Monday, December 30, 2002

Educational games
By way of Gonzalo, so that Kym notices, a link to the draft of an article on Serious Play by Jennifer Jenson and Suzanne de Castell.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Sober Santa
From Francis Strand, an entertaining little game for those of us who don't really believe in Santa any more. Francis sent this well before Christmas, but it's not until today that I have had a chance to sit down at the computer and play it. Thank you Francis!

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Wish me luck!
My husband has a high fever, the account was empty long before Christmas and I don't have anybody to look after the cat while we are in a house with 15 people who at other times of the year live as far apart as we can get (there's a reason for that). This mans that for the next couple of days all my energy will be directed towards survival, and blogging isn't a survival strategy in this context. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, mine will certainly be two things: eventful and spent with the family - good things I suppose - we tend to remember each Christmas distinctly.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Keiko revisited
Remember the killer whale who was set free - only to cross the North Sea from Island to Norway and show up in the Halsa fjord? He's still in Norway, waiting, like so many others, for the hering migrations.
"Real gløgg"
One of the things I have not had the time to enjoy so far this year: Gløgg
This recipe can't be Norwegian or even really Scandinavian. They are burning the brandy!
In this recipe they boil the wine. What is this, a conspiracy for a sober Christmas?
A Professor's gløgg; this version isn't too bad, but what a waste of good aquavite.
Here they claim that it's a Danish drink.
Whoever wrote this recipe know a few things about Norwegians...

It's quite interesting to see all the different versions of "real gløgg". But if you want to make gløgg in Norway, you need to remember a few things.

1) Norwegians never waste alchohol. Cooking wine, burning brandy or anything else which may lead to a loss of alchohol from the brew is banned. Good gløgg is strong gløgg, and the quicker people get drunk the better the party is. Give Norwegians free drinks, and they turn into happy barbarians.

2) Norwegians don't care about complex tastes - be heavy on the spice, pour the syrups liberally, after all with sharp spices less of the taste of the home-made spirits - so delicately termed "moonshine" in American - will be discernible.

3) Norwegians like novel ways of getting drunk, so soak those raisins well before they are dropped in the pot. Nothing like snacking your way into the holiday mood.

4) As long as it is red, sweet, alchoholic and can be drunk, it can be poured into a pot of gløgg - don't worry about "appropriate".

Gløgg is not a complicated drink for elegant parties, it's a simple, warming winter drink for people who live in climates where you need to be warm inside and out before you dare loosen up enough to smile, to laugh, to flirt - or even to unbutton your jacket. It's as if the layers of clothing are wrapped around your mind as well as your body, and the cold of the winter nights has frozen your smile off with your fingertips and toes. The purpose of the drink isn't to placate spoiled palates, but to warm frozen souls and hearts quickly and efficiently, lower barricades built into the culture and bring out the warmth and generousity of a reserved, shy and socially insecure people. For that purpose you need three things: a potent brew, enough of it, and enough people gathered around the pot that they come close to each other by necessity.

Monday, December 16, 2002

oral exams
No, I have not started a second career as a dentist, but Monday evening, Tuesday and Wednesday will be spent assessing students. I will not blog the proceedings, even if the process sometimes can be quite entertaining and in many ways enlightening.
I am not the only one, it seems, who occasionally thinks fondly of Dragon Realms. The game is closed now, but Megistias' Dragon Realms page exists.
Special interests
I don't create software and I don't own a mac (which seems to be a must if you want to get the full benefit of what Eastgate produces), but I know Anja Rau and love her sense of humour as much as I admire her keen intelligence. So when she's the editor of a new magazine, it's worth notice: TEKKA, sponsored by Eastgate.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Since we're talking about it
Start teaching them safe sex while they are little....
It's all about...
sex, she said, over dinner. I hadn't even noticed, and I normally do. After all, she's this lovely slender successfull doll of a woman with a love-affair that defies space, the child of intellectuals and sister to artists, while I am the dark mean bitch, crawling, slithering, kicking and clawing. I am she who wears normality as a warm sweater and protection against reality, while my mind roams the dark corners and my students can't use a ketchup-bottle after graduating because of the images invading their hot-dog meals. The pretty danish waiter flirted skillfully, secure in his handsome maleness, knowing that if he made us feel good about ourselves, intelligent, witty, wanted and attractive, tips would fall out of our purses, and yes, it did. A touch of a hangover from italian wine at inappropriate hours was repaired with more of the same while I told her another outrageous true story. And she laughed, her dark eyes alight with wicked amusement as she shared a taste of my sadism.

But it kept returning to sex, to words licking the g-spots of our brains, to ideas fertilising receptive minds, to images penetrating texts violently rather than emerging in tranquility. And I remembered her fingers caressing the lid of her computer, the flush of her cheeks as she listened to a brilliant statement, and I nodded, unable to do anything but agree; the lust - yes the lust - fed at this moment by the red meat and the creamy sauce on our plates. It's a love-affair, not a lifestyle, and I mourn at the knowledge that I have to break up. This passion burns out. This thesis has to be concluded. And I need to end it in a civilized manner, as I strive to appear to conduct all my affairs, in the hope that there will be enough warmth left that in the near future it will settle into being a sweet part of my past.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

I had an odd, but nice, little letter in my mailbox today. jirayu, who speaks both thai and english, wrote that she (or he - I really don't know the gender of that person, and others keep doing this mistake about my name - I'll go on assuming female, since I think I understand this person) felt the title of this blog described her feelings. She feels that she expresses herself more clearly when she uses a computer than spoken or even in hand-writing. After the first moment of flattery at being known to a masters student who's most likely situated in Thailand, I re-thought the title of my blog.

The title of this blog comes from the way I have always been thinking. I am not one of those people who can sit down and give a thought shape in my head, polish and present it to the world as a child of my brain. I need to give it shape somehow, through writing or drawing. At high-school I used to draw in the books in order to remember what the pages said: my memory recall is basically through understanding, if I can't understand, I need some kind of visual aid: an image. When I write, I am often surprised at what comes out, as if my fingers know things my conscious mind does not. No, this isn't automatic writing, when I see the words I understand where they come from and where they are taking me, but I don't always know which rational decision-making process took me to this point.

This way of thinking has however not developed with my use of computers. I have always needed to write in order to know what I think. I am old enough that my habits and skills of writing were developed before computers vere common in households or even at universities in Norway. I am even old enough that I have read - and boicotted - newspapers set in lead, and been banned from the journalists' union because I used computers. To me, the computer is a different tool for writing and thus thinking, but it's not the only tool. When I feel that I really need to give my thoughts shape I sit down and shape them by hand, letter by letter, ink flowing onto paper and spreading over the page until order emerges from chaos, leaving a trail of ink like a slug's trail along the forest floor.

(By way of the intervention of Mark Bernstein, I learned that my first assumption was correct, and it's a female name. Good to know!)

Friday, December 13, 2002

Back from Bergen, still alive, but exhausted from the weight of carrying my thesis around. Do you hear those rustling pine-needles? It's the trees that will be saved from the way I'll cut parts of my thesis rather than trees to print it on.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Tomorrow, in Bergen
But I don't think I'll have a chance to get to a computer. I am off to talk to Espen Aarseth about the thesis, to see how much I must do before I submit it - hopefully in January. Wish me luck, I just might need it.
Where are the ethical wizards?
I just want to point to this comment by Mark Bernstein and say "yes, I agree."
Swedish exotic
Inspired by Francis, I baked "Lussekatter" last night, in a sudden craving for the scent and taste of saffron. Not being a Swede, I didn't wait for the day of Santa Lucia, which is Friday, and I didn't get the designs right, but I have so far had no complaints about the taste!

Monday, December 09, 2002

December delights
Once upon a time December was a magical month, filled with the anticipation of christmas, little secret presents and an endless stream of freshly-baked cookies. A self-respecting housewife has at least 7 types of cakes, preferably 13. All of this would culminate in a wonderful orgy of lights and tastes, games and gifts.

At some point things changed. I think it was around the time when my older sisters had left home, and just came home for christmas - and by the time they should come home, the house would have to be cleaned and prepared, and everything ready for just the final touches. I had to fill the space of three older sisters in the cleaning of a huge house in the period when I had the most important tests of the semester at school. My mother had started working, so I also had regular chores added, and my father was disabled after a stroke. At that point, the shine started to go out of Christmas and it became a big, dark pit of guilt and failed expectations.

