Friday, August 31, 2001

Didn't get my three pages today, only one, but that was a good one. Now I am leaving for Oslo again, I have this apartment I need to sell there. How are your elderly Oslo relatives doing? Any of them wealthy and about to move out of those large cumbersome downtown apartments and into something a little safer, easier to keep and in a classy neighbourhood? In that case - point them my way!
I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out the templates today. Even made this blog to have a place to play around. I managed to adjust that template, and so I felt pretty cocky as I attacked the template I wanted for this blog. Luckily I didn't feel so cocky I didn't save the old one. I hope you like it guys, I think this might be here for a while yet...
So many nice new templates!
but sadly, the one I really liked doesn't come out well, the text-area covering up the title. I'll stick to my clean, neat and now extinct design until the one I LIKE is fixed.
Gender and computing
This is a blog I'll be watching eagerly, having witnessed the birth I will enjoy seeing it grow strong and beautiful!
Elin explains why she hasn't been blogging for a while, and her new blog is up and running smoothly now, from a new site.

Thursday, August 30, 2001

I have spent the afternoon flat out in bed, reading Jesper Juul's article in Gamestudies. He writes of narratives and games, pointing out that games are not narratives, although narratives can be constructed from games.

I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with him. At one point I would like to expand on what he says: "It is also an oft-repeated but problematic point that game sessions are experienced linearly, just like narratives. (See Aarseth 1997 p.2.) " Espen might say this, but are games truly experienced linearly? And Jesper continues: "I will return to this but briefly note that this idea ignores the player's experience of being an active participant - this experience is so strong that most people will involuntarily change bodily position when encountering interactivity, from the lean backward position of narratives to the lean forward position of games. And playing a game includes the awareness that the game session is just one out of many possible to be had from this game. "

Walking from a to b, we do not experience the walk linearly. Our attention is constantly shifting, and while we might focus consciously on less than one thing at the time, unconsciously we have experienced things we did not realise at the moment. And we are picking up a wide range of stimuli: scent, temperature, sound, the effort of walking, the feeling of the surface beneath our feet. Not even our eyes are seeing linearly, the gaze sees both focused and peripherally, and switches from point to point, darting about, seeing more than we need and at the moment can consciously process. If we are asked later, did you see the tractor in the field, we can often know that yes, we did notice a green tractor in the field, just outside the area on which we focused. But if you ask me how the walk was, I will arrange the story about it linearly, creating a progression, either spatially or chronologically, or centered on some special event.

Playing a game, particularly a graphic, fast-moving game with details and complex actions, we perceive in the same manner. Almost in trance, the experienced player processes several signals at the same time, not experiencing the actions linearly at all, but rather nodally, or perhaps not even that, as the attention focuses nodally, but the perception is a stream of mixed signals. Perception is not limited to the structure of narration - description and verbal language is, however, and when putting experiences into words, linearity insists on making itself known.

I hurt, my hands hurt - Elisabeth, I know you keep checking in here... thanks for the rubber hearts which I squeeze at every break, I am sure they are what's keeping me from becoming a total invalid unable to type!
The Norwegian phonebook is online, and it just helped me do a little detective job all on my own, enabling me to tell my mother that "no, you haven't tied half your pension for the rest of your life to paying for a service you don't need."
Playing around with quotes, blame Hilde... But I when I found this one, I was surprised, baffled, and suddenly wished I had been old enough to know this man:

I had now made about 45 pictures, but what had I become? I knew all too well: a phallic symbol. All over the world I was, as a name and personality, equated with sex.
Errol Flynn
An other from BrainyQuote - Clint Eastwood

I don't believe in pessimism. If something doesn't come up the way you want, forge ahead. If you think it's going to rain, it will.
Clint Eastwood

I never could resist Clint!
BrainyQuote - E. E. Cummings -- To be nobody but yourself...

To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.
E. E. Cummings

For Hilde.

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

I finally found what I suffer from. It's amazing what I can learn from chats:

Amaris said to firey~one:

that's're confused NOW whereas I suffer from that condition incessantly..I think they call it chronic confusion with poor prognosis...or a profusion of chronic confusion...(g)
Joe Pennant's 'Itinerant in NY' blog
Just because I miss New York....
Just deleted a blog I have been administrating: Lomskolen: the blog!
It has been dead for more than a month, and it didn't look like the group who were supposed to cooperate on it had time to put in an effort. Well, easy come easy go... It won't be missed much!

