Thursday, December 30, 2004

Arms length distance

I was just looking through old yearbooks. Not from when I was in school, but pictures of the students who used to be here.

I think I have a reputation among students for being distant and uncaring. There are good characterisations in the reviews, like fair and very good at what I claim to know something about, but it's the uncaring part that always gets to me when it shows up. Leafing through the books, I realised that they are probably right - not that I don't care, but that I appear not to care.

You see - I care too much. Looking at the pictures of the students from 10 years ago brought them back, their voices, their problems, their grief and joy. I could hear their questions and see their frowns of concentration. I remember exams where their hands were shaking too much to hold a glass of water, and the wild joy of a good grade or the pleasure of solving a problem. They are so alive to me, individual, unique, precious.

And then they go. I spill my knowledge before them to pick and choose and take what they like - and that is what they do. They take what they want and leave me, and I am alone to face 25 new faces with new thoughts, ideas and questions, year after year.

I need to keep some pieces of me for myself. So I won't ever be the most popular teacher, the one who parties and is a pal, or spends hours chatting over coffee in a circle of students. I will just teach them what I can, and love them, carefully, at arms length distance.

Whose Lives Count?

Made painfully relevant, this article from Journal of Communication 1986 may be interesting reading.

Link from Erling

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Did you think

I would be writing all the time? Well, I thought I'd have lots of time to do all that work I have been putting off. But somebody gave me Civilization III; Deluxe edition, Grand Theft Auto 3 and Max Payne and Mac Payne 2 for Christmas. My computer is busy! And yes, I know they are old, but I haven't played them yet, so I am playing the "classics."

Monday, December 27, 2004

The Christmas tree

Each tree has its own story. Some are short and boring, some are long and poetic. Do you want to peek at the stories on my tree?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Warmth in the darkest days

The first night after the sun turned was one of nightmares. Ghoulish howls of wind about the corners of the house kept us awake in the dark hours and we were up well before dawn to check on windows and the roof. The storm is named "Finn", and it's scouring the coast of Norway, testing the tethers of christmas decorations and challenging the daring of pilots. From my window you can't see how fierce it is, but it eats the light, darkens the sky and blurs the outlines of the mountains.

The only sensible thing to do on a day like this, is to herd energy and cherish the light and warmth sheltered indoors. And the traditional way to do that is to bake. I have made five of the required seven types, but I don't think I will be able to make all seven this year. You see, I can't bake quicker than certain people eat, so the first cookies - the healthy spelt, oatmeal and fructose experiment - are already gone.

This means I am left with four types - almond and chocolate macaroons, chocolate chips cookies, lemon sticks and eggyolk meringue.

I made an honest attempt, so I hope the powers of Christmas will read the intent and not let us all starve in "vårknipa" - the lean times of spring. Which, in our modern times, strikes in January when we have to pay the student loan and a whole stack of other bills, conveniently postponed till just after christmas...

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Journalism and blogging

And while we are talking about beating dead horses: the journalists are still obsessed with blogs. Today it's Steve Outing at Poynter Online who writes about What journalists can learn from bloggers.

It's really not a bad article. There are a few more things I could add, such as making your sources and your citations more explicit, and let people know where you got your story. But all in all, yes, calm, clear discussion of what journalists can learn from bloggers, and he has discovered that not all bloggers try to be journalists - which is something that comes slowly to some of the others.

And that is my favourite hobby horse. Journalism isn't the be-all of publishing. A person who spreads a piece of news or passes on a piece of information isn't immediately attempting to be a journalist. That person is communicating something of interest to other people.

Journalism today is defined be institutions, and has a certain function, most prominent, sadly, the function of making money for other people. The editorial constraint on reporting due to the financial needs of the institution is significant and severe. I think this is the main reason why blogging appears to be such a threath - it sems to do for free what the journalists get paid for.

Only - it doesn't, and people know that. Rather than stealing audience, bloggers share audience. Before my readers have come to the bottom of this post, several of them will have left, following the link to poynter online and the article I am writing about. They may return here to see what I say, but they may also lose themselves in the options of the page I am linking to.

Oh yes, bloggers do all the rest too, so you had better strive to be clear, interesting, honest, open and straight forwards. But I thought that was what journalism was all about?

And as a PS - no, elections are supposed to be secret, and everybody can vote what they like. I don't think newspapers should say who votes what in their staff. It is supposed to be a free country, right?

BlogTalk Downunder

If you want to go to a blogtalk conference in 2005, there will not be any in Vienna, but you can go to Sydney! BlogTalk Downunder, 20-21st of May, is planned to be a refereed conference covering a wide range of topics.

Sydney in May? I wish.

Really. I have this little dream, ever since I first visited Australia in 1996, that some day I'll be able to spend a year there. Perhaps as a visiting scholar, faculty or just a fabulously rich lady of leisure. Does anybody have a position for a media scholar for a year, somewhere not too far from the beach?

Romantic Terrain

When people ask me about Volda, I tell them what a beautiful place it is. I show them some pictures, and they go totally nuts. THEN I try to tell them about the rough climate, the hardships of living in such rough terrain, and the dark, long winters, and they think I am trying to make it appear more romantic and dramatic than it really is. But I am not the only computerstudying, blogging academic woman to live on this coast; have a look at the road leading to where Hilde lives, and talk about romantic drama...

Blogs at Amazon

Want to know the traffic rank and what other blogs your readers read? gives you a hint! It looks like Amazon is taking blogs somewhat seriously, presenting them like other literature. Another fun way to see what happens to your blog, and thanks lis, for leaving that information in the comments.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Beating. Dead. Horse.

Or is it an ignored issue which should be addressed? I have to admit though, that the whole "Where are the female academic bloggers" issue makes me want to ask "What net do you guys read, is there another one over there?"

Geekymom with annoying red and green graphics (the green print becomes a shiny blur against the red background), blogs the lively discussion at Crooked Thimber.

Don't just eat - play!

Danish lecturer Ning de Coninck-Smith speaks out against the self-centered indulgence of Christmas, and suggest that parents use the holiday for something other than eating - like playing computer games with their children (In Danish).

Public, private and mainstream

Chuck Tryon of the Chutry experiment blogs an article in the Sunday New York Times, where Jeffrey Rosen discusses how weblogs redefine the border between public and private.

What can I say but: Jeffrey Rosen, if you want to write a scholarly article about this, I'd like to point to the articles "Blogging Thoughts" with Jill Walker, "Personal Publication and Public Attention", and the keynote to blogtalk 2.0, which although slightly less directly relevant deals with the liminal nature of blogging, "Dialogue in Slow Motion".

And that's just my stuff. Into the Blogosphere holds more, and the dialogue/conversation analysis which both Stephanie and Lilia engage in is directly relevant if you approach the public sphere with a Habermasian understanding of rational dialogue.

Of course, newspapers don't like articles loaded down with references and citations. Isn't that odd, considering the importance of doing "research" and quoting "sources"?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Report from the soapbox

Or perhaps "the soapy frontier"? Slowly order emerges and spreads. My back is killing me, I have had problems since Copenhagen and dragging my stuff to four different hotels in 10 days, so I can't attack as forcefully as I am used to. I have to work over small, contained areas, and focus on the tasks I can't order the troops to cover, as they demand finesse rather than muscle power.

Throwing away paper is one of those things. Who'd believe the mounts of paper one small family of readers manage to accumulate in - in - in - eeeehhhhhh, I guess I haven't been doing this in months. Not since before the Serious Games Summit. My husband is a sweet and wonderful man, but despite what some think, I didn't marry him for his housekeeping skills, and our offspring (they aren't children any more - I have problems finding a good word now) shows no raw talent or mutant housekeeping genes.

So it's chaos. But chaos is receding, and from where I sit and watch stacks of CDs and heaps of old papers, I can smell the soap. Once I have tamed this mess, it is time for the fun stuff: BAKING! YAY! The gingerbread people are still homeless this year. Actually, they haven't even been born.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


One of the most stressful things in this job, and I assume, in every job, is when you can't rely on the people around you to do their job. That, luckily, is not a problem this semester.

There is now a group working together who understand the importance of sharing, doing their job, and being flexible about covering for each other. This means that not only is the day-to-day work easier on all, it also means that we can plan in certain luxuries, such as a three-week protected period for each of us, when we don't have any teaching or administrative duties towards the study. Time for research, writing, updating - anything we feel we need to do of those things which we feel can't be done while we are running back and forth between teaching, supervising and administrating.