It has taken me almost 25 years and two very sweet, happy and Christmas-loving children to start to see some of the pleasures of preparing for Christmas. By now I love the smell of spices, and the way my daughter settles down to happily chat and help out when I start baking. I love the good-natured banter of my son as he helps me with the advent star, and the private little conversations about presents and wishlists, carefully conducted out of ear-shot of the other family members. I have developed an addiction to christmas-tree decorations, and I have to smuggle them into the house because of the restrictions my husband wants to put on the use of such: he insists that the tree has t obe able to stand upright after it has been decorated, and not collapse under the weight of the decorations. I even manage to take time to study japanese origami to learn of new and elegant ways to wrap presents.
Game Studies: New Issue with Guest Editor Jonathan Dovey

Game Studies, the online international journal of game research, has published volume 2 issue 2. This is a special guest edited issue, with Jonathan Dovey, University of the West of England as editor. Dovey describes this issue:

This edition of Game Studies is devoted to a small selection of papers originally presented at the Game Cultures conference at Bristol in July 2001. Curated by myself and Helen Kennedy for the School of Cultural Studies at the University of the West of England Game Cultures was the first academic conference in the UK dedicated to computer games. As such it brought some of the best work being done internationally to a UK academic audience for the first time. Apart from excellent contributions from some of the leading scholars in the field the event created the chance for academics from all over the world to come out as gamers.

This issue contains four papers from the Game Cultures Conference, and one conversation between Celia Pearce and Louis Castle. Louis Castle is cofounder and General Manager of Electronic Arts' Westwood Studios.
The articles are;
Dialogue Conventions in Final Fantasy VII
Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo
Creative Player Actions in FPS
Latin America's New Cultural Industries still Play Old Games


This is the official line from the PR department of Game Studies, which is me. The new issue is interesting, so far my favourite is on Creative Player Actions, probably because it gives me hints on how to cheat. I love that, even in a game I don't play.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Issue 2, year 2
Game Studies is out with a new issue - I'll be back to you all with good reasons to read it once I have had the time to look at it myself!

Friday, December 06, 2002

Gender Disorientation
I am looking for an other blog to add to the list, so I had a peek at and started clicking the names of the posters. What did I find? Guys! I guess for those who have been reading that weblog attentively, this doesn't come as a surprise, but while there is a Liz and an Esther on the list of posters to the blog, there's also Bowler, Shawn, Jake, and Justin. I know, I know, it's their blog and they can call it what ever they like - and if they wanted to pretend to be all women, they could have done that as well. I just had a little moment of gender disorientation, is all.
Nicholas Yee?
Whoever he is, if you're interested in MMORPGs his website looks very interesting.
Christmas approaches
And this year I am even more broke than usual, same year as I am about to celebrate Christmas with all of my large family. I guess I need a really good Christmas present idea.
IF on a winter's night a professor...
writes me and argues well for his view of interactive fiction, far be it from me to refuse his view a link from my blog. Dennis G. Jerz concerns himself with digital media and literacy, and disagrees with me when I claim that it's not logical to demand from games that they should tell stories. I have no idea what the english term for "skinnuenighet" is, but I suspect one of those are out prowling the internet somewhere between Volda and Wisconsin.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Direct a choir
Do you have a dream of directing your own choir?
Readability online
One of the important things for me online is that I can read the text easily, so when a friend tells me the grey-on-white isn't enough of a contrast for him, the design has to change. Thanks Kym, for notifying me that it was a problem, and I hope the not-quite-black of the text is a tolerable compromise between looks and readability.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Other Daughters of Bhaal
Yorleen Sheydar
Anomen contemplates tying his fate to that of the daughter of Bhaal (Fan Fiction on Baldur's Gate)
An other daughter of Bhaal has a good teenage fit of selfpity. (From the story of Zaerini, based on Shadows of Amn)

There's a culture of fan fiction and fan modifications (MODs) to the more popular games, and Baldur's Gate has its share.
Daughter of Bhaal
Once in a while I stop working and start playing, and what I play at those occasions is Baldur's Gate II, Shadows of Amn. I have been playing this game in my spare time since May, and I am not bored yet.

Shadows of Amn is the sequel to Baldur's Gate I, where if I had played the game I could have conquered my evil brother Sarevok and prevented my father, Bhaal, God of Murder, from returning to the Forgotten Realm. In this game I have to choose between good and evil: will I take up my evil heritage or will I turn away from it? Neither one of the Baldur's Gate games gives the player a chance to write the background of his or her own character, it's already set. For more freedom of expression, import the character into Neverwinter Nights. Instead Shadows of Amn offer tricky choices and high pressure on several levels.

The main character soon gathers a party of adventurers, and although these are NPC's, non playing characters, they are quite sophisticatedly programmed and ensure varied feedback to the player. Depending on the choices the player makes for the group, the different NPCs will agree to stay or go. The game offers a multitude of little choices, each little quest one that can change the outcome: do you turn to the light or the darkness? Little distracting quests turn up in every place the company goes, and the player's character is constantly hazzled both with the needs of the people of the Forgotten Realms, as well as the needs of the people in the group. Minsc and Jaheira, two characters who obviously have been with you since the battle with Sarevok, are the only ones who have not insisted on having any special favours yet (I am on chapter three after seven months of playing - I am slow but this game is complex). Their job seems to be to give the PC a solid guilt-complex.

On the other side of the coin is the evil wizard Irenicus. He is an important opponent, but also the devil's advocate in this game. He keeps whispering about grandeour and power. In series of dreams he comes to tempt the PC to turn to the dark side. His is the classic role of the devil, who shows the PC the powers to be had... if only the player lets it turn to the dark side. At the same time the game manages to create NPCs who really suffer. They suffer small things and larger: Tiny little experiences whch might or might not be quests colour the game, and the Forgotten Realm is not empty of life and humanity. The NPCs might be pawns just like the footsoldiers in chess, but this is chess as we see the wizards play it in Harry Potter: Each pawn speaks, each pawn pleads, suffers and dies.

Baldur's Gate is a classic tale of sibling rivalry, of rebellion against the parents, social unrest, corruption and temptation. Religious sects mislead the unwary, corrupt leaders of society take advantage of the people, and children are sold, used and abused. The parents in this game are either evil as in Bhaal, pathetic as in the case of Anomen's father, or absent until he's found to be dead as in the case of Nalia's father. There are no mother-figures at all so far, unless I count Nalia's annoying and narrow-minded parasite of an aunt. This is more in line with the general motif of parental betrayal than any slur against women, since we find women wielding many different types of power in Shadows of Amn.

All of this is however just the framework, the fictional background against which the game itself is played. The game is based on AD&D, with the same system of rolling dice in order to determine the outcome of battles as well as quests (the computer rolls for you, of course). The main enjoyment comes from using the full range of abilities available to the group in order to beat the opponents, and to choose skills and abilities which will advance the progress of the group through the game. While the fiction is pleasing as a backdrop that allows for spectacular graphics, mysterious dungeons and wicked traps, the many little puzzles which influence the progress of the characters in different manners is what makes the game worth playing. Shadows of Amn has been adjusted somewhat from Baldur's Gate I, and such adjusting is the trademark of a game with ambitions to be good, at present there are no single spells or weapons that always saves the day. This forces the player to experiment, explore and test in order to determine tactics, a strategy that makes the gameplay varied, entertaining and challenging. Shadows of Amn is a game where agôn dominates over alea and mimicry: a game of skill rather than one of luck or pretense. It does however use the fictional frame efficiently, and the quests and puzzles are firmly embedded in the fictional reality of the Forgotten Realm.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Identity theory
Today's odd and interesting link: identity theory edited by Matt Borondy, a journal with a very informal and blog-like feel. There are very few limits to who can submit and what can be submitted:

Identity Theory is perpetually seeking submissions. Just about every form of human expression that can be made digital is welcome here. Aside from writing, we welcome flash productions, videos, mp3s, and more.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

High Profile Bloggers
Now there's an interesting concept... How does one become a high profile blogger? And what happens when one is a high profile blogger? I am of course refering to the New York Times article by Lisa Guernsey, where she wonders why the high profile bloggers are all men (see Jill and Elizabeth Lane Lawley for more). Personally I think it has something to do with how you define high profile.

