
as the grains flow
and fill the hole.

At least Sisyphys
got a change of view
Salon Technology | 21st Challenge No. 24: Results
How to make people open those virus attachments? This is a kind of game as well.

Monday, November 19, 2001

"But the fourth World War is elsewhere. It is that which haunts every global order, every hegemonic domination; -if Islam dominated the world, terrorism would fight against it. For it is the world itself which resists domination."
From Jean Baudrillard's "The Spirit of Terrorism"
Anja Rau has started a blog! She starts out with replying to the comments on her review of Caitlin Fisher's The Waves, commenting on the instant attention given to her direct style of reviewing.

It's interesting to note that there is obviously a need for academic discourse outside the formalised genres, a need for a voice which is not restricted by the demands of reviewed publishing. With the academic community spanning continents, the net carries the opinions which we like to imagine happen informally where scholars are gathered physically. The web is now where we are gathered, and it's not a virtual conversation which takes place. The exchanges of ideas, the comments on each others' opinions, all of this is real, and influences our research, teaching and lives.

Welcome to this corner of reality Anja.

Sunday, November 18, 2001

I had planned to drink cider, but Jill made me taste her beers, and after sipping eight different beers, drinking cider and being offered wine quite generously, a lot of Friday night had become a blur of laughter, more-or-less successful schemes in order to lose Jill and Lisbeth in the labyrinth beneath the University, and some serious attempts at rating and determining the origin of the aforementioned beers. However, I still remember Jills eyes shining as she used Norwegian and thus excluded Adrian but included Lisbeth, discussing how she should use Baudrillard, and talking about this article she has just read about terrorism. She promised to put the link on her blog for us to reach, and yes, she did.

Friday, November 16, 2001

Yesterday, Jill and I finished the abstract for our paper for the upcoming SKIKT conference. We are proposing a paper on blogging. Jill got the idea of writing the papers on science theory about blogging. I'll spend the afternoon in a library, for the first time in a while feeling good about writing down new ideas and thoughts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Bergen tomorrow. Jill, Hilde and Lisbeth in the flesh, Espen waiting with his red pen hovering over my chapters, a huge library and a city with more than two bars. Wow. Don't worry if you don't hear from me for a while.
Sometimes, the fear of living overwhelms me, and I need to sit down and count my blessings painstackingly, one by one. Some of them are easy: that my kids are brilliant geniuses and my husband a paragon of patience is obvious. Some of them have to be looked for very carefully. Lately I have been trying to figure out if I actually know anything. Almost four years and 200 pages devoted to one topic, and do I know anything? Or will the final accessor on the day of doom look at the fruits of my labours and say: you write brilliantly. But you have no content!

So what have I learned, from these years of enjoying myself with a topic I (used to) love?
I have learned to search for knowledge.
I have met some wonderful people and made some new friends.
I have become a very good online roleplayer.
I have read a LOT of theory, and found a lot which is not relevant to the topic.
I have learned to argue beyond logic and exhaustion (thank you Espen).

Will any of this carry me through the last months between me and my PhD? Stay tuned for more thrills from the life of an exhausted scholar!
Issue 2 contents
don't want to lose this link, thanks to Marie-Laure Ryan for passing it on.
Klastrup's Cataclysms
Lisbeth is worried she is watched by Big Brother, but I'd like to point to Jill's discovery of the archive system the US government started after sept. 11th, where it's possible to alert the archivists that a site is relevant to what happened on sept. 11th.

Most likely somebody with a "note this" function have found something she wrote interesting in this context, and hit "note this" as they were reading, surrendering her website to - Big Brother. It might even have been Jill or me.

thesis update for those who might wonder/worry: 209 pages, and I still have at least one, perhaps 2 chapters to write.
OK, I am not going to try to fill out pages any more, it's time to edit!
Aftenposten Interaktiv - Politikk - Klemte ikke til mot Clemet
The new government, which has been profiled heavily towards education, doesn't think the students are important in that process. They cut the proposed increase in free student support, maintaining 30%.