We can do this and trust the rest of the staff to cover for us without trying to make us feel guilty afterwards. Of course, there may be other things intruding, but it is my responsibility to say: "no, I can't be at that board meeting, it's my protected period" when that becomes an issue.

And now, I am going to trust my colleagues even more. I am going to go home and stay home for two days. I will clean, bake, decorate and bake some more. When I come back I expect that the only thing I need to do is to proof-read the four (4) course plans I am ultimately responsible for this spring. Two hours ago I thought I was going to faint from stress. 30 minutes with the group I am working with, and the stress level is WAY down. Hopefully justified.

So that's the message of the day: you need to trust somebody. Lucky you if people you can trust also happens to be people you work with.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Holiday cheer

Just because it's silly, and with the hurricanes and constant rain I'll accept anything to bring some colour and light into this December! Merry Christmas to you all!

Tablet PCs

My dear readers, all 5 of you (OK, I think it's more like 20, but let's not get pretentious here), I need a little piece of advice.

This September, in London and Brighton, I saw something which caught my interest. For the first time, I saw a tablet PC. Oh, I have known about and probably seen the tablets, but I have never before seen one that was both a lap-top and a tablet, depending on what you did with it.

One of the things I have always wanted to do, was have the opportunity to write or draw on the monitor while I am projecting the image to a screen. The main reason why I want this is so that I can have the flexibility of a blackboard while the presentation stays connected to the internet and while I can show pictures, play soundfiles and show movie clips. Today, teaching is a busy running back and forth to turn light on, turn off projector, pull screen up, write, draw, turn projector on, pull screen down, turn light off... you get the drift. Now this DOES wake up any students who might have fallen asleep while the lights were down, but it steals valuable time and focus from what I want to be an integrated, seamless, lecturing experience.

But while I have been able to dig up good reviews of the machines, particularly the Toshiba I am looking lustily at these days, I have not been able to figure out if there is software that will let me perform the tasks I desire. Does the software for integrated show-and-write exist, like for instance "powerpoint blackboard?" Not being such a very accomplished manipulator of software, fancy, complicated combinations are not an option, and programming is totally out of the question. I need a fairly simple interface which will let me change the image while I am in the middle of a presentation - draw on the slide I am showing, push the slide up into the corner and draw out a modell which relates to the bulletpoints I just presented, put in a whole new page to illustrate a question.

I am aware that an option is to have two programs running, and go out of the presentation when I want to use the other program. But here is the smooth and fluid thing again. Leaving the presentation is so inelegant, and as youthfullness and freshness dwindles, elegance is my best bet ;-)

So, dear readers, you software savvy and tech-accomplished - is it worth it to use my goodwill with the department to get a tablet PC in order to do what I am looking for, or will that be a waste of money for a half-assed lap-top which is too flimsy for the kind of hard use I expect from computers and still does not perform as I want it?

Monday, December 13, 2004

For Jill

And others who haven't found my feeds.

This is supposed to be the atom feed the way you get it from blogger.

This is a xml feed generated by feedburner.

The links are in the sidebar, just over the "people online" part.

I don't know how they work, I enjoy the freedom of reading the blogs when I like, not at a set time or when somebody have published or updated, and I enjoy seeing the site, the design and any additional fun at the page.

Stretch text

Anders wants to write a paper in Stretch text, and I am totally envious. It is a form of text I have wanted to play around with for a long time, but I have just put it away - like I have done with wanting to write an article as a hypertext, or just finishing the collection of poems I almost published way back when before I ever thought I would be in academia.

But Anders' wish made me remember and wonder about a woman whose ambition it was to write her doctoral thesis in stretch text. Anne Mangen, a postmodernism scholar and a colleague of mine, kind of, was at Xerox Parc as part of her Doctorate. During her stay there she got in touch with fluid documents, she presented a paper on this in 2001, and participated in publishing an article on the topic in 2002.

When Anne told me about wanting to write her thesis in fluid, I advised against it though. Why? A thesis for a doctorate is a certain genre, and it is hard enough to deal with as it is as a simple, flat linear text, fixed on paper, if she shouldn't make the dissertation itself a part of the research. I don't know what Anne chose - she's a brilliant woman, I am confident she made the right choice for her. But I know that I have let go of so many dreams for the sake of common sense and time restraints, I have become a quite boring and conventional middle-aged lady.

So, back to stretch text.

Anders links to his own earlier post, about using a graphic tablet - something I also envy him badly, got to see what I can find for a PC - and his sketched outlines resonate with the way I have to mix mediums and hypertextualise arguments in order to understand both what I am writing and what I am reading when it reaches a certain point of complexity. I have been known to cut texts into little pieces, physically, in order to understand them.

I want to try this. And then, perhaps, I will find a way to do it. Oh, the seductive mystery hidden just below the textual surface!

Sunday, December 12, 2004


Despite my preoccupation with work rather than household tasks lately, the house smells sweetly and warmly of christmas preparations. The kids, no longer small, have been making caramel for the first time, preparing, kind of, for christmas. I don't know what I adore more, the scents and spirit of preparing for the midwinter feast, or the fact that my almost adult teens can contribute on their own and unsupervised, without turning the kitchen into a dangerous disaster area.

The Hedonist

Susana Tosca smiled evilly, and declared: "I will introduce you not as a narratologist nor a ludologist, but a hedonist." I agreed, naively. And then I found myself there under the hopeful eye of so many game researchers, hoping for a new paradigm. Luckily, they were quite willing to be seduced.

The article from hell

I hope it doesn't read as pure pain, but I have rarely suffered this much for an article. I am spoiled in many way by being able to write easily and to even enjoy the process. This time around I have however felt like I have been writing uphill all the way.

I know it has to do with having too many different tasks at the same time. Administration and academic writing are mutually exclusive - no, more than that, when you try to write and manage at the same time you create a black hole of guilt which sucks up all available time and energy and only grows stronger and more powerful with every sentence you slave over or every task you attempt to finish. After a short while you start doing both things badly, and as your confidence crumbles you feel the black hole start draining away all creative juices and all constructive energy.

But now the article is done. I will proofread it tomorrow and then send it off and have it out of my mind until it returns from the editors. Respite, finally.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Exhausted. Straight to meeting lasting all afternoon. Impressions supressed. May be back with comments on cool conference tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Learning Lab Denmark

They have a research group devoted to educational computer games! How civilised is that? And if I am to judge by the presentation with Rikke Magnusson, they have a fairly realistic, updated view on this as well.

The presentation still, however, suffers from the serious games bug: an eagerness to exploit the myth of what a powerful medium games are. Can teaching games really be created? IF students can learn maths, I guess they should be able to learn how to kill old ladies too. Dilemma that, hmm?

At Stake

Elena Bertozzi of Indiana University, already blogged by Kym at Chrome Chalk Monster, but not registered in my flawed flesh brain until now, has written her Ph D thesis on Play, Pleasure and Power in Cyberspace. A must-read, at least for me. What it's like? I'll be back on that one.

Danish mornings

[Insert whining over allergies and hotels with wall-to-wall carpeting here]

The trip to the IT University starts slowly, a mental as much as a physical process. I need to track down something I can eat, and I watch the quiet street I live in through breakfast. It's daylight, and the streets are dry. I am obviously in a foreign country. Then down to the metro, the bright, clean metro, and of course there's no such thing in Volda - but it's different from New York, Washington, London and Vienna too: the four subways/metro's I have been riding this year. Most importantly: it managed to brake down gently. I sit until it's stopped, being used to the sudden bumps of the NYC subways, the clunky, noisy inferno of the R-line. But here I could easily stand up, the train docks with a polite stop, and it's time to be out of here.

The University is not at the stop called "Universitet", but at Islands Brygge. It's the logic of a small country: Everybody know about the sensitive issue of which buildings were built where, so why bother to change the names of the stops? So I head up one stop before one should think, and walk through the wind towards the brand new building in the middle of the active construction site which is ITU.

What else do I love? I love the open, free and generous WLAN, I love the airy, clean foyer, the Christmas tree and the electronic design elements. I also love the over-efficient coffee machine at the Game center - I don't really like coffee much, but when I need it, I'd prefer it to come from such a shiny, black machine that starts with grinding the beans and works from there.

