Friday, May 30, 2003

targeted blogspot ads
Blogger/Google is getting increasingly good at targeting their ads in the blogspot box. Vegetarian Mouse Slayer writes about a visit to Spain, and the ads are about renting houses in Andalucia. Edgeliving is the blog of a gay Master and his lesbian slave, and so the ads are from lesbian contact sites, such as Dykefinder. 3 knees, 1 finger and a broken wrist has ads from - of course - American Red Cross. This is sophisticated targeting, beyond what I noticed in March, about blogger targeting through through language.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Blog stories and local politics
Jill points to an article of how blog stories spread on the web. It's an interesting article, but what arrests my attention is how it looks like a paralell to a piece of research I did with two colleagues here in Volda in 1995. Johann Roppen, Anne Karin Ødegård and I looked at the connection between local media, local public case-work and political decisions in Ørsta: 1995: Torill Mortensen, Johann Roppen, Anne Karin Ødegård: Lokalpolitikk og media. Ein for-studie av media sin betydning for lokalpolitikken, Arbeidsrapport nr 8, Høgskulen i Volda og Møreforsking i Volda (Local Politics and Media: a pilot study for developing research design on the subject of the role of media in local politics.) Johann looked at the local newspapers, Anne Karin looked at the decision-making process and I looked at the links between the papers in preparation of the political presentation of the cases and the newspapers. Among our findings was something I developed: a tree of textual interconnections. I had expected to find a hierarchy, that some sources would be mroe influental of language, topics and focus than others, but what I developed from tracking the links between political papers and newspaper articles was rather a network - yes, very much like how a blogosphere story gets started.

To me this indicates that "the blogosphere" isn't really a place apart, but a loose community defined through communication - which is after all the ultimate definition of a geographical community as well. The greek city-states were limited by how far a man could walk in a day in order to be part of the decision making process. As there were more efficient means of communication, communities expanded. Today, with the world wide web, communities are no longer limited by physical distances, but they are still defined through communication: the topics which are "close to our hearts" create the feeling of belonging, and networks develop and expand like the "stories" the article mentions.
DAC03 laid to rest
Today I have been looking through some of the published experiences from DAC 2003 in Melbourne. I have blogged my experiences in the official DAC blog, while others have posted their experiences and summaries in their own sites. Nick Montfort writes a great summary in GrandTextAuto, Noah Wardrip-Fruin has a short note in his blog, Jill Walker has a quick comment in Jill/txt and Lisbeth Klastrup is just happy to be home in lush, green spring Denmark.

Perhaps the most striking experience with DAC was that it has grown out of our hands and belong to more people than what was once a small, loose group of scholars with some common interests. There were high expectations to this conference. People came to it with intent beyond the hope that perhaps somebody might take an interest in their work. And I have to say: some of these expectations had been shaped by the fact that the game studies people would be there. Games were very much the topic, and yes, we were perhaps a little surprised by how deeply the concept of game studies had penetrated academia in Australia. This surprise was so pronounced that both Susana Tosca and Lisbeth Klastrup felt compelled to comment on it in the conference blog (Susana's and Lisbeth's comments).

There has been a lot of talk about the next possible DAC, and Noah mentions the possibility of a DAC workshop next summer in New York, a very convenient venue from Europe. I will certainly attempt to be there. Jill and I have aired the possibility of having DAC back in Bergen in 2005, sharing the work as well as the glory, but that is nothing but ideas yet. Although I did tell Noah that I don't have fantasies, I only I have plans, I have to admit that not all plans of mine bear fruit and I am notoriusly bad at finding funding. So please, if anybody have ideas about where and when to arrange the next DAC, no decision has been made about that yet.