I wonder what they would save just for students by erasing all student debts (including mine of course), dissolving Statens Lånekasse and taking seriously the proposal of the Prime Minister to give all Norwegian Citizens 100 000 n kr in "wages", independently of what they do for a living. They'd probably save a lot on administration of several social benefits, although the definition of "poverty" would have to be edited.
Hilde: I tend not to lock the door when I go out. And I have all that fresh air, a beautiful view, and I come from a working-class background where poverty (yes, I think I can use that word) would have kept me from studying if I lived in the United States. My parents have made full use of the health-system and well-fare system, and I have used it enough that I don't resent paying taxes. Do I live in heaven? Compared to the life I, with my social and economic background, would have lived in many other countries, I think so.
Odd Nerdrum, who by his own definition can't be an artist. (Picture nicked from
Nerdrum lovpriser Schau
Kristopher Schau has been eating junk food, sleeping badly and refusing to take a shower for a week, doing this in a window in one of the larger stores in Oslo. It's an experiment, or just a crazy stunt, which he named "forfall" or "decay". Schau is known from radio programs where he has been drinking delicacies like pizza, mayonnaise and cola mixed in a blender, and this is right up there with raw-fish-and-icecream-shakes.

The fun part is that serious artists who are more or less self-proclaimed guru's of the Norwegian "avant garde" have been asked to comment on this, and Knut Nerdrum says that this is great art. According to Nerdrum the criteria for good art is that the artist should not think a single complete thought, he should approach the task with irony and he should have no skills connected to the craft.

This sounds like the Norwegian ideal of the romantic artist, and in the name of outdated postmodern irony, I agree with Nerdrum. Oh, he happens to be a very classically educated painter - he has the skills of the craft. I guess he can never be an artist, right?

Friday, November 09, 2001

Conversation in LinguaMOO, with Frink, an old friend and long time computer game player.
(and yes, I am Missepus)

Frink says, "So I hear you were searching me out for an argument (Though I can't recall on what, except it made me salivate)"
Missepus laughs
You say, "YEs, that is right, thanks for reminding me"
You say, "It's about something Mark Bernstein is asking people: if computer games teaches us anything."
You say, "I'll find the link for you"
Frink says, "Particular knowledge, about ourselves, or just random stuff?"
You say, ""
You say, "He asks specific question: what does games teach us about sex?"
You say, "What does games teach us about handling dramatic personal discoveries?"
You say, "Game question one and two"
You say, "His premise is that games should teach us the same as books do. I don't agree with him."
Frink says, "I'd agree on face - no medium should behave as another."
Missepus nods
You say, "At the same time: I don't see that games can avoid being learning lessons: even if the lessons are different from those of books."
Frink says, "I don't think they need to avoid it, however."
You say, "No, why should they?"
You say, "anyway - I think you'd be able to answer his questions easily. and I think you should - just send him an email."
Frink jots down the address, and'll do that.

Frink says, "and by book I'm guessing your refering to fiction, or all written print?"
You say, "Fiction - which is his question"
You say, "one problem with his question is that I feel it's very much about high/low culture."
Frink pulls up the page, and laughs at the first thing. "I think I'm gonna have to check this page fairly often.
Missepus grins
You say, "just: gets you his entire page."
You say, "And Eastgate is developing the program he's using for making the page, which is rather neat."

Frink hurms and considers the basic question. "Its fairly loaded and fairly specific in its approach. I would have to say that in most genres we get a similar education to sexuality ... as ... oh as the supermarket magazines that features models and questionaries about sex life."
Frink says, "That said, if you do some hunting - in some RPGs you actually get something mildly deep... at least the lesson that actions have consequence and you'll not always be in the happiest of circumanstances."

Missepus nods
You say, "which I guess is a good answer - and the most important answer as to what you learn from games which you can't learn from books."
Frink says, "Causality? I dunno, a good book can paint the picture for you."
You say, "Yes, but it can't hit you in the head with it."
Frink nods and looks at the second question.