My (quite short) blogroll contains 4 women and 4 men, one of whom constantly talks about his husband. Of those eight, I read the 3 none-housewife men because they work with things that overlap what I do. Which is also why I read the blogs of the four women. The only person I read because of the thrills of daily life, is the man with a husband - I just love his style when he talks of life in the big city, so deliciously exotic seen from this tiny little speck on the map, and the gay marriage and his adjustment to living in Sweden as a good background for getting an alternative view on the everyday life (Norwegian word of the day: hverdagen).

To me, those eight persons are prominent. They influence my daily life and my interests. Yes, I'll even call them "high profile bloggers". That is the delight of the blogworld, I can choose my own role-models or gate-keepers among a wide range of people. So who will a journalist link to and name high profile bloggers? People who write of things the journalist has an interest of, of course, and since journalism is still a man's world, she will find more men than women writing of war, terrorism and foreign politics. I don't read her "high profile bloggers" much, and it doesn't bother me. I don't feel like I am missing out something, and I am quite happy with not reading the blogs of men who spout opinions I don't share. That's what blogging is about, to me, the freedom to choose who I wish to listen to, and not have to use the same 5 news-agencies who control the flow of information in the media.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Scandinavian Modern
If I don't get a television to hang on the wall, a widescreen as flat as a painting, I want one of these.

(link by way of no sense of place)
Myths of gaming
Gameresearch has an interesting article which discusses a set of myths about games , where Jonas Heide Smith "kills off" 6 myths.

Some of his strikes are well-aimed, it is for instance possible to check whether games are a bigger business than movies, and the numbers he presents indicate that they are not. Some are not quite as well considered. "5: Games have yet to mature as a medium" is for instance a statement which cannot really be checked. Heide Smith's argument rests on the assumption that radio, television and film is mature:

But to put it bluntly: Games are mature. It is odd to compare computer games with the development cycle of books. If you should compare with something, it should be other visual media in this century, where the technological evolution has speeded up considerably compared to earlier centuries. And neither the television nor the radio took centuries to mature – there seems to be a romantic vision of computer games becoming something more than the established genres of today.

The computer is rapidly changing film, video and radio. Digitalising information opens up for formerly unimagined options, and breaks the very strict linear, chronological publishing line of television and radio, not to mention what computer animation is doing to film. Television, radio and film are obviously able to develop further, to change and to become something more and something new. Now this might be a sign of decomposing in their dithering old age, but I hardly think so. I think it is a sign that electronic media is still a young technology where we don't yet know the limitations of the future.

And if the computer is changing already established genres, which are considered mature, who knows where the games can go? Heide Smith's argument that story is the measuring stick in academia for the maturity of the medium is not valid, he should look a bit further for academic debate before killing off that particular myth. Structure, immersion, social interaction and relations, spatial perception - it's all a part of what is discussed in relation to gaming, and there is still as much if not more to explore and develop there as there is in film, television and radio.

His argument against myth "6: Games are great educational tools", is similarly quickly put together. He points to a study of games by Eva Liestøl, where he finds that the educational games are bad games. Does that prove that children can not learn from games? What that proves is that educators have not learned how to develop good educational games.

I agree with Jonas Heide Smith, there are a lot of myths about computer games, and I would like to see some of them squashed - particularly the "games are dangerous" one. That will disappear in time though, just like the "radio is dangerous", "television causes the brain to shrink", "video will lead to chainsaw massakres in every home" and "colour television is dangerous to the perception of reality". All we need is a new medium and for the current gaming generation to move into positions of power and have children who explore and understand a medium their parents never imagined. Once that happens, computer games will come in from the cold and probably be something pretty close to high art.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Computer game restrictions
The European countries are cooperating to mark computer games in order to make explicit which age they are for and what kind of content the user will be exposed to. In January they are supposed to agree on the design of the labels to warn about the different types of contents. Some of the suggested labels are quite amusing:

smooth work
Now that I am not resisting the thesis, work feels so easy. I write a couple of pages on the article I need to draft by next week, I go to a meeting and manage to focus, I plan the next semester and plow through potential litterature for the next semester, organise meetings and generally manage to plan ahead. I don't even have back-problems. Can there have been a connection between that huge, over-ambitious thesis and not getting things done?
Immersion and methodology
I have been using action research as a way to highlight the reflexivity inherent in the study of online multi-user computer games, but what I am trying to write of now is the fascination - that feeling of giving in to the material and floating in it. It's a sensual experience, a seduction, where the material of study carries me away, enfolds me in the experience and in a state somewhere between analysis and criticism and the pleasure of the experience. This is a state which most methodologies are designed to eliminate, but how can I avoid it when the topic of my research induces exactly this state of flow, of analysis and decision-making while following the rules and the rhythm of the game? I am trying to write of this tension, to analyse this tension, and it's so tittilating just outside of the grasp of my language.

Monday, November 25, 2002

It just might be...
Hardly dare say it, but it looks like the permalinks works better with this template - if that's true it's an unexpected, but pleasant bonus!
New Look
This design is based on the "currency" standard blogger template by Mena Trott, a clean and flexible template which was a good start for me. Very IKEA-ish, according to my NYC connection. I have no problem with that, I have lived with cheap furniture and quasi-functionalism most of my life, so I guess this look suits me better than the spring-inspired optimism of the old template. And it has room for the links I have always missed room for. The list of links is not too long yet, but as I surf, I expect that this will change. Anyway: This is the first blog-design I feel good enough about to use here. Enjoy!

Friday, November 22, 2002

Deadlines galore
Just got reminded of a deadline I thought was one month from now. So by December 1st I have to write a 20 page article on the research I have been doing. I think I will write - again - of the research process, I keep returning to that problem. But this time I'll describe an other part of it, the sensation of being swept away by the game, to be lost, and struggle to analyze while lost in creating a fantasy. Working title: "Tatt av spillet", which roughly translates to "Gone with the game". Only problem is: I don't want to be either Dibbell or Markham.
First attempt
I have for such a long time envied Jill, Hilde, Lisbeth and the others who with such ease edit their blogskins. I have spent hours and hours on trying to figure out how to do it for myself, and I have been able to edit colours and such things... but I have never dared to touch the template for this blog. Today I managed to make/modify a standard blogger template into something I liked, and you can see the result here. It's a little scary, and I couldn't do quite what I wanted - I'd have liked to get rid of the horisontal rule for instance. but I failed at that.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

College Backstage
Planning the college christmas party for the staff. No students allowed, only the college staff and some administrative- and research units closely associated with Volda College. This is the occasion when we dress up, put on make-up, wear the prettiest shoes and go backstage!
Almost too good to be true (even with the unjaundiced eye of a mother)
My daughter is in the music specialisation in high school. Her main instrument is the clarinet, second instrument tenor saxophone, she's learning to play the piano and she's singing in the school choir. In her "free" time (when she isn't involved in political activities to save the world or at least the environment) she instructs the woodwinds in the school military band (skolekorpset), plays with two big-bands, sings in a choir and plays in the College Symphony Orchestra. This week-end they are performing The Creation by Joseph Haydn, and that little blonde head over the clarinet between the music-college students and professors, that will be my little daughter. Yes, I am soft and mushy with pride that I have such a wonderful, beautiful and talented child. And she's nice and intelligent too. Almost too much, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

IF - what?
Interactive Fiction might be a seductive term, but the reader who has been following the discussions among Jill, Lisbeth, Gonzalo, Frank Schaap and some non-bloggers such as Espen Aarseth, Susana Tosca and the others in the Gamestudies team know that narration in computer games is an extremely tender topic. Have a look at Jesper Juul's Games Telling Stories for instance.

Games are not stories (although they somehow are related to the realm of fiction) and the idea that games should tell stories is as logical as saying that the audience get high-scores from how well they watch a film. Yes, it's possible to give audiences high-scores, but that isn't one of the important aspects of a film. Yes, it's possible to use a game for some kind of narration, but that's not what makes a game a game.