But it's all flat. I feel naked and exposed, no mountains holding the sky up, and the wind throws my hair in my face.

LAN parties over the world

The big one in Norway is The Gathering, held at easter time in "The viking ship" at Hamar, the elegant, huge speed skating arena built for the olympics at Lillehammer in 1994.

Melanie Swalwell is writing about LAN parties, a nice report of her experiences. There has been work like this done on The Gathering, but it's in Norwegian, so for her to know about it is pretty unlikely. I am happy to see the physical, off-line aspect of computer culture explored and inquired into in a serious manner, not just a sensasationalist way (look at all those crazy nerds all gathering in one place sleeping on the floor and eating junk food for a week!). I am particularly happy to see that these reports make their way into the game studies and are publishes internationally.

Ludic # Playful

I won't, for obvious reasons, liveblog my own presentation (yes, I know, some day I will find a way...), but here's a very flattering reading of my paper (you didn't think I'd pick a bad one, hmm?) by a scholar I admire: Anne Galloway read the paper and loved it, and she is, in her usual clear and intelligent way, saying why. It feels good. I'll just read her blogpost, I think, rather than try to get that presentation to work.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

MMOG, products and services

Peter Zackariasson from Umeå is asking the question: are MMOGs places or services? and comes down on the service side. This is an interesting, radical statement, as it puts the MMOGs once and for all within commercial and consumer space, but at the same time is quite obvious. A game is not a "place" where things happen and things change if no human being visits it. Unless it is used, like a service, it has no value. Game real estate is not an investment for the future, but an offer for today.

Obvious, really. And still... do I wish to let go of the geography metaphor this quickly?

The Moderately multiplayer other players game

The moderately multiplayer other players game designed by Jesper and Eric took off today, and will be finished this afternoon. I am a socializer, and managed to hook up with others of my team today. They already had a stack of cards and were well on the way to create a sentence. Susana and I added our cards to the stack, and it got better. Over lunch we hashed out strategy, and gained what was needed for the sentence and some protection (not aggression, we are the nice guys, right?).

So now my game avatar has a cute little dragon on it. Eric claimed it’s a pokemon, but I perceive it as a dragon, so that is its social reality. My frivolous use of a card was voted on and granted by the group, as we had a card to spare. I think it was the “than” card.

The ingame store, manned by Jesper and Eric today, offered candy and stickers, like the dragon used for enhancing my avatar. It also changed four similar cards into booster packs of five cards, and three similar cards into steal cards: for both aggressive and protective use.

Part of the strategy is to steal other people’s cards. But to steal you need to SEE the card. This means that the planning phase is the most vulnerable phase – as all cards are there on the table. Which, of course, explains the reaction when I inched innocently closer to the explorers with my little digital camera. Not that I would ever want to try to take pictures of the other group’s cards in order to share the information with my teammates…

At five o’clock we’ll all vote on the different sentences, and also count the points of the different decks. There may still be interesting little surprises waiting.

Cheating, cheaters and cheats

Julian Kuecklich is one of the gameboys, as he admitted with a happy grin yesterday, and one who looks at a fascinating phenomenon: cheating. Cheating is one of the less explored but quite important parts of games. Rules, social regulations and norms are all means by which cheating is avoided, which means that cheating rather than breaking the game defines it. Julian asks exactly this question, as he asks if cheats are a practice that defines the game rather than go against it.

Computer games no longer make cheats a moral question for a group, playing against the computer cheating is just part of understanding the code and thus the game. Playing against other players the classic moral questions come up though. We have interesting parallels for instance in sports. When Boklöv, the Swedish ski-jumper changed the style from parallel skis to V-shaped position of the skis, he made it possible to jump much longer, but he also broke with the classic aesthetics of ski jumping (link in Norwegian). This was at the time treated as a cheat, but was then adopted as a safer and more stable way of jumping, based on a better understanding of the dynamics of flying through the air on skis.

Cheats, if we treat them as ways for more players to participate at their own desired level, does not ruin the computer game, but become part of the game culture. In the same way as having an expert on ski preparation only available for a team makes it possible for them to gain the edge necessary to win, "cheats allow a shortcut between certain instances in game space."

Monday, December 06, 2004

Impressions from academic realities

We have four departments and one institute. One of those is as large as the three others. The smallest one is the best known one, the largest one is the oldest and historically most significant both for the community and at the national level, being grounded in the old teacher's college in Volda. This is a skewed organisation where some of the apparent flaws are our strengths - and vice versa.

It's my job to participate in finding a way to reorganise this mess in a way that lets us keep the good parts and lose the bad parts... but who knows which is which?

To find out what other people have done, we went travelling.

Agder College has reorganised according to subject areas or disciplines. They have collected all those teaching Norwegian in one department, all sociologists in another, or natural scientists in yet an other, and then they have put the teacher's study aside in it's own office. The dean of the teacher's study schedules lectures with people in all the other departments, filling an administrative position basically. This makes the disciplines richer and the discipline based research stronger, but it leaves the students at the teacher's study in the hands of people with little identification with the whole study, only with certain parts of it.

Roskilde University Center has as their slogan: "In silence, death, in movement, life." Their organising ideal is not the matrix, as in Agder, but the project. The students create their own study as part of their own projects, and the teachers work together cross disciplinary in order to teach and supervise - particularly supervise - these students. A strong central leadership puts together the groups to work together across disciplins, and each "house" of students have one set of teachers they relate to, teachers whose responsibility it is to see that the students are supervised and assisted in the project of questioning the world.

Malmö College is all new and shiny bright, and we were the fifth Norwegian college to visit them to study their organising paradigm. It was rather traditional, really, with a strong emphasis on a fairly traditional educational study. What was interesting was their integration of the practical work in their teaching. They did also expand the definition of what was the responsibility of the college, by working with immigrant students both at high-school level and at a more job-directed level, normally the responsibility of the office of employment.

Now my job is to extract the useful parts from these structures and use them to evaluate and perhaps suggest a way to re-organise Volda College. I should have been writing my presentation for tomorrow, but my head is filled with this rather daunting task. But tomorrow, I am sure, I promise, most certainly...

I am the last speaker Wednesday. I will have time.

Me, machine

So we are machines, Mark? Machines that are supposed to work in the way that satisfies you?

Perhaps we used to offer the best way for Mark Bernstein to keep updated in new media, but to us, it was and is a work in progress, the work of our academic life. And when we no longer offer what he liked about our blogs, the flaw is not in our lives, but in the expectations.

We share freely of what we have and what we do. We don't ask anything but the occasional interesting link or discussion in return. But our lives have changed from the focus they had when Mark Bernstein was interested, and so has probably his. The world of blogging and the general resources available online certainly have.

So yes Mark, the network is still here and still working, and it is still shaped by the individuals more or less loosely connected to it. That our interests have diversified isn't really a problem or a great loss to the world.

I, a socializer

In the Moderately Multiplayer Other Players Game, I am a socialiser. I haven't been allowed to define myself into that position through my playing stayle though: I have been assigned the position from the Administrators, Jesper and Eric.

Problem is - nobody knows how to play the game and the rules are hard to get hold of - literally, as there are only a few sheets of paper circulating. So since we are all gamers and have played other games, as pr the Bartle thesis we all want to introduce the features we are used to, and like. At the moment I am hoping to be able to convert some of the competing card-holders. What to buy them with? The cards given out by the administrators are a too valuable commodity for simple bribes, so I have to come up with some alternative bribe.

Other Players Proceedings

I will be blogging a lot about different presentations and papers on this conference, so rather than pointing to the proceedings in every post, I will just point towards them from here.

Story Construction

Mirjam Eladhari and Craig Lindley are on a quest for the holy grail. Through the Virtual Game Worlds they seek for a theory which describes the construction of story, nothing less.

One point sounds familiar: how the creaters of games, the designers, are creators not of stories, but of narrative potential. I know I worded this argument years ago, but was that in one of the many sessions of discussion - argument - supervision with Espen, or did it actually make its way into the thesis? It does not really matter now, all it does is create a flashback to the past: the point when I tried to understand the mass of material I had gathered, and then position it.