Frink thinks on it some..."Generally speaking - family in games is a shallow plot device. They've been hurt, they're evil, they need to protected, they do really cooky and odd things."
Missepus nods
You say, "so having a really weak father would not be anything new in a game"
Frink says, "If we were to include online games, I'd say its different. "
You say, "it could be the entire plot of a game: figuring out how to deal with that."
Frink nods.
Frink says, "It could be, it might even be compelling."
Frink says, "However, rarely is there that level of depth/interaction with the player and other characters. Which, isn't suprising."
You say, "why isn't there? I think that's an important question."
Frink says, "Now, I bet if you look about you can probably find some examples of it in NPCs interacting, but most likely they're small side notes, things to look at and go "Oh neat." and move on."
Frink thinks on that one.
Frink says, "This is off the hip, so it might be a bit to rash, but I would say the problem ties into causality again."
Frink says, "That and immersion."
Frink says, "While games have a higher potential for immersion, its a harder sell. And if your giving a player control, you need to come up with solutions to a wide variety of action."
Frink says, "And for the most part, when dealing with games, writers/programers would rather add length than width."
Missepus nods
Frink says, "Mind, you could probably do it in a fairly linear fashion..."

You say, "this is great. Promise me you write Mark bernstein about it. Or I'll cut and paste this conversation into my blog."
Frink says, "I just doubt it would be that good."
Frink says, "(While like books, and movies for that matter, games can endear you to characters, how can a game adequetly display the reaction of another character if one of the character's is you.)"
Frink says, "You can abstract the character/player connection some, which is done now and again... Cutscenes, inserted dialogue, and other forms of feedback, and this can be decent (I don't want to say good, because usually it comes off a little flat, mostly because of voice acting)"
Frink thinks of a recent first person shooter...Max Payne, "The central plot starts with your character coming home, and finding it a mess. You go through your house and kill some thugs. But not until you find the wife's corpse. If I recall correctly there are inserts of the main character's voice, calling out names at some point, then the yell of grief when the mess is found."
Missepus is copying, pasting and editing to the blog as you speak.
Frink says, "Its horribly cliched"
Missepus grins
You say, "Cliches work for a reason"
Frink says, "But then the whole game is."

Frink says, "I don't know what to make of the sequence as an educational subject though. I'm inclined to say its irrelevant. Though if you want to grab a lesson, I guess it says "Bad things can happen to those you love and in your home." (Not suprising given that most games are about bad things happening, or doing bad things.)"
You say, "I think he isn't really thinking of "education" as much as "presenting new models for action in certain situation""
You say, "And there I think games can't really offer much complexity: at least not single-user games."

Frink tries to think of other sequences involving family. "This one might have merit. In an RPG, Fallout, one of the minor quests is rescuing a daughter. Standard fair. Not all that interesting, until you actually do it."
Frink says, "Afterwards you can talk with the rescued daughter. She's down on the town she lives in, finds it boring and wants to see the world. Yet, when you suggest her leaving, there is a little litany of excuses of why she couldn't (Ending with it would destroy her father)"

Frink says, "And I don't think I'd agree with you. It offers as much complexity as a book or a play."
You say, "length, not depth?"
Frink says, "Width. (Depth is possible, width tends to refer to creating multiple paths)"
You say, "And as to the girl - do you think that can be a result of the "why do we have to rescuse the same stupid NPCs over and over-syndrome" that Brant was trying to avoid when he made the Moon Palace?"
You say, "Ah. Three dimensions. *smiles happily*"
Frink says, "No, I think that is more of an example of, "Why the hell are so damn many things in games just nameless faces""
Frink says, "Its more an attempt to add personality."
Frink says, "And yes, three dimensions, play time(length), possible consequences(two branches reaching the same goal, but having different side shows)(width), and content quality (Depth)"

