Thursday, June 27, 2002

Technology Review - The Wireless Arcade
Finally somebody understood that gamers grow up and want to look the part - even if they want to go on playing.

Handheld, wireless games for polite people who wait their turn.
Technology Review - Power to the Players
Henry Jenkins on computer games and the first amendment. Thanks Gonzalo.
Mark has tried a touch-typing teaching program, and he's annoyed at a little viking jumping around on the page as a substitute for intelligent responses. By the sound of it, the developers of that program have read the book Jill has ordered from the library and which I have right here on my desk-The Media Equation. According to this book, we should react positively to a smiling, active and positive person on our screen, particularly one that gives us positive feed-back, tells us how smart we are and how well we are doing. According to the studies of Reeves and Nass, Mark's response to the program: perceiving it as unintelligent and a waste of time and energy, is not a normal and polite response. They found that people tried to avoid hurting the feelings of computers, they agreed with computers that flattered them, and were more open to criticism when it was wrapped in flattery.

Apart from the serious flaw of this book of being culturally biased - not to say blind - towards the USA-American culture where "normal and polite" means a particular flavour of US normality and politeness, the very annoying habit the writers have of not quoting other people's research in the text but just mentioning it in annotated end-notes, and the consequent muddling of the distinction natural/naturalised, this book totally lacked a critical and self-critical aspect which might have made the book appear intelligent rather than polite. And that's the American version of polite - flattery breeds suspicion in Norway, not liking. I am very suspicious of that book.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

I have not been blogrolling for a while. But today I felt like looking for some friends out there.
Mark has been busy with what Tinderbox can do, and although he has turned back to some interesting comments on narratology lately, what I am mainly looking for when I look in there is an announcement that Tinderbox is out for PC. I want to play with that neat toy too!
And Laurel has experiences which echo Francis with the same strength of estranged observation - I love the image of all the people riding up the hill of Holmenkollen - through air like water.
Francis made a comment on culture in today's post on "how do you like it in Sweden".

Being without a culture certainly allows me to be lazy - I don't feel I have enough of a toehold in the culture to be able to make accurate and fair judgments about political issues, for example, and so I'm not burdened with having to make the effort of finding out more or trying to change things one way or another, something I most definitely felt when I had a culture. It makes me sound like a bum, though, doesn't it?

The way he writes it, yes, he does sound like a bum. But at the same time culture sometimes is better observed from the outside. Perhaps this is exactly why I love Francis' writing, because he observes like an ethnographer: from outside of culture. He is an alien in a strange land, and that makes his writing fresh, different and filled with delightful little surprises.
Anders launches The New Media Theory Chair, shared by him and Lev Manovich. I have the same chair - in black leather and with a matching ottoman.
Hilde appears to be so efficient, and as always I read her site for comments on news on computers, gender and power. But a recent email revealed that she has way too much strawberries. Here's one Danish and one Norwegian recipe for you, not the right one, I fear.
I am looking forwards to read the article Lisbeth wrote with Susana on writers' blogs. But until then, I am enjoying the little drops of comments on EverQuest through Lisbeth's blog. When I grow up I want to have time to play Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Games, and then I want to find Lisbeth online and we can play and then analyse: two deliciously stimulating things in one! Looking forwards to things like that is part of what makes me trot on towards the finishing line now that most resources have been spent.
Jill has done a lot of interesting new things on her blog lately. The questionnaire was a cute test, the comments and the tag board perhaps even more revolutionary. It has changed her blog-site for me, I think of it and approach it differently when I can write there. Among other things it confuses the issue for me as to where I should comment. Should I write in the comments to each post? Should I write on the tag-board? Or should I keep my comments here? In a way it scews the focus away from what she writes and draws attention to what others have written on her page. It also becomes the site of other people's conversations, such as Anja and Elin, who use that tag board and then leave that board to finish the discussion elsewhere. Perhaps the reason why I react is based on the economy of links:

When I link to B, I give B a link. That link translates to a precise (though undisclosed) value in Google's PageRank and in other indexing systems like Blogdex. The link has a clearer value to B than the content of Bs page has to me or to my readers. I pay B for Bs content with my link.