(reflections on reading Anne Galloway's post)

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

In Antarctica
No, not a report on the temperatures outside, which are extreme for November - it's supposed to rain and be windy! Instead of whining over the cold here, I want to point you all to a different kind of research weblog: Gillian in Antartica, reports from a female blogger doing fieldwork. Read, look at pictures, and enjoy!
Old Games
Old games, files to download, at siteaboutnothing.
New levels to the fun little game Chip's Challenge.
Classic gaming at Gamespy.
More old games - looks like you can download several of Sierra Online's Quest-games here.
At they call it abandonware. Warning - that's an obnoxious site!
Games nostalgia - nice title. And they have a game called Jill of the jungle - almost worth looking at just for the title.
This is the research program I have been waiting for. (Mentioned at Jill/txt as well.) I know what I want to apply for - I have a plan for how to apply, but what is an experienced researcher? Am I one now? I am not sure, as post-doc stipends should be part of the project plan and not individual, and I would be viable for a post-doc if I didn't already have tenure... The demand for an experienced researcher to lead the larger projects is a clear disadvantage to the smaller research centres in colleges like for instance Volda. The recent reforms in education in Norway has put more emphasis on formal training for the educators, and the colleges have made an effort to reward research and the publishing thereof. But it's a slow process, it takes years and years to create an "experienced researcher", and in the mean time the well-established, large research communities at the Universities have a clear advantage over the smaller University Colleges.

I will continue with plans for my new project though, and keep my eyes open for potential partners in crime.
Space and Culture
By way of Anne Galloway (yes, we hooked up via emails and these blogs) I found her advisor: Rob Shields, who is editor of the intriguing-looking journal Space and Culture, international journal of social spaces.
When and Where do I play?
Anne Galloway asks. It's more a matter of when don't I play. Role-play (mimicry), combined with competition (agôn) is a major part of what I do, and it's not just acting - I find that it's playing. I make up my mind to do this or that, to be a personae, and see if I can "win" - if I can make my students, colleagues or others I want to convince accept my plan. This playfullness is both a way to get energy and motivation for things I would otherwise not be to happy about doing, but also a way to keep the competitive and manipulating aspects of my life at a distance from the rather vulnerable core of my personality. As long as I play, I can enjoy a victory, but shrug off a loss, and get on with a new, interesting plan. My life is split into different arenas on which I play: teaching, research, administration, college politics, etc.

I guess the one area where I never play is when it comes to my children. Anything that happens to them touches me, deeply, profoundly, and it cannot be abandoned at the arena of "home" when I enter the arena of "teaching" or of "research". But I also play in more common playful contexts: I love playing card-games, my father was a ruthless and competitive player, infamous for his cheating, and I have passed that on to the children. I play computer-games, preferably role-playing games or adventure games, I am more for puzzle-solving and strategy than direct competition, and ilinx - dizziness and physical involvement - only comes into play in dancing, which I love to do. I am not much for sports, but I like fishing: I guess it's a like an adventure: search and think and guess and work on the puzzle, use the right equipment and go to the right spot, and you get the reward.

(Mimicry, agôn, alea, ilinx: Roger Caillois: Man, Play and Games)

Monday, November 18, 2002

Email failure
Email has become the main communication device of academia. It's quick, potentially quite close to real-time, yet non-intrusive, it can contain a lot of information and carry attachments which would otherwise be a week in the mail, it can be shared and forwarded or deleted and forgotten. The problem is when email fails us. Adrian writes about his struggle to find the perfect email system, but the problem is more serious than that when emails start disappearing and don't get where they were supposed to go. One colleague has had a problem with this all of autumn, for some reason her email gets eaten, and it's absolutely random when this happens: addresses at the college or outside, students or staff - the email-monster thinks her mails are especially tasty. Today Susana sent an email asking if I had received the email she had sent weeks ago - I hadn't replied to it - and it turns out Susana has a similar problem - or perhaps I have a problem and it sorts away Susana's mail as well? (Susana, I got this mail and the reply is yes, by the way.)

It's in cases like this that the fragility of the digital infrastructure becomes obvious - and also the close relationship to magic. Like magic, it appears on your screen - or disappears, spirited away, once sent.
Freedom of speach
Elisabeth Eide received the Ozzietzky Prize for outstanding effort for the freedom of speach from the Norwegian P.E.N. . She received the award for her work on bringing the lives and realities of Afghan women to the attention of Norwegian media.

To the non-norwegian readers out there: too bad you don't read Norwegian, Elisabeth is a wonderful woman, a researcher, author and journalist who has not forgotten that writing can make a difference.
Multimedia Technologies for Gaming
Not an area where I can contribute, but I'd still love to be present at the Special session on Multimedia Technologies for Gaming at ICME - IEEE International Conference on Multimedia and Expo.

The person who sent me this link and asked me to please promote it on my website (I assume blog it) looks even more interesting (and not just because his baby pictures are irresistably cute): Laurent Balmelli, with a PhD from Lausanne and a researcher for IBM in NY.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Viking kittens
How can I not be charmed by these fierce kittens?
Magic and computers
Arcane symbols written in certain patterns, ritual movements performed by the trained and devout, rigid discipline and a maniac attention to details, a focus that excludes the trivial for the abstractions of the art... It's quite understandable that good programmers and hackers tend to be called wizards.

When I try to explain to students what happens inside a computer of on the net, I might as well speak of magic, or perhaps magick:

The word “magick” relates to the power of the IMAGINATION - expressed through a harmonious marriage of Intellect and Intuition. Magick denotes the practical fusion of Art, Science, and Spiritual Wisdom, evoking the alchemist’s symbolic quest: to turn lead into gold, transmute the base into the noble. MAGICK is a fun word that suggests serendipity, spontaneity, creativity and productivity beyond all expectations.

Magic permeats the web, and is central to the informal metaphors with which we understand it. From wizards to codes and formulas, secret passwords and levels and tiers of security, the web-culture connects to the myths beyond science in order to make itself comprehensive to the layman. And it's perhaps the medium where we find the most public discussions of and papers on magick, not to mention the online shopping.

This might explain some of the popularity of medieval-like environments in games and chats. Pre-renaissance magic was real and expected, and it was how reality was perceived, explained and understood. The renaissance was a renewal of supposedly logical explanations and thinking, among other things the causal linearity. Medieval art as well as science was not linear and prioriticed differently, very much in the manner of a hypertext. Meaning was created through positioning, through references to other works, through proximity and distance, through similarity and absence, rather than by linearity and causality. This reminds me strongly of the nature of the world wide web, but also of the memex machine . The computer is created to promote a logic not based on causality and linearity, but on the workings of the human mind - that must magic and terrifying of all dungeons humanity have yet to explore.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Fast Food Future?
Noah Wardrip-Fruin voices a concern for what happens to the culture of cities, and among other things he refers to Fast Food Nation. This is a very interesting book, and yes, it is relevant, but I don't think the connection is quite as obvious to as it might seem.

I see the disappearance of the smaller stores as a result not of mail-order shopping, but of the automobile culture. I live in a place where I can walk to the library, walk to the stores as well as to most of the social events. OK, so I need to be a little fit to reach some of the more remote parts of Volda, but it's really not a problem. There's no MacDonalds here, the fast-food joint is called "Naustet" (the boathouse) and is run by a local couple who offer some extremely local specialities right along the selection of taco-burgers and small cheese menus.... The "city" I come from has the "mall-problem" though. Despite the amazing beauty of the center of Ålesund, it's being abandoned for Moa, where the riding-school I used to visit and watch the horses and dream about riding has been sold to make space for shopping-centres.

This is a little sad, and I do feel a certain nostalgia for the bakeries and the small pretty stores in the lovely art-noveau houses. What I feel absolutely no nostalgia about is spending an hour in traffic on a distance that took me 10 minutes on a bike when I wanted to get to school in the morning. I feel no nostalgia about saturday rush, trying to get in and out of town on one narrow road serving all the people living in town and all the ones who came into town from the wide farmland about Ålesund. When the tall ships' race was in Ålesund it became quite obvious that it was a town made for boats, not cars, and 90 years ago going to Ålesund from Volda meant getting on a steamer and spending a day or two on the trip. Today we drive to the shopping-centres just outside the center in 90 minutes.

While I would like to have the small elegant stores in Bergen center here in Volda, I know that it won't happen. And I also know that there is no space in Ålesund center, a lovely center built on three islands, for all the cars that would need to get in and out if Moa didn't exist as a shopping center. If I want to have cars, which I do as a lazy air-polluting and non-renewable fuel-consuming daughter of the 20th century, I have to accept changes. We can't both have the convenience of driving where we like and the luxury of little stores within walking distance.

Life without Amazon

Jill, Noah and Mark discuss, bookstores and search-engines. Noah is concerned that the little bookstores which are the life-blood of our academic culture will fall due to Amazon, Mark sees it as a way to avoid Barnes & Noble monopoly, and Jill writes of her childhood when her parents let her choose freely from book catalogues.