I do feel invigorated by the trip and the conference though. It seems like what I needed was to go to the other side of the planet, immerse myself in a lot of other people's ideas, thoughts and lives, spend two weeks sleep deprived and read a lot of trashy fantasy and science fiction on airplanes. I no longer wake up at night with panic attacks over the thesis, I can count to ten without using my fingers, and the word "writing" does not make me burst into tears. For me, DAC03 has been the shot I needed to get back on track... or get off it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Wireless doc
For some reason, I am on a list of NYC-related blogs. It might perhaps be that I love to spend time there, and I blog when I do? I guess that might be why the wireless doc contacted me to learn about wi-fi in Norway. What can I tell him? First I said that it's very bad, and only the college has anything like that here. Then I remembered. 2200 of a population of 10000 have wi-fi in their most commonly used environment. That's more than 20% coverage. It's also all the students and the faculty at Volda College. But it also means that anybody carrying a wi-fi enable lap-top can settle in the library and surf for free. Neat, isn't it? And very much a suitable service in a social-democratic research library.
Of course it hurts
I found this, one of the poems we could not remember during the "mangled poetry night" in Melbourne. It is one of Karin Boye's best loved poems. Personally, I feel that this one cuts closer.
Action Research
Just put in a new link I snagged from Jill. Action Research has so far given me the most useful tool to consider the fluid nature of research in social environments online. Due to their delicate structure they are extremely easily influenced by the researcher, and I find that it is essential to consider methodologies that focus on reflexivity. While ethnology does this to a certain extent, Action Research depends on the influence of the researcher on the process, rather than try to minimize the process, and is thus much more useful, particularly in the cases where research and practice overlap, as is frequently the case in more studies including applied research.
Story of the roaming didjeridoo, part 2
It's not roaming the airports of the world any more. Yesterday afternoon one of the people who work at Ørsta-Volda airport showed up at the door with it. They all know where I live by now, too much luggage making its way to our place days after I have arrived. My daughter the musician unwrapped it eagerly, and then it was time for practice. It wasn't one of the longest ones. Next time I am in Australia I'll try for one of those because that deep throbbing drone is so alien to our type of music, and it will sound very good in different ensambles. Still, it has a powerful, sustained tune, and will sound very interesting in combinations where she might otherwise have used her tenor saxophone. So I have a teenage girl practicing circle breathing, and a teenage boy constantly experimenting with a rainstick. Makes me feel all fuzzy and good-mommish!
Sadly delighted
It's kind of sad, but I am so delighted that the system administration guys at the college were able to solve my problems (i.e. do their job) that I felt this urge to blog it. In just a few simple operations which the head troubleshooter walked me through on the phone, our mutual effort (I feel like I was part of it since I did the actual pushing of buttons and mouse-clicking here) removed a whole set of annoying bugs that have been haunting the desk-top for months while I have been busy. I was afraid that if I drew attention to the problems, the machine would disappear mysteriously and indefinitely as usual. I just love it when people know what they are doing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Didjeridoo in transit
The lost piece of luggage has been tracked, it's waiting in Oslo and will be in Volda this afternoon. It feels like my soul is coming closer as well! House is a mess though. Next time I marry, I'll get a wife. (Supposedly Hulda Garborg said that first...)

Monday, May 26, 2003

Does anybody have any idea what I have done wrong since my blog can't be traded at blogshares?
(Update: Somehow it was suddenly open to be traded - and then sold out! Ooops!)
Waiting for my soul
Between Melbourne and Volda there is a lost luggage item. Somewhere in the world, a didjeridoo with blue paintings, wrapped in bubble-wrap and a black carrying case, marked with "fragile" as well as all the other tags that should bring it in this direction, is keeping my soul company. Luckily my daughter was quite happy to wait a little for it, and the koala clotheshanger has an honorary place already! Did you hear that Susana? Hauk has been playing around with his rainstick all afternoon, and the results of that is making itself known. I think the drought is over for a while.

So yes, I am home. But my soul is still out there. I think it will be slower returning than usual. Airports are spaces in-between, sanctuaries where I can peoplewatch, nap, eat, get drunk, shop, surf using my lap-top or just run from place to place free from all responsibility but that of watching the time. I can do that. I can deal with that. And so the 30-hour journey between Norway and Melbourne was a test of my patience and ability to relax and be comfortable, yes, but at the same time a neccessary opportunity to do absolutely nothing. Doing nothing used to be the best way for me to come to a point where I could do a lot. The energy that drives me to read and write, devour information and process it, comes from the hours when I vegetate. I refuse to call it meditating, that would be too active.