A central idea of the presentation which I am delighted to see is how Eladhari underlines the creative process of playing: how a virtual world depends on the activities of the participants in order to unfold into many-faceted narrative environments in the same way as reality holds an endless amount of stories.

Most of all this session underlines my own creeping sensation of ageing: not only are the lights less bright, the print smaller and the stairs steeper than 10 years ago - I also no longer know what I read and wrote where or when. Disgusting feeling... but also reassuring. I have been able to let go of more than I thought.

[The updates here will be selfcentered - as my mind insists on tracking down where, when, what did I write about this. First link back into my own mind: narrative environment - a thought after typing out an interview with a player.

Yes, I do write about narrative environment in my thesis (large pdf), but the concept comes there from Janet Murray:

When the things we do bring tangible results, we experience the second characteristic delight of electronic environments - the sense of agency. Agency is the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices. We expect to feel agency on the computer when we double-click on a file and see it open before us or when we enter numbers in a spreadsheet and see the totals readjust. However, we do not usually expect to experience agency within a narrative environment. (Murray 1997:126)

I do however expand on it and discuss the difference between narrative environments and stories on page 20 and out from there. OK, that felt good. I did write about it, and my brain is not as petrified as I feared.]

Why bad design flourishes

Read Richard Bartle's paper in the proceedings, but when reading it you need to know a few things. First: what is instancing. It is a way of making part of a game private or only accessible to a group of people. Second: According to Bartle, the first virtual world a player encounters becomes formative of the expectations of a player, no matter how bad it is: basically because of the magic feeling of freedom in playing online. This creates the conservativism in players that recreates the old errors.

Asynchronous multiplay

Ian Bogost is talking at Other Players, and I am just relieved to be back in the familiar world of a conference room: this one with wifi. Oh, the delights of continuous connection.

While listening to Ian, the post by Mark Bernstein is still spinning in my head: what happened to the Scandinavian weblog cluster? Jill replies to his question, mentioning it probably is a slight misconception that we ever were that tightly knit. I am not sure about that, but I am also not sure we are less tightly knit today. We are just moving away from that part of our academic game which was about bonding, and on our way into the part where we spread out.

To return to Ian Bogost, right now he speaks about games with a delay between reactions, where the players don't play the same game at the same time, but in a slow action/response dynamics which are related to the slow dialogue I spoke about in Vienna. As in the blogs, the asyncronous games depend on the breaks in the game flow: high scores only have a value as part of a multiplayer aspect if you take breaks and let somebody else have a chance to play and beat your high score. A blog only works as part of a conversation and a cluster if there is a response to other people's posts.

So, back to our cluster. What Mark speaks of as "social" comments are really just a part of the development of our academic lives. Lisbeth's meeting with Prince Joachim was not just a curiosity, but also a point in the game of Academia: she represented a growing department where she plays a vital role, and the symbolic value of this meeting was one of acceptance and confirmation of her position, rather than just a fun, social event. Yes, we joked about it, but at the same time we were immensely proud, because one of our cluster reached an important new level.

So, not all breaktroughs as an academic are made pondering over texts and squabbling over details in reviews. But another, technical change, has also changed the structure of the blogs. We have comments now. We no longer make a link on our own blogs pointing out things on the other blogs. We tuck it into the comments.

And one more point: we can "comment" very differently now. We are in positions where we don't have to talk through the blogs. We can invite each others for lectures and speeches, and then we can do the commenting face to face. The game goes into new and different media (oh, and sms, mms, flickr, aim is also in play, making the game of connectiveness more synchronous and more graphic).

But what we do can be summed up like Ian Bogost describes the time use in the asynchronous multiplayer games:

Reduced investment of time
More freedom to choose when to play
More fluid integration into daily life
Constraints on playtime - incentives to stop
Broader forms of implementation
Varied play from player to player
Greater interconnectedness between the game and the world.

The Scandinavian cluster still plays the game. We just play it differently, and with more players.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Kinder egg wall

kinderkunst2, originally uploaded by Rotill.

More of the wall at Agder College, and this is just a fragment. And I did not find two figures that were the same. But I didn't look to closely.


kinderkunst, originally uploaded by Rotill.

Just above the bench the students at Agder College had improvised their own art work. In each little niche is a figure from a kinder egg. It started as a project for one group of students, and it's just growing, a viral student artwork.

Sitting on the words

benk2, originally uploaded by Rotill.

Quite literally, at Agder College, Norway.

Not distributed narrative

benk, originally uploaded by Rotill.

This is not exactly a work of art to put in your bag and bring on the plane.

Copenhagen fog and smoke

I have been working intensively for three days. Visiting and listening to descriptions of three Colleges/Universities in three different countries in three days is exhausting. The visits are research for the suggestion to a reorganising of Volda College which has to be submitted by September 2005.

Today I am in Copenhagen, my brunch appointment was cancelled last minute last night, and I spend the morning online, reading email and trying to get updated to all the things I haven't been able to keep up with. Not much, really, just a couple of pages of emails from people who remind me of things I could have done better. The sun is almost out, I smell of the smoke which is still permitted in public places in Denmark, and I ache, ankles, knees, hips, back. I will be back up to my tiny room to grab the camera and my all-but-empty wallet before I am out of here to walk slowly, lazily about the busy streets of one of my favourite cities.

Pictures, game-related blogging and hopefully some good stuff to be found here next week.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Kurgisian Sparrow Hound

The Kurgisian Sparrow Hound (Kurgisk spurvehund) was developed on the Kurgian plains in order to chase birds from the crop, a four-legged version of scare-crows. They were a lightweight breed, with long hind legs and a quick gait, fierce and well-tempered little beasts with a fun task. They were also good at alerting the farm when strangers approached, but they were not really good for protection, as they were too small and too trusting and good natured. Their temper made them very good pets though, and the Kurgisian Sparrow Hound survived into modern times as a pet among the farmers of the plains due to their gentle and happy nature.

This was however not enough to save the breed after the second world war. In 1950 there were 10 pure-bred Kurgisian Sparrow Hounds left, and by 1972 there was one surviving litter. The dam died giving birth, and the surviving puppies were scattered, all attempts to save the breed given up due to earlier disastrous effects of inbreeding.

The Kurgisian Sparrow Hound was about the size of a medium poodle, it had signature long hind legs, dainty paws and a small, delicate head. The ears were not standing but folded, and in the puppies they might stand up at moments of exitement. They could come in shades of grey and black, but most common was black with a white neck and chest, and occasionally white paws. The coat was soft, rugged but not rough. It would have a thick, downy winter coat under the smoother outer coat. These dogs were typically extremely intelligent, quick and had a healthy hunting instinct, which made them good mousers. This might have been another reason why they survived as far as into the 20th century.

The last litter of Kurgisian Sparrow Hounds was born in Germany, and one of the pups was smuggled into Norway in an attempt to save it. My sister smuggled it into the country and put it with the pups of my old mutt everything-used-on-norwegian-farms dog. The pup thrived, and soon charmed the entire family. When it was time to find new homes for the puppies, we couldn't part with the little special one. She was the smallest, but yet the one who always managed to break out of the puppy pen and sit outside the door waiting for us when we opened it, ready to play.

We named her Ruffi. Her real name was Radisha von Hocherholt, but nobody could see her mischievous dark eyes and the ears - for a long time as a pup one was standing, the other was folded - and think of anything that cumbersome. She had one white paw and a spot of white on her chest and jaw, the rest was a soft, fluffy black. My father, who did not like to have animals, as he bonded too easily with them and grieved too much when they died, took to the little lost orphan as if she was his private teddy bear. She would ride with him to work, or he would drop in in the middle of the day to pick her up, "since he was passing the house anyway."

Ruffi was extremely easy to train, although she also trained herself into quite a few bad habits. What dog, having figured out it is possible to get up on the table and steal the cold cuts, would also figure out that she should take just one or two slices from each plate, and then get down? For years we were always short when we cut meats for the big family breakfasts. It wasn't until she started to grow a little deaf in her old age that we realised that was because for years, when we went to fetch the rest of the family for breakfast, she stole meat from the plates. One day we caught her red-pawed, daintily positioned in the middle of the table, looking quite annoyed with herself for being caught in the act.

At the age of 18 she left us. She just walked - or waddled, she was old, had gained weight and had a hip problem - into the forest one day, and never returned. In my dreams, she still chases bird in some far-away green field.