Frink says, "As for games presenting model for action .. Its as possible as any medium, though a game is not just the player's actions, so you can show it with other characters. If your really good though, you can make it so the player has to do things they'd normally not think about."
You say, "I think that would be the most interesting aspect of computer games: gently pushing limits and introducing new realisations."
Frink says, "I'm simple minded, the most interesting thing about games to me is playing them. I could see how that is intriguing though"
Missepus laughs
You say, "well, the fact that all these media are actually used is intriguing."
Frink nods.
Frink says, "Another odd paralell/discontinuity jost popped in my head."
You say, "If we were more rational animals, literature wouldn't matter, nor games..."
Frink says, "Written work is fairly stationary in its base constant"
Frink says, "err in its base parts/how its formed."
Missepus listens
Frink says, "Words. New styles of fiction creep in now and again(The short story, novels). The variety of plays and the like."
Frink says, "With movies, the tools change over the years, better film, variety of acting methods, changing editing principals."
You say, "MmmHmm?"
Frink says, "With games things change at a much more rapid rate."
Frink says, "While there are a few sets of genres, and some methods/principals that are set in silicon...the underlying tech changes constantly."
Frink says, "An engine is fortunate to be used comerically a dozen times, and modified by hobbiest half a hundred. "
You say, "Are this technical changes quicker and more revolutionary than the early film technology do you think?"
Frink says, "I wouldn't say revolutionary, but definatly quicker."
Frink would be suprised if there is someone in the industry that got to work with the same tools/engine/tech five times.
Frink says, "(The numbers are coming off the top of my head)"
You say, "compared to the already developed technology? What has been introduced in the last - 7 years - which has changed the computer as medium as much as sound changed film?"
Frink says, "3d technology."
Frink says, "Lighting tech, 3d audio."
You say, "isn't that just adaptions from existing technology? was this created for the computer?"
Frink says, "Of later computers, and games, are driving the 3d rendering hardware developments."
Frink says, "and what I really mean to emphasise is that the barrier to creation is higher. Each technology has a different way of creating content."
Missepus nods - that's a good point.

Jill, Hilde and I have started a blog called blogonblog, a blog on the act of blogging, to be used as the tool to write a paper and a presentation for a major conference next year. The language will most likely be Norwegian and English: the presentation and the article will be in English, so the informal meta-discussions will be in Norwegian while the suggestions and drafts for the article and presentation will be in English.

So far we have almost agreed on which colours and design to use: unless Jill makes a sharp, artistic decision, it will be girly pink and small print, an adjusted blogger template. I'd have loved to have it a little fluffy around the edges as well, like a powder-puff... Our sharp words emerging from the fluff of our hesitation, discussion and digression - which is how it often happens when I work with Hilde and Jill.

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

The problem with the net: I learn about too many things going on in the world which I miss, tucked away in this narrow fjord.
The advantage of the net: I learn about so many great things going on, and some of them through great web-pages!

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

I haven't been this annoyed with a book for quite some time. The last time I think I burned the book afterwards. Interestingly Thomas J. Roberts, author of An Aesthetics of Junk Fiction quotes Janice Radway's Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature:

The reaction of the Smithon women to books they are not enjoying are indicative of the intensity of their need to avoid offensive material and the feelings it typically evokes. Indeed, twenty-three (55 percent) reported that when they find themselves in the middle of a bad book, they put it down immediately and refuse to finish it. Some even make the symbolic gesture of discarding the book in the garbage, particularly if it has offended them seriously.(page 70)

Well, here's news for you both, Radway, Roberts: It's only the rigid training towards respect for the written word and the academic book (particularly with hard covers) through years of study which keeps me from discarding Junk Fiction. It starts out with an interesting argument, but it tries to address this argument through the worst case of "synsing" I have seen since the 70ties. OK, so I didn't attend a university until the eighties, but I did read the books!

"Synsing" is a very good Norwegian word which I can't really translate. It would approximately translate into thinking, feeling, meaning - but that's not correct. "Å synes" indicates a judgement, not just reporting a feeling or standing for what you mean. A meaning can normally be argued for rationally. A feeling is clearly undefendable but also safe from attack: a feeling is not supposed to be rational. Å synes is to mean something, but in an irrational way: It is a judgement, not just a subjective preferance, but it's not possible or neccessary to test it objectively.

This is what I feel Thomas Roberts does: he carries no proof to his statements, and he makes up private definitions (enjoy his definition of FUN at page 89: you thought you were having fun? Sorry, that can't have been it) of important and well-known concepts, without any other support for the definition than his own opinion. That is such an arrogant act...