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Lane is upset that I am sceptical, and she wonders what sceptics want... All I can say to her is: if you're for real, then what I think and mean doesn't matter. You are what you are and do what you do, and what a cynic at the other side of the world thinks about you makes nothing to change what you are. However, we live in world where there are more than enough hoaxes, and somebody will doubt you at some point. To make a love-story public the way you two do might also become a strain, there are worse beasts than me out here. There are flamers, stalkers and people who will disagree with you and people who will want to make you both unhappy just for the pleasure of it. Keep your real names away from the net, don't spread your addresses around and stay safe.
I did it - for the first time in a month, I reached my self-imposed limit of three pages a day. I had to start from the beginning though, as I felt I had lost the overview and didn't know what to write. This is officially the start of the rewrite, and outlining the chapters to follow in the first three pages of my thesis helped me put everything neatly into place. I am not as far behind as I thought and the new deadline no longer looks impossible.
Haven't we all wanted to be somewhere else with someone special sometime? Lane and Stu at damnthepacific dot com certainly do. I am still trying to figure out how I feel about this - but after cycling through a long list of emotions I have ended up with: "how can I know this isn't another internet hoax?" It's a nice story, two really cute youths begging for spare change to fullfill their dreams and be together. Now if one of them develops a disease which puts some pressure on the audience, cancer, for instance, and we get to admire their fortitude in the face of this tragedy, that should set the pennies rolling into their accounts.

Now of course, if they are for real I have been cold and cynical. But how can I know the difference? There is no way to prove their identity and the reality of their emotion online, and there is no way for me to prove otherwise, unless this develops into an other kaycee nichole episode... at which point they might be looking at a charge for fraud.
And while I am busy updating all kind of odd stuff: Elin, a bright norwegian student at the moment studying at MIT in Boston, has one post in her blog, and this is a sharp critcism of an old post of Jill's. Elin's post is from may 15th. With all the people who know Elin and have linked to her from their different pages, I find it embarassing every time I check to see if she has written something new and interesting, and find the same post. By now I experience her words not just as sharp criticism, but aggressive, and since Jill's blog has moved on and changed, the gap between this single attack and the fluid nature of weblogs becomes increasingly obvious.
Digiplay Initiative
Lisbeth just reminded me of this site. I know I have looked in here before, but that's quite a while ago, before they got the fancy lay-out.
I admit it, I am vain enough that I did a Google search on "thinking with my fingers", to see if there were people I didn't know of who had linked to my site. And yes, there were, and some links which left me very flattered. The search however brought up a whole lot of other uses of the phrase, and most of them were - excuses. A very common one was like this: "I am sorry, I am tired, I guess I am just thinking with my fingers." Only at one point did a site on journalism and writing point out that thinking with your fingers means thinking while you write, something all journalists should do. I mean, it certainly beats thinking after you have finished the part and passed the writing on to the desk for editing and printing!

Then there were the musicians, describing how their fingers would have to do the thinking at a certain point in a performance, how technique and practice would lead to the conscious mind not being occupied with what the fingers did, and the fingers thinking on their own, and a few other technicians and artists also mentioning how their fingers would come up with solutions seemingly independent of the brain.

The last quote however gave a totally new twist to the term. Google, despite me asking it to search for the exact phrase, insisted on searching for thinking .... my fingers. While this lead me to the Isaac Asimov quote further down, it also brought me this: "Then you get another hard-on thinking about my fingers."
March 3, 2000
Kathleen Thomas can't think when she can't move her fingers - odd, painful, and familiar.
Notice the quote from Isaac Asimov?

Thinking is the activity that I love best, and writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers. Isaac Asimov

I had no idea I was in such distinguished company when I named this blog once upon a time several months past.
Slottet varsler lang bryllupsreise
I just love the way the Norwegian royal family handle the press. They are so polite and open, they never flee or get annoyed, they look straight into the cameras and smile and answer, they keep their appointment, they go from point A to point B according to schedule, they pause to give photographers their shots, they roll down the dark windows to wave and smile and be available rather than protective and protected...

And then they turn around, slip into jeans, go out the backdoor with little more than a nod to the guard, and disappear in the crowds. As they did this time. The Royal Yacht arrived in Copenhagen on schedule - but the newly wedded Crown Prince and Princess were not aboard. They had left the boat hours ago - the Prince most likely telling the sailors: "skip the rituals, and pass me those suitcases, we are out of here. Say hello to the journalists in Copenhagen from me!"