The tag-board and the commentary is a free link to the site of the person who uses them, if we type in our url's when writing to Jill or leading discussions. In a way it seems appropriate for me to repay that through addressing the topics on the site, in much the same way as I feel it's polite to pay attention to the person who buys me lunch. But perhaps the tag-board and comments have some other value - perhaps the site can become more interesting because of what others contribute, increasing the value of the site rather than stealing the price of a link.
What's your password?

According to this article, the top ten passwords are:

1. no password at all
2. "password"
3. Cartoon characters (Homer, Road Runner, Mickey Mouse, Dilbert)
4. Football team or player's name
5. Pet's name
6. Astrological sign
7. First love, boyfriend/girlfriend's name
8. Profanities/obscenities
9. Any sci-fi or fantasy characters (Gandalf, Frodo, Jedi, Wookie, Hercules)
10. Company name

This is kind of obvious - what's interesting here is what they call "social engineering" - other would call it knowing the culture. But I guess if we know the culture in question knowing how people would think and associate has to be some kind of engineering in order to be interesting. Semiotics, Watson.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

DAC 2003: Digital Arts and Culture will be arranged in Melbourne May 2003. Conference chair is Adrian Miles. If I can threaten or tease the money for the ticket out of the department - I'll be there!

Monday, June 24, 2002

This is a huge leap from my mostly manual old nikon, which I have used as a journalist and a tourist for more than twenty years... but I drool just at the gadget value of the thing.
Somewhat outdated, but still with some interesting links: a (Norwegian language) list of webcams

advertising by annoyance - does it work?
On second thought - be vary of this site! It did something really odd - when I lead the mouse over a link it showed for instance the url to Ålesund Harbour, but when I clicked it took me to Fodor's travels. Annoying is the least you can call it.

Things like this surprise me because of their total lack of logic. Why do they think that a person clicking on a link to see Ålesund Harbour wants to go travelling? Or do they think that seeing the harbour will make them NOT want to travel, so let's get them to the travel agency before they see the harbour? Because they can't expect the name of the travel agency, the brand of computers or what ever pops up, to become positively connected to anything in my mind. This is advertising by annoyance, the way kids get their parents to give in and buy candy. But that only works with your own parents, who have already decided they love you. Perfect strangers just walk away and swear never to have children of their own.
Interesting list of links to people who write on or are interested in games and game design.
Friends and contacts.
Tinka at distantsun looked in on her blog to tell us that no, she's not feeling good, but she has people who looks after her. That is reassuring - but somehow it made me wonder what I really need to know. Distantsun has been one of my favourite blogs since I discovered it, but before she went on a hiatus I was wondering if I checked the blog controlled by the same mechanism that makes people stop and look at accidents.

I was never one of those who stop to stare, I was always more of the "let's get out of the way and let the ambulances and fire-engines have space" kind of a person. But the net invites this kind of voyeristic gloating over an other person's pain. As the original energy and intellectual analytical pleasure drained while Tinka poured it all into finishing her thesis, it was as if I stood by and watched her burn out.

In such occasions I wonder: is it possible to act in any really supportive manner? Tinka got a lot of very nice messages and well-wishes, and I was one of those who wished her all the best, but who knows - was that right of me? The illusion of broad and busy social contact which computer-mediated communication can give seduces those who are inclined to depressions and isolation into thinking that they actually have this many friends. One of the people I interviewed emphasised this: it's an illusion of human closeness, because you have such a wide net of contacts, you think you have a lot of friends.

It's hard to be a friend online. It's hard to find a friend online. I hope Tinka found some, it's good to know that she has more offline who look after her. And I don't think I'll look in on her site for a while. I still wish her all the best, but I don't want to be that person who stands and stares. If I can't be useful or supportive, I had better move on.
Revisions, sex, porn and public information
In August I start teaching at a very changed study. We have expanded to a three year study, but since at least one of those years is to be open for the free choice of the student, we don't have to deliver more than two years of teaching. There will however be quite a bit more administration, since we have to administrate three classes rather than two, and all students within these three classes theoretically can have different choices and specially designed tracks of study.