Written in response to Mike's assignment for his students. Everything is true, including the fact that the veterinarian in Ålesund had her registered as Kurgisk Spurvehund for her entire life, and if you ask him, I am sure he still knows the breed. The only not-so-true thing is that there is no Kurgisian Sparrow Hound (probably not even any Kurgisian Plains) and Ruffi was never smuggled into Norway, she was just the cutest of the litter of five mutts of very questionable origins.

Blog school in Norwegian

If you're Norwegian and wonder what a blog is, check out Bloggskolen. If you are Norwegian and know what a blog is, perhaps even use it a lot and have done research on the topic, it's a lesson in how blogging looks from the outside, way outside Academia.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Starting low

There are weeks when I hit Monday exhausted, and not from fun stuff. My mother, who has been of poor health and not too reasonable about it for years, is now worse. The weather is making the roads very dangerous due to avalanches, both landslides and snow, and my daughter has been driving about the county to different concerts. Combinations of ferry schedules, weather and general stupidity from the organisers, going to see my mother yesterday had to happen by bus - which of course takes hours more than by car and includes lots of walking with a heavy pack. Tomorrow I am leaving for ten days, much of which will be spent in various hotels in Copenhagen. If you don't hear from me, imagine me relaxed in a museum or gallery in Copenhagen, making intelligent conversation totally unrelated with the many phonecalls I have to make today, or hanging out with Lisbeth and Susana, passing sarcastic little comments about presenters and papers at Other Players. That's the hope that keeps me from calling in sick and cancelling everything for the next two weeks.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Game production and blogs

This article by the wife of a man who works for Electronic Arts is interesting for more than one reason.

1) She talks about a ruthless exploitation of labour that would be illegal here, no matter how much money they paid, and which most likely is illegal in the United States as well. I will have problems buying an other Electronic Arts game, I will have flashes of broken homes, ruined lives and burned-out programmers.

2) It points towards a change in the production models for computer games which I was asked about on State of Play II – somebody asked if I thought innovation would cease due to the large companies taking over game production. At the time I was optimistic and said that the economic benefit from pushing the hardware by way of more and more challenging computer games would keep the innovation in the game industry. After reading this, I am not sure. Burned-out people are not innovative.

3) The story was taken from a Live Journal and published by IGDA under the creative commons. The writer is anonymous, to protect herself, but an organisation such as IGDA still posts the whole thing, picks it up and reuses it. What do they know about Electronic Arts, in order to pick up this anonymous, unreviewed article off a blog and post it on their site? Or does it just look convincing? Interesting content, and free?

Yes, lots of interesting questions. And a well written piece, too!

Link by way of Reality Panic

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The MUDs are still out there

Just checking in on familiar haunts: the Mudconnector now lists 1740 MUDs, in 2001 the number was 1771.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

How big is micro?

They never said it was going to be micro payment. But at Ingentaconnect, a database for selling academic articles, a five-page article costs 26.74$. That's more than 5$ a page. OK, so I might have to buy the whole volume if I was to buy the paper version, but then I would have all the other (quite interesting) articles as well, and not a leaflet worth its weight in - well, at least silver.

It looks like an interesting database though. A good search tool, if you know other ways of getting your thin, inkblotted scholar fingers on the content.

No Blogtalk 3.0

There will be no Blogtalk 3.0 in 2005 in Vienna. Thomas Burgh is looking at new things! Good for Thomas. And perhaps good for blog research and practice? I would personally like to see blogs slip back into not obscurity, but the mainstream of online communication, and be treated as part of a larger set of studies and practice of online communication and culture, rather than an isolated hype.

Links by way of Lilia.

Advertising that works

By putting 30 odd and fascinating little dream sequences/short movies online, Diesel manages to get people like me to blog them, mention them and spread the word. Yes, I know it's a very commercial site. But you may still enjoy watching the diesel dreams.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Like Hilde, I am testing out Blogexplosion. Just registered - I am curious to see where this takes me.

Nuthin' Muffins

Home, it's cold, it's snowing, I gained weight during the last three conferences as well as attracted other diet-related problems, and I am sick of the restrictions on what I can eat. So what to do? Turn to the net, google the problem.

So tomorrow for lunch and for two more lunches, there are neat little bags of muffins waiting to be carried off to work and warmed in the microwave. Packed with protein, adjusted to fit the Norwegian selection of ingredients and then spiced up a little, these muffins are a surprisingly solid meal. And of course, they need to be renamed. The name only makes sense in Norwegian. Ask your friendly neighbourhood Norwegian to translate.

Muffens Muffins

1 pound of low-fat sausage
6 eggs
1 cup soy flour (2,5 dl)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup mayonnaise (1,2 dl)
1/2 cup light sour cream (1,2 dl)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (1/2 l)
1/2 cm slice of ginger, chopped
1/2 green chili pepper, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit, 190 Celcius, and grease 6 large muffins tins. Add all ingredients exept sausage in a bowl and beat until smooth. Add sausage. Put the mix into the miffin tins and bake for 30 minutes.

The soy flour gives these muffins an unfamiliar consistency, but because of the high egg, cheese and sausage content this does not feel as odd as when I make sweet-tasting cakes from soy.

Stop phone advertising!

This is a public service announcement for Norwegians who are sick and tired of phones from people wanting to sell things. It says how to stop at least a part of it.

Det mest konstruktive som kom ut av dagens telefonselgersamtale, var når jeg mistet beherskelsen og bannet over telefonselgerne jeg ikke blir kvitt. Da fortalte han meg hvor jeg kan ta kontakt for å få slutt på oppringningene. Det er Brønnøysundregisteret. Der kan du registrere at du ikke vil ha tilsendt addressert reklame i posten, du vil ikke ha telefonsalg hverken på fastlinje eller mobil, og du kan velge å utvide dette til å gjelde humanitære organisasjoner. Du registrerer deg med personnummer, og det er en personlig registrering, det gjelder ikke for husstanden. En husstand med flere personer kan derfor risikere så bli oppringt selv om en eller flere har reservert seg mot telefonsalg. Det tar opp til tre måneder før reservasjonen trer i kraft, siden de forskjellige organisasjonene er pålagt å oppdatere listene sine mot Brønnøysundregisteret minst hver tredje måned.

Det er ofte en i husstanden som er målet for reklame og salg. Jeg er en kvinne midt i den mest kjøpekraftige alderen, i en to-inntekts husstand med barn og relativt god inntekt. Jeg er et stort og fett mål for markedsføring av alle slag, og det er som regel meg selgerne spør etter. Selv om de er god trening for sarkasme-muskelen fortjener de egentlig ikke å bli utsatt for meg. Jeg reserverer meg.

Trust them, they know what they are doing…

Car and Rubber Service A/S, number 700something, 8.30 am, - 2 Celcius and dropping, November, dark.

“uuuuuuut uuuuuuut uuuuuut” ….. probably not there yet…. Probably have to wait… oh, somebody answered! “Car and Rubber?” “Oh, hello, I have an old Opel Astra, and now the heater is dead, and that’s a little inconvenient in this weather.” “Hang on, I’ll give you the workshop.” Short flash of a diesel and grease scented mess of tools and pits and men in blue coveralls passes through my not-enough-tea-yet brain. “Workshop?” “Hello, this is me, I have an old Opel Astra, and now the heater doesn’t work.” “Does the fan work?” “Yes, it just gives off no heat.” “Did you check the water?” Another flash, this time of me with the hood of the car open, book of instructions in one hand and flashlight in the other, dressed in 20 layers of clothing and looking desperately for some place to check something which hopefully isn’t frozen solid. “There is frost liquid on the car?” Ouch, I have no idea, normally we take the car to the workshop to check this when it starts getting cold, but this is a month early and I have hardly been in the country lately, much less driven the car! “Eh, Ah, I…” “It may be that the frost liquid level is low, or just the cooling water, and you could check that, you know.” Can a voice really carry a smirk that well? OK, time to capitulate, admit total lack of knowledge and blame somebody else. “I haven’t been driving the car for months, I have hardly been in the country! My husband uses it and now he has problems with it and I have to fix them!” No longer a hidden smirk, but outright laughter. OK, I like that better. “Come on over, we’ll have a look at it.” Yeah, I know it’s idiots like me that keep you guys in large houses, nice cars and long vacations in Spain. But we’ll see who is laughing when you desperately need an essay on new media theory!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Starting early

This year, I want to get the Christmas preparations done early!

