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.