I find myself thinking about this as a linked text rather than a linear text. I understand how to organise the semesters with all the different options as if they were a labyrinth and not a road - or perhaps a house where the doors stand open. When I worked with computer games and sexual information, I found Bianca's smut shack at

No, I don't link to Bianca's any more. When I found it way back when, it was a series of chats and message boards where the metaphor was a building, each chat-room a room in this building - in the cafe there were tables of course. This was expressed graphically like a map, in a time when the convention was that all links were displayed as a list in the margin, normally to the left. To the right, or perhaps even on top, was daring design....

Today Bianca's has changed into a place where you're not just encouraged to pay for a handle and some benefits, but the code has been set up to demand that you join. They sell the emails of their members, and support robots that track ip's in order to collect email addresses. The structure of Bianca: the design and the way to navigate, as well as the chat-system hasn't changed for 8 years, perhaps more. Or if it has changed it has become less interesting: the map of the house no longer is the most efficient way to navigate the site, it demands more clicks and in that way creates longer corridors between each room. It's no longer a shack, it's an appartment building where the stairways, lifts and corridors are not particularly well designed.

The days when the porn-and-sex-sites were the best designed pages on the web is past. There is too much which has to be displayed - rather than being tempting and nice little budoirs, they are huge unwieldly monsters where the browser is used ruthlessly to trap you and hold you in with all the insistance of a desperate prostitute. Today the most interesting and manouverable sites tend to belong to academic organisations and research organisations, with non-commercial gamers sites and public information pages as a close second. These places offer information rather than push it, and as such rely on being open and easy to use rather than on forcing the user in one particular direction.

This is how I have to think about organising the study as well. Of course, there are things the students have to study. There's a minimum of topics which we have to control, in order to give them a bachelor's degree. But when in the next three years they study certain topics can only be controlled through what we make available, not through what we insist on. The design has to be logical and open, and the links between the different topics have to be easily and clearly visible. OK, so I don't want to build a smut-shack, but I do want to build a house where entrances and exits are clearly marked, where it's easy to understand why certain rooms are on the same floor, and where the stairwells and elevators don't get clogged by students who insist that they need to be somewhere else.

And no, I am not planning on selling their email-addresses. At least not to commercial interests...

Friday, June 21, 2002

The Real Topic
My thesis is about a lot of different things. Today I am trying to find a title. I have three suggestions so far:
    Pleasures of the Player: Online Games and Offline Actions
    The Digital Juggler: Flow and Control in Online Games
    The Player's Game: Imagination, Control and Participation in MUDs

I think I prefer the two last ones. I am not really writing about offline actions. I like the image of the Digital Juggler, and it's been at the back of my mind ever since I started writing. But I am afraid that it's nostalgia which makes me keep it: that or inertia - that I can't see the changes in my own work. Still, the Digital Juggler is a fertile image, an image which for me points to flow and control.

The Player's Game is a nice image too: the Player as subject, active and controlling. But I have already published one fairly large report in Norwegian: Spillets leser, leserens spill - The Reader of the Game, the Game of the Reader - and this refers to and playes with pretty much the same image, and might lead to confusion, particularly when you add the report I wrote with my sister on offline role-playing games and computer games: "One of those reports on playing and reading from Mortensen something - don't remember which..."

Perhaps a mixture of two and three? The Digital Juggler: Imagination, Control and Participation in MUDs? No, I am not sure yet. And the main reason is because I need to write the conclusion. I have attempted conclusions several times. Some of them are:

Games are not stories, but can be narrative environments.
Players are not writers, readers, actors or performers. They are players - even if they commit several of the same acts.
Computer Games are not open texts, but not closed texts either. They are ergodic texts (yes, I know Espen Aarseth has already concluded this), but they don't stop at being ergodic texts. Games contain ergodic texts, just as they can contain or communicate little stories, videos or pictures.
The gaming experience can not be studied without immersion and reflexivity.
Game culture is fragile and change-oriented.
Players are smart and problem-solving oriented.
The computer is a perfect arena, and all aspects of it invites play.

I still don't really know what is the most important conclusion. I don't know which conclusions I have omitted here. I don't really know how these things connect and what they mean. I have these 250 pages, and I look at them and I ask myself: So what?