Blogs as academic publishing?

At Crooked Thimber, Ezther Hargittai writes a long post about blogging and academic publishing. In this she argues that blogs should count towards academic publishing, because there are blogposts that are more carefully researched and better written than academic articles.

This is a very enthusiastic argument for blogging as an academic activity, but I am afraid it is a little naive as well as somewhat blind to the mechanisms of professionalisation and the limitations of blogging.

Blogging is an exellent medium for a wide range of things, but not for assuring a consistent minimum of quality. The desire to look as good as possible to the public can make the write deliver well considered and good material, but there is no system which guarantees that every blogpost has been subjected to scrutiny and criticism by at least one person other than the blogger. Of course, there is no reason why blogs should not make such a system, have an editor and an editorial board, and the post will only be accepted if this group of reviewers have read it. But there are media like this already active in academic publishing. They call them journals.

This does not mean that blogs are useless to academics. No, they are very, very good for creating your own profile, an online presence. They let others see what you work with and where you are, and if you have managed to get over a few thresholds and are fairly easy to "hit" when somebody googles your name, the chance that you may have invitations to interesting conferences or to participation in research and teaching or other interesting, relevant things rises sharply.

Much of the debate around academic publishing and the need for blogs to fill a niche in that field has nothing to do with the failure of journals to publish the interestign and important stuff, but a failure in the US educational system in assessing their own employees. First, the need for assessment is enourmous, as there is supposed to be a constant competition. The American dream is based on competition and survival of the fittest. In Academia this comes out as "survival of the person whocan get the most articles published." For anybody who have the slightest understanding of why something gets published, it is obvious that a system like that will statistically be concervative and preserve already accepted values. Read Galtung and Ruge for a basic understanding of news values, the same mechanisms are (with some slight adjustments) valid in all types of publishing.

Second, the assessment needed to constantly maintain an air of fair competition is very, very expensive. So instead of doing this themselves, Universities and Colleges all over the US give that task to the editors of journals. Because the scholars need a positive assessment, the journals need content and the Universities need a free system for assessing the work of scholars, we get a trinity of mutually dependency where all appear to benefit.

And everybody do benefit - until a scholar thinks a new thought. As soon as somebody works on something which is innovative, which is different and strange, something not yet over the threshold of academic publishing, they will be kept back by the concervative nature of this system. This is where the enthusiasts dream of blogging as academic publishing, accpted into the struggle for tenure.

I don't think that's a good substitute for the traditional academic publishing. I do however think a blog can make something more acceptable. Blogging works virally, new concepts spread with lightening spead, and a good concept can catch on in a matter of months. This is not a bad thing for the new, young scholar, because this means that a new concept can become/appear established in a very short time. A blog will also ensure that the assessors can find the references to key concepts in your work easily, and a good blogpost may give further depth to an argument.

So I think my personal and subjective conclusion is: No, blogs can not fill the position of the journal article in a process where you are constantly assessed and compete with others who are constantly assessed - unless the Colleges and Universities put a whole lot more resources into the assessing process than they do at present. Yes, blogs can be very useful, particularly in situations where a comittee is forced to make a judgement call, or when it comes to creating and maintaining networks.

Pretty and evil

I will try to keep my whining at a minimum, but the moment the streets get slippery, I get problems with my back. So yes, the pictures are lovely, the winter-sport enthusiasts are exstatic, I want to turn into a bear; go to bed and wake up in April.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Everyday Sims

I have The Sims installed on at least one computer in the house. I have a little family. They live in a little house. And that's it. I can't make myself play it. I spend a lot of time wondering why I hate playing The Sims. My daughter loves it. My son plays it to understand it. I look at it, and turn it off.

Today Stewart Woods gave me a hint in his playful comment below. I play with real people every day. "I have 25 new students, and I make them read these books and do these tasks. I give them this much time and I reward them like this. What will they learn in three years, how will they relate to each other, and what will they make of themselves afterwards?" Only... this isn't a game. I don't change the parameters of the study in order to "see what happens." I do it because I want real people to have real experiences and give them the knowledge they need to deal with the real tasks they will be given when I can no longer help them.

In my spare time, I want a dagger in virtual hand and a drow to backstab.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Going home to cuddle a report on how my colleagues feel about the college at present, tomorrow will be spent planning how to proceed in the re-organising process of Volda College. I actually hate responsibility, I try to flee it when I can, but I have this thing about not wanting to let down people who trust me. And now there is a college full of people who trust me to do my best - or at least an honest attempt.

I want to do something else. I want to play games. I want to read books. I want to write chapter on chapter about communication theory. Instead, I'll change people's daily lives. Scary.

Way Back When

One of the really good web resources for internet researchers is the wayback machine maintained by the Internet Archive. I have to admit I am not good at using it, but I really should. This was pointed out by David Brake, PhD researcher in London:
You suggest in Personal Publication and Public Attention that "the only traces of this story exist in the blogs of those who blogged about it at the time (Mortensen, 2001). Damn the Pacific is no longer easily available". You should note that the Internet Archive keeps records of many things including the site. (It disappeared when the couple broke up).

As you can see by looking at the last archived post, July 1st 2002, by stu, updates are on their separate blogs. Later on the internet archive has saved a short explanation, telling how they have broken up, giving an email for people who have donated money for the trip to write Lane to have them back. Sad, but very human. But anyway, this means that is fairly readily available, and that the world wide web is not quite as loose and transient as it might seem.

Monday, November 15, 2004


It is a rare luxury as far north as this, but there is a pot of healthy basil blooming in the kitchen window. This energetic little bush has survived a summer in the boathouse, where I left it at the mercy of my family after a visit early this summer. Everybody visiting took care of it, used it, watered it and occasionally left it for days or a week until the next users showed up, and then when we closed the place down in the late summer, we brought the plant back to Volda - healthier than when I bought it.

I love basil, I love the scent and the taste, and living in NYC as a visiting scholar at New York University one of the affordable luxuries was to go to Union Square and the Farmer's market to buy a fresh bunch. The subway car would be filled with the fragrance of the fresh sprigs, and back in Bay Ridge I would indulge in tomatoes and basil to my heart's content.

Of course, when I followed Clancy's latest quizlink, this result delighted me:


What herb are you?
brought to you by Quizilla


The autumn has settled in, as unpleasantly grey and dark as only November can be in this part of the world. Sunrise is 8.50 and sunset is 15.52 today, so it's dark when I go to work and dark when I go home. This small window of daylight will shrink more, but for some reason November feels darker than any other month of the year.

December has Christmas lights, January has cold clear nights when the Aurora flickers over the skies, February has snow and a multitude of birthdays. November has storms, rain, accidents and nothing to look forwards to but longer, colder, darker days every day.

November 2004 promises to be as bad as ever. This weekend saw landslides blocking the road south of here, boats running ashore north of here and tragic accidents happening to students west of here. I haven't dared check the roads east. A kind of bone-deep exhaustion has settled in to stay, and all the slight allergies that I keep trying to control through diet and clean healthy living are back with a vengeance after weeks of carpeted floors and bread for lunch while travelling.

On the upside: This makes me enjoy being back at the college, back at the office, back with my bookshelves and familiar tasks. Now: to organise them and get stuff done, and to let the impressions of this hectic autumn sink in.

Anda's Game

If you have a Salon account or don't mind reading their obnoxious ads, read Cory Doctorow's Anda's Game, a fiction story of a gamegirl after some initial stupidity leading to being at the bad side, gaining weight, contracting diabetes and annoying her family, working to liberate the sweatshop slaves in some unnamed online world.

It's a nice story, and it is a quick lecture in game-talk. A lot of the words used in this story were also freely bandied about at State of Play II - such as noobs. Thanks to Cory I now think I understand them.