There is so much I want to write about. I want to go through the program of the conference again, and sum up my impressions, I want to write about dancing until 3 am in bars hidden Melbourne style in back alleys, sum up the interview with the Dragon Realms creators Saturday night and start outlining the thoughts on future projects. It will have to wait though - wait until my soul arrvies. Then perhaps, if I still like it, I may even post the poem I wrote on the plane. But since souls are essential to the creation of poetry, I will not post that just yet. BBS.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

DAC - a love story
I was so nervous the first time. Tentatively involved as a hostess for strangers, a hundred blind dates at once. While some had friends, I had some frail professional links, and a deep desire. The loneliness in my mind was eating my intellect from the inside, turning it to a desert, shining pebbles that could have hidden amber drops washed up at the beach ground into a dried out sand.

That is when I first met the DAC crowd. Laughter, pleasure, delight bursting from the same mouths as utter unintellible strands of words, fingers that tap keyboards or stroke them sensously. Long hard nights of drinking, dancing, laughing were simply an extension of the delirious delight of intellectual pursuits. And since the feeling has grown - deeper, wider, more vast than empires, and more slow... A love to encompass crowd, to tolerate arrogance, to educate ingorance, to permit the flawed and the perfect, the gentle and the harsh. And through it all, the knowledge that the net will link us all, keep us gently touching across the planet.

Yes, I am a slut. A slut for brilliant minds, well-shaped sentences and the thrill of adrenalin as something goes not quite right at the presentations.

I guess one can say I like these conferences...

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The informal version
I am blogging the DAC conference on the official site, so what I think about the presentations is quite available there. BUT there are other things going on, and for those who wonder what I am REALLY up to, I'll tuck some of that in here.

Melbourne is a very nice city - I haven't seen much yet, and of the parts I have seen the most distinct features are the futuristic buildings which Federation Square is the most recent and also most striking example. But it's relaxed and friendly, with nice shops, acceptable food and short distances - even when walking in heels. The really great part of it is meetign people though. Living with Jill for a week is very nice, definitely a favourite person to share a hotel apartment with. Yes, we have an apartment, bedroom and livingroom, a little fridge and a microwave, Jill's bed folding into a couch which means it's possible to sit comfortably, feet up and relax while talking to guests - without having anybody sitting on the bed. And yes, a little table and a couple of chairs, space for social company, not just intimate.

Lisbeth and Susana are at the same hotel, and with Hanne Lovise, a nice PhD student (her supervisor is this old friend who I haven't seen for years and who I have missed for years) there as well, we get to use the space for visitors of the nice, relaxing, non-intrusive kind. Once I have the pictures Susana took of me and Jill in our new outfits Sunday, I'll blog them to let the world revel in our splendour.

Monday was exhausting, but we stayed on our feet through the reception, We did arrive a little late though, so we went for a grand entrance: Deena Larsen, Nick, Noah and me floating in Jill's wake as we had to walk almost all the way to the front of the theatre in order to find seats where we wouldn't have to make people stand up to let us through. The reception after the speeches was rather loud, as Deena mentioned in the DAC blog, but the wine was plentiful and the coctail snacks kept coming.

Today I have a return to the cold that bothered me when I arrived here, and the morning was spent fighting bouts of shivering. Luckily lap-tops are warm little things to keep on your lap. That made me yearn for a warm meal, so with Susana and Hanne Lovise I went to find just that during lunch - asocial, perhaps, but hey, you don't get much sense out of me while I am freezing.
on request
This is a picture of my cat, an unauthorised version of a Norwegian forest cat.

her name is Susanna Leonora Løvenurket, known to her subjects as Pusi.
Cold in Melbourne
But I suspect most of it is an inner cold, brought on by a touch of exhaustion. DAC 2003 is a busy event, with wall-to-wall sessions and short to no breaks. The real problem isn't that I can't take a break to rest and get rid of the cold, but that I won't! No way, too much fun to be had! Like watching Espen Aarseth, Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montford shoot zombies, and find that the urge to analyse is a reflex by now, the players as well as the viewers babbling comments on aesthetics and the fictitious frame of the game, punctuated by the sound of shotgun reloading. See why I love these conferences?