That's one of the major questions when I criticise research: so what? I had better find an answer to my own question - and write it down in somewhat accessible language. BBL.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Media and Games online network
Discussion boards for Computer Games.
UFD - The Competence Reform in Norway
They call it "Competence Reform" in Norwegian. I wonder whose competence is to be reformed.
Raftevolds Hotel
The department has been away, staying Tuesday to Wednesday at this hotel, to discuss the "quality reform" of Norwegian higher education. The reform has been nicknamed "the quantity reform" - it's still an open question where the quality will enter into it, but we will have to deliver more teaching to more students, preferably cheaper. Isn't that what all reforms are about?

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Monday, June 17, 2002

Thesis update
Chapters 1-5 proofread.
Chapters 6-10 sent off to proofreading and for a look-over by Espen, my supervisor.
literature list corrected and updated

to go:
editing chapter 5 after proofreading
writing chapter 11 (and the whole discussing with Espen, proofreading it and editing it ceremony)
writing the science-theory essay
presenting same essay
convincing our graphic designer that I need a cool design for the front page
submitting the whole sorry mess.

yes, I am starting to get fed up with this.
a meme just because
Francis quotes jillmatrix, because he loves Nancy - I couldn't resist, mainly because of my soft spot for Francis:

"Five things that pick me up when I'm feeling blue. Now, how 'bout you?"

  • A new fantasy or science fiction novel.
  • One of the teen-agers in a cuddly mood.
  • Tea carried by some considerate family member all the way downstairs where I have hidden in the music/TV room in order not to bother anybody else with me being blue.
  • Long online chats or games with some favourite friends, like my NYC-connection.
  • Trying on old clothes. I haven't blogged this before, but I am losing weight this spring - surprising amounts of weight! I am down 11 kilos, and I have only a few kilos to go until I can get into the trousers I wore in 1985 - before both pregnancies, a thyroid malfunction and years spent before the computer screen. It started out as an online duel, but now the other woman is so far behind that I have stopped posting pictures of the new me and updates on how I shrink. But I get quite a kick out of reading my journal documenting all of this - a kick I'd normally get from chocolate. (This diet permits chocolate! I guess that's the only reason I can stick to it.)

Sunday, June 16, 2002

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players

Shakespeare gives the answer to why games are so popular!
Baldur's gate and The Sims are two very different types of games. But they seem to have several aspects in common, most important perhaps the attempt at convincing the players that the avatars are "real people" or characters, that they are ruled by certain laws, and that the player needs to relate to them not as agents of random acts, but as personalities, with a logic which can be explained from the physical and social reality they live in.

MMmmHmmm, can you tell I want to go home and try the game?
Yesterday, I bought a copy of The Sim's, with the Livin' Large expansion (Livin' it Up in Europe). What I think about it? That my kids seem to be pretty involved! They are both in front of the computer, discussing in quiet harmony, and I don't expect to have time/opportunity to test it out before their characters are quite established.

For myself, I am looking for Baldur's Gate II, which is not easy to find for PCs. But I'll keep looking. And it has to be the "Shadows of Amn" version, not the "Throne of Baal" expansion.

Saturday, June 15, 2002

In order to be able to write - even to read - I need to be in this very special state of mind. Other people go to beautiful, quiet, clean and peaceful places like Volda to achieve this peace of mind, to be isolated from the bustle and aggression of their every day lives. I can write just about anywhere - in an uncomfortable chair, in a computer-lab with chatting students all about me, in a tent while it's raining... The one thing I can't handle is guilt. And the last two days my guilt of being a bad colleague, a bad mother, a bad daughter, in short, a very, very bad woman guilty of the sin of putting my work before the needs of everybody else, has caught up with me with a vengeance.

I don't know how to deal with it. I am going to bed. I am so sorry. Tomorrow I'll try to be good.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

I never used to being good at accumulating lists of references and citations. Even now, after four years of information gathering, it's not really such an impressive list. But still... it keeps accumulating. A little quote here, a little clearification there - and slowly the list grows, like some fungus appended to my chapters... And despite the fungus-metaphor - I enjoy watching it grow. It somehow makes me feel adult and oh-so-serious.
Sometimes I hit the "recently updated" links on just to see what is out there. Most of the time I find something which looks nice enough, but I am just not the target group for it. Sometimes I find little treasures of interesting writing and irony... and sometimes I find something really bad and with absolutely no sense of humour.