Although I have to say that the solution was - well, politically correct, but also slightly simplistic. But I am not giving it away just for the pleasure of a critical thinking I-am-a-good-socialist show-off.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Swedish blog popularity contest

By way of Francis Strand, a link to a ranking list of Swedish blogs. No female bloggers among the ten most influental. Why are we not surprised? Just because Sweden has exellent female bloggers and researchers working on blogging, is that a reason for the established media notice and perhaps for once show us some real news?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Taken by the sea

Volda is not a happy place today. A student challenged the power of the nature, and lost. He went with several friends to see the waves breaking over the breakwater by Stad, the West Cape of Norway, a place where waves can rise to sudden, immense heights. One wave grabbed five students - four crawled back up. Then the four who ran to help were taken by the next wave, but managed to get back out of the water. Three were hurt, broken bones according to the news. The bay where the students were taken by the wave is used for surfing by tourists, students at the nearby school, and students from the colleges within a reasonable distance.

But this loss, so sudden, so potentially a much larger disaster, is a reminder of the indifference of the nature we live in here, the speed of the wind, the hardness of the rocks, the weight of the water, and the frail humans making a living. And it reminds us how few people live here, how precious each individual is. Voluntairs have been looking for the missing young man all day, despite the storm and sleet in one of the world's roughest and least hospitable waters.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Suicidal librarians

Tron Øgrim, radical journalist and selfproclaimed technofreak, ended the conference by provoking the audience to activism and to fight for the free literature distributed through the libraries. Although I am not entirely sure librarians would choose to bomb the library or burn themselves alive.

The conference has been interesting, intense activity on a small area, with only occasional trips to the University to provide some exercize in the rain. I like the style of intense lectures, workshops and open periods of coffee and lunch. I have given one lecture - and what was supposed to be two half workshops but timewise it ended up with two whole workshops. So I worked every day, and now I am shot. But there are people who now know how to blog, who did not know before.

So, fun all around, and not least nice to see Jill, Hanne Lovise, Sarah and Lisbeth again, Scott for the second time in a few weeks, and Cory Doctorow for the first time ever.

Remembering Arafat

The official memorial service happens right now in Egypt. Norwegian Broadcasting has the pictures on their website.

Downgrade in the upgrade

Cory Doctorow from Boing Boing and Electronic Frontier is putting digital copyrights and copyright law in the context of other media. As he says: all media technology is originally pirat technology. To use technology to force people to obey laws - by, for instance, making it impossible to copy a movie on a DVD - unless you hack it - and then making hacking it illegal - is in his opinion the same as saying that blacksmiths have the right to control all transportation, and cars should be outlawed unless they use blacksmith approved wheels.

An interesting perspective, definitely. And so is the information about "upgrades" fixing "bugs", which really is downgrades removing features - because the features can potentially be used for things like copying music off the internet and distributing it. His example is iTunes upgrades - sadly I don't know enough about Apple and iTunes that I caught the precise reference.

Doctorow mentioned public broadcasters and how these should open up the archives - and how Norwegian Broadcasting can set the standard internationally by opening the archives. From what I know, sadly, that will not happen. NRK wants to make money off their archives, and offer to sell the old programs to users. This is a problem for scholars as well as for anybody who would like to use this material for learning or for artworks. I am afraid NRK will not turn out to be the progressive spokesman for the freedom of information that Cory Doctorow speaks for.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


"Fat" is a Norwegian feminist magazine. In Norwegian, "fett" means something is good, in a kind of retro-hip way. But it can also be an acronym from FEministisk TidsskrifT. Norewgian reader? See if they manage to provoke you - that's what they want, the naughty girls!

George vs John

Did you wonder what would happen if George Bush and John Kerry had to live together? In the sims, this can become truth (scary truth?) Link by way of Francis Strand.

Blogging workshop - bloglinks

We just had a fun workshop, and I taught all the people on it how to make a blog with Blogger. It did make me feel slightly as a fraud, since I think blogger is so simple nobody needs my guidance, but I guess it's a good thing to have the time to actually sit down to do it and the motivation of company while doing it, both of which the conference provided. And my presence provided somebody who could say: "oh, but we can change that if you want it differently, now just look here..."

So, a whole lot of people got on the blogging workshop, and made nice and interesting blogs. Some of them wanted to have the other blogs collected in one spot. That is what I hope this post can become.

All of you who were at the workshop: can you please leave a comment, containing the link to your blog?

Pretty please?

Yesterday and the day after tomorrow

The day before today was my father's birthday. I deliberately did not dwell on it, although I did remember. He would have been 80 years old. There would have been a tremendous party, because he loved parties. There would have been food and wine, speeches and songs, guests and party-crashers, flowers and bonfires and lots and lots of presents.

It did not happen. Instead the day is flavoured by a feeling of loss, of something bright and warm gone from our lives. And the 10th of November is a day to be passed by quickly, silently, all of us looking forwards to the 13th and my little sister's birthday. Born on Friday 13th, remembering her day is a sweet celebration to jag me out of melancholia and loss. Life goes on. It can go no other way. And I am waiting for this month's paycheck to hit the account tomorrow, so I can go present shopping.

Links for the talk Wednesday

Some of these links lead to Norwegian chat and discussion sites

Anja Rau - a blog without comments
Alex Halavais - a blog with a sidebar
Lilia Efimova - Where is Lilia?
Stephanie Nilsson - wrote and article about dialogues in blogs
Bitch Ph D - anonymous and personal
Terra Nova - a groups blog with a particular topic

Touchgraph - A visualisation of blog links
Technorati - shows new links
World as a blog - geographic positioning of blogs
Blogdex - shows the most linked pages
Blogosphere Ecosystem - ranking blogs according to linking
Blogshares - a game of blog values and blog ranking (the value of my blog in blogshares)

Social chats - Blink
Topics – Motorbikes at
Community - Young Mothers
Information collection - med diskusjonsforum
Common interest – Min hest med debattsider

Friendster - social site, a dating game - which Danah Boyd mentioned Thursday as well
Orkut - professional network - for photographs online
Second Life - social game, 3D world with its own newsblog
There - a 3D world with stores and bars

Young Voices

Marit Bødtker, who told me in the car yesterday morning that she started blogging because of me, edits Unge Stemmer - young voices - a blog where she publishes the texts of young Norwegian writers.

She has taken the writers seriously, and when she then asks about their feelings and experiences as writers, she gets very serious and open responses.

Danah Boyd without subtitles

I am listening to Danah Boyd in the webcast, and she speaks about very interesting subjects. One of her references is Burning Man, a phenomenon I have been peripherally aware of for years. This is, however, also an example of how the cultural distance makes it hard to understand her.

Now she is talking about dating - a phenomenon that is mysterious and alien to Norwegians, as we have no dating culture that can be compared to the American dating routine. But I used Friendster as one of the examples yesterday, so the digital area she talks about should be familiar. Jill is also projecting Friendster on a screen here, and she just showed my profile and Lisbeth's profile through that. Danah's story of how Friendster was used for diverging profiles like drug-dealing, data-trading and fraud is fascinating.

Norwegians are used to subtitles in television screens, and now with the chat, as Jill types in questions, there are a kind of subtitles. Still, it is hard to respond to a face on a screen, even if I argued yesterday that people are supposed to be able to take the role of the writer or sender when facing the modern media.

Now Jill was very strict and wanted everybody to log into the chat. First, I logged into the wrogn chat that did not work. Then I logged into the right chat, and it still didn't work. Not much I can do about that. I'll try to catch Jill on AIM and catch her there!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Dinner happening, talking done

There's a video, somebody gratefully turned the light down, so I am this dramatic shadow against my slides. People ask how it went - I have no idea. But I promise, tomorrow the links will appear on the blog - for those who are actually trying to follow what I am saying.

Dinner is just about to finish, I hope I am not missing the coffee. I did catch the shrimp, the reindeer and just a slice of the cloudberry parfait though, so no big loss really.

We all know about technology

The first thing you learn when you plan a lecture or a conference or just about anything that involves making modern technology work, is that something always happens to make it NOT work. And so it did. I am at the WiKi workshop, and there were too many of us (and the wiki was set up wrong), so we had to change the focus from hands on to listening. Oh well, perhaps I can check in to the hotel now, earlier today there was a fire-rehearsal. (I hope that's the right word.)

Collective Action

Rheingold speaks about technology and collective action. It is pretty familiar stuff, but still interesting, particularly as he points out some of the practical advantages connectedness gives groups of people who we would not think of as typical digital technology users. Examples are fishermen, migrant workers and part-time working mothers in the Fillipines - at least as interesting as the flocking of mobile-connected youths in Finland and Japan.