Monday, May 19, 2003

DAC 2003 has been launched
And my laptop is connected to the wireless - but no, I can't use it in the rooms of the smaller sessions, so no blogging directly. But as soon as I know a little more about the program, I'll know when, how, where... and be back.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

webmail working
and the problem with my college email is now fixed, so I am going to remove the address I had posted. Use the regular one, I'll be able to check it, and I will!
Waiting for Jill to show up, with Lisbeth and Susana, since we'll share a room and a hotel. If you are able to check this from any airports: I'll be at the hotel when you arrive tomorrow, and I have notified the reception about you, Jill. And Lisbeth and Susana, I got a look at the regular double rooms (due to a quickly corrected error from the hotel) and they are not bad at all!
Meeting the immortals
Any old Dragon Realms players out there will understand the little chill running down my back as the phone rang in my hotel room last night, and the voice in the other end says: "Hello, this is Scarabae." Luckily he also introduced himself as Martin, or I would have fled - well, nowhere to fly, is there, when Scarabae calls? All I can hope for is that his hand will be tempered by the influence of Topaz and Elwyn...

The Immortal Trio, the trinity of Dragon Realms, will come in their mortal disguises to pick me up at the hotel in about an hour, 2 pm Melbourne time. And the thrill I feel is entirely human, although there is a definite tickle to the researcher bone. There are so many things I want to ask them. I conducted the research on DR without their input, analysing the game without any comments from the people who implemented and created it. That was a very conscious decision, as I had left World's End because of the methodological problems of having a too involved immortal watching my progress. It was also a practical decision, as all three of them were hard to reach at the time when I played and logged, besides living in Australia which one may note is VERY far from Norway - and so I interviewed the lesser deities.

But I suspect we will be able to pass the afternoon comfortably - we're going to see a center of film and television, possibly see Matrix reloaded and certainly go to have some nice japanese food, all of which were plans that convinced me I will enjoy this meeting. But if you don't hear from me for a while... perhaps some of the lesser deities could be convinced to intervene, and drag me out of what dungeon I am kept in? There has to be a limit, even to fun, after all...

Friday, May 16, 2003

Melbourne, 13.30 local time
I am here. No problems along the way, only a sore throath that developed into a cold on the drafty airplanes. Remember to dress for the airconditining in the planes, not for the destination!

Right now I am at the Victoria State Library, using this computer for 30 free minutes, since I am here for work purposes. Sometimes there are benefits to being a scholar.

One little communication problem. The College web-mail still does not work. This means: I can't check email to my college address! The email address I can check is in the below post. (Update: the college email works, and the alternative address has been removed.)

Anything else? Well, the weather is rather comfortable, although a bit muggy. Comfortable, that is, for a Norwegian who always carries a woolen scarf and a warm sweater. And yes Jill, you may need yoru umbrella. At least today.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Leaving now - and email trouble
I am off home to pack the last things, I'll be in Oslo tonight, so still within cell-phone range, but after that I will be very hard to reach. It does not help that the college has chosen this time of the year to update and maintain the college web-pages, web-mail and all other useful stuff for absent staff. Which means that until the college web-mail works, writing to my regular email means it will be a long time until I reply. You have a much better chance with my private email address (I only use it as a back up, not something I check daily): sorry, removed it because the webmail is working again. Use the regular college address.

And to all my students with lots and lots of exams waiting: don't worry, I have made your tests and they will be handed out to you at the right moment by the right people even if I should be delayed. You lucky students!
Ladies in waiting - and some Lords as well
For those who would like a thorough description of the odd and archaic rituals of defending a thesis in Norway, read Anders' post for May 12th. This is what we do.
Clean hands
My hands are extremely clean these days. There are two active bugs making its rounds in Volda after the influx of relatives to all the confirmations, and I just don't need either of them. So I keep washing my hands. It's kind of hard while I keep my fingers crossed.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Melbourne time
Just a little link to let you know what time it is in Melbourne.
I have listed this blog at, and put in the tag which is supposed to be found by the blogshares crawler, but nope. nothing so far, this blog is still not registered and open for trading. This is an odd and mysterious game. I think I need a broker!