And Håkon? If I meet you and Mette-Marit walking from one cabin to the next among the mountains of Sunnmøre with backpacks in the rain, I promise I won't tell, but can I have a picture of you and her, all cold, wet and blistered, just because?
By way of Frank Schaap, a collection of texts about MUDs: Richard A. Bartle: Formal Texts

Monday, August 27, 2001

The weblog review is a fun site.
I found this interesting blog from the life of Sims through the blog silent type, which Jill found after he had found us. Kind of roundabout, but that's fun, and now I have them all bookmarked.
On The Move
The Amazon

I dreamt of swords last night.
I dreamt of battles last night.
I dreamt I fought by your side
armed and strong, last night.

A hard flash of lightning came from your hand
and the troll fell at your feet.
Our troops closed in around us and sang
in the threat of silent darkness.

I dreamt of blood last night.
I dreamt of death last night.
I dreamt I fell by your side
with a mortal wound, last night.

You never even noticed that I fell.
So grave was your mouth.
With steady hand you held your shield
and went upon your way.

I dreamt of fire last night.
I dreamt of roses last night.
I dreamt my death was fair and good.
That is how I dreamt last night.

Karin Boye
Lars Konzack
Looks like Lars thinks I don't I take games seriously, and hey, here's somebody confirming what I just wrote about Miran: he thinks I am narrow-minded too!

Coming from media theory, I come from a background of media panics. Film was sinful, radio was dangerous, television the source of all violence, the video would lead to constant television use and the computer would abolish reading for ever. To reduce the power of computer games, claiming they won't lead to instant attitude change doesn't mean to take them less seriously, it means not viewing them like the work of the devil, appointing them the new source of all which is evil in society.

and Lars:
While it is fine to look at computer games in a broader media sense, I find it narrow-minded to look on computer games only in a media perspective since computer games are so much more than what is possible to see from that angle.

I hope you don't suggest that one researcher should look at computer-games from every possible angle? I would like to remind you of the first lines of the post you're quoting:

Games: why it's important to write about their structure, content and style, genres and characteristics, their use and their utilisation of technology.

Dangerous question, and one with as many answers as there are people doing research in the field (and some for the people who are not).

I did the good academic thing and covered the diverse opinions of others before I aired my own : )
Miran is turning into a little bitch.
OK, so who's Miran? That's my new role-play character at Azhad, religious, self-righteous and inflexible spoiled girl. I catch myself wondering where this comes from, trying to recognize her in the image of myself I have in my head. I guess people who read this might have less problems than me seeing why she can be a child of my imagination and personality. I believe Robin and Jodi were right: roleplay doesn't mean being all yourself, but you can never be more than yourself - which means somewhere in there I have a 19-year old moralist.

Sunday, August 26, 2001

My colleague Anne Mangen came back to Norway after spending the spring and summer in California. Her eyes were shining, and she was talking about her work with self-reliance and enthusiasm, something which made me envious, but also happy. She is working with an analysis of Myst, originally looking at the way it relies on film theory. By now she was convinced that hyper-text theory and narratology was the right way to approach it. I agree with her, Myst and Riven are narratives to a much larger degree than the games I work with, and narratology can work. I would almost say that they are NOT games, although if I look at them as games I am certain I could fit them into the categories of both Huizinga and Callois. If narratology fits on any of the productions labeled "games", I guess Myst and Riven are the ones.

As for me, I am still wondering why I am so little enthused about the book by Isabel Allende I just finished. I read it fast - devoured it, but it left me oddly hungry. I think this one stopped still in the game - unlike stories, it wasn't rounded off and ended, like a game, it invited me to log on and continue. Why do I love that in games, but hate it in books? I guess that's so simple I shouldn't even ask - I can return to the game, when the book ends, it ends. I feel like I want to write the next chapter about Gregory Reeves, and give him the life I would have wanted, if I was a man of his means and abilities. Perhaps that is still good though...

Friday, August 24, 2001

AzhadWiki: AzhadWiki
Almost as easy to use as blogger and more flexible, as it doesn't insist on cronological posting, Azhad uses a Wiki to create a website where the players can be active and participate not only through playing on the MUD, but also through developing the fictitous framework of the MUD, discussing and exploring different aspects of a make-belief culture.

Azhad is trying to give more power to the players than is normal in mudding, for (at least) two reasons:

1) To give the players the pleasure of personal mastery, achievement and satisfaction, and so enhance the playing experience.

2) To relieve the administration of the very demanding task of running plots when players can come up with more and are able to devote more time to running their own plot.

It's an interesting experiement, and they have a great player base to test on, as a lot of the people from the fading (and hopefully soon-to-be-reborn) Aarinfel have followed them here. > Thesis
Jill provided me with an other useful link: Frank Schaap, a dutch ethnographer. I am downloading his thesis as I blog...
A new game by some of the people behind Aarinfel. For those who like it RP-intensive and complex, I think this is a good world to visit!