I feel like an alien. What planet do those people come from? I grew up in a fairly large Norwegian city, with a couple of established and well-stocked bookstores, but that didn't do a thing for me. When I could get the money for the bus-ticket, my hunger for books drove me to the library. The heart-blood of Norwegian academia is there, in the library, and not in the tiny little exclusive culture-elite book-stores which I agree, yes they are cute and charming and probably really useful to the people who live close to them.

In a world where academic thought happens outside of cities such as Washington, New York, London, Paris or Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Bruxelles, cute small traditional book-stores aiming their selection at fashionably shelf-browsing scholars with more cultural than economic capital just isn't an option. To the kids who grow up with parents who use book-stores to buy christmas cards and paper plates, the little book-store in Michael Ende's Neverending Story is as much part of the fantasy world as Fantasia and the Child-Empress. Academics who work in remote little colleges in remote little countries speaking obscure little languages know perfectly well that dream and pretend all they like, they need to use other sources, other ways to search for books and papers.

Jill describes how her Cambridge-educated parents would use one particular bookstore and their catalogue to order their books. Different similar solutions is the life-blood of Norwegian academia. And I suspect more than that: it's been the reason why there is some kind of Norwegian academia. That, in conjunction with the exellent and hard-working research libraries at all universities and colleges and a wonderful system of public libraries, with book-boats and busses to the areas of Norway which are so remote they don't have their own library.

I think it would be sad if the dream of the little dusty bookstore run by the old, scholarly owner who caters to a sophisticated audience of intellectuals should become nothing but a fantasy. However, from this part of the world it doesn't belong in the daily life of academics, but on their list of important sight-seeing goals alongside galleries, museums and the Zoo.

Noah points out that there's a large difference between a and the, as in the lifeblood and a lifeblood. The alert reader who checks out links will find that Noah uses a lifeblood and that I quoted him incorrectly. Perhaps Norwegian academia is anemic because we don't have those little book-stores, just barely surviving on the transfusions we get from libraries? Interesting point for the quality reform, I'd love to see the right-wing education minister throw an other billion into the budget to support small academic bookstores close to all academic teaching/research institutions...

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Semester ending
Every semester, we ask the students to assess the semester. While I have been doing research, this has been left to the hard-core sociologists in the department, and so the evaluation has had the shape of a surey where students got a sheet full of questions and a few options, and then a few lines in which to say what they felt about some of the points. This would be processed, presented and forgotten.

I like to do this differently. So this year the information study - which is my baby - went back to the evaluation methods I found most efficient: a qualitative evaluation in groups, where all could comment on what was said. I split the class into six groups. Each group was responsible for one topic:
  • practical techniques: schedule
  • practical techniques: feed-back and assessment
  • theory: The reading-list
  • theory:the lectures

And so on. Then I asked each group two questions:
  • what has worked well this semester?
  • What would you suggest should be done in orderto make things work even better?

I had spoken to the student representative what she felt about this before I started the process, then Monday I told all the students and gave out a list of questions. Today I put them into random groups and let them work it over in the break after a lecture and before the weekly meeting, which is a meeting where we discuss how things go, where teacher's give information to students and students give information to teachers, where they and we just get together and discuss important topics. This meeting was when we did the evaluation.

The students did a wonderful job. They are, after all, the ones who know the semester, and who can see what is good and what should be changed. They wrote their suggestions down, introduced them to the class and noted down the objections from the others. Now I have summarised their comments.

Although I asked for positive and constructive comments, they don't paint a rosy picture of the information education. There are a lot of things that can be done differently. But there are things which are good which we might never have thought to ask about. The weekly meeting for instance, was on the list of good things, and I hadn't even thought of a group to assess the teacher/student communication. Perhaps equally surprising but also good is that the students really appreciated that manner of assessing the semester. And for me the bonus is that now, instead of a lot of information about which lecturer is an idiot or which book the students haven't read, I get a list of suggestions, several of which can be easily implemented and can make the fall semester 2003 a lot easier for the next set of students.
Living sources
I had a student in my office today, and we were trying to pinpoint the publication date of an advertisement. It was somewhere around the fifties, but we couldn't say late or early. To try and solve the puzzle I grabbed the phone and called an invaluable source of information on everyday life in Norway from 1940 and onwards - my mother. After five minutes of remembering when she had worked where, what she had sent home because of rationing in Norway while she was working in Sweden and what kind of clothes she had worn in Norway and in Sweden, we were a lot closer. We discussed briefly when eggs and flour, milk and butter became easily available in the stores, as well as female fashion: when the wide skirts came into fashion in Norway after the war - when material was abundant enough and the female profile changed to the wasp-waisted model-wife of the fifties.

The wonderful thing was that she could answer. I could get all this information easily and to the point, and in five minutes we had reduced the possible period for the advertisement from 18 years to 5. It never ceases to amaze me how much the people we take for granted know - the knowledge stored in living flesh, in vulnerable, decaying brains.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Deustcher spam
I am getting spammed in German. It's kind of cute, German is such a formal language, and the spam is polite, almost apolegetic. This way it becomes intimate in a manner that the more common English-language spammers don't manage.

Ich bin die Anja und wuerde mich freuen mit dir zu plaudern, flirten oder einfach nur Spass zu haben. Ich habe auch nichts gegen einen realen Treff wenn ich gefallen an dir finde und du natuerlich auch an mir.
Vice City news
Perhaps I have bad taste, but I can't help it, I think these are funny:
If it's got a central nervous system, we've got it ready to go in a box to your house.
Being fat can even ruin romantic cruises.
Dog Ban upheld
Stealing thoughts
Academia is a small world, as for instance Adrian Miles observes in his vlog and Elisabeth Lane Lawley of mamamusings points out. But in little Norway, academia is smaller than manywhere else in the world, and what goes around comes around rather quickly.

I am thinking of people who steal your thoughts and ideas. I am thinking of thought parasites. The ones who can't make an original link between theory and practice on their own, and prey on others, particularly younger and less established and connected subjects. And they don't steal the ideas where they can be traced, oh no, if you have published you are safe. They steal from drafts, from suggestions, from outlines and conversations. They offer to assist by commenting and reading through your suggestion, then tell you this is not worth pursuing.. and when you look at their work next time they have landed a 100 000$ grant based on your suggestion.

This is sadly a common practice, and some are more infamous for it than others. It's also the reason why many young researchers are afraid to publish prematurely, and don't like the thought of maintaining a blog. I am of the opinion that the blog doesn't make me any more vulnerable to this - it happened to me before blogs, so NOT having one did not protect me - but I can see that it's a reasonable worry. Still, obviously Academia in Norway is small enough that we're able to spot some of the parasites...
Blog of note
A woman, a PhD student, and blog of note? No, not any of the Scandinavian cluster, but Anne Galloway's Purse Lips Square Jaw. Just looking at it is a pleasure - but the real delight is in reading of her research project. I want to talk to this woman!

Monday, November 11, 2002

Storytelling and seduction
A link to a short comment on seduction and storytelling by Steve Denning, in a website dedicated to Storytelling. I liked this: "Weakness, like storytelling, hesitates shyly, and in so doing, gains privileged access to the backdoor of the mind."

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Angry little girls
This site is the kind of place I wish I had known about 30 years ago...
reporting on the go
while Xybernaut seems to have the solution to all the active reporter's problems, it says absolutely nothing about the software. Until they can offer GOOD editing software for the busy journalist who needs to be able to edit his/her own things either live or extremely quickly while moving, this isn't going to really reach the media industry. Whoever developes that software will have a worldwide, hungry market!

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Sent Jill to Bergen - nobody liked to see her go. I want her to finish her thesis, so that she and I can write all the other things we outline when we are together. That inspires me to want to finish my own thesis as well. so today I did it: Stopped fretting over the stuff I haven't adjusted in the big document, and sent it off to Espen. I expect Espen to be ready wielding an axe - no razor or scalpel here - in order to chop it down to something resembling a thesis for a PhD and not an avalance of written pages.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Inadvertent article
Jill arrived safely last night, she's installed in the guest room at home and an office here, and all's well. It's amusing though - after spending a short evening and an even shorter breakfast together, we had planned a new article, again on blogs, and agreed to start researching and reading up on it. We'll use blogonblog again, and see where this ends - this time we don't have a deadline or a publisher yet, so there is nothing but the pleasure we have in working together to push us onwards. Every time we meet we discover anew that our theoretical approaches and our knowledge doesn't overlap, but supplements the other, and this complementary nature of our knowledge doesn't fail to inspire. It's a rare and precious experience.
Convergence, again
I am not sure if I like this word, but at least it's better than multi-media, which used to be the hip word for what happens to media when it finds computers.