At least he looks at me as a reader who can't be dismissed: since I enjoy both "junk fiction" and "canonical fiction". Well, since his reader-group consists of academics who take an interest in trash, he had better not dismiss the only people who actually pay for this... I won't call it trash, because trash denotes a quite honest genre of mass-consumer literature.... well, I think I'll stop there. Words fail me in this language, I have only been taught the polite ones.
same quiz as Jill tested - and I was rather surprised with the answer:

44 points is in the 21 through 50 precent
You are a casual weblogger. You only blog when you have nothing better to do, which is not very often. There's nothing wrong with that. But if you'd post a little more often, you'd make your readers very happy.

And last year, in Linz, Vector Lounge was not just a web-jam, but also electrolobby Game Jam
Vectorlounge, a web-jam in Amsterdam: for those out there who enjoy flash!
spank the monkey and see how quick you really are with that mouse!

Monday, November 05, 2001

I have been reading about high/low culture, while at the same time thinking about Mark Bernstein's interesting questions about what games can teach us about life. His house-rules don't permit metaphors or the speech of silence, etc: and he wants to know what games teach.

While that is an interesting little game, I find several flaws in assuming that games can teach as literature does.
I think the most important flaw is that a game is not a story. What we learn of games don't necessarily compare to what we learn from stories. Games range over a wider specter: from games of luck to games of mimicry. To ask what 20 years of computer games have taught us about the relationship between a son and his weak-minded father is like asking what football teaches us of how to bake. Baking for the players have taught me quite a lot about it - but the game itself did not. Does that mean we can disregard what we learn from football? Apart from the physical advantages of exercise;learning to think strategically, to act as a team, to follow and submit to rules, to be creative within these rules and with certain limitations - these are things we learn from games and which are very important... but they don't apply directly to a plotline or a specific event or discovery. Literature can make us understand these things, it can give us the theoretical knowledge of them, it can make us feel as if we know them - but we can't act upon literature, not even hypertext literature.

We can act on and within a game, it can let us take responsibility for a team and let us win or lose, not just feel that we control a team and feel that we win or lose. Even if it's still within the realm of make-belief: there is no real-life consequence to what happens in the game, the game-achievement is a lot more active and has more of a consequence than the feeling of having achieved something.

Next follows the question if the real value of literature rests in posing the major questions in life? The value of certain books is that they pose and occasionally answer such questions, yes. The value of these books and their answers is not an objective value: what is a "learning experience" changes with fashion and the shift in focus of society. Isn't it an error to expect games which are very closely tied to the genre-fiction to give learning-experiences which don't belong in that genre? The power-fantasy as Mark Bernstein calls the LBA I plot is a lot more common in science fiction and fantasy than the introspective self-discovery better suited to... well, a different genre. When did I last read of an irredeemably weak father and his student son? I think Mark Bernstein and I read very different books...

And if so: is this a weakness in computer games? Do they have to be defended because they are not supplying the answers which "high literature" does? Personally I don't think so. I have found that the players I interview have very different reasons for using computer games, reasons which includes learning, but doesn't exclude reading books and learning other things from other sources. At this time and date I find that learning what computer-games teach their users is more important than learning whether or not they teach the same things as the media we already have. Yes, those are two different things: the one opens up for new discovery, the other confirms (or not) what we already know. Which of course, can be important... but not as much fun. Which is pretty important, when we talk of games!
Lisbeth wants games that skip back and forth between different stories, keeping suspense up. I seem to recall a King's Quest game from Sierra that worked like that, around 1997... Don't recall the number in the series rigth now - think it might have been the one before The Princeless Bride. The Princeless Bride came as a series, like a soap opera, not quite the structure Lisbeth was looking for.
Lisbeth, since you're writing about Animal Planet: You're in Bergen, so you should see if you find any of Barbara Gentikow's writing on nature documentaries. Barbara is at the Department of Media Studies, and has noted the same thing as you: how animal lives tend to be ruled by the same type of narratives as human lives, on television. Odd, hmm?