Today I found Kirc's very desperate expression of love to or dependency of his wife, and through his blog a link to Melissa's weblog. According to their logs, he cheated on her in 1993, moved out, then he moved back in. Now she's sick and tired of him and he's trying to save the marriage. He's been lying, working and drinking with his friends, but not at bars, because according to Melissa he doesn't go to bars. Melissa has also been slamming his mother in her weblog, and now she's deleting all of those posts because she has discovered that Kirc was a spoiled brat before Alec got leukemia.

Still not confused? Get a glimpse of real life soap through blogging. It's out there.
BBC News | SCI/TECH | Simple password holds the key
Sometimes, not-so-inventive security is a good thing. This was at the Aasen Center - which is just next to that cute little airport so often mentioned here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Netacademy on JMM Journal Homepage
The International Journal of Media Management. Yes, I do other stuff too, like teaching public information and communication planning - and this journal looks relevant to that part of my life.
Reality TV
An article by Marie-Laure Ryan - just to remind myself that I want to read it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

No wonder I was confused about ethnology/anthropology. This is what Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia has to say about the topic - courtesy of my colleague Eivind Rønnestad:

Different terms are used to describe the fields of anthropology in the United States and Europe. While in the United States the term anthropology is used to name the whole subject, in Europe the name ethnology is applied. (Ethnology is defined as the science that studies the many races of mankind their beginnings, characteristics, differences, and distribution.) What is called "cultural anthropology" in the United States is also termed "ethnology" in European countries. The term physical anthropology is used in both parts of the world.

Excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia. Copyright © 1993, 1994 Compton's NewMedia, Inc.

After I shared my confusion with the department where I work, Øystein Sande was quick to reply with his understanding of the terms, giving me the correct answer based on the etymology of the words.

But Erling Sivertsen put me on the track of a book by Thomas Hylland Eriksen. And Jill, Hylland Eriksen is an exellent example of a researcher who used the net to communicate his opinions as well as write journal-like entries long before blogging became a fashion, He should be on your list, I think. At least he's an example to remember when we talk about this in Norway.

Back to anthropology versus ethnology:
According to Hylland Eriksen, ethnology comes from the french ethnologie, and the distinction is between ethnographie: a description of society and culture, ethnologie: regional comparisons and anthropologie: The general comparative science of mankind, society and culture.

Hylland Eriksen however focuses on social anthropology, and he would of course use a definition of the topic which positions the anthropology as the main or dominant category, which the other categories are subordinate to. My confusion has been caused by the American/European use of the words described in the quote from Compton's, as the texts I keep referring to position themselves randomly (appearantly) within the one or the other paradigm. The texts themselves however refer to the same kind of theory, problems, questions and methods. And that's no wonder, since it's the same thing, just different terms.

Now I can go back to the thesis and change a headline. That's a relief!

Monday, June 10, 2002

The difference that makes a difference... So what is the difference between Ethnography and Anthropology? I don't know, I can't find the answer online and I don't know where to start reading.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

From Book Crossing, a testimony:

Take On the face of it, it presents no profound challenge to established publishing practices and to the modern concept of intellectual property. Members register their books, obtain a BCID (BookCrossing ID Number) and then give the book to someone, or simply leave it lying around for a total stranger to find. Henceforth, fate determines the chain of events. Eventual successive owners of the volume are supposed to report to BookCrossing (by e-mail) about the books and their whereabouts, thereby generating moving plots and mapping the territory of literacy and bibliomania. This innocuous model subversively undermines the concept - legal and moral - of ownership. It also expropriates the book from the realm of passive, inert objects and transforms it into a catalyst of human interactions across time and space. In other words, it returns the book to its origins: a time capsule, a time machine and the embodiment of a historical narrative.

by Sam Vaknin - who's working in a surprising, but interesting field - that of narcissism.
From the NYC blogger-page: CHF's Life and Times on media and digital communication. I particularly appreciated the post from May 24th on Book Crossing. That's something I might want to do. I have left enough books in random airports and buss-seats - this way it would feel like the act has a purpose.