Sunday, May 11, 2003

The unbearable lightness of...
Since easter, life has been too full (read: busy) for reflection. This afternoon I am enjoying a brief unexpected respite, and I know I should have spent it on the phone with a friend who called me in the middle of last night's cake orgy. I have slept at least one night in a hotell every week, I have talked to (as in in-depth supervision) at least 8 students every day exept the days I have been away at hotels (and mailed them in the week-ends), and I have had my whole family visiting for my son's confirmation. It feels like I have been walking on ice, fragile and thin, brittle and cracking when I pause for long enough to stand still with both feet in the same spot. The dark, frozen depths beneath will kill me in brief, merciful moments, numb me before I know that I am drowning, and I will float just below the clear inches of ice, staring up at the world of the living with blue, frozen eyes.

I will continue dancing across the slippery surface of my life, but on journeys I get the time to contemplate the path, while still moving. It's a break in the scramble and hustle, and I can relax into the moment, the movement. And soon I will be at the other side of the world, and who knows how things look from down under?

Friday, May 09, 2003

So where was Raed?
Because obviously both Salam Pax and Raed are alive and well and doing what they can to make Iraq a better place, which is wonderful, an other example of how resilient and basically good ordinary human beings are when they must. But the devourer-of-stories in me wants to know. Where was Raed?
Cyborg Mommy
Just found a picture of Cyborg Mommy in Bergen, DAC 2000.
Thesis terror
I thought I'd be able to relax once I had given the thesis over. But waiting to get the result is not much less stressful. A friend who recently had the message that her thesis had been accepted and that she will defend it August 29th, almost collapsed. The same numbness again. And then she will go through the same again when she defends the thesis. Hopefully she'll be able to really enjoy the dinner afterwards...

Why did I think of this right now? I just had a letter from the Faculty of Arts, University of Bergen. Nothing exiting to others, just a list of the members of the comittee who will asess my thesis, two Americans and a man from the department of Humanistic Informatics in Bergen (who is not my advisor). The letter confirmed that I am accepted to have my thesis considered. With the letter was a whole bunch of papers on rules, regulations and duties, my duties, those of the institute/department, and of the faculty administration. I was stupid enough to start reading, and all the provisions, considerations and rules have more or less paralysed me. Oddly enough the most reassuring reading in the whole stack of papers were the rules for how and when I might be permitted to submit the thesis again. There is a chance. I can rewrite and submit again. Rejection may not be the end of the world after all. It just feels that way.
WHO SARS updates
This is a link to the World Health Organisation's updates on SARS. Blogworthy because it's serious... and because it demonstrates yet an other use for technology which allows for quick, reverse chronologically structured updates with a minimum of frills.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Gamestudies, New Issue
Gamestudies came out with a new issue in May, Again, a lot of interesting articles. Guest editors: Jason Rutter and Joanne Bryce.

The articles originate at the conference "Playing with the Future: Development and Directions in Computer Gaming" in Manchester during April 2002, organized by CRIC (the ESRC Centre for Research on Innovation and the Department of Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire.

Read, enjoy, think, write, submit!
Anders submitted!
He submitted his thesis and an application to be permitted to be considered (yes, complicated) for a defense of his thesis. Now, perhaps, once the numbness has subsided, we'll see Surftrail up and running again. I am looking forwards to that, I have missed Anders' voice for the better part of a year!

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The personal opinions of journalists
Have you ever wondered about the reflections of a journalist as he or she introduces a case? Journalist in Dagbladet and weblog writer Helge Øgrim writes a blogpost about an article he has written, topic: Norwegian minister of Education Kristin Clemet. In this post he explains why the article was written in this particular manner. He exposes his background material, in the best academic reference style, with direct links to press-releases and other interviews in different media, and shows how others have drawn very similar conclusions as him. He also reveals that his editor gave him a slight correction.