Some meanings to the word from Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language:
converge, v, -verged, -verging, 1. to tend to meet in a point or line: incline towards each other, as lines that are not paralell. 2. to tend to a common result, conclusion, etc.

convergence, n, 1. an act or instance of converging. 2. a convergent state or quality. 3. the degree or point at which lines, objects, etc., converge. 4. Physiol. a coordinated turning of the eyes to bear upon a near point.

The last is perhaps the most suitable interpretation: Convergence media in the meaning of a coordinated turning of the eyes to bear upon a near point, the near point being the computer, and with all media coming together here, the attention turning to the computer and with the attention, all eyes.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Some of the players I used to MUD with once upon a time have made a Wiki about games, culture, and the ultimate game they would like to make. Not much there yet, but is among my bookmarks!
Convergence Media
from Lisa Westley and Shooting Live Artists: What is convergence media?

Convergence media is a term given to the merging of digital technologies.
But what does that mean?

"You have to open your eyes, and your vision has to really encompass the whole picture. You really have to feel it; movies, television, DVD, internet. It's all the same thing, just different configurations. You are seeing this amazing combination of art and science growing and facilitating each other constantly. Nothing transcends content, but a lot of things couldn't happen if it hadn't been for the technological advances. It's an incredible landscape."
Quincy Jones

Over the last 10 years it is pretty safe to say that the internet has had a massive impact on the distribution of all forms of media; music, film, radio, news etc.
The World Wide Web - the most common path for this distribution - is only one aspect of convergence media as more applications, devices and platforms become available to receive all forms of media.

We've been promised a lot, probably too much too soon, but the era of mass broadcast through one or two platforms is over.

Convergence, an interesting looking journal on new media. It has issues back to 1995, but only abstracts of the articles are available online.

Convergence, media and marketing: Convergence defined from the user, and not from the technology, a refreshing view even if it is oriented towards marketing:
So what will this mean for marketers? First off, convergence of information means that the consumer is truly king. Twenty years ago, we witnessed a shift in the balance of power away from manufacturers and into the hands of retailers. This shift happened when overproduction became the norm and retailers maintained better connections with consumers. Now retailers have ceded control to the consumer.

From the Motion Picture and Television Industry Machine, by Mark Levey: Hollywood Meets Silicone Valley, a subjective view from the moving images production side.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Hvis noen lurer på om jeg er blitt mobbet av studentene mine, så vil jeg bare si ifra at det svært langt fra de uenighetene om undervisning og administrasjon jeg har med studentene, og den slags ufin oppførsel som Bård Siem beskriver i hans artikkel fra høgskolen. Heldigvis opptrer studentene ved Avdeling for Mediefag stort sett fornuftigere enn de beskrivelsene Bård Siem kommer med i Sunnmørsposten.
More than Maths
Mortensen, more than maths - found with the generous assistance of, which has put that ugly pink page in between me and Viggo Mortensen, hunter of orcs...
Where does mistakes come from?
Mark Bernstein discusses mistakes in design, but his comment holds true for other types of mistakes in connection to planning:

Second, it's probably wrong to assume that mistakes arise only because people weren't paying attention, or didn't care, or were conceited, self-indulgent idiots. Mistakes arise because people were avoiding other mistakes, because they were trying to save your time and money, because they're human.

This semester has been more than usually rough. While I have been working on the final chapter in the PhD, I have also been redesigning the Public Information Study at Volda College to adhere to the "Quality reform", the large and very dramatic reform of the educational structure at College- and University-level in Norway. This is a process of high insecurity both for the staff and the students. The students are aware that the study they applied to might not be the same that they actually enter and have to go through with, and their insecurity and following aggression is directed towards the closest target - their teachers. We, the same teachers, are trapped between the orders to commit to the structural changes, and the structural changes themselves, which for instance includes a change in the funding.

Rather than being paid according to how many students we take into the study, we will get paid according to how many actually take an exam here. This is problematic for several reasons. Connected with the liberalisation of the asessment system, which now permits us to not use external assessors, it can influence the quality of the students we send out. But it has a more immediate effect: We won't get funding for the students we have now until a year after their exam! That means that all initiative at this end has to happen on pure idealism and faith. We can't expect to afford equipment or more staff to cover for the increased burden of administration until two years after we have started a one-year course. This means short, quickly finished courses, which is the opposite of the pedagogic goals of the quality reform. The reform idealises frequent feedback over a long period of time in order to emphasis maturity and development rather than fragmented courses and small exams.

We, the teachers, are trapped in this, between the fear and frustration of the students and the experiments of the Ministry of Education. And we make mistakes. We try to avoid one problem, so we make another. We try to protect one group of students, and so we hurt another. All our excellent intentions come to nothing, and despair is close... And we don't do these mistakes because we are idiots or deliberately evil. We make them because we are trapped, and human.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Computers to go
My NYC connection, the stockbroker, recommends Xybernaut. Not in possession of funds that can be invested, I still like to understand what he's talking about, so I check out xybr at the Nasdaq once in a while. Once a really hot item on the market, it dropped so low that it looked almost dead after the y2k crack. Now it's crawling back up, and my broker-friend might be right.

What fascinates me with Xybernaut has very little to do with stocks though. It's all about mobility. Today computers are like televisions: they tie you into a certain pattern of moment, and restrict you to certain environments. You need to be indoors, you need to be careful with liquids, temperatures and stress in the form of jolts and jars, you need to have a table or some sort of support for the keyboard and you need the same for the screen. With a Xybernaut computer, you can disregard these restrictions. OK, so I sound like a commercial, but really - imagine - my dyslectic son with his writing problems could with a wearable computer, a headset for a screen and a wireless keyboard either strapped to his arm or resting in his lap, have the same opportunities to take notes on a class excursion as his classmates with pens and pencils. My sister the live-action role-player could use the same equipment to quickly and unobstrusively refer to her notes while GM-ing the 70-100 people on one of her (relatively small and intimate) games. And these are just the most immediate uses I can see in my family.

I just like it for the coolness factor. I love the science-fiction aspect of wearing the computer, I can easily see myself with a small toolbelt containing the hard-drive, a screen built into my glasses, and an input device the size of my palm, where I scribble down cryptic, secret messages or perhaps call up information with sub-vocalised commands... But I also see the political problem with making computers too wearable and portable. I might for instance have to give up my nice office and move my books into some kind of accessible storage with only a small space for book perusal, while I get to work in several different types of environments depending on the type of work I do: from an auditorium to the class-room, a common work-room for peer-to-peer cooperation, a student-meeting room, a silent study room for accessing the heavier databanks or doing online editing or design. It would mean a new architecture for staff workspaces in the college. Somehow that thought thrills me and scares me. I like this little cave where I am surrounded by pictures, books and green plants. But oh yes.... I'd happily become a cyborg - if it looks cool!
Internet use, anonymity and the ethics of blogs.
Jill has a couple of posts this week about children and internet use, which she ties into internet and particularly blogging ethics. In her first post she writes about teaching her daughter how to protect her anonymity, lie if she has to in order to do so, and in the second she talks about blog ethics. I find that these are two different issues, and should not be confused.

To tell children not to give out information online goes along the line of never taking candy from a stranger or never entering their cars or houses. Children need to learn how to distinguish between these different situations. We teach children to be polite, and refusing to answer a question is impolite, but we still don't want them to tell perfect strangers where they live. This is a situation where a child has to use his or her own judgement, and they ought to know that they are not comitting a horrible offense and will be yelled at at home if they don't tell that nice lady their home address and refuse to let her drive them home from school. To operate with an anonymous email address online, to sign with a nick-name and to misdirect if they are asked about home addresses or other information that can be used to track them: what school are you in, what class, what is the name of your teacher, who else are in that class, what band do you play in - the list is long - is a safety measure.