Friday, June 07, 2002

It’s 10.30 pm, and the sun is setting on the veranda where I sit, computer in my lap. The light reflected off the fjord is golden and pink with sunset, the ferries cut shimmering lines through the water. Kept apart by the deep, lush green of the mountainsides, sky and water are light and reflection. From the gardens along the quiet streets there are careful voices or happy laughter. It’s too late in the evening for barbeques, but there is the occasional tinkle of glasses meeting for a toast. It’s summer, filled with a rare and unexpected heat which makes the days a burden but the light, warm nights a luxury such as children will remember when they grow old. The fragrance of the flowers, hurried into frantic bloom, the warm asphalt slowly cooling, the salt of the fjord and the delight of that feverish chill as sunburned skin meets the light breeze off the water; it will all make for those nostalgic attacks of longing for childhood, for early puberty or for that year you fell in love, that year which was all different from every other year… And through the silence of the evening the sound of a boat-engine pours its exuberant vibrations into the perfumed, purple evening of future nostalgia.
It's hot here. I am learning new tricks:
Iced Vanilla Coffee
Creamy Ice Coffee
40 coffee recipes
Cold Coffee recipe index
I have been smuggling for years, I just didn't know about it. According to Norwegian Customs, I am only allowed to take one kilo of chocolate into the country, without paying for importing it. That was scary, next time I have been to Economy Candy in NYC before getting on the plane home, I'll have that guilty look and they will take me aside and go through the entire luggage looking for the illegal substances that make me look like that. And then they'll grab my stash of chocolate, optimistically hidden underneath the books, and fine me severely for years and years of pushing sweets.

Anyway - talking of luggage: One more piece arrived today - it was the backpack with some clothes, books and back-up CDs. It was soaked. Not good - damage-report already registered, one bag missing still. The last bag has been sighted though, and should arrive this afternoon.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Weblogs at the UC Berkeley: a course in journalism.

I will pass this link around to my colleagues, as I think both the concept and the technology is something journalists and editors have to discuss seriously in the next few years.

link by way of leuschke.
Normative Studies
I am writing a little paragraph about Normative Studies, using Provenzo Video Kids as an example. To me that book is the video-game version of the media panics sweaping over the western continent all through last century. But where is the limit for normative? At which point does the expectations and political or religious conviction of the writer start dictating the reporting/research and turn information and enlightenment into preaching?

I hope I find out before I have to defend my definition of that line.
The Placebo Effect
I checked again, even if I by now have absolute proof that at least 1/3 of the information on the site is wrong. It has a soothing effect, but it doesn't bring my luggage back, and it doesn't tell me where the two missing bags might be. But my mind is preoccupied with them, I keep memorising what is in them. The new dress and jacket. Two pairs of shoes. Medicines and cosmetics. Underwear - and clean too. Not to mention the books. All of the books I have been working with lately. I am trying to remember what I slipped into the top pocket. That was something I had almost forgotten, then remembered in the last minute.

My mind obsesses over these possessions, and I seek solace by giving myself this substitute for information. One of the players I interviewed said that levelling in games is something people do not because it's so much fun - not even because it lets them kick the other player characters' behinds - but because they can do it. We are often powerless, adrift, victims to circumstances beyond our control. In the game, the one thing the players can do is level: gain experience points and check out equipment. And so that's what they do. It's not a cure, but it feels like a cure, it's at least something. There's a place where I can log in and see that they have all the information I gave them. I can see that they have the right address. I can see the numbers of the luggagge tags and I know that when somebody finds the bags they can search by way of the tags and find out where they belong. And it doesn't really change anything, it just offers the illusion of control.

The pretty earrings. I was complimentet for those at the Eyebeam Soiree. Now I wish I had forgotten to pack them. They would have been safer in NYC.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

I keep getting emails in duplicate - one from the college, and then immediately afterwards one from, both from the same sender. The one from has infallibly been cleaned of this worm: WORM_KLEZ.H

The ones from the college have not been exorcized... The worm is apparently already within the walls of the college security, creating addresses from our server to spread the infection. If you get any mail from or, from a sender you don't recognize, beware. I hope the fact that I am not in a habit of opening spam or attachment I am not familiar with should keep me safe, but I can't guarantee the pristinity of my mailbox if the college server has been comprimised.