Wisely, Rheingold also points out the aspect of the flocking, smart mobs which ought to be considered by the potentially overly eager fan of the modern technology: Smart mobs are not always wise mobs - so although cooperative action supported by technology can work for democratic action, it can also work, for instance, to instigate non-democratic riots.

Sosial og Digital

I am in Bergen, at the conference on social and digital. I have just been handed the smallest conference program ever, in the form of a memory key, and I just hope the batteries (boosted the poor dell by taking out the CD drive and putting in an extra battery) will last for all those little checks of what happens next. If not, I guess I can just ask Jill, Thomas or Jon. But now: time to listen to Howard Rheingold, who, like me, has fond memories of librarians.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Seems like I have found the perfect cure for jetlag. Be exhausted, be too busy to do anything but follow the local time schedule, collapse about 7 hours before you have to start working again. Repeat the next day. This should get you on the local time in two days.

I have never before wanted so intensely to go to bed at what is about 4 pm New York after only two days on Norwegian time. Now I will pack, and then follow the demand of the body. See you in Bergen.

Digital and social

Tomorrow I will be in Bergen, at Digital og sosial, with Jill and the rest of her fabulous crew. But it is no longer possible to just link you all to their pretty nice homepage, as it forwards us all automatically to the wiki. Sure, I like wikis, but when I don't want the wiki, only the name of the place where the conference is, that gets a little aggravating.

But I can't sit around being aggravated for long. I have to catch up with the work I ignored for three days during the State of Play conference - part of which involved preparing for Bergen. Or, I may have made the preparations a lot bigger than they need to be, because there is an article I just have to write lurking just beyond this conference.

So, I am scouring the web for examples, taking my time to put it all together in powerpoint, pictures and all, in case the net does not cooperate with me. And I am tempted to download and play both there and second life, because I ought to test it before I use it, don't I? When was the lecture again? Oh, right, tomorrow...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Quick visit home

And last night and today was spent with the board I am in on the Norwegian Board of Research. Starting to work the moment I am home is one way to cure jet-lag - I slept at the right time and all night tonight - I am dead tired now, but that's normal around this time. Continental Airlines have a long way to go before they are as smooth and professional as SAS, just being treated efficiently and politely is worth paying for. Yes, I want the direct flights Oslo - New York with SAS back. (insert whine here)

Now it's one day in my office (dear, familiar, comfortable office), before I am off to Bergen and Sosial og Digital. Hopefully, some more nights of comfortable sleep before that.

Friday, November 05, 2004

I heart existensialism

Do you need the answers to the really big questions? Like: why am I here, what is the meaning of life, and why did I meet the same person three times in places of significance to me? That's when you take your case to the existensial detectives. In I Heart Huckabees you get all the answers to how life connects - and a good dose of wicked nihilism too, from the sexy French seductress. The reception of the movie has been a little mixed, but I liked the New York Times review, where the reviewer is as exstatic as I felt when I sat laughing through the credits, waiting for my company to wipe his tears from his eyes.

I was planning to see Shaun of the Dead, but Francis Strand emailed and asked how I liked I heart Huckabees, so of course I had to find out! And Francis, I loved it. I didn't understand every reference in it, but there were moment of such amazing, sublime sillyness that it didn't really matter. At times it did threaten to tip over into too much slapstick, but it was pulled back neatly by the good-natured ridicule that ran through everything.

Where Team America was wicked to the point of sadistic viciousness and Sky Captain had a story that held no surprises after the first introduction of the blonde, the hero and the mad scientist, the free-roaming philosophy of this movie held new twists to the lives of the main characters every time I thought I knew what was going on. And while it was both warm and funny and had a pretty explicit sex-reference, the irony was smeared on heavily. Laughing at the movie I also laughed at bad poetry, nature preservation fanatics, small organisation politics, big corporation politics, the political abuse of a good cause by corporate america, angstridden academics, overeducated philosphers on a quest for the really difficult answers, models and supermodels, self-righteous men, plain stupid and aggressive women and rocks. "You rock, rock."

On Eight street afterwards, in Yaffa Cafe with my favourite Japanese/Finnish couple, we started talking to a woman at the next table, who, for some reason, had seen the movie with her Swedish girlfriend. She was learning Swedish, but only knew the dirty words yet. So, I went to see the movie because of an email from an American male who is learning Swedish because his husband is Swedish, and immediately afterwards started talking about it to an American woman who is learning Swedish because her girlfriend is Swedish. Coincidence? Not after seeing this movie!

Do anybody have the phone number of Jaffe and Jaffe?

Thursday, November 04, 2004


I survived the trip to Balthazar. This summer I had bought a pair of pretty black shoes with a quite high heel - and wearing them the first time I immediately got blisters on both feet. So they stayed here for emergencies, and perhaps later discreet destruction at a point when I had forgotten I had spent money on them. Since Tuesday was an emergency, I tried them on again. And what a difference weather does! Cool as opposed to HOT and HUMID made the shoes fit like a glove, and stockings rather than bare feet eliminated the chafing problem completely. And so I was about 7 cm taller and felt like my legs were a mile long when I walked to the subway.

It was election day, and we were a little early for the largest crowd. Balthazar is an attempt at a french restaurant on Spring Street, and not a bad one at that. The room is large and spacious, with a very high ceiling. It's kept in colours of brown, smoke-yellow and white, and the decorations - specifically the two figurehead/kore figures on the wall over the bar - are carefully painted to appear stylishly gritty from what I guess is an American idea of French lack of cleaning and ambience accumulated since Matisse had his anisette there. With the ornate ceiling which my New York Connection claims is made out of tin and my host for the evening, the British/Canadian/Cosmopolitan claims is covered with thick embossed paper, the room took on a kind of hyper-frenchness, somehow like the cloisters and its hyper-medievalism. Somebody had stolen bits and pieces of French restaurants and put them all together under this American overdone ceiling, including the handsome waiter from Bordeaux - while the sassy chic frenchlooking waitress was all American under her black and white french maid uniform.

The menu was similarly immaculately french, as was the wine-list. I did however miss the cafe au lait and the chocolate croissant for breakfast, but I guess they leave that to the next-door bakery - also a part of Balthazar. Food was nice, I had foie gras for the first time, the lamb had been spoiled silly in some green, idyllic field - no climbing hills and developing stringy muscle for this little lamb - the wine was a decent Burgundy (which means quite good), and the company was nice... only we forgot all about talking and were basically just people-watching. That's the most fun part about large, spacious restaurants when it's packed and the waiters are busy. You get to see how the staff cooperates, watch the guests in their interaction with each others, see their reaction to the food or their lack of such... like eating snails with a bored expression, or making an onion soup last through your partner's full meal.

Did I pick the right shoes? I guess less would have worked, but apart from the table with four tourists in bluejeans I saw no sneakers and no hiking boots, so in this case heels were definitely more appropriate. The heels were even comfortable enough for an after dinner stroll hunting for a bar and a last drink before I got back on the R line. And the dinner did make a welcome change from slimburgers at the Tiffany Diner.

Out of the US of A

I am leaving Saturday afternoon. Got to start packing. Guess I will not be leaving much behind for the next visit. Good thing I have somewhere else to go. Entering the states again, I will travel light. There is no privacy crossing borders, and I don't foresee the personal space and privacy of visitors being more respected in the next years. Things have changed dramatically since my first visit 5 years ago, and it isn't just me.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Culture shock in progress

Are you a fan of Will and Grace? Did you see the episode where Will for his birthday had to choose between going to the Ice capades which Jack had tickets for and where Grace really wanted to go (probably not a vintage show, but I am not really sure what would be the right link) and Balthazar where Grace had twisted Karen's arm to get them a table?

If you did, you understand that I am a little apprehensive tonight, as I have been invited for dinner by a friend who knows both how to reserve tables and pick up the tab afterwards. Balthazar is a long way from Det Grøne Treet, geographically, socially, culturally and economically. And I have just given both my nice pairs of boots over to the Russian at 95th street for maintainance! What do I do? It's NOT a place for sneakers or hiking boots!

The Knight of the Net

I am sure this is old news for all of you net-savvy readers out there, but I thought it was kind of nice to discover that Tim Berners-Lee has been honoured with a knighthood. Don't know what that entails? Brian Grainger explains it to us laywomen.