If they start a blog and publish to the net, that is a different can of worms entirely. Not that I feel all information in a blog needs to be correct. A little hint in the description of the blog that "this is my private playground, and the things I write here are things I know and things I make up" will be enough to establish the context for the mixture of fiction, dreams and misinterpretations which often comprises childrens' perception of reality. I would however insist to my children that if they start a blog, they make such things clear to the reader.

A weblog connected to my work is a different thing again. In this blog, as Jill in hers, I need to be correct. I am occasionally - well, frequently - personal about the information here, but it is still correct. If I find that I have not been correct, I have the power to edit, and I can exercize it, just as the editor of a newspaper can. First edition holds so much information - in the fifth edition the paper is totally changed. Remember the day the Swedish Prime Minister Oluf Palme was killed? I guess not that many do, it was way back in the easter of 1986. Anyway: Bergens Tidende, the largest newspaper in western Norway, came out with six different editions that day, from the first where they had a little note saying Oluf Palme had been shot, to the sixth which had pictures and several pages dedicated to the shooting. In this case several less sensational subjects were supressed for the sake of the shooting, and thrown out of the paper without mercy and with no excuses made.

A paper newspaper has different restrictions from a blog, of course, but the point I want to make is that at times we, the editors of our blogs, need to make editorial decisions. If I have been an idiot and given out false information, rather than leaving it there to be found by search-engines, to be pointed to by links and generally stay around to add to the misinformation of the world, I find it ethical to remove it. It might also be ethical to leave in its place an announcement that "in this post I had posted incorrect information about so-and-so, but having seen the error of my ways I have altered the post, and I am very sorry for the inconvenience," but misinformation is not something that needs to be kept for posterity. What might be interesting is how come this information turned out wrong, but that's if you do research on memes, in which case I suspect you have enough material anyway.

Most of all I want to make it clear that I am not a publishing house, and this is not the product of an organisation. I have made no promise to the public that I will say nothing but the truth, and I don't ask for anything in return from my readers. I don't take your money and sell you crap, I receive your attention and occasionally add something to the way people think about information, media, games - but I am not the fourth power of the state. Let's keep this in proportion - this is just a blog, I am just one human being and while I might worry about my blog archives, I don't think of them as my memorial.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

I think I just concluded. I am not sure. I guess I can't be sure for quite a while yet - first there is a lot of beauty-errors to correct, Espen needs to read it, I have to submit it, the University has to appoint two or three readers to assess the entire 350 pages, and they have to accept it and permit me to defend it, and when the defense is over I will, hopefully, know if I managed to conclude - in a manner.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Time passes...
Did you talk about 30 Lisbeth? You are such a young PhD student...
An other reason why it is - at least in Norway - common to be both 30 and 40 before you finish a PhD, is the fact that you can get a job, and even tenure, without a doctorate. I have worked at Universities and Colleges since I finished the master's degree, and been tenured since -96. The Ph.D. is more so that I can have more options than a really necessary career move for me. Although I expect the degree to change my career somewhat, in the current educational system I need the PhD to apply for jobs at the Universities or for leading projects in research and development. It will also help me to create a masters in Public Information, if I want to teach and administrate it, and it will make my education more acceptable abroad - or rather, it will be easier for foreign Academics to understand that I actually have quite a bit of independent research experience (which I had to have to get the steady position at the College, but less formally).

The odd title "amanuensis" is supposedly on its way out of the Norwegian system, there are no new positions with that title. I am one of the last dinosaurs...
Installation problems
The college runs windows 2000 pro on the newer machines - like my brand new one - and for some reason the drivers for the video card are not compatible with the drivers for battlefield 1942. So now I'll get to test Windows XP. And yes, the guy who does the installs has now accepted that making sure games work on my office computer is part of his job. I wonder what he'll think when I apply for money to set up a game-lab for volunteer research subjects - a LAN with connections to the net via the college server, with game-dedicated computers and a server dedicated to weblogs, discussion forums and chat-rooms in connection with the gaming?
Faint comfort
I got past the Amber Hulks, but now I have to kill Torgal. But before that, I will see what I can do about a few more pages to the conclusion. I have about 40% of it done. There's 7 pages between me and freedom. It's scary - having the thesis there as something to do, at all times, is somehow comforting.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Students - can't live with them, can't teach without them
Not a good day. I wish I had a good fantasy novel I hadn't read yet, so I could just go home and forget all about it. Perhaps I'll see if I can get past the Amber Hulks in the dungeons in Baldur's Gate even if I skipped the part that would let me make the stew to distract them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

The pain of ending
I just read the conclusions to two very different PhDs by two women I admire a lot. The first used the conclusion to address all the unmentioned problems of her thesis. The other used the conclusion to conclude: a summary of all the earlier chapters. I have no idea what my model will be. No, that's not true - I have made the outline, so I have an idea. I guess it will be more the concluding part - I feel so done, I don't see where I could take this from here without starting an entire new project. I guess that is a good thing?
game-stuff links
A list of interesting and useful links, by way of Lisbeth.
Ah, it's a story!
Thank you Mark, that did clear things up. I was confused by your first entry on Another World:

Another World is a game. You are the Resident Administrator of a new Colony on Another World. You make the decisions. You choose what to build, and where. It's a little like SimCity. (It's loosely coupled and multiplayer; there are other colonies out there, and they can influence your colony. But they're a long way away...)

Addressing the reader: the second person address as in "Wake up! Look about you! Look at that boy over there. Yes, that exquisite elf lad, Jehann's boy. Tell me: don't you want him?" doesn't change the fact that this is a story, and told by you.

Stories and games have things in common, but one of the areas where they rarely correspond is in how they flesh out the society and makes it explicit to the users. In a story, you can indicate a past, a structure of society, the laws of nature as well as the legislation and the culture, which the reader then has to assume from your writing. In a game, particularly a role-playing game, you have to give the players this background explicitly, because a large part of the pleasure of playing means manipulating these rules.

When I say that they rarely correspond, it's because there are examples of how they do. Tolkien's Silmarillion is one such work - although that was edited and published by the son, not JRR Tolkien. It's been used as the model for how to flesh out a background for role-playing games since the first Tolkien-fans started making their own Middle-Earth characters. I would also love to see Silmarillion as an electronic hypertext, the stories linked to each other, and then linked to Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as well. I think Silmarillion already is a hypertext... all it needs is a more efficient medium in which to be studied. And I think Tolkien might have loved the multi-linear writing spaces, such as Tinderbox.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Learning from blogging
Jill writes:

I've become very comfortable with expressing myself quickly and clearly, and I'm much more confident about expressing a clear opinion, tolerating its being challenged, debating it and supporting it - or dropping it and learning from criticism. Networking, building on others ideas, sharing my own and letting go of my ideas as they join up with others and are used by others. Though I suppose universities want to or should teach these things, I sure didn't learn them in seminars, lectures or writing groups. Perhaps others did.

I learned that from playing online role-playing games - from mudding. Perhaps what we learn from is being social while limited to writing?
There are moments when I would have liked a sitemeter, such as today, when Jill has been interviewed on our paper Blogging Thoughts. Among other things I'd love to know if the Norwegian research site has enough trafic to make a dent from a link at the bottom of an article.

For those who read Norwegian: the interview with Jill is nice, and a cute picture too!
Porn and computer games - mixed feelings
Can there be a better mixture for big headlines? This article from the Norwegian paper VG (Verdens Gang) is about Asia Carrera, and VG uses the connection for all it's worth! Asia Carrera is introduced as a porn star, and in the Norwegian article it looks like her main contribution to the gaming community is posing for skins for avatars in Unreal Tournament. However, VG (with a strict reminder that eksternal links are not the editorial responsibility of VG) does the readers the favour of linking to the interview with Carrera in Unreal Playground.

The first question there is of course about the controversial skins. To emphasis how controversial it is that the chest of an avatar might show tits and not steel, the image is censored and has printed right over her boobs. The interview is actually rather amusing, with the questioner trying to justify the interview through an attempt to make it sound like Carrera - or megabitchgoddess (yes, I love the nickname) - actually contributes to the game in many different ways (building maps, for instance) and not just strolls around wiggling her tits. The great part of the interview is that Carrera doesn't try to live up to that. She states her limits quite clearly, explains that she doesn't have THAT much free time, and underlines the fun she has while playing.