More about this worm here.
The journalists are on strike in Norway, and today the local paper of this district joined. I wonder who will be left to cover the fact that the journalists are on strike? Because it's not like they will get any attention if all of them refuse to produce news!
It doesn't look that hot, but I am almost fried here in my office, with no air-conditioning or shades, and sunlight in the window. I normally never whine about being warm, I like heat, but this is draining me.
Utnytt databasene og søkemotorene!
Free Surfer, the ultimate popup stopper by EMS-Project
Finally a good idea.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Without any help from the internet tracer services, one of the lost pieces of luggage found its way to the house, carried to the door by one of my favourite airport employees, one of those guys who knows every passenger by name and books journeys to any place I want in the world, cheaply, easily and with an uniquely personal service (remember, when you come home, you will need ID. We can always find a way to convince the people at Oslo Airport that we know you, but it's a little harder if you try to get home from Copenhagen without something to prove who you are...).

From the kids' point of view, that was the most important piece of luggage, my daughter's new case for her saxophone; the case stuffed with presents and sweets. I am however still waiting for the books, and my new shoes. The books, or course, are the most important...

If you're going by plane by way of Amsterdam: take only handluggage! (At least keep your medicines, most valued possessions and clean underwear for a week with you.) They are changing the luggage-handling system, and it needs a wee bit of tweaking. As of this morning, more than 300 pieces of luggage had not arrived to Oslo from Amsterdam - at one handling company alone.
Yes I am an addict... but I try to stay addicted to the good stuff.
I escaped to the end of the R-Line, Brooklyn, for the same reason why this girl wants to leave. So I am twice her age - it just means I have had all that more practice at dreading phone-calls when I try to focus on something else.
Henry Jenkins: Game Design

Last Tuesday I read quickly through this article and promised I'd come back to it. Today I have been going through it more carefully in order to figure out what it is about this article that disturbs me. I agree with a lot of Jenkins' statements. His view of games is very close to my own opinion on this topic: they are not narratives but environments which can accomodate or support narratives and can have narrative elements. The argument on spatiality is to the point and captures one of the main differences between games and narratives, and his argument as to why games basically focus on science fiction and fantasy put something in its proper place for me:

Often, such works exist on the outer borders of literature. They are much loved by readers, to be sure, and passed down from one generation to another, but they rarely figure in the canon of great literary works. How often, for example, has science fiction been criticized for being preoccupied with world-making at the expense of character psychology or plot development? These writers seem constantly to be pushing against the limits of what can be accomplished in a printed text and thus their works fare badly against aesthetic standards defined around classically-constructed novels. In many cases, the characters - our guides through these richly-developed worlds - are stripped down to the bare bones, description displaces exposition, and plots fragment into a series of episodes and encounters. When game designers draw story elements from existing film or literary genres, they are most apt to tap those genres - fantasy, adventure, science fiction, horror, war - which are most invested in world-making and spatial storytelling. Games, in turn, may more fully realize the spatiality of these stories, giving a much more immersive and compelling representation of their narrative worlds.

However; much as I agree with such keen observations, I can't reconcile myself with the article. I think that is because I find that it has conflicting agendas, or perhaps goals which cannot be achieved with the information Jenkins bases his writing on. The goals as I understand them:

1) To end the feud between ludologists and narratologists
2) To tell the ludologists how important narrative still is for understanding games
3) To argue for why game-designers should learn about film theory

1) Ludologists and narratologists
Who are these mysterious ludologists who just can't understand that narrative is important to games? According to Jenkins, it's Markku Eskelinen and Jesper Juul. It's a testimony to the fragility of narratology in popular culture that two voices are taken to represent an opposing community. Jenkins devotes an otherwise exellent article on narrative elements in games to the "ludologists'" lack of submission to a certain theoretical approach, in order to educate, convince and might one perhaps even thing silence them? Among scholars who devote as much time and energy to the study of games as Jesper and Markku and have the same claim on being "ludologists", there are other voices. These are however mostly ignored because they pose no threat to the hegemony of narratology. The strategy of positioning in a field is a well-known and effective rhetoric technique; pick one or two enemies, create the largest gap possible between yourself and them and then argue against the extreme expressions of the oposing paradigm. That is where the perceived bloodfeud between "ludologists" (whoever they are) and "narratologists" is at right now, and where it will remain as long as the criteria of news value rules academic attention.