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Background Briefing - 12/08/01: Knowledge Indignation: Road Rage on the Information Superhighway

I stole the link from Jill...
and the discussion is very interesting, displaying the catch of living in the information age rather than the industrial age.

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Games: why it's important to write about their structure, content and style, genres and characteristics, their use and their utilisation of technology.

Dangerous question, and one with as many answers as there are people doing research in the field (and some for the people who are not).

This is the question I have been asking myself for the last ... seven years? I think I have been asking it longer.
In 1991 I started playing computer games not just to enjoy them, but to learn about them, trying to figure out what made them almost addictive. Anything with that kind of holding power had to be a good medium for communication and spreading information, particularly a good teaching-tool and an agent of attitude change. From 1994-1996 (published in 1997) I worked on understanding a game created by the Norwegian board of Health to teach boys about sex and gender. The game, called Det store manndomsspranget (the great step to manhood) was never published, even after almost 6 years of developing it - the christian Prime Minister stopped it in 1998, saying it might lead to lowering the sexual debut age in Norway. If you ask me... that game was so boring, it wouldn't have made anybody more interested in sex. It made a good object for study though, and with its many flaws and complex structure it made me ask again about whether games could be used for the purpose of changing attitudes at all.

By now I think: no, it is not a good agent of attitude change. It's a good way to learn things that should be remembered, and new knowledge can lead to changing attitudes - but the game itself is considered a game, something apart, something not to be integrated in the set of experiences which act formative. Games are by nature outside of real life, and distinguishing the difference is a sign of sanity.

Why are they still important objects of research?
Their structure can teach us new things about perception, about the potential of a new media for widening our knowledge of how humans receive and act on impressions, stimuli, how we focus and about the human ability to multitask on several levels.

Content teaches us what can be talked about in which manners. Where are the taboos and do they change when they are discussed in the medium of a game, with the potential for choosing and discarding which a computer offers?

Style teaches us how aesthetics connects to function, to the social and to economy, as well as about identity and the formation of identity based on the complex messages of style - and yes, you should read Subculture, the meaning of style to know what I am aiming at.

Genres - that's more a matter of understanding the interplay between economy, literature and old styles of games - how history influences the development of what is considered new.

Technology is pretty obvious at least to me... but again economy, culture and the diffusion of innovations - and no, I am not just talking Rogers here.

Espen has his own answers to this question. I have a little problem with his view of games as an object of study in themselves. While I find them important, I want to understand how they connect to the wider media world. They are not isolated, no more than literature is isolated from other media, or perhaps a more obvious example, as literature strives to be isolated: Television from film, radio, music or popular written literature or journalism... we are facing a world of composite media, and computer games are becoming an important part of that.

Monday, August 20, 2001

Back before the computer. In the backpack is an other side-track: Simone de Beauvoire: the second sex. While I could have been a busy bee in Oslo, I rested aching muscles and exercised My head, thinking of gender and control.

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

OK... So I am not writing much. That's because I am painting, packing, carrying, unpacking, taking apart, putting together, rearranging everything and my life, it feels like. But I love this new house. I really really love it, it feels like I have, after 19 years of waiting more or less anxtiously to leave home and 21 years of living temporarily somewhere I always knew I wouldn't stay, found a place where I could settle. It's scary.

But now I am packing books on fantasy literature and aesthetics, and leaving for Oslo. I hope to be back wiser and with the computer packed with notes.

Thursday, August 09, 2001

Now that "please bonk me" has started spinning in my head with its totally new meaning, I am wondering if it wouldn't be the solution to all my problems... or at least distraction from them. Problem is... I am not the "please" kind of girl.
this was funny, Jill made me aware that my blog changed directions quite dramatically with my last post.

Where I have been playing and chatting "bonk" is a short term for an automated emote from the game, saying something like: "Urk hits you over the head." Little did I know that in other parts of the Universe "bonking" means being fucked really hard and fast. OK, perhaps that would have done the trick though, and yes, I might at times be tempted to say that... but on this occasion I was unintentionally lewd.

Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Sometimes I feel like saying: please, bonk me.
I had been trying to wring and wiggle to make a quote I disagreed with into a good point to start when describing the process of creating a game, just because it came from a book with the words "Interface" and "Culture" in the title. When it was pointed out that I am not that much of a verbal contortionist, I had to look again. I have been refusing to think of games as a type of film for so long, my mind has shied away from the most obvious of comparisons when it comes to complex cooperations in the creation of entertainment: the film. So now I am reading David Bordwell's Film Art with a slightly sheepish look on my face. Why I look silly? Because this book has been on the reading-list for our undergraduates for years... and I didn't even think to look that way.
Pirate Software, LLC HomePage
This looks like every gamers dream: find a group of talented people you want to work with, and build the game you would love to play in. At this point, what makes them different from the administrators of games like Dragon Realms, Aarinfel, Azhad and Lu'Tamohr is ambition and vision. They aim high! That makes me curious to see more of what they might already have written, what games they use as their models, how they expect to find funding, and will they be stubborn enough to go through with this massive project?

A lot of gamers have made real money on their dream. Once upon a time there was a little group who called their world "White Wolf"... How many talented young people aren't dreaming today of building a game rather than writing a book or being a movie star? And hey, I am already making a living from my interest in games!

Tuesday, August 07, 2001

just so you know, Adrian, I am reading your blog, despite the tiny print and the green which blurs when I try to read it, and I think I have to read Cybertext again... because I understood Cybertext and Hypertext opposite of how you explain it. OK, perhaps I admitted something foolish now (the potential of not having understood something! Eeeep!) - but I did not experience the frustration you are having with this.
Gonzalo continues his crusade against games as narratives, and he has some interesting links to comments on Gamestudies. His blogg is developing into a nice portal for game-study topics.
Jill is obviously getting some criticism of her blogging, when others claim that it's exhibitionism. I have to say: isn't it all? I can't lecture without showing off. I insist that from 20-200 students stare at me for two hours. I insist on their attention, and I display my entire sorry self to them: my taste (or lack of it) in clothes, my errors when using technological equipment, my language and voice, not to talk of my scent and any unconscious habits I might not know about... believe me, the students know them intimately. I also write papers for international conferences, I have taken exams and I have assessed exams... All those insecure girls, dreading having to exhibit a piece of themselves on the oral exams, wouldn't life have been so much easier if somebody had told them that it's OK, that you need to be a bit of an exhibitionist to manage?

So what's wrong with exhibitionism? What's wrong with vanity? Or is perhaps nothing wrong, it's just that I hear those words as dysfemisms, good Scandinavian Protestant that I am? (OK, you might want to scratch good.)
"The 'eye' is a product of history reproduced by education. This is true of the mode of artistic perception now accepted as legitimate, that is, the aesthetic disposition, the capacity to consider in and for themselves, as form rather than function, not only the works designated for such apprehension, i.e., legitimate works of art, but everything in the world, including cultural objects which are not yet consecrated - such as, at one time, primitive arts, or, nowadays, popular photography or kitsch - and natural objects."

Returning to Bourdieu's Distinction I find the reasoning behind my view of aesthetics, that which I have not made explicit in the last chapter. Then the question is: does aesthetics have a value when it's just the result of history and education? Should I even try to mess with the "aesthetic qualities" when they do not exist independently, but as a sum of factors?

I say yes. Aesthetics is still a product: it's an evaluation method developed to suit a purpose... and as such it says as much about the purpose as does any other method I could choose in research, journalistic, scientific or just with the investigating imagination of town gossip. Any method aims at including and excluding certain variables - what variables does the aesthetics of computer games play around with?

Monday, August 06, 2001

My language or yours?

I have been writing in English, having delusions of grandeur and lots of readers, but also because I really hate having to translate concepts which are already common and have a settled meaning in English, but are still not translated into Norwegian - or translated in some obscure report which have been sold in 5 copies, and those are to the libraries at the colleges where the writer has friends.

Somebody whose opinion I care about suggested I translate the whole thesis into Norwegian - concepts and all - because that would make my language clearer. After a little while of being depressed, I decided to get a few other opinions, and I seeked out a victim in my store of english-language academic friends.

He liked my language, and indicated the lack of lucidity might be in the work, not the language.
Back to the desk, to look deeper than to the structure of my sentences. At least I know I have to look at everything again now... and won't walk around in ignorance, thinking everything is fine and I am writing a grand work of academic philosophy, to stun the world... at least not yet.
I have to reconsider what it is. I think of it as a product of culture: the critheria for what is pleasing about a certain object in a certain culture.

As cultures are dependent on social and economic factors, aesthetics will depend on this as well - and politics will influence aesthetics - through culture. To me, that means that aesthetics at no point exists independently of culture, of economy, of social differences and of politics. These set the frames within which aestetics works to confirm or challenge the establishment.