This expresses how blogs open up the process of writing through links, to let the reader draw his or her own conclusions, and it underlines the non-editorial character of the weblog. This is a personal voice - or an extremely good fake.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Borte igjen
Denne gangen til og med onsdag 7. mai. Informasjonsstaben er i Ålesund og planlegger neste studieår. Let etter meg på torsdag.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Torill in the media - shameless self-promotion
In the last seven days I have been at (forskning = research) and Both interviews are caused by the launch of the book where I have an article: Torill Mortensen (2003): "Tatt av spillet - Forskning og forførelse" in Knut Lundby (ed): Flyt og forførelse - Fortellinger om IKT, Oslo, Gyldendal norsk forlag.

All of this is in Norwegian, so again English-only readers will have to take my word for it when I say that it's all about how good computergames are for you - and that if I am stuck in an elevator, I'd rather have a wireless network and my lap-top than just one person.
The value of content II
The war of who owns online content is getting increasingly aggressive. In Denmark Newsbooster, a media monitoring firm electronically doing the job that used to be done with scissors, have been sued for using what (in Norwegian) calls deep links and make money selling other people's content. (Along meandering paths by way of Rune Røsten).

I wrote about the rising value of academic content in February, and now it is obvious that content - academic or not - is what net-businesses need. Friendster, the social network site (or more appropriately dating site) where several prominent bloggers have profiles, makes it clear that they own all content generated in their space. There is also obviously a discussion going on about the ownership of content in comments which Mark Bernstein refers to, and it links to my own misgivings about the ownership of the content in the blogs that will be started using Dagbladet's future weblogging software (also in Norwegian, small note towards the end).

I find that this is tricky. While I have always said that others are free to use what I write here, both to quote and to develop ideas into their own independent work, the idea that others will own things I have written is disturbing. But at the same time: isn't this the familiar conflict between copyright and copyleft? Academic writing, at least in little state-sponsored academic ivory towers like Norwegian higher education and research, is more like copy-left writing. As long as people 1) cite me properly and 2) use what I have written to develop something independent, I don't want to claim ownership of my thoughts and ideas. But if the middle man - in Friendster's case the software provider - strips away the right to re-use what I have created, then yes, I have a problem with that.

The Danish journalist union won their case against Newsbooster. They claimed that doing electronically what monitoring firms have done by hand for decades is stealing content. To a certain degree I can agree with that, the monitoring firms at least buy the paper, and then put in the labour of reading, cutting and mailing, all of which are automated online. But I can't help cheering Newsbooster on when they set up their service so that their users can do their own searches - which is not yet forbidden by Danish law. When I buy a newspaper, the paper gets paid twice: from me and from the advertisers. I figure that just by reading a paper online I generate hits which the paper or magazine can use to sell ads, and so I have already paid for the paper just by reading it - by way of the cost of products I buy, as the cost of advertising is already integrated. It's a complicated economy of goods and information, as rhizomic as any non-linear text we can dream of.

In this conglomerate of interdependent economies, I can't see any other logic than copyleft for texts as well as software. Otherwise, as Mark says, the intellectual property will become useless, either because intellectual will stop providing content for the benefit of others, or because there will be no way at all to use, claim and benefit from it.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Dichtung Digital
Just sent off an article to Dichtung Digital, their Scandinavian issue (2003/4) edited by Markku Eskelinen. My article is about the concept of space in games; geography, topography, social spaces and non-places.

(I have no idea what the finnish text says about Markku, but I liked the picture!)
Dagbladet blogs back!
Rune Røsten, publisher of the Dagbladet Weblog (Dagbloggen, as Eirik calls it), posts yesterday, May 1st, about the responses to the weblog and his article. Yes, Rune, exactly, this is what blogging is all about! The most indepth comments normally come in other people's blogs, not on your own. Now get those permanent links in place and the blogging can really get going!

(For English speakers who don't get Norwegian names - Rune Røsten has the most incredible name for a blogger! Rune is a letter in the norse sacred alphabeth, while Røsten means "the voice". And then the two lovely Rs to make it roll off my tongue. If I had to make up a name for a blogger, I couldn't do better!)

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Archive warning
My archive tends to get messed up, and that messes with permalinks. Republishing the archives helps, and I try to do that frequently in order to avoid the problem, but occasionally it slips my attention. Let me know if it is a problem, ok?