2) Tell ludologists about narrativity
Jenkins argues as if he thinks "the ludologists" don't know narrative theory, and are incapable of doing independent analysis of the narrativity of games. I find that Jesper Juul's thesis contains among other things quite nice discussions of the narrative elements of some of the games he studies. The assumption that enough knowledge of narrative theory will bring enlightenment to the strayed sheep is a political or perhaps religious conviction rather than a valid academic argument. At the end of Jenkins' article someone who studies games rather than stories can only nod and say: "yes, all of this is correct, but games are still different from stories, and we need to take those differences seriously, rather than try to incorporate the games in a too narrow field." This conviction of the faith of ludology is also based on study and research, and is as entitled to respect as is any other fairly well researched belief in Academia.

3) Teach narratology to Game Designers
Where did this come from? Or perhaps I am wrong about who the ludologists are? Are they the game designers? In that case I agree, just as I agree that my journalist students need to learn about advertising, propaganda and fiction writing: Because game designers need to be able to communicate with their audience, and they should use as many tools as possible in order to do that. Along the same vein I think that fasion designers can benefit from taking classes in art history, and architects should study comparative politics. The one thing isn't the other, but it's possible to benefit from knowing about it. Just don't confuse Game Designers with the initial "ludologists" and this should be uncontroversial.

To answer Gonzalo's question from last week: I agree with a lot of what Henry Jenkins writes, and I know there are several dissertations about to be finished on the topic which will give more space to this topic than he can do in this short article. I don't agree with the rhetoric goal of the article, as I find that it is based more on sensationalism than on actual knowledge. Still, it's the best piece I have read on the topic games/narrativity in quite a while, and as mentioned, there are one or two passages in that article for which I am quite grateful to Jenkins.
I am trying to decide what style to use on my references. Yes, I know that's a tad bit late, but I have been fairly good, I just don't know if what I have been doing has a name; and now I have to find and pick one style in order to be able to agree with my proof-reader.

So here are some samples.
My proof-reader claims I am using the MLA-style.
I have been trying to use the style used in Norsk Medietidsskrift, but I don't know what it's called in English, and the journal doesn't tell.

Monday, June 03, 2002

Lost Luggage
It makes me feel like I haven't really arrived yet. Or like I was never away. There are no backpacks filled with dirty laundry just inside the door, no heaps of books waiting to be sorted out and taken to the office, no bags in different states of unpacking surrounded by chocolate paper and bubble plastic from gifts and souvenirs. Perhaps I was never gone - the only thing I have to indicate my month of absense is a bottle of tax-free booze and a box of chocolates - and the chocolates are almost gone already. But I keep checking, hoping to hear that my bags are on their way to Volda. Without them, I feel like I have just lost a month.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Some people want to take home puppies - I want this cute little computer cart. Make sure to watch the HD-series in motion!

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Defecation rule
With this in mind, I hereby establish the defecation rule: A defecator is at liberty to commit the act, but he may not commit it on his neigbor's doorstep or in the quiet street in front of his neighbor's house, or in his neighbor's alley, or in his neighbor's customary place of work, or any place where the neighbor or any other passerby may step in it by accident in his own zone of privacy and tranquility.

From Sheri S. Tepper: Six Moon Dance, page 32.
Once upon a time - Oh, might that even have been in an article - I seem to remember saying something about there not being much flaming in blogs. Looks like Des is doing his best to prove me wrong:

I do have my own site, obviously, and one of the rights I exercise here is the right to decide that some things are better said elsewhere, or not at all. (The idea of being told how I should use this space by someone who patrols her own borders so fiercely has He Who Yearns To Use The Word Phallogocentric In Anger straining at the leash, but I have him yet, I have him.)

And I acknowledge that same right in others; yea even unto the gate-keepers of the Sacred Groves of Academe. My concern, like Foucault's, is with the exclusion of certain kinds of voices, rather than their "owners". Being told that I can have a say (if I scrub behind my ears and eat up all my greens, and write where and how I'm told) but that He Who Ululates Elsewhere With My Throat cannot isn't a solution. It's the definition of the problem.

I still don't see what Des' problem is, unless it's that he really wants to be able to write in certain blogs, but the owners won't let him, because - surprise surprise - they don't like to be told what to do in their blogs either. Gets him lots of attention though, and that should keep boys-who-don't-like-to-eat-their-greens happy.