I like the interview, megabitchgoddess is obviously a player who enjoys her game. It's quite in tune with the culture in games (and most other male-dominated arenas) that a woman has to show off her boobs to get attention. What I don't think is all that relevant is the article in VG, where it's used as an excuse to show the top-less avatar. I don't mind porn, when it's good I even like it, but the VG interview is to me a typical case of staring at Carrera's chest rather than listening to her words.

Towards the end there's a picture of her rig, and yes, it looks upgraded and includes pussy-cats. Love her shoes too, and the conveniently placed poster. But my favourite part of the interview was this:

UP: Can you recall any UT matches that stood out above the rest; either great games played or weird events during a round?

MBG: Hmmmm... nothing that would make a very good story to tell, I'm afraid. It seems like most of the amusing happenings in UT are of the 'you-had-to-be-there' variety. I do remember at least two instances of feeling like a complete ass after racing all the way home with the flag only to discover I must have dropped it somewhere along the way - thank goodness no one else can tell when that happens!! LOL!!

Friday, October 25, 2002

Elves and changelings
Tam Lin (or Thomas Rhymer), one of the Child Ballads, is the story of a fellow who meets the Queen of Elfland on the road and spends a night dancing with her -- a night that lasts 40 years.

Yes, exactly, Mark. But wasn't Tam Lin exceptional? Those who are picked by the fey are not the everyday, common people. In Norway the equivalent would be to be taken into the mountain: Bergtatt. A human would wander off into the forest, and be lost. And if they managed to escape, they were marked. Often they were marked in advance: poets, dreamers, dancers, musicians, marked by talent or beauty to be different. Peer Gynt is a Norwegian version of Thomas Rhymer, the wild soul, the adventurer and dreamer who goes on an adventure that takes him beyond the safety of routines and off into the mountain where he dances with the daughter of King of the mountain.

And the Queen of Elfland amuses herself with her chosen poet for a brief while - one single night. But for him everything is changed afterwards, while she moves on to her next amusement...

Now the changeling concept is different, and quite cruel. That is a myth which is as much a convenient explanation of genetic randomness: the retarded, misformed child or the one who does not look like its parents. The blonde child to the dark, brown-eyed parents, or the dark child to the unfaithful wife. And so the child grows up, punished for the ignorance of adults... or perhaps punished for the convenience of adults: rather than divorce a wife and lose a partner in the daily struggle, punish the changeling child for being born...

It's also a wonderful dream for a child who does not want to really belong to his or her own parents. To imagine that the real parents are the King and Queen of Elfland, and some day they will take you away must have entertained endless hours. How many of us haven't dreamed of being adopted? I know I did. I know my kids occasionally think about it - that is until they look in the mirror and the sad truth stares out at them.

Elves as the alien - now that is interesting, and that is the point the players of the MUDs discussed. Elves were not just culturally alien, but physically and most likely alien in the hard-wiring of their brains. They would perceive different things from humans, so their thoughts and ideas would be different. I find the elves to be a fascinating concept of "the other", the strangers among us who we cannot see but in glimpses, because the worlds we move in are so different, so alien, and only touch in spots which seem to be charged with magic.

Mark, I just love this, sorry if it appears intrusive and as if I am overly critical and difficult.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Battlefield 1942
Of course, it's important for my current and future research, and so for the department and the college. But it's also quite amusing how easy it is to get the attention of our IT department with a bug-message like this: My computer can't run Battlefield 1942 - can you check what updates I need and perhaps test the game to see if the problem can have some connection with the college network?

I love working on things that makes other people smile when they have to help me!
Internet Research
By way of Lisbeth: Internet Research Ethics.
It isn't easy to write the final pages of a thesis. I sit here polishing the existing pages, squirming with the cognitive dissonance every word creates when I start writing the final chapter. This is where I am supposed to say what I learned, what I meant, what I found, what the 300 preceeding pages were all about. Problem is... I have no idea. I don't know how to close this. It's a neverending story, and I would love to make a loop of it, and return to all the unanswered questions. But that is too cheap, I am not writing fantasy (I think) and I am not Michael Ende.

When I figure out how to do this, you'll all be notified. Don't hold your breath.
Links out
Jill mentions the hostage situation in the Moscow theatre today. I don't have much to add except that have been using links in their articles for a while already. I noticed the first one a few days ago. I forgot to blog it though. This marks a change in Dagbladet's policy to links. According to Arne Krumsvik, their former internett editor and a colleague of mine, their official policy when we discussed this - about a year ago - was not to link out of the site, but keep the readers inside the hypertextual universe of This has obviously changed. (This article is the current leading article on, it's about the sniper killings in Washington, and it links to Seattle Times.)
Elf Reproduction
These days I am going through old logs from role-playing in Dragon Realms as well as reading the interviews with my players. Like mud from the bottom of a lake, the memories stain my attempts at seeing through my thesis and to a clear conclusion. They are rushing back to me, the days of spending most of my day-dreaming time in the imaginary body of an elf who loved a - what was he? Human? Kind of - but not quite...

And then I read Mark's "another world" description, and see the word "elf" in conjunction with "love" and "human". One of the things I spent a lot of time discussing, both on Dragon Realms and Aarinfel was if an elf would really love a human. The general consensus was that the human had to be truly spectacularly special - or the elf would have to be pretty alienated from his or her own species. What is a human life to an elf? It's so brief, it hardly registers, it's even shorter than the life of dogs and cats in our lives. The Tolkien elves are immortal - to them humans are maggots, as many and as short-lived and undistinguishable. On Dragon Realms elves had a life-span of 30 - 40 000 years, while humans could expect to be 70. That's more the occasional cute, cuddly pet version, like guinea pigs. On Aarinfel elves would live 3-400 years, and humans 50-70: there they were more like dogs: capable of being useful, occasionally good allies and companions, but not really something you mated.

My Dragon Realms character did however live with and marry a human. My character was well and truly alienated from her family and her community, an outcast, and a young and inexperienced one at that. And the human was exceptional - not really a human, but transformed by magic from a neutered serpent-folk type of person into a human male, and a powerful cleric, immortal with the powers of the deity of trickery, illusion and madness at his disposal.

My Aarinfel character was an arrogant, wealthy, powerful and scheming prince of elves, the apple of his mother's eye and soon the shadow behind the throne, the voice that was listened to, the hand which never needed to touch the poisoned dagger. He would stay exquisitely polite in front of humans: he was well aware of their potential as allies in war, as labour and sources of exploitation. But he would definitely not have them anywhere near his silk carpets or his delicate china. Leashed, they were barely acceptable.

With these different views of the relationships elves/humans in the back of my mind, I don't know what Mark really means when he writes:
For example, Jules is a beautiful, and painfully young, elf who is desperately in love with a 13-year-old human farmgirl. She loves him -- or, at any rate, she lusts for him. None of their parents would think this a desirable situation, if they knew about it. But it's a small town....

Painfully young for an elf - 500 years? 2000? Or does elves live by human time in his universe? Are there other races in the little village? Dwarves? Orcs? Trolls? Pixies? Are humans and elves even able to reproduce together? Will their pheromones exite each others? Will the offspring be fertile? Are there ghettos of half-elves, and perhaps even generations of half-elves, interbred with elves and humans until the differences are cultural rather than physical? Does humans and elves interbreed with other races? Can there be orc/human/elf/dwarf mutts?

I know, I know, these questions shatter the romantic image of human/elf love, so thoroughly branded on our minds since Aragorn and Arwen, but to me the wonderful part of playing MUDs was to get into these discussions, constructing societies from the bottom, where such details created the depth and the logic of the roles we played. Yep, I miss a good role-playing MUD!

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Money for blogs
Blogging network
The idea is very interesting. If it works, we may see a whole new genre. It raises a few questions though, such as editors duty. What if a blogging network writer is offensive or downright illegal - who can be sued?

by way of blogroots
Digital juggling
When I play computer games with experienced players, I feel like I am tying to catch balls thrown at me from a skilled juggler. At first I fumble and lose the balls, but if I manage to grab one and return it, it’s incorporated in the flow until the other player throws me an other ball, and another… and slowly I manage to participate and not fumble all the balls.
While I grab for metaphorical balls, I note that playing computer games is a matter of flow and control. It’s juggling or it’s skiing: to go with the flow without being taken over by it. If you strive too hard to stay in control, you can’t handle the balls the game throws at you or the bumps that get in your way – if you just go with it and don’t try to plan a little bit ahead, consider your options and stay alert, you burn your fingers when somebody throws you a flaming brand